The glossary may be a helpful thing to look at while reading this node.
These are the dooms which King Alfred and King Guthrum chose. And this is the
ordinance also which King Alfred and King Guthrum, and afterwards King Edward and King
Guthrum, chose and ordained, when the English and Danes fully took to peace and to
friendship; and the witan also, who were afterwards, oft and unseldom that same renewed
and increased with good.
This is the first which they ordained: that they would love one God, and zealously
renounce every kind of heathendom. And they established worldly rules also for these
reasons, that they knew that else they might not many control, nor would many men else
submit to divine bot as they should: and the worldly bot they established in common to
Christ and the king, wheresoever a man would not lawfully submit to divine bot, by
direction of the bishops.
1. And this then is the first which they ordained: that church-grith
within the walls, and the king's hand-grith, stand equally inviolate.
2. If any one violate Christianity, or reverence heathenism, by word
or by work, let him pay as well wer, as wite or lah-slit, according as the deed may
3. And if a man in orders steal, or fight, or forswear, or fornicate,
let him make bot for it according as the deed may be, as well by wer, as by wite or by
lah-slit; and, above all things, make bot before God as the canon teaches, and find borh
thereof, or yield to prison. And if a mass-priest misdirect the people about a festival or
about a fast, let him pay thirty shillings among the English, and among the Danes three
half-marks. If a priest fetch not the chrism at the right term, or refuse baptism to him
who has need thereof, let him pay wite among the English, and among the Danes lah-slit;
that is, twelve ores.
Of incestuous persons.
4. And concerning incestuous persons, the witan have ordained that the king shall
have the upper, and the bishop the nether, unless bot be made before God and before the
world, according as the deed may be; so as the bishop may teach. If two brothers or near
kinsmen commit fornication with the same woman, let them make bot very strictly, in such
wise as it may be allowed, as well by wer, as by wite or by lah-slit, according as the
deed may be. If a man in orders fordo himself with capital crime, let him be seized and
held to the bishop's doom.
5. If a man guilty of death desire confession, let it never be denied
him. And all God's dues let every one zealously further, by God's mercy, and by the wites
which the witan have annexed thereto.
6. If any one withhold tithes, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes,
wite among the English. If any one withhold Rom-feoh, let him pay lah-slit among
the Danes, wite among the English. If any one discharge not light-scot, let him pay
lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one give not plough-alms, let him
pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one deny any divine dues, let
him pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. As if he fight and wound any
one, let him be liable in his wer. If he fell a man to death, let him then be an outlaw,
and let every one of those seize him with hearm who desire right. And if he so do
that any one kill him, for that he resisted God's law or the kings, if that be proved
true, let him lie uncompensated.
Of workings on a festival-day.
7. If any one engage in Sunday marketing, let him forfeit the chattel, and twelve
ores among the Danes, and thirty shillings among the English. If a freeman work on a
festival-day, let him forfeit his freedom, or pay wite or lah-slit. Let a theow-man suffer
in his hide or hide-gild. If a lord oblige his theow to work on a festival-day, let him
pay lah-slit within the Danish law, and wite among the English.
8. If a freeman break a lawful feast, let him pay wite or lahslit. If a theowman do
so, let him suffer in his hide or hide-gild.
Of ordeals and oaths.
9. Ordeal and oaths are forbidden on festival-days and lawful fast-days; and he who
shall break that, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, and wite among the English. If it
can be so ordered, no one condemned should ever be executed on the Sunday festival, but be
secured and held till the festival be gone by.
10. If a limb-maimed man who has been condemned or forsaken, and he
after that live three days then any one who is willing to take care of sore and soul may
help him, with the bishop's leave.
Of witches, diviners, perjurers, etc.
11. If witches or diviners, perjurers or morth-workers, or foul, defiled, notorious
adulteresses, be found anywhere within the land; let them be driven from the country, and
the people cleansed, or let them totally perish within the country, unless they desist,
and the more deeply make bot.
Of ecclesiastics and foreigners.
12. If any one wrong an ecclesiastic or a foreigner, through any means, as to money
or as to life, then shall the king or the eorl there in the land, and the bishop of the
people, be unto him in the place of a kinsman and of a protector, unless he have another;
and let bot be strictly made, according as the deed may be, to Christ and to the king, as
it is fitting; or let him avenge the deeds very deeply who is king among the people.
How a twelve-hynde man shall be paid for.
13. A twelve-hynde man's wer is twelve hundred shillings. A two-hynde man's wer is
two hundred shillings. If any one be slain, let him be paid for according to his birth.
