The Æcerbot Charm is a Christianized version of a clearly pre-Christian traditional ritual of blessing for the fertility of fields. There is reference to a “holy keeper” which is perceived by Rosenberg (1966) to be Þunor which is not at odds with the heathen practice of using a hammer of Þunor or indeed invoking his name as a blessing to consecrate and bless. Herbert (1994) suggests that the plough is a symbolic penis; hence it is used to inseminate the ground with seed, thus is a possible reference to the importance of Ingui as a fertility god. Rosenberg also theorizes that the bread that is laid is symbolic of the “corn-baby” that was widely used across Europe. There are obvious links to other gods in the ritual that can be used in substitution by the modern Fyrnsidere to replace the Christianized form and I have included these in my own version of the charm following the original Old English version below.
I recognise that my own version of this ritual may not be to everyone’s taste, however it is a personal thing to me that I would consider if seeking a blessing with any planting I was looking to do in a field that seemed curiously afflicted with a poor ability to grow crops.
The original is below in Old English, followed by my own interpretation for modern use. I have not provided a direct translation as these are widely available on Google.
Her ys seo bot, hu ðu meaht þine æceras betan gif hi nellaþ wel wexan oþþe þær hwilc ungedefe þing on gedon bið on dry oððe on lyblace. Genim þonne on niht, ær hyt dagige, feower tyrf on feower healfa þæs landes, and gemearca hu hy ær stodon. Nim þonne ele and hunig and beorman, and ælces feos meolc þe on þæm lande sy, and ælces treow – cynnes dæl þe on þæm lande sy gewexen, butan heardan beaman, and ælcre namcuþre wyrte dæl, butan glappan anon, and do þonne haligwæter ðær on, and drype þonne þriwa on þone staðol þara turfa, and cweþe ðonne ðas word:
Crescite, wexe, et multiplicamini and gemænigfealda, et replete, and gefylle, terre, þas eorðan. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti sit benedicti. And Pater Noster swa oft swa þæt oðer.
And bere siþþan ða turf to circean, and mæssepreost asinge feower mæssan ofer þan turfon, and wende man þæt grene to ðan weofode, and siþþan gebringe man þa turf þær hi ær wæron ær sunnan setlgange. And hæbbe him gæworht of cwicbeame feower Cristes mælo and awrite on ælcon ende: Matheus and Marcus, Lucas and Iohannes. Lege þæt Cristes mæl on þone pyt neoþeweardne, cweðe ðonne:
Crux Matheus, crux Marcus, crux Lucas, crux sanctus Iohannes.
Nim ðonne þa turf and sete ðær ufon on and cweþe donne nigon siþon þas word, Crescite, and swa oft Pater Noster, and wende þe þonne eastweard, and onlut nigon siðon eadmodlice, and cweð þonne þas word:
Eastward ic stande, arena ic me bidde, bidde ic þone mæran domine, bidde ðone miclan drihten, bidde ic ðone haligan heofonrices weard, eorðan ic bidde and upheofon and ða soþan sancta Marian an heofones meaht and heahreced, þæt ic mote þis gealdor mid gife drihtnes, toðum ontynan þurh trumne geþanc, aweccan þas wæstmas us to woruldnytte, gefyllan þas foldan mid fæste geleafan, wlitigigan þas wancgturf, swa se witega cwæð þæt se hæfde are on eorþrice, se þe ælmyssan dælde domlice drihtnes þances.
Wende þe þonne III sunganges, astrece þonne on andlang and arim þær letanias and cweð þonne: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus oþ ende. Sing þonne Bendicte aþenedon earmon and Magnificat and Pater Noster III, and bebeod hit Criste and sancta Marian and þære halgan rode to lofe and to weorþinga and to are þam þa þæt land age and eallon þam þe him underðeodde synt. Đonne þæt eall sie gedon þonne nime man, and gegaderie ealle his sulhgeteogo togædere; borige þonne on þam beame stor and finol and gehalgode sapan and gehalgod sealt. Nim þonne þæt sæd, sete on þæs sules bodig, cweð þonne:
Erce, Erce, Erce, eorþan modor, geunne þe se alwalda, ece drihten, æcera wexendra and wridendra, eacniendra and elniendra, sceafta scira, hersaewæstma and þæra bradan berewæstma, and þæra hwitan hwætewæstma, and ealra eorþan wæstma. Geunne him ece drihten and his halige, þe on heofonum synt, þæt hys yrþ si gefriþod wið ealra feonda gehwæne, and heo si geborgen wið ealra bealwa gehwylc, þara lyblaca geond land sawen. Nu ic bidde ðone waldend, se ðe ðas woruld gesceop, þæ ne sy nan to þæs cwidol wif ne to þæs cræftig man þæt awendan ne mæge word þus gecwedene.
