Leechcraft – the Early English Healing Tradition
with Steve Pollington & Robin Baker (Independent Scholars)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 4th July, 2015.


An examination of medical practice in Anglo-Saxon England with a focus on plant-based preparations. Evidence will be drawn from archaeology and the three Old English principal manuscripts to indicate the range of materials used and the purposes to which they were put. The combination of classical medical literature and native herblore produced a remarkably diverse medical tradition.

Provisional Programme:

09.50 – 10.15:         Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:         Leechcraft – the Old English Healing Tradition (SP) – An introduction to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of healing, and an overview of some of the problems.

11.15 – 11.40:         Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:         The Medical Manuscript Tradition (SP) – An overview of the written sources of our knowledge.

12.40 – 14.00:         Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:         Anglo-Saxon Materia Medica (RB) – A discussion of some of the mineral and vegetable materials mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.

14.50 – 15.10:        Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:         What Ails Thee? (SP) – A survey of the Anglo-Saxon understanding of disease and the role of the healer in society.

c.16.00:                   Thanks and Close

About Steve Pollington:

Stephen has been writing books on Anglo-Saxon England for two decades. His many published titles include works on the Old English language, military culture, healing and herblore, runes and feasting, as well as a double CD of readings in Old English. He has lectured widely on Anglo-Saxon culture and has worked on many television and radio programmes. For more on his work, see his website at www.stevepollington.com/index.html .

About Robin Baker:

Robin Baker is an East India Merchant specialising in botanical drugs, spices, and animal derivatives. He is Past President of the International General Produce Association, a member of the British Standards Institution, a contributor to Trease & Evans’s Pharmacognosy (London 2009), and an Anglo-Saxon numismatist.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading:

  • Grattan, J., & C.Singer, Anglo-Saxon Magic and Medicine (London 1952)
  • LeStrange, R., A History of Herbal Plants (London 1977)
  • Meaney, A.L., Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones, British Archaeological Reports, British Series 96 (Oxford 1981)
  • Meaney, A.L., “Women, Witchcraft and Magic in Anglo-Saxon England”, in D.G.Scragg (ed.), Superstition and Popular Medicine in Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester 1989)
  • Pollington, S., Leechcraft – Early English Charms, Plant Lore, and Healing (Anglo-Saxon Books 2000)
  • Sinclair Rohde, E., The Old English Herbals (London 1922)
  • Storms, G., Anglo-Saxon Magic (The Hague 1948)
  • Voigts, L.E., “Anglo-Saxon Plant Remedies and the Anglo-Saxons”, Isis, 70 (1979)