Friday, November 10, 2006

Some men are so blinded

Sume men synd ablende thaet hi bringath heora lac
to eorrdfaestum stane and eac to treowum
and to wylsprimgum swa wiccan taecath
and nellath understandan hu stuntlice hi doth
odde hu se deada stan othe thaet dumbe treow
him maege gehelpan othe haele forgifan
thone hi sylfe ne astyriath of thaere stowe naefre.

Some men are so blinded that they bring their gifts
to earth-fast stones and their prayers to trees
and to well-springs as wizards teach.
And will not understand how foolishly they act
or how the dead stone or the dumb tree
can help or give them health
when those things themselves never move from their place.

From Halitgar's (Halitgarius: 817-831) Latin Penitential. Translated into Old English by Aelfric (955–1020).

1 comment:

Littlestone said...

Thanks to Peter Herring for bringing this to my attention. Peter adds that this is, "Just one of a number of early Christian warnings against the continuing heathen worship of stones, trees and sacred springs. The latter were soon turned into holy wells of course."

And some twelve hundred years after Halitgar issued his Penitential, people are still bringing their, " to earth-fast stones and their prayers to trees..", though sadly some of those gifts (plastic dolls, crystals etc) seem inappropriate to those sacred places. The photo above was taken in 1995 when the Swallowhead Spring was still relatively unknown; it was a late summer day and my first visit there. I arrived alone and, right from the beginning, felt the place to be of great age and significance - at least five thousand years and probably much, much more of human activity had taken place there. I spent ten minutes or so just sitting under the willow tree before even noticing the woven Hazelwood gifts hanging in the branches - they were unobtrusive and would naturally fall apart and back into the earth before the year was out.

It was a strange and an eerie sensation sitting alone there; the place was soft and still and yet through it and all around it one could sense the change of countless seasons and the flow of human destiny.