Telling God what he already knows: how to pray like an 11th-century monk

Sometimes it seems, the vibe is in the air. I was thinking of writing something like this, but this is far, far better.

For the Wynn

One of the great pleasures of my research is coming across little texts which open our eyes to the daily lives and inner experience of Anglo-Saxon men and women. My work mostly focuses on short rites for protection, healing and general life improvement – prayers, medical remedies, rituals to perform if you have lost your cattle – but probably my favourite of all is a short prayer guide from a manuscript dating to the second quarter of the eleventh century, known as Ælfwine’s Prayerbook (now divided into two manuscripts, London, British Library Cotton Titus D. xxvii and xxvi, and edited by Beate Günzel). The book originally belonged to Ælfwine, the Dean of the New Minster in Winchester, and was his personal compendium of prayers, scientific literature, calendars of saints’ days and all the liturgical texts that he needed as part of his deanly duties.

It’s pretty short, covering…

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