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1 THE TEXTUALITY AND MATERIALITY OF BURIAL MOUNDS IN THE LIFE OF SAINT GUTHLAC By MATTHEW DELVAUX A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEG REE OF MASTER OF THE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 Matthew Delvaux
3 To my wife and family
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This thesis would not have been possible without the guidance and support of my advisor, Bonnie Effros. Her thoughtful critiques and uncompromising demands for rigorous scholarship challenged me to produce a more compelling and coherent argument than I could otherwise have achieved. Florin Curta has constantly urged me to make more and better use of material studies, and our shared experience excavating at Uppkra, Sweden, has greatly enriched my ability to do so. Andrea Sterk and Nina Caputo have both given to me generously of their time and knowledge, and they have trained me to read source texts closely and sympathetically. Susan Gillespie equipped me with the basic tools of archaeological theory and provoked me to think about material culture in new ways, several of which I have been able to pursue here. Sophia Acord has been a constant source of encouragement; her patient listening and invaluable feedback helped me to think more critically about both text and context. Finally, to my fellow students at the University of Florida, many of whom may now be more familiar with Guthlac than was Fel ix himself, I owe an irredeemable debt of gratitude. I await with eager expectation their future scholarship.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................. 4 ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................................... 6 CHAPTER 1 INT RODUCTION ...................................................................................................... 7 2 THE TEXTUALITY AND MATERIALITY OF BURIAL MOUNDS IN THE LIFE OF SAINT GUTHLAC ............................................................................................. 14 The Hagiographic Structure of the Life of Saint Guthlac ......................................... 14 Guthlacs Mound as a Hagiographic Place ............................................................. 28 Mounds as Meaningful Places ................................................................................ 33 Mounds and Demons .............................................................................................. 43 A Landscape without Mounds ................................................................................. 53 3 CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................ 64 LIST OF REFERENCES ............................................................................................... 67 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................................................ 72
6 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of the Arts THE TEXTUALITY AND MATERIALITY OF BURIAL MOUNDS IN THE LIFE OF SAINT GUTHLAC By Matthew Delvaux May 2013 Chair: Bonnie Effros Major: History Felix, who authored the Life of Saint Guthlac in AngloSaxon England sometime around 730, described Guthlac establishing a hermitage on a plundered burial mound. I argue two basic things about this passage. First, this is a positive image of a mound, as indicated es pecially by the way that Felix structured his text around the passage. Such a positive use of a mound can best be explained through a brief excursus into earlier AngloSaxon practices. This brings me to my second point. Felix also provided indicators throughout the text that these practices were changing. This passage was therefore ripe for reinterpretations unanticipated by Felix. Although the actual process of reinterpretation is beyond the scope of the present discussion, it is appropriate to note that l ater practices attached a negative connotation to mounds, and this negative image of mounds has pervaded much of the scholarship written on the Life of Saint Guthlac
7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION So to begin to write about the solitary life of St. Guthlac, as I have proposed to do, I will take care to narrate those same things that I heard from his frequent visitors Wilfrid and Cissa, and in the same order in which I learned them. There was then on the said island a mound built of clods of earth which visitors to the solitude, greedy for acquiring profit there, had broken open. In the side of it there seemed to be a sort of a cistern, and in this Guthlac the man of blessed memory began to dwell, building a hut over it.1 This description comes from the Life of S aint Guthlac a text written around 730 CE by an otherwise unknown author who called himself Felix. The text survives in thirteen manuscripts, and it inspired an extensive subsequent literature in both Latin and the AngloSaxon vernacular.2 It narrates the life of Guthlac, an AngloSaxon nobleman who gave up his youth as a warrior to enter a monastery. After two years learning monastic discipline, he left the community to establish himself as a wonder working hermit on an island called Crowland in the swampy Fens of eastern England. The landscape of eastern England has changed substantially since the events of the text, which took place sometime in the decades around 700 CE. After centuries of continuous occupation, agricultural and industrial transformation, and environmental change, the 1 Igitur ut de sancti Guthlaci solitaria vita, sicut proposui, scribere exordiar, quae a frequentatoribus eius Wilfrido et Cissan audivi, eodem ordine, quo conperi, easdem res narrare curabo. Erat itaque in praedicta insula tumulus agrestibus glaebis c oacervatus, quem olim avari solitudinis frequentatores lucri ergo illic adquirendi defodientes scindebant, in cuius latere velut cisterna inesse videbatur; in qua vir beatae memoriae Guthlac desuper inposito tugurio habitare coepit. Felix, Vita Guthlaci c 28, ed. B. Colgrave, Felix's Life of Saint Guthlac (Cambridge, 1956) [hereafter VG ] To regularize word choice and facilitate comparison between texts, all translations are my own. 2 On the manuscript tradition of the Life of Saint Guthlac and other traditions, see Colgrave, Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac pp. 2654. On the connections between Felixs Life of Guthlac and later Latin and AngloSaxon texts, see S. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac Ph.D. thesi s, University of Toronto (200 4), pp. 146 85.
