Well, I'm no expert, but I can make a couple of guesses.
John Lock wrote:
>So still up for elucidation are ...
>Sainct Hellyn's quickingtree
I believe Pat Cullum identified this as "St. Helen's quickening
tree," i.e. the True Cross, which she is supposed to have discovered.
The story is that she actually discovered all three crosses (Christ's
and the two thieves'), and tested them by applying each in turn to a
convenient dead body; nothing happened with the first two, but the
third caused him to come back to life (i.e. to "quicken").
>& St Johns & St Peters grease (although the 'chrism' suggestion was very
>intriguing) But how does it conserve the brain?
There was an unsuccessful attempt to kill St. John which involved
dropping him into a large vessel of boiling oil; there is (or was) a
Church of San Giovanno in Oleo (!) in Rome, built to commemorate this
event. The vessel was supposedly still on show there in the 12th
century; I suppose it's possible some of the oil was kept and
Perhaps more likely is that the "grease" could be a charm
manufactured by reciting supposed holy texts over ordinary grease or
butter. An 11th century codex from Canterbury (ms B. L. Cotton
Caligula A xv) describes a text that is supposed to have been brought
by an angel and laid upon St. Peter's altar in Rome, which was to be
recited in a prescribed fashion over water (which was then drunk) or
butter (which was then smeared over the affected part) and was
supposed to cure many ailments. Bald's _Leechbook_ requires that
certain curative herbs be laid on the altar and three Masses sung
over them, including Mass on the Feast of St. John (December 27th).
I would think that the next place to look is in accounts of the
pre-Reformation relics and shrines of York and its surrounding area.
O Chris Laning
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