Barm, Yeast, Leaven, and the Gesyfled Loaf: An Extended Footnote to "Juliana" 396b

E. C. McGregor Boyle, Purdue University


In the Anglo-Saxon poem Juliana, an unusual metaphor is used regarding leaven. This paper aims to interrogate the cultural reasons behind that metaphor, and its ultimate meaning. I begin by establishing some rough theoretical foundations from prior scholarship. After that, I introduce some of the more prominent manifestations of cultural metaphors regarding bread and leaven, including the terms hlaford and gebolgen. Next, I examine the uses of such metaphor in the sermons of Ælfric and other aspects of Anglo-Saxon Christianity. From there, I move into folk traditions that may have influenced the development of this metaphorical structure. Eventually, I show that the Anglo-Saxons retained an old cultural metaphor in which the body was compared to bread, and the mind to leaven, but that the metaphorical qualities of leaven did not survive the Christianization of their culture and the intervening centuries.




Hughes, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Folklore|British and Irish literature|Language

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