8 very site of Guthlacs dwelling is now a matter of conjecture.3 All that remains of his mound of built earth is this relatively short passage preserved in his Life Nevertheless, this passage has provided sufficient material for speculative interpretations of what may have constituted Guthlacs mound. Audrey Meaney, while assessing the historicity of the Life of Saint Guthlac has reviewed the possibilities as to what kind of structure the text may have referred and noted problems with each.4 Guthlacs mound may have been a Neolithic barrow, many of which have been found in Britain with chambers built of timber or stone.5 However, the Fens provide no stone with which the Neolithic peoples could have built a cist, and a timber cist from the Neolithic Age would have decayed and collapsed well before the AngloSaxon period.6 If Guthlacs mound were a Bronze Age round barrow, it would have lacked both cist and treasure.7 Such a Bronze Age mound might have been disturbed by t reasure hunters 3 Perhaps the most significant change to the landscape was the medieval reclamation of marshland, which would have transformed the uncultivated and uninhabited wilderness described by Felix into the patchwork of fields and rural towns, whic h have dominated the landscape of eastern England ever since. For a survey of changes to the landscape of Lincolnshire, with particular attention to evidence for land reclamation in the area of Crowland throughout the Middle Ages, see D. Stocker, The Earl y Church in Lincolnshire: A Study of the Sites and Their Significance, in A. Vince (ed.), Pre Viking Lindsey (Lincoln, 1993), pp. 10122, at pp. 10106. Although an abbey dating from the medieval period remains in use in Crowland, it does not claim to be the exact spot of Guthlacs dwelling due to discontinuity during the Viking Age. Colgrave, Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac pp. 182n 184n. See also A. Meaney, AngloSaxon Pagan and Early Christian Attitudes to the Dead, in M. Carver (ed.), The Cross Goes N orth: Processes of Conversion in Northern Europe, AD 300 1300 (Suffolk, 2003), pp. 22941, at pp. 22930. 4 A Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac : History or Hagiography? in D. Hill and M. Worthington (eds.), thelbald and Offa: Two EighthCentury Kings of Mercia (Oxford, 2005), pp. 75 84, at pp. 7980. The nearest archaeological evidence for mound use in the vicinity of Crowland is a Bronze Age barrow reused for AngloSaxon burials in the mid6th century. Meaney, AngloSaxon Pagan and Early Christian Attit udes, p. 230. See also A Meaney, Felixs Life of St. Guthlac : Hagiography and/or Truth, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 90 (2001), pp. 2948 at 34 35. 5 A. Woodward, British Barrows: A Matter of Life and Death (Stroud, 2000), p. 16. 6 Meaney, Felixs Life of St. Guthlac : Hagiography and/or Truth, p. 35. 7 Small assemblages, occasionally including exotic items, have been found in Bronze Age mounds in Britain. Woodward, British Barrows pp. 10022. However, there is no evidence that these mounds were
9 ignorant of prehistoric burial practices with the mistaken expectation of a richly furnished burial ; once they recognized their error, their abandoned robber pit may have left the appearance of a prehistoric cist.8 B arrows with cists constructed o f tiles or wood were also built in Britain during the Roman period but these rare barrows are found nowhere in the Fens.9 Felixs description thus seems most like ly to have resembled the AngloSaxon barrows of the 6th or 7th century, when mounds were heap ed over richly furnished burial chambers throughout Britain However, no surviving example of this rite has been found in vicinity of Crowland.10 Meaney concluded that the difficulty of matching Guthlacs mound to any of these archaeological types may be the result of inaccuracies within the text: the mound may never have been used as a repository for treasure, and the word cistern may have been an inexact reference.11 Indeed, even the word used for mound is somewhat ambiguous. The Latin word tumulus like its counterparts in the AngloSaxon vernacular, beorg and hlaew could be used for either natural or manmade mounds of targeted for treasure. In fact, Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac has been cited as the earliest known record of a mound robbery. Colgrave, Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac p. 183n. 8 Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac : History or Hagiography? p. 7 9. 