EIGHTH-CENTURY ANGLO-LATIN ECCLESIASTICAL
ATTITUDES TO DREAMS AND VISIONS 
In Anglo-Saxon England,
Christianised from the late 6th century onwards by groups
of Roman, Irish and Frankish missionaries, there was a flourishing
monsastic culture, which exerted its own missionary influence to
the Continent by the early eighth-century.  The varied origins of their Christianity
notwithstanding the eighth-century Anglo-Latin
 writers saw their culture as the result of the Mediterranean
effort initiated by Pope Gregory the Great in 597. Christianisation
hardly takes place simply between two monoliths, a church and a
people,  but can rather be
understood as a layered process, the intra-ecclesiastical dimensions
of which, due to the nature of our sources, are often the most visible
to us. In this paper I will focus on Anglo-Latin attitudes to dreams
and visions, a microscopic strand of the history of Christian thought
in the early Middle Ages, to explore the ways in which the views
of writers on this particular missionary frontier could be explained,
and to briefly consider them in relation to our understanding of
the formation and nature of early medieval Christendom.
In Hellenistic antiquity
dreams were an acknowledged medium of divination. The Middle Ages
also inherited the biblical stories of God communicating his will
through dreams and visions. However, the bible also held warnings
on the illusionary nature of some dreams. Already in classical philosophies
the spirit world was invoked as one among the causes of dreams and
and Christian theologians, especially those influenced by ascetic
thought, above all SS. Augustine of Hippo († 430), Gregory the Great
(† 604) and Isidore of Seville († 636), pointed out that not all
spirits were benign or sent by God: some were the agents of the
Devil. Paraphrasing St. Paul
 they remarked that Satan, to mislead the faithful,
could appear in any disguise, even as an angel of light. Essentially
the Fathers cautioned their audiences against trusting messages
that appeared wanted or trustworthy. The suspicious nature
of dreams necessitated care, sanctity and learning of their evaluators. 
However, judging by
seventh-century Gallic practices,  such warnings may
not have immediately been heeded. The control and handling of oneiric
experience is curiously invisible in most Merovingian narrative
sources, and when commentary or descriptions of interpretation appear,
apparently for reasons similar to those behind – or as reactions
to – the patristic concerns, they hardly reach the same depth.
 While many patristic texts appear to stress the
importance of the dreamer’s sanctity as a guarantee of the authenticity
of a dream, the narrative sources as a whole do not observe such
a rule with any consistency. Most texts simply depict acceptance
of dreams at face value and rarely dwell on the authentication of
individual dreams and visions.  Something distinctive,
however, appears in the Anglo-Latin sources. While mine has been
the first attempt at a comprehensive examination of attitudes to
the validity and interpretation of oneiric experiences in both Continental
as well as Insular narrative sources of this period,  some scholars
have, comparing a limited selection of texts or examining individual
items, noted the incidences of both descriptions of authentication
as well as of ecclesiastical control of oneiric experience in Anglo-Latin
For example Lisa Bitel,
in a brief sketch of early medieval oneirology, asserted that the
reason writers in the non-Romanised north dwelt on the assessment
and interpretation of dreams was that their audiences did not share
Greco-Roman ideas about dreams.  However, it seems that a distinction
between disbelief and learned scepticism,
 the latter of which I feel is more appropriate
in relation to the Anglo-Latin texts, is in order. The eminent Peter
Brown, commenting on insular examples of control and criticism,
offered that possibly the Anglo-Latin ecclesiasts were faced with
a “vernacular visionary culture, stirred by Christianity but unamenable
to ecclesiastical control”, making them wary of the problematic
nature of the phenomena.  However, as very little, indeed
nothing certain, can be known of Anglo-Saxon pagan or popular views
on dreams,  both theories are incomplete,
and might even lead us in the wrong direction. The present paper
proposes to examine these Anglo-Latin texts – a number of saints’
lives and a historical narrative, all datable to the first half
of the eighth century  – in their contexts, to reconsider their evidence
about views on dreams, and propose alternative or additional explanations.
Brown introduces his suggestion with a reference to a passage in
the early eighth-century Life of St. Guthlac († possibly
around 714), ostensibly indicating the peculiar problems the insular
ecclesiasts had with out-of-control charismatics. We are told the
saint’s source of power had been questioned, and bishop Hædda of
Leicester’s secretary offered to try him, having witnessed many
“pseudo-anachoritas diversarum religionum simulatores” among the
Irish (in modern Scotland), and learned to recognise them.  But our continental sources, especially Gregory
of Tours († 594),
 likewise inform us of the existence of wayward
ascetics and false prophets, effectively curing the sick and prophesising
accurately through black magic. Despite this, while there is nothing
to suggest that the majority of Frankish ecclesiasts could not have
been critical, many do appear quite relaxed regarding oneiric experiences.  There is no reason to deny the
possibility of an Anglo-Saxon – or Irish, for that matter – “visionary
culture” – most people dream, after all – but we do lack any specific
evidence of its nature. Rather, one is forced to consider why, if
problems precipitate care,  is this not evident in the continental
On the contrary, our
Anglo-Latin sources still seem to exhibit a heightened sensitivity
to the critique and control of visionary experience. Brown’s sole
other example of Anglo-Saxon sensitivity is the famous story of
Caedmon by Bede the Venerable († 735). Caedmon, a layman, received
in a dream the gift of musical composition, and was sent by the
reeve to St. Hild, abbess of Whitby († 680), whose panel of ecclesiastical
experts tried his talent, finally deeming it valid.  While images of voluntary consultation occasionally
this kind of clerical control, depicted explicitly as determining
the distinction between vision and illusion, cannot be found in
the Merovingian sources.
This can also be seen
when comparing the longer Anglo-Latin accounts of visions of the
Christian afterlife to those recorded in the Continent. Whereas
Continental visionaries such as the monk Barontus or St. Fursey
(† 650), 
are portrayed autonomously interpreting and openly sharing
their experiences without consulting any superior clergy, both St.
Boniface of Mainz († 754) and Bede, recounting the visions of their
countrymen, an anonymous monk of Wenlock and the paterfamilias
Dryththelm, respectively, mention a stage of control after the reception
of the vision. According to Bede, Drythelm shared his vision first
with king Aldfrith of Northumbria (685–705), who, realising its
value, arranged for the seer to enter a monastery.
 The monk of Wenlock, on the other hand, was admonished
by the very vision itself to narrate it first to a certain priest,
and “afterwards, insofar as advised by him, recount it to the general
Likewise Bede, in his retelling of the story of St.
Fursey, departs from the original in specifying that Fursey only
shared his visions with those considering a monastic conversion. 
Are we here, then,
faced with care arising in response to some uncontrollable popular
culture of dreams? While a rampant vernacular visionary culture
is as impossible to rule out as it is to prove, I am inclined to
elaborate on the remark of Patrick Sims-Williams, who, regarding
the vision of the monk of Wenlock, points out that not only is the
rhetoric of reticence in respect to the extra-monastic community
in keeping with the oldest of ascetic traditions, but that the care
in the text might reflect the higher sophistication of the Anglo-Latin
Indeed, where reasons
for such care are referred to, the allusions are always to biblical
and patristic scepticism. A depiction of learned care appears in
Bede’s story of the monk Ecgbert’s preparations for a mission to
the Frisians. Godly ambitions notwithstanding, one morning a young
brother approached Ecgbert and told that Boisil, his teacher, had
appeared to him in the night and warned that the mission was not
in God’s plan for Ecgbert. The young brother himself was quite convinced
of the dream, had he not recognised the looks of his own teacher?
Ecbert, however, told him to keep the dream to himself, lest it
be an illusion. Privately he meditated on the dream, and when the
younger monk returned, telling the dream had recurred and that he
had been more severely admonished by Boisil, Bede notes Ecgbert
was already inclined to consider it truthful. However, not knowing
how to convince his enthusiastic companions, he still went on with
his plans, calling off the expedition only when a storm capsized
his ship at dock. 
That such views were
current in Anglo-Latin learned culture is also suggested by a passage
in the Whitby Life of St. Gregory the Great.
 In an anecdote concerning the recovery of the relics
of king Eadwine of Northumbria, we are presented with Trimma, a
priest admonished in a series of dreams to reclaim the remains.
Unlike in the continental instances of this topos,
 however, Trimma’s reluctance to act is not attributed
to his disbelief, but to his learned distrust towards dreams, as
well as the advice of a fellow monk to the same effect. Only when
he is physically abused in a third dream, does he comply, and recover
the relics. In fact, in its inter-textual context, the story appears
almost as a cautionary tale against too dogmatic a distrust
towards dreams, which it implies might be current in some quarters.
 Generally ecclesiasts closely concerned with a
particular cult could be readier to consider the truthfulness of
useful dreams and visions – and conversely for a writer such as
Bede, concerned with the bigger picture, a critical stance would
be understandable. Such a difference in authorial perspective might
well explain some of the differences apparent between Continental
and Anglo-Latin hagiography. That these views are visible only in
Anglo-Latin texts does not automatically rule such views out from
This should alert us
to question the extent to which our sources reflect a unified Anglo-Latin
attitude. What seems common to most of our texts is a new acknowledgement
of the problematic nature of dreams; disagree as they might on its
implications. However, the passages indicating this, as they do
not represent quite the totality of Anglo-Latin narratives on dreams,
hardly amount to a conclusive show of a peculiarly Anglo-Latin ecclesiastical
are the pragmatic contexts of our narrative sources to consider.
Received wisdom states that the Merovingian hagiographies were often
intended for a wide audience of laymen. Conversely, in Anglo-Saxon
and Germanic territories the language barrier would have made the
extant Latin texts incomprehensible to lay audiences and thus the
domain of ecclesiasts, any possible vernacular paraphrases notwithstanding.  Bypassing problems of identifying
the pragmatic contexts of individual texts and assuming a fundamental
unity in the public aims of both Continental and Insular hagiography,
one might argue that there was in fact a real difference, not simply
in narratives, but in thought itself, in attitude to dreams and
visions. However, seizing on these generalisations one could advance
the hypothesis that texts directly intended for lay ears would have
been shorn of theological misgivings and complications, and, likewise,
such as were written for ecclesiasts, to be used in pastoral work
only through paraphrasing, would have been better suited for voicing
actual theoretical concerns.
 Nevertheless, our evidence does suggest the possibility
of a learned critical view entertained on the higher rungs of the
Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical hierarchy, although a leap from representations
to ideas is certainly not a straightforward one.
In addition to the
narrative sources we have an early eighth-century penitential, purporting
to collect the judgements of metropolitan bishop Theodore of Canterbury,
which is apparently the first piece of western ecclesiastical legislation
since the fourth century that lists oneiromancy among prohibited
methods of divination.
 However, the issue the passage actually concerns
itself with is women practicing “incantationes vel divinationes
diabolicas”. Only after this reference to a supposedly actual practice  doest the text
follow up with a justification, introducing, “de hoc in canone dicitur”,
a quote from a Latin version  of the acts of
the council of Ancyra (circa 314), condemning all “qui auguria
auspicia sive somnia vel divinationes quaslibet secundum mores gentilium
observant”.  Thus the compilation employs
an older and more prestigious council to legitimate the prohibition
of an ostensibly peculiar Anglo-Saxon practice. To strengthen the
impression that oneiromancy was not an extraordinary problem, later
Anglo-Latin penitentials and canons,  when treating
supposed pagan survivals, make no reference to it. Continental penitentials,
however, did pick up the prohibition, which also found its way into
Carolingian legislation,  and there is again no reason
to invoke cultural influences from below to explain this.
Thus the prohibition
of pagan oneiromancy – and this may in any case have been the effect
of the decree, its intentions notwithstanding – has the appearance
of an exercise in comprehensively connecting the young Anglo-Saxon
Christianity to the traditional position of the universal Church,
rather than that of a reaction to an actual practice. This, in general,
had been the essence of the late seventh-century reforms undertaken
by Theodore, in whose name the penitential was written. It can hardly
be insignificant that he hailed from the Byzantine east, not only
a highly learned ecclesiastical culture but also one possessing
authors even more critical of dreams than the Western Fathers.
 If the penitential can thus be explained through
new currents in ecclesiastical thought, it also suggests a model
of explanation for the care observed in the narrative sources. On
the other hand, it may well itself have exerted direct influence
on the authors we have been examining.
Pursuing the hypothesis
that we are dealing with intra-ecclesiastical influences, it must
be pointed out that sophistication – as employed by Patrick Sims-Williams
– might still not be quite the right term for the phenomena, eclipsing
as it does the intellectual achievements of the Merovingian church.
writers could have been aware of the patristic opinion, and for
example Gregory’s Dialogues were read and used as a literary
model in mid seventh-century Francia.  Yet explicit references to the
problematic nature of dreams are rare in continental narratives.
Perhaps the seventh-century Gallican Church regarded the pope’s
writings as doctrinal sources among many. Anglo-Latin ecclesiasts,
however, held the pope in special reverence, seeking to adhere to
the spirit of the writings of the founder of their church.  More importantly,
the missions appear to have created a new need to answer questions
about the real nature of orthodoxy and to find or create an authoritative
tradition to connect to, and many were inclined to see the Roman
church embodying this authority and tradition.  Robert Markus
has argued that the Anglo-Saxon missionaries of the 8th
century applied a new definition of Christian behaviour, vehemently
attacking practices often already condemned but practically tolerated
by the Gallic and Roman churches.  In organising congregations many Anglo-Latin
ecclesiasts applied new models of pastoral organisation and care.  Ultimately such concerns influenced
the Carolingian formulation and application of new standards of
lay Christianity. 
In the absence of evidence
of an especially oneirocentric popular culture, a simple dialectical
model of Christianisation fails us in this case. Instead, we are
faced with hints of complex developments inside and between the
hierarchies of the western churches. This is not to deny popular
or vernacular influence, but rather, in the absence of specific
data, to reduce its ascertainable influence to a more general level:
irrespective of the specific nature of any wayward popular culture
the very idea of a missionary frontier, something culturally Other,
 must have been, in part, what drove ecclesiasts
to take a closer look at the scriptures and to seek authoritative
answers. It has been my intention to suggest that the attitudes
to dreams visible in the Anglo-Latin texts, simultaneously representing
and participating in the process of Christianisation, were substantially
Mediterranean-Christian, and that their probable inspirations indicate
this particular case of Christianisation taking place between ecclesiastical
traditions, betraying differences of opinion between the human constituents
of what is still too often viewed as a monolithic institution. The
texts not only show what might be a difference between the views
of the Gallic and Anglo-Saxon ecclesiasts, but also hint to differences
inside – at least – the latter. Further study, however, both of
the patristic theories and of Merovingian and Carolingian thought
on these matters, seems to be needed to clarify the nature and extent
of the apparent differences. It seems we might apply to this case
the larger point argued among others by Peter Brown  – namely the fruitful diversity
of Western Christendom in the first millennium – but wishing to
point out that a comparative and contextual approach may help us
explain some of this apparent diversity without resorting to assumption
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 This paper is based on my unpublished
Pro gradu -thesis (Keskiaho 2003) as well as ongoing work on the
 See e.g. Riché 1962, pp. 303–25; Angenendt
1995, pp. 268–83 and 288–92; Brown 1996, pp. 270–3; Depreux 2002,
pp. 28–38. Note that while Anglo-Saxon England was substantially
Christianised in the early 8th century, treating the
Anglo-Latin church as a missionary culture is in keeping with
the view of the Anglo-Latin ecclesiasts themselves; e.g. Anglo-Saxon
missionary Boniface of Mainz confided in bishop David of Winchester
regarding his problems in evangelisation, on the grounds that
David was dealing with similar issues in his diocese; see Epistolae
Merowingici et Karolini aevi, pp. 271–3 and 328–30. On an
aspect of the cross-fertilisation between the continental mission
and Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical government see Cubitt 1995, 102–10.
 A note on terminology: I use Anglo-Latin
to refer to the extant (Latin) sources written in Anglo-Saxon
England, to the authors of these texts as well as the ideas and
images contained in them. Anglo-Saxon is used of either the society
as a whole or any part of it not directly or only partly evidenced
in the sources.
 While this paper is not an exercise
in perpetuating the misguided notion of a culture clericale
and a culture folklorique with little or no mutual contact
(as in Le Goff 1999; for criticism see e.g. Hen 1995, pp. 18–20),
it nevertheless seeks to remind that not all ecclesiastical attitudes
to popular cultures should be explained simply as reflections
 Besides the spirit world, classical
philosophies and Christian thinkers attributed dreams to a variety
of bodily causes. On Classical and Early Christian attitudes to
oneiromancy, see Le Goff 1985; and my critique: Keskiaho 2003,
pp. 3–7 and 95–8; Dodds 1963, pp. 37–68; Hanson 1980; Foucault
1984, pp. 17–50; Miller 1994; Stroumsa 1999. The quick overview
of patristic oneirology that follows is largely based on Le Goff
1985; but it must be pointed out that a number of unresolved questions
on the nature and influence of patristic thoughts on dreams and
 Illustrating the importance of inspiration
in interpretation St. Augustine referred to the examples of the
prophets Joseph (Gen. 40:5–41:3) and Daniel (2); S. Augustinus,
De Genesi ad litteram, XII.1, pp. 392–94. See further Gregorius
Magnus, Moralia in Iob VIII.xxiv, 42, p. 413; Grégoire
Le Grand, Dialogues IV.50.1–5, pp. 172–6; and Isidorus
Hispalensis, Sententiae, III. 6.11b–13, p. 119. Cf. Beda
Venerabilis, Expositio Actuum Apostolorum 19.14, p. 77.
 See Moreira 2000; and 2003; cf. Keskiaho
(2003), esp. pp. 95–8.
 In many texts doubt about the interpretation
of specific dreams is countered by simply and affirmatively identifying
even ambiguous oneiric figures as saints. See e.g. Gregorius Turonensis,
Liber in gloria confessorum, 62, p. 333; Gregorius Turnonensis,
Libri IV de virtutibus S. Martini, II.31, p. 170; Ionas
Bobiensis, Vita Iohannis, 20, p. 343; Vita S. Richarii,
14, p. 452; Vita Amandi, 7, p. 434. For a rare description
of authentication, see De virtutibus Geretrudis, 2, p.
465; where a vision is authenticated based on its appearance.
Gregory of Tours, however, depicts a number of ecclesiasts and
laymen detecting satanic illusions in dreams and visions, and
recommends methods for an individual to use to this end, see Keskiaho
2003, pp. 20–5.
 My studies have so far focused on Frankish,
Anglo-Latin and, to a lesser extent, Irish narratives. For an
overview of the previous scholarship, as well as my approach,
see Keskiaho 2003, pp. 2–7. Additionally Dutton 1994; Carozzi
1994; Moreira 2000.
 Cf. van Uytfanghe 1981, who may, however,
approach the opposite extreme by overestimating the degree of
learned scepticism in Merovingian hagiography.
 Cf. Wittmer-Butsch 1991, 107,
who invokes generally Germanic pagan beliefs in dreams as a factor
in ecclesiastical oneirocriticism. However, as apparent from her
notes, reconstructions of “Germanic” beliefs come from high-
and late medieval sagas and epics – and even so, there is nothing
to suggest any peculiarities in this regard in the Anglo-Saxon
culture in contrast to continental Germanic cultures. For a discussion
specific to the Anglo-Saxons, see Hines 1997.
 For a detailed treatment
of the narrative sources examined here, and a discussion of my
method, see Keskiaho 2003, pp. 7–19 and appendix A. Central to
my approach is treating the sources as primarily indicators of
the thought of their authors, especially pertinent in the Anglo-Latin
case, where most texts recount events distant in time or recount
and edit stories already put into writing. Generally on Early
Medieval hagiography and histories see Graus 1965; McClure 1983;
Prinz 1989; Prinz 1992; von der Nahmer 1994; Lifshitz 1994; van
Uytfanghe 1999; Cubitt 2000; Heinzelmann 2002.
 Vita Sancti Guthlaci Auctore Felice,
XLVI, p. 142.
 On such “early day
televangelist-cum-Robin-Hood[s]” (Mathisen 1996, pp. 315-6) and
other cases of questionable prophecy see Gregorius Turonensis,
Libri historiarum decem, IX.6, II.7, p. 49; V.14, p. 210 – 11; Libri IV de virtutibus S.
Martini, II.40, p. 175; Liber in gloria martyrum, 50,
p. 73. See also Carozzi & Taviani-Carozzi 1999, p. 40-2.
 See especially Libri historiarum
decem, VII.33, p. 401; and Chronicarum quae dicuntur Fredegarii
Scholastici liber III, 12, p. 97.
 And, beyond P. Brown’s hypothesis, this
is suggested by a reaction to a ninth-century continental case
of “real” popular visionary culture: in 847 in Constance a woman
called Thiota was brought before Hraban Maur for questioning concerning
her reputed visions of the end of the world. She confessed a priest
had put words in her mouth and was condemned as an impostor; see
Dutton 1994, pp. 126–8. Perhaps this case precipitated Hraban’s
hostile outburst in his Expositio Super Jeremiam Prophetam,
9, 985B. This episode is also a useful reminder that often the
lower tiers of the ecclesiastical hierarchy were complicit in
activities frowned upon by the clerical elite – no model of a
monolithic Church applies.
 Beda Venerabilis, Historia Ecclesiastica,
iv.24, pp. 396–98. Cf. Riché 1962, p. 325; Kartschoke 2000, pp.
 Keskiaho 2003, pp. 78–84. Cf. Moreira 2003, pp.
634–41. See e.g. Ionas Bobiensis, Vitae Columbani Libri
II, I, p. 152; Passio Praiecti, 1, p. 226; Alcuinus Turonensis,
Vita Willibrordi, 2, p.117.
 Visio Baronti , pp. 377–8; Vita Sancti
Fursei, pp. 280–303. See generally Dinzelbacher 1981; Carozzi
1994; Ciccarese 1981/2; Hen 1996; Contreni 2003. There appears
to be no reason to suppose (Pace e.g. Flint 1993, pp. 193–4)
such long otherworld journeys represented a Christianised version
of a Germanic pagan idea. However, this does not mean they were
not intended for missionary use, and some elements of individual
texts might be identified as answers to pagan notions; see e.g.
Carozzi 1994, pp. 133–8.
 Historia Ecclesiastica , v.12, pp. 463–73.
Bede, in his veterotestamental conception of history, wished to
see kings taking a pastoral role with the clergy, see McClure
 Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini
aevi, 10, pp. 252–7, p. 256: “quemadmodum ab illo instructus
fieret, hominibus pronuntiaret”.
 Vita Fursei abbatis Latiniacensis
, p. 436: “egressus inde verbum Dei predicabat et ea quem
viderat vel audierat omnibus populis Scottorum adnuntiabat”; Historia
Ecclesiastica, iii.19, p. 258. This may not be the only passage
Bede edited to more closely fit orthodoxy: Vita Sancti Cuthberti
auctore anonymo, II.6, p. 86; and Beda Venerabilis, Vita
Sancti Cuthberti, XIII, p. 198. Cf. Beda Venerabilis, Beati
Felicis confessoris vita, col. 791A . There are also the long
otherworldly visions of St. Guthlac, which the hagiographer insists
were not dreams – see Vita Sancti Guthlaci, XXIX, p. 96.
Such a notion, if not explicitly expressed, is common to such
visions, excepting that of Barontus, which takes place per
somnium – something one might be tempted to interpret suggesting
a laxer attitude to dreams.
 Sims-Williams 1990, p. 247. To me it
seems comparable care is reflected in a seventh-century Hispanic
visionary account – likewise from an arguably “more sophisticated
culture” – see Vitas sanctorum patrum Emeretensium, I,
pp. 6–12. Generally a pertinent analogy might be presented by
the Anglo-Saxon attitudes to drinking, which – it has been suggested
(Hugh Magennis 1986) – were more careful than elsewhere in Christendom.
Certainly this does not mean that the Anglo-Saxons were distinguished
for being extraordinary drinkers, since excessive drinking was
prevalent everywhere in the “barbarian” West; see Hen 1995, pp.
 Historia Ecclesiastica , v.9, pp. 476–8.
 Liber beati et laudabilis viri Gregorii,
 See Keskiaho 2003, pp. 47-56, for examples
 Perhaps he was accommodating the views
of the elders of his own monastery – it might not be entirely
irrelevant that Whitby, the probable place of the text’s composition,
was where Bede tells us Caedmon’s interrogation was organised.
 The rest of the Anglo-Latin oneiric
passages, however, appear by no means to contradict the present
case. See Aldhelmi Malmesbiriensis prosa De virginitate,
25, pp. 297–321; 27, pp. 335–49; Aldhelmus, De virginitate
carmen, lines 595–650 and 715–29; Liber beati et laudabilis
viri Gregorii, p. 100; Vita Sancti Cuthberti auctore anonymo,
I.4, p. 66; I.5, p. 68; II. 2, p. 76; Beda Venerabilis, Vita
Sancti Cuthberti, II, p. 158; IV, pp. 739–40; VII, p. 176;
Historia Ecclesiastica, i.19, p. 68; ii.6, pp. 152–4; ii.12,
p. 178; iv. 9, pp. 346–8; v.13, pp. 474–6; v.14, pp. 476–8; Eddius
Stephanus, Vita Wilfridi, p. 251; Vita Sancti Guthlaci,
XXX, p. 98; XXXI, p. 104; XXXIII, p. 108; LII, p. 164. Unlike
Bitel (1991, 52, 56) I do not count Historia Ecclesiastica,
iv.23, p. 394 among the depictions of ecclesiastical control;
see Keskiaho 2003, p. 42 and n. 288.
 On the production and
pragmatic contexts of Early Medieval hagiography, as well as the
related question of comprehension of Latin, see Heinzelmann 1981;
van Uytfanghe 1985; Heene 1989; Heene 1991; Hen 1995, pp. 20–42;
Wood 1999, pp. 106–7; van Egmond 1999; Depreux 2002, pp.
 Similarly, Stancliffe (1992, 97) has
argued that a difference in the textual level between depicted
types of miracles in continental and Irish vitae may not
reflect a cultural preference for certain types of miracles, but
instead correspond to the preoccupations of secular vs. monastic
congregations. See also van Egmond 1999, 53; who notes a rare
known instance of intended selective reading of a hagiography
to a lay audience, Hincmar of Rheims’ ninth-century Vita Remigii,
where passages reserved for the illuminati are specially
marked (see Hincmar’s own explanation, p. 258).
 For recent surveys of medieval anti-oneiromantic
legislation see Semeraro 2002, pp. 37–72; and Moreira 2003, pp.
 For an attempt at a distinction between
topoi and actual practices depicted in Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical
legislation, see Meaney 1992; where this passage on female diviners
is thought to refer to an actual practice (pp. 105–6). I am inclined
to follow the argument of Yitzhak Hen (1995, 180–9), who contends
that ecclesiastical legislation reflects, in the first place,
the very real fears and wishes of the administrative clergy, rather
than necessarily features of popular culture; see further Hen
 Whether the canon,
which only appears in this form in a sixth-century Hispanic Latin
version, (Concilium Ancyritanum interpretatio, xxiiii,
112) actually was included in the original Greek acts, or represents
a later forgery, as claimed by Isabel Moreira (2003, pp. 629–33),
it certainly was not alien to the spirit of Late Antique ecclesiastical
legislation; cf. Wittmer-Butsch 1991,pp. 20–103; Semeraro 2002,
pp. 38–40. Both Moreira and Semeraro fail to notice that the wording
closely echoes Mosaic Law; see Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10–1.
 Paenitentiale Theoderici, 1.15.4.
On Anglo-Latin penitentials in general see Frantzen 1983.
 See especially the so-called penitential
of Egbert (Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, pp. (413)
416–33) that does list a number of “pagan” practices (8.1–2) covered
in the penitential of Theodore, yet omits any mention of dreams.
Neither are dreams expressly mentioned in the acts of Clofesho
747 (Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, pp. 360–76).
On the problems associated with these texts, see Meaney 1992,
pp. 108–12; on the council Cubitt 1995, pp. 99–124.
 See e.g. Excarpsus
Cummeani, 7.16, p. 482; and Admonitio Generalis, 65,
 According to Dagron 1985 some eastern
ascetics held that not only was oneiric imagery possibly illusionary,
but that only the cross, nothing else, could be counted as trustworthy
imagery. Such questions appear to have gained additional importance
due to the iconoclastic crisis, see e.g. Brown 1996, p. 249. Real
oneiromancy with possibly pagan roots was also demonstrably alive
and well in the east, and possibly influencing the discussions
– such texts (see Semeraro 2002) found their way west from the
 On these, Wood 1994, 323; and especially
 See e.g. Vogeler 1988; and Bischoff
1961. Additionally, these authors appear from the late seventh-century
onwards in both Irish and, later, Frankish theological digests
and treatises, but the surviving texts pay no specific attention
to oneirocriticism; see e.g. Ecloga quam scripsit Latchen;
and Defensoris Locogiacensis monachi Liber Scintillarum.
The latter appears to make a choice to omit oneirocritical passages
of the chapter III.6 of Isidore’s Sententiae. For a later
example of a selective reading, employing critical authors in
apparent contradiction to their views, see the Carolingian Vita
Adelphi (10, p. 228): “Igitur visiones illas … iam narrandas
aggrediar, auctoritate dultus de talibus scripta beati Augustini
et almifici Gregorii papae … Nam et beatus Augustinus refert,
cum iustorum animae in locis amenis iustis fuerint sociatae, licentia
adepta, quos in hac vita dilectos habuerunt reventuntur invisere
per somniorum revelationes et consolatium ortamina: quod et crebro
acta per sactorum comperimus libros…”
 See e.g. Boniface’s letter (Epistolae
Merowingici et Karolini aevi, 33, pp. 283–4) in 735 to Nothelm,
metropolitan of Canterbury, requesting a verified copy of the
Gregorian Responsiones (ostensibly a collection of Augustine’s
questions and the pope’s answers on various pastoral concerns),
as well as indication of the AD date of the missionaries’ arrival.
Boniface had encountered a set of the Responsiones, used
to legitimate Germanic marriage customs within degrees of kinship
forbidden by canonical traditions. Boniface, who held Gregory
and his memoria, as well the idea of Rome as a central
authority, in great respect suspected the clauses were a forgery,
which they may well have been, see Meyvaert 1971, pp. 15–33. Regarding
dreams the Responsiones appear to have introduced a more
nuanced view of nocturnal pollution, which, probably through missionaries,
found its way to continental penitentials – see e.g. the mid eighth-century
Poenitentiale Merseburgense, 90, pp. 152–3.
 Wood 2001; Depreux 2002, pp. 39–42.
 Markus 1992. See also Markus 1990. One
sign of a redefinition of borders between Christian and secular
might be found in changing burial customs; see Dierkens &
Périn 1997; and Naumann-Steckner, Friederike 1997; cf. Depreux
2002, p. 38, pp. 99–102.
 See e.g. Cubitt 1995, pp. 115–18, pp.
 Chélini 1991. For earlier
periods cf. Riché 1962, pp. 153–200; Hen 1995, esp. pp. 121–53;
and Hen 2001.
 This, for example, was the case
with the monks of St. Wandrille who, in the late eighth- or early
ninth-century, cooked up a competing version of the Christianisation
of the Frisians, in answer to Alcuin’s Vita Willibrordi:
Vita Vulframni, 9, p. 668. See also Wood 1999, p. 107.
The story of dux Radbod’s dream neatly illustrates the
missionary imagination, but probably has little to do with the
– already at the time of its writing long past – historical reality.