Þonne man þa sulh forð drife and þa forman furh onsceote, cweð þonne:
Hal wes þu, folde, fira modor! Beo þu growende on godes fæþme, fodre gefylled firum to nytte.
Nim þonne ælces cynnes melo and abacæ man innwerdre handa bradnæ hlaf and gecned hine mid meolce and mid haligwætre and lecge under þa forman furh. Cweð þonne: Ful æcer fodres fira cinne, beorhtblowende, þu gebletsod weorþ þæs haligan noman þe ðas heofon gesceop and ðas eorþan þ we on lifiaþ; se god, se þas grundas geworhte, geunne us growende gife, Þæt us corna gehwylc cume to nytte. Cweð þonne III Crescite in nomine patris, sit benedicti. Amen and Pater Noster þriwa.
And below is my own version of the ritual to fit with my personal Fyrnsidere praxis presented in Modern English:
Here is the remedy to a land that has been bewitched or fouled by unclean wīhta (Wights), malevolent entities or any untoward thing such that your crops do not grow as they should. On the night of the new moon, take four pieces of turf from four parts of the land and mark how they previously stood. Then, take oil (Rapeseed, sunflower) and honey and the milk of every animal which may be on that land, and a piece of wood from every kind of tree which is grown on the land, save sacred oak and beech, and a piece of every named plant, except only burdock, and then put Þunor-hallowed water sourced from the land onto them, and let it drip three times into the place of each piece of turf, saying these words:
“Grow and multiply and be filled, this earth. In the names of Ingui (Ing) and Nerþuz (Nerthus) may it be blessed” Afterwards, carry the turfs to your wēofod (altar) and sing four blessings over those turfs to Ingui, to Nerþuz, to Bēow (Bue) and to Frīg (Free), and let the green sides be turned towards the altar. Afterwards have the turfs brought to where they were before the setting of Sunne (Sun). And let Þunor (Thunor) have four signs of the hammer, made from rowan-wood with the Þorn (Thorn), Ear (Earth/Grave), Ēðel (Estate) and Ing (Ing) runes carved upon each. Let the hammers lie in the bottom of the pit and then say:
“Þorn, Ear, Ēðel, Ing” above each.
Then take the turfs and lay them above the hammers and say these words nine time above each: “Grow! Þunor-Corngrowere (Thunor-Corngrower) bless this ground.” And then turn yourself to the east and raise your open palms skywards and say these words:
“Eastward I stand, favours I ask for myself
I ask the famed master, I ask the great Lord Ingui
I ask the great keeper of the honoured dead, Nerþuz
I ask both below and above
And the true holy mother, Frīg
And the high hall of Wōden
So that with Ingui-Ēowend’s (Virile Ing) permission this charm I may
Satisfy with thought turned towards firm purpose
Awaken the fruits of this land for our use in the world
Fill these fields with steadfast trust and faith
Make the this soil complete with earthly riches such that all may benefit”
Then turn yourself three times sunwise. Then stretch yourself out and recite the Rune Poem. Then make offering to Ingui-Ēowend, and to Bēow-Sulhhandla (Ploughman Bue) , and to Þunor-Corngrowere, and to Frīg-Eallmeaht (Almighty Free) and to Nerthuz-Eorþan Modor (Nerthus Earth-Mother) and to the honour and grace of him who owns the land and all those who are dependent upon him. When all this has been done, then let an unknown seed be taken from the needy and then give to them twice as much as is taken from them. Have all the ploughing-gear brought out and put together. Have a hole bored on the plough-stick filled with incense and fennel and Þunor-hallowed soap and salt. Then take the seed, set it into the plough’s shaft and say:
“Erce, Erce, Erce, mother of earth
may the fertile one, the lord of the Ingaveones
grant fields growing and sprouting
increasing and strengthening
with shining shafts of bright crops
and the broad barley-crops
and the white wheat-crops
and all the crops of the earth.
Grant to him oh Lord Ingui
and all the blessed Gods
that this tilling be protected against any enemy
and it be victorious against any evil
of witchcraft and malevolence seen throughout the land.
Now I ask the ruler who shaped this world
that no woman be so word-strong nor man so clever
that he or she should be able to turn aside my words thus spoken”
When the plough is driven out and turns the first furrow, then say:
“Hale be thou, Nerþuz, earth-mother!
Be thou growing in Ingui’s embrace
Filled with food for the use of men”
Then take each kind of meal (Flour made from the crops of the land) and bake a hand-sized loaf and knead it with milk and Þunor-hallowed water and lay it under the first furrow. Then say:
“A field full of food for the race of men bright-blooming may you become blessed in the name of the gods and this earth on which we live; the gods who made these lands grant growth to us as a gift so that each grain may come to us for our use.”
Then say three times: “Mighty Þunor-Corngrowere, let it be so blessed”.
You will note that there are multiple gods and goddesses referred to throughout this piece. The following is offered in explanation:
Þunor: As previously mentioned at the beginning of the article, it was identified by Rosenberg in 1966 that the “Holy Keeper” referred to in the charm may relate to Þunor whose name was, and still is invoked as a means to consecrate, hallow and hold spaces and objects which were to be used for sacred purposes. I have used him for the purposes of blessing both within my hearth and without, therefore to me he remains a natural choice in his aspect as “Corngrowere/Corngrower” to essentially sanctify the land.
Ingui: Ingui in his aspect of “Ēowend/Virile” is called upon as a giver of life and as a literal “sower of seeds”, called upon to take an earthly role in impregnating the land with the seeds given by the needy/almsmen/beggars in the physical form of the plough itself, entering the earth with the act of sowing. He is the perfect choice for such a role, given his strong link to virility and fertility.
Nerþuz: The Æcerbot charm refers directly to Nerþuz in her role as Eorþan Modor/Earth Mother and the Earth in the Angle tradition of life and death is both womb and tomb, essentially. Given her strong role in the charm, I have referred to her by her known name whilst retaining the alternative reference to her as “Erce” which is within the original charm in Old English. To all intents and purposes, it is to her that we are pleading that the seed of Ingui will take hold for our benefit.
Bēow: As the Barley God concerned with the agrarian cycle, in my view such a pleading in this ritual would also need to include some reference to him for he lives and dies each year with the cycle and we are asking him to come forth in this aspect and grow to his fullest potential. He is also known as the Sulhhandla /Ploughman and would be concerned with such when seeking to turn around the fortune of a blighted field.
Wōden & Frīg: Perhaps the more contentious of the God’s/Goddesses I have included in my version of the charm. I have referred to them because the literal translation from the Old English refers to the “true holy mother” and the “high hall” which, it could be argued, relate to Frīg in her aspect as mother-figure to mankind, and Wōden in his aspect as All Father. Wōden could be appealed to here in several aspects – Wordsāwere/Wordsower as a means to enforcing the strength of the charms words, Lǣce/Healer to appeal to him as a healer of the land, or even Wēstend/Destroyer in his aspect as a Desolater to destroy the presence of that which has seemingly cursed the land. To that end, I have used his name in the general form, without being specific.
With regards to the moon cycle I have chosen for the selecting of the turfs, this is so that the ritual is completed on the day following the night of the new moon as it has all the connotations and associations with new beginnings and new efforts that appealed to my common sense.
The runes are referred to twice in my version, as in the Old English version it recounts having crosses made of ash and marked with the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, therefore I have selected four runes from the Futhorc that I would etch upon hammers made from rowan-wood – runes that I felt lent themselves nicely to the spirit of the ritual though you could justify the use of many other runes in their stead should you so wish. The recitation of the Rune Poem replaces the litanies referred to in the Old English version.
And finally, the “water taken from the land” is an extrapolation of mine away from the “holy water” concept in the original, because I feel that water as a purifying and liminal agent used frequently in hearth praxis, should be taken from the land on which one resides. I find this an important concept as the water is already associated with the land and ties in nicely with the plants, wood and turfs that have been sourced already. This should be hallowed by Þunor also if it is to be in keeping with the original ritual.