9 Records of an excavation in 1880 suggest that there may have been at least one IronAge burial in the vicinity of Crowland. Stocker, Early Church in Lincolnshire, p. 106. However, these records do not suggest a chamber burial, and there is no indication that this was not an isolated grave. The majority of Roman Age burial mounds are nevertheless found in Eastern England. Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac : History or Hagiography? p. 79. 10 An AngloSaxon secondary burial furnished with beads datable to the 6th century was found at Eye, five miles from Crowland. Meaney, Felixs Life of St. Guthlac : Hagiography and/or Truth, p. 35. Several other mounds have been found in the vicinity of Crowland, but there is no evidence that any included a chamber buri al. Stocker, Early Church in Lincolnshire, p. 106. 11 Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac : History or Hagiography? p. 7980.
10 varying size, and these mounds need not have been associated with burial rites.12 Even if the landscape of Crowland had gone unchanged over the past thirteen centuries, the text offers little that could be used to identify Guthlacs precise mound securely. Whatever material presence Guthlacs mound may once have had, that presence is now lost to history. I n the Life of Saint Guthlac his mound survives as a textual presence. This surviving presence is a critical fragment of the past for scholars studying AngloSaxon England. Between the lavish monumental burials of the late7th century and the unfurnished churchyard burials that character ize 8thcentury England, there is an apparent break in the archaeological record.13 Two critical issues are at stake in the mortuary archaeology for this period: an inability to establish a chronology of burials based on assemblages in the period from 650 t o 720, and a sudden cessation of furnished burials around 720 that corresponded to a widespread relocation of cemetery sites.14 Guthlacs mound, as preserved in the Life of Saint Guthlac is one of the few traces of AngloSaxon relationships with mortuary m onuments that allows a critical entry into this period of changing burial rites. 12 D.P. Simpson, Cassells Latin Dictionary (New York, 1959), s.v. tumulus The AngloSaxon terms were used for landscape features ranging from minor barrows and hills and mountains. A. Reynolds, Burials, Boundaries and Charters in Angl o Saxon England: A Reassessment, i n S. Lucy and A. Reynolds (eds.), Burial in Early Medieval England and Wales ( London, 2002), pp. 17194, at p. 173. 13 On the gap between pagan and churchyard burials, see Meaney, Anglo Saxon Pagan and Early Christian Attitudes to the Dead, pp. 236 37, 240 41; J. Moreland, The Significance of Produ ction in Eighth Century England, i n J. Moreland (ed.), Archaeology, Theory and the Middle Ages: Understanding the Early Medieval Past ( Lo ndon, 2010), pp. 20854, at p. 219. Most dating has been accomplished by seriation, working from the assumption that similar assemblages imply temporal proximity. Helen Geake has enumerat ed the difficulties in this and other common dating methods used for this period: occurrence seriation, horizontal stratigraphy, coin dating, radiocarbon dating, and historical dating. She concluded that the resultant imprecision means that burials from this period may only be dated to within a half century. H. Geake, The Use of GraveGoods in Conversion Period England, c.600c.850 (Oxford, 1997), pp. 711. 14 Geake, The Use of Grave Goods pp. 18, 12324, 132 35.
11 Moreover, these changes in burial practices occurred in conjunction with a period of far reaching cultural transformations, commonly referred to as the long 8th century.15 Stud ies of the long 8th century typically embrace the years from 680 to 830 CE. Textual sources from this period indicate social, political, cultural, and religious upheavals.16 AngloSaxon kingdoms consolidated, Christian institutions expanded throughout Britain, urban trading centers emerged around the North Sea basin, and the AngloSaxons became increasingly entangled in the expansion of Frankish hegemony.17 Material traces of these changes have been found in evidence for changing patterns of subsistence, production, economic exchange, settlement, and burial.18 These changes reflected a fundamental shift in how the AngloSaxons perceived and engaged the world around them. The AngloSaxons imposed new structures of power upon the landscape to exploit its resources in new and imaginative ways .19 Burial rites were an effective mark of these structures upon the landscape, and changing 15 This term is most frequently encountered in studies using archaeological evidence. For a recent analysis of these materials, see H. Hamerow Early Medieval Settlements: The Archaeology of Rural Communities in Northwest Europe 400 900 ( Oxford, 2002) p. 191. She applies this term to the North Sea basin, but with particular attention to changes in England. 16 In a recent survey of the AngloSaxon period, Robin Fleming discussed various dimensions of the long 8th century in chapters detailing the rise of elites and kingdoms, missionaries and converts, the revival of commerce, encounters with Scandinavians, and the rise of towns. R. Fleming, Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 4001070 (London, 2010), pp. 89240. 17 This period also embraces the beginnings of the Viking Age, traditionally dated to the sack of Lindisfarne in 793. These later developments, however, are of lesser relevance for the present discussion. 18 Some critical studies used in the present analysis include Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements ; Moreland, The Significance of Production ; and Martin Carver (ed.), The Age of Sutton Hoo: The Seventh Century in NorthWestern Europe ( Wood bridge, 1992) 19 Moreland, The Significance of Production, p. 231. Regarding the study of AngloSaxon landscapes as inherited, invented, and imagined, see N. Howe, The Landscape of AngloSaxon England: Inherited, Invented, Imagined, in J. Howe and M. Wolfe (eds.), Inventing Medieval Landscapes: Senses of Place in Western Europe (Gainesville 2002), pp. 91112.
12 burial rites involved holistic structural changes.20 Thus changes in burial practices were not merely coincidental to broader cultural c hanges; they were integral to them. Just as importantly, textual references to burial practices also contributed to these changes As historian and archaeologist John Moreland has argued: written and artifactual remains from the past were not created with the questions of future archaeologists and historians in mind but were produced, and had efficacy in the production and reproduction of structures of power, in the past itself.21 Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac then, written in the midst of the long 8th century and commemorating events from its early years, preserves Guthlacs mound as a rare example of burial practices in this period of broad cultural transformation. Throughout the course of the long 8th century, a significant shift occurred. Burial mounds, which had earlier served as places for ancestral cemeteries and prestigious burials, came to be seen as exclusionary places used for marking boundaries and disposing of outcasts. The archaeologist Martin Carver has argued that, at least in the case of Sutton Hoo, this change was due to a strong association between mound burial and pagan ideology; with the conversion to Christianity, mounds became dangerous and odious symbols remembered from a rejected view of the world.22 I n the Life of Saint Guthlac however, Felix gave no indication that this was the case for the Mercian and East Anglian world with which he was familiar. Instead, Felix