And it is right that the slayer, after he has given wed for the wer, find, in addition, wer-borh
according as shall thereto belong; that is, to a twelve-hynde's wer-borh, eight of the
paternal kins and four of the maternal kin. When that is done, then let the king's mund
be established, that is, that they all of either kindred, with their hands in common upon
one weapon, engage to the mediator that the king's mund shall stand. In twenty-one days
from that day let 120 shillings be paid as heals-fang at a twelve-hynde's wer.
Heals-fang belongs to no kinsman, except to those who are within the degrees of blood. In
twenty-one days from that day that the heals-fang is paid, let the manbot be paid; in
twenty-one days from this, the fight-wite; in twenty-one days from this, the frum-gyld
of the wer; and so forth, till it be fully paid, within the time that the witan have
appointed. After this they must depart with love, if they desire to have full friendship.
All men shall do with regard to the wer of a ceorl that which belongs to his condition,
like as we have said about a twelve-hynde man.
Thus shall a man swear fealty oaths.
1. By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, I will be to ____ faithful
and true, and love all that he loves, and shun all that he shuns, according to God's law,
and according to the world's principles, and never, by will nor by force, by word nor by
work, do ought of what is loathful to him; on condition that he keep me as I am willing to
deserve, and all that fulfil that our agreement was, when I to him submitted and chose his
Thus shall a man swear when he has discovered his property and brings it in
2. By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, so I my suit prosecute with full
folk-right, without fraud and without deceit, and without any guile, as was stolen from me
the cattle ____ that I claim, and that I have attached with ____.
The other's oath with whom a man discovers his cattle.
3. By the Lord, I was not at rede nor at deed, neither counsellor nor doer,
where were unlawfully led away _____'s cattle. But as I cattle have, so did I lawfully
obtain it. And: as I vouch it to warranty, so did he sell it to me into whose hand I now
set it. And: as I cattle have, so did it come to my own property and so it by folk-right
my own possession is, and my rearing.
The oath of him who discovers his property that he does it not either for
hatred or for envy.
4. By the Lord, I accuse not ____ either for hatred or for envy, or for unlawful
lust of gain; nor know I anything soother; but as my informant to me said, and I myself in
sooth believe, that he was the thief of my property.
The other's oath that he is guiltless.
5. By the Lord, I am guiltless, both in deed and counsel, and of the charge of
which ____ accuses me.
His companion's oath who stands with him.
6. By the Lord, the oath is clean and unperjured which ____ has sworn.
Oath if a man finds his property unsound after he has bought it.
7. In the name of Almighty God, you did engage to me sound and clean that which
you sold to me, and full security against afterclaim, on the witness of ____, who then was
with us two.
How he shall swear who stands with another in witness.
8. In the name of Almighty God, as I here for ____ in true witness stand, unbidden and
unbought, so I with my eyes over-saw, and with my ears over-heard, that which I with him
Oath that he knew not of foulness or fraud.
9. In the name of Almighty God, I knew not, in the things about which you sued,
foulness or fraud, or infirmity or blemish, up to that day's-tide that I sold it to you:
but it was both sound and clean, without any kind of fraud.
10. In the name of the living God, as I money demand, so have I lack of that which ____
promised me when I mine to him sold.
11. In the name of the living God, I owe not to ____ sceatt or shilling, or
penny or penny's worth; but I have discharged to him all that I owe him, so far as our
verbal contracts were at first.
Of the oath and degree-bot of men in orders.
12. A mass-priest's oath, and a secular thane's, are in English law reckoned of
equal value; and by reason of the seven church-degrees that the mass-priest, through the
grace of God, has acquired, he is worthy of thane-right.
Of the Mercian oath.
13. A twelve-hynde man's oath stands for six ceorls oaths: because, if a man should
avenge a twelve-hynde man, he will be fully avenged on six ceorls, and his wer-gild will
be six ceorls' wer-gilds. Bequeathed it and died, he who it owned, with full folk-right,
so as it his elders, with money and with life, lawfully got, and let and left, in power of
him, whom they well gifted. And so it have, as he it gave, who had it to give, without
fraud and unforbidden; and I will possess it, as my own property, that that I have; and
ne'er for thee design, nor plot nor ploughland, nor turf nor toft, nor furrow nor
foot-mark, nor land nor leasowe, nor fresh nor marsh, nor rough nor plain, by wood nor
field, by land nor by strand, by weald nor by water, but that will maintain, the while
that I live; for there is no man alive, who ever heard that any one made plaint against,
or summoned him at the hundred, or anywhere at gemot, in market-place, or among
church-folk, the while that he lived. Sackless he was in life, be he in the grave, so as
he may. Do as I teach: be you with yours, and leave me with mine: I covet not yours, nor laeth
nor land, nor sac nor socn: nor need you mine; nor design I to you anything.
see the glossary, or
more Anglo-Saxon Laws and Customs