Conflicting Ideas about the Quality of Time in Memory and for Prognosis

Sessions held at the International Medieval Congress Leeds 2018

In Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, time was not a neutral but a qualified category. But how and why did special days get an intrinsic quality as good days, bad days or specific days for specific activities? How was this – sometimes contradictory – set of ideas transmitted and taught? The papers deal with beneficial and precarious, prognostic and commemorative calendrical knowledge about days and times, including a focus on related so-called “pagan”, "Jewish" and "Christian" ideas about the calendar in memory and for prognosis.

Papers of the sessions

Uta Heil: The Sunday between the Memory of Salvation and Divine Punishment

The Early Middle Ages saw a growing interest in Sunday veneration which was unknown to Christianity in Late Antiquity. Two different and contradictory strategies of implementation emerged in this respect: the positive memory of extraordinary events which occurred on Sundays during the salvation history like the resurrection of Christ (Sunday benedictions), and the negative memory of "Strafwunder" (miracles of punishment). This paper takes a fresh look at related texts, especially on Martin of Tours' involvement in these "Strafwunder". It tries to find an interpretation which can unite these conflicting memories of Sunday events.

Immo Warntjes: The early medieval reception of Augustine on 'Wednesday'

Having read Augustine’s commentary on psalm 93, early medieval Christians felt the need to change the terminology for Wednesday from commemorating a pagan God (Mercury, Wodan) to a neutral or Christian term. This paper explores the seventh-century Irish and early eleventh-century German response to the issue.

Ilaria Bultrighini: Thursday in the later Roman Empire

This paper looks at the role of Thursday – dies Iovis ('Jupiter's Day') in the Roman seven-day week – during the later Roman Empire and in Late Antiquity. It discusses a series of sources which suggest that as the use of the planetary week became increasingly popular, Thursday became the most important and sacred day in the Roman seven-day week by reason of being the day dedicated to the chief god of the Roman pantheon and, at the same time, the day associated to the astrologically favorable planet that had been named after Jupiter.

Ria Paroubek-Groenewoud: There will be blood... Deciding on the best and worst days to let blood in Carolingian times

Bloodletting was one of several ways of treating an illness in early medieval times. The art of bloodletting was known for centuries, but for the Carolingians it was not only important where to bleed a patient, but also when or when not to do so. Calendrical texts, and guidelines on good and bad days to bleed a patient start to get copied into early medieval manuscripts from the ninth century onwards. The question is how did contemporary medical experts interpret these sometimes contradictory guidelines? This paper will focus on the importance of days and times for the early medieval 'doctor'.

Annemarie Veenstra: Be still and wait for better times. Unlucky days in early medieval manuscripts

Lists of Egyptian days, days that were considered to be unlucky, can be found in large numbers of manuscripts throughout the Middle Ages. These texts started to be copied in earnest from the 8th century onwards, though such lists at this point in time had been known for several centuries at least. Even though Saints Augustine and Ambrose warned against these texts, we find them regularly in Carolingian manuscripts. How should these Egyptian Days be understood in the context of early medieval knowledge about time and religion? This paper will concern itself with Early Medieval attitudes towards these Egyptian Days.

Carine van Rhijn, Utrecht University: As sure as the sun will rise? Dealing with conflicting ideas about days and times in the Carolingian period

When in the second half of the eighth century, unprecedented enthousiasm for knowledge gathered steam in Carolingian Europe, its centres of learning and education found themselves with sometimes contradictory sets of received wisdom. Texts reflecting on calendrical knowledge are a case in point, for apart from computus, the Carolingians had a bewildering corpus of material about days and times. How did students of time approach this mixed bag of inherited and newly composed material, in particular the parts considered dubious? This paper will shed light on various approaches to such precarious knowledge on the basis of manuscripts that transmit this material.