The following charms were collected in Sanday by a Doctor Wood, in 1836. They would have originally been passed down generation to generation orally, so we are fortunate they were collected.

For the healing of people and animals:

Forespoken Water

Father, Son and Holy Ghost

Bitten sall they be

Wah haif bitten thee

Care to their near vein

Until thou get’st thy health again!

Mend thou in God’s name


To stop bleeding (substitute nose for whichever part is bleeding):

Stemming Blood

Three virgins came across from Jordan Land

Each with a bloody knife in her hand

Stem blood, stem! Setherley stand!

Bloody nose in God’s name mend!


For toothache:

Wormy Lines

Peter sat on a marble stone weeping

Christ came past and said what ails thee Peter?

O my lord, my God! My tooth doth ache!

Arise o Peter, go thy way – thy tooth shall ache no more.


To relieve the pain of a burn:

Telling out the Swey

A dead wife out of the grave arose

And thro the sea she swimmed; through the water wad to the cradle

God save the bairn burnt sair

Get fire cool soon in God’s name!

Forespoken water is blessed holy water. Forespoken grass is a particular (unnamed) herb or weed which is put into the water during the repetition of the charm, and either drunk or used to wash the afflicted area.

For the healing of sprains:

The Wristing Thread

Our Saviour rade

His foal’s foot slade

Our Saviour licht it down

Sinew to sinew, vein to vein

Joint to joint, and bare to bare

Mend thou in God’s name!


Gray, A. 2000. Circle of Light, after Sanday Church History

Photo: St Olaf’s Episcopal in Kirkwall, prior to construction of the steeple.  Image Orkney library & archive