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Gender and the Body: Revision Notes

"Hwæt getacnað þæs fylmenes of-cyrf onðam gesceape, buton galnysse wanunge?" [What does the removal of the foreskin from the genitalia symbolise, but the decrease of lust?] (Ælfric, Homily on the Octaves and Circumcision of Our Lord)
"Saga me hwaet sindon tha twegen fet tha theo sawul habban sceal. / Ic the secge, Godes lufu and manna and gif heo thaera nather nafath thanne byth heo healt."[Tell me what are the two feet that the soul must have. / I tell you, the love of God and of man, and if she does not have either of these then she will be lame.] (Adrian and Ritheus)

"Wiþ wambewærce and ryselwærce. Þær þu geseo tordwifel on eorþan upweorfan, ymbfo hine mid twam handum mid his geweorpe. Wafa mid þinum handum swiþe and cweð þrowa: Remedium facio ad ventris dolorem. Weorp þonne ofer bæc þone wifel on wege. Beheald þæt þu ne locige æfter. Þonne monnes wambe wærce oððe rysle, ymbfoh mid þinum handum þa wambe. Him biþ sona sel. XII monaþ þu meaht swa don æfter þam wifele."
[For stomach pain and abdominal pain. When you see a dung beetle digging in the earth, take it with two hands along with what it has dug up. Wave it about a lot with your hands and say: Remedium facio ad ventris dolorem. Then throw the beetle away over your shoulder. Take care that you do not watch after it. When someone's stomach or abdomen hurts, hold it with your hands. The person will immediately be better. You may do this for 12 months after the beetle.] (Old English charm)

"Against an ideal of bodily perfection that relies on the singular, the unified and the replicable, monstrosity, in the form of either excess, lack or displacement, offers a gross insult." (Margrit Shildrick, 'This Body Which Is Not One: Dealing with Differences,' Body and Society 5 (1999): 80.)
Archaeological findings from a Northamptonshire graveyard, of mid-tenth to late-eleventh centuries: "Virtually all the adults over 17 years showed some degree of osteoarthritic degeneration". (Peregrine Hordern, 'The Millennium Bug: Health and Medicine around the Year 1000,' Social History of Medicine 13 (2000): 210.)
"Physical deformity may not have been viewed as deviating from a prescribed norm." (Christopher J. Knusel, 'Orthopaedic Disability: Some Hard Evidence,' Archaeological Review from Cambridge 15 (1999): 32.)
"Begeondan Brixonte ðære ea, east ðanon, beoð men acende lange & micle, þa habbað fet & sceancan twelf fota lange, sidan mid breostum seofan fota lange. Hi beoð sweartes hiwes & hi syndan Hostes nemde. Cuðlice swa hwylcne mann swa hi gefoð, þonne fretað hi hine."
[Beyond the River Brixontes, east from there, there are people born big and tall, who have feet and legs twelve feet long, flanks and chests seven feet long. They are black in colour, and are called Hostes. Certainly, whichever person they catch, they then eat him.] (The Marvels of the East)

"if an affliction was sent by God, and not something a person brought upon themselves through their own foolishness, then nothing could cleanse the soul as well as such an affliction." (Irina Metzler, Disability in Medieval Europe (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2006) 47.)
"And gif þin hand þe swicað, ceorf hi of; Betere þe is þæt þu wanhal to life ga þonne þu twa handa hæbbe & fare on helle & on unacwencedlic fyr." [And if your hand should deceive you, cut it off. It is better for you to live, maimed, than to have two hands and go to hell and to the unquenchable fire.] (The Gospel according to Mark)
"Ancient biology, especially in its Aristotelian form, made the male body paradigmatic. The male was the form or quiddity of what we are as humans; what was particularly womanly was the unformed-ness, the stuff-ness or physicality, of our humanness." (Caroline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Zone Books, 1991) 109.)
"Be swilcum & be swylcum þu miht ongitan þæt se cræft þæs lichoman bið on þam mode, & þætte ælcum men ma deriað his modes unþeawas. Ðæs modes unþeawas tioð eallne þone lichoman to him, & þæs lichoman mettrumnes ne mæg þæt mod eallunga to him getion." [By all this you may learn that the excellence of the body lies in the mind, and that each man is more damaged by the vices of his mind. The mind's sins draw all the body to them, and the body's weaknesses cannot draw the mind entirely to them.] (Boethius: Consolation of Philosophy)

The death of King Herod:
"Eornostlice ne breac se arleasa herodes his cynerices mid langsumere gesundfulnysse: ac buton yldinge him becom seo godcundlice wracu þe hine mid menigfealdre yrmðe fordyde. & eac geswutelode on hwylcum suslum he moste æfter forðsiðe ecelice cwylmian. Hine gelæhte unasecgendlic adl. his lichama barn wiðutan mid langsumre hætan: & he eall innan samod forswæled wæs & toborsten. Him wæs metes micel lust. ac swa þeah mid nanum ætum his gifernysse gefyllan ne mihte. He hriðode & egeslice hweos. [...] Wæterseocnys hine ofereode beneoþon ðam gyrdle. to þam swiðe þæt his gesceapu maðan weollon. & stincende attor singallice of þam toswollenum fotum fleow."
[Truly, the wicked Herod did not enjoy his kingdom in good health for long, but without delay divine vengeance came upon him, which afflicted him with many miseries, and also symbolised the torments he must suffer eternally after death. An unspeakable disease seized him. His body burned on the outside with a lasting heat, and inside he was swollen and ruptured. He was very hungry, but yet could not satisfy his hunger with any foods. He shook with fever and coughed terribly. Dropsy took him over beneath his belt, to the extent that his genitals swarmed with maggots, and stinking poison constantly flowed from his swollen feet.]

Herod prepares for his death:
"Ic wat þæt ðis iudeisce folc micclum blissian wile mines deaðes. ac ic mægi habban arwurðfulle licþenunge of heofigendre menigu: Gif ge willað minum bebodum gehyrsumian. Swa ricene swa ic gewite: ofsleað ealle þas iudeiscan ealdras þe ic on cweartene beclysde: þonne beoð heora siblingas to heofunge geneadode. þa ðe wyllað mines forþsiðes fægnian."
[I know that the Jewish people will have great joy at my death. But I may have an honourable funeral retinue of many mourners, if you will obey my commands. As soon as I die, kill all the Jewish elders whom I have put in prison. Then their relations, who would rejoice at my departure, will have to mourn.]
(Ælfric: Homily on the Nativity of the Innocents.)
His lichama us cyð þe lið un-formolsnod
þæt he butan forligre her on worulde leofode
and mid clænum life to criste siþode
[His body, which lies undecayed, shows us that he lived without fornication here in this world and departed to Christ with a clean life.]
(Ælfric, Life of St Edmund)

Hit is swutol þæt heo wæs ungewemmed mæden
þonne hire lichama ne mihte formolsnian on eorðan
and godes miht is geswutelod soðlice þurh hi
þæt he mæg aræran ða for-molsnodon lichaman
[It is evident that she was an unblemished maiden, since her body could not rot in the earth. And God's power is truly shown through her, that he can raise decayed bodies.]
(Ælfric, Life of St Aethelthryth)

"The tombs of the very special dead were exempt from the facts of death." (Peter Brown, The Cult of Saints, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981) 76)