Paying Attention to Dreams in Early Medieval Normative Sources (400–900): Countering Non-Christian Practices or Negotiating Christian Dreaming?

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Early medieval Christian cultures found important roles for dreams and visions, while at the same time perpetuating learned traditions advising suspicion of dreams and warning of the dangers of the wrong kinds of dreams. This article examines prohibitions against the heeding or interpretation of dreams and the transmission of these prohibitions in early medieval normative sources (canonical collections, penitentials, and royal and episcopal capitularies). It argues that such prohibitions were less likely related to any non-Christian practices involving dreams than they were motivated by a need to define conceptual places for Christian dreaming. On the one side lay concerns about dreams arising from patristic writings, chiefly those of Gregory the Great; on the other was the importance of dreams in Christian cult and thought.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEarly Medieval Europe
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)3-25
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 615 History and Archaeology
  • Early Middle Ages
  • Penitentials
  • Canonical collections
  • Dreams
  • manuscripts

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