Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 13 January 2012


A discussion on the Medieval Religion discussion group led to a posting from John Shinners about divination by fingerrnails onychomancy).

Never heard of it? Well here's your opportunity to find out, and, if you wish to, try it - Child Protection legislation permitting that is...

Robert Reynes' 1470s commonplace book (ed. Cameron Louis, 1980) has this formula for this type of divination by fingernail ... the translation from the Middle English and Latin is by John Shinners:

[English] Take a young child--that is, between 7 and 13 years old--and set him in the sun between your legs. And then wrap a red silk thread around his right thumb three times, and scrape his fingernail well and clean. And then write on the nail these letters with olive oil [to make the nail reflective]: O, N, E, L, I; while writing these letters have the child say the Our Father. And then say this prayer: [Latin] "Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, send us three angels on your behalf, who may tell us the truth and nothing false about everything we shall ask them." [English] And say this prayer three times with good heart and devoutly. And then three angels shall appear in the child's nail. And then have the child say this after you, either in Latin or English: [Latin] "Lord Angels, I command you through the Lord Father Almighty who made you and us from nothing, and through the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the blessed John the Evangelist, and through all virgins and the power of all of God's saints, show us the truth and nothing false about everything we shall ask you. [English] And then have the child ask what he wishes and they shall show it to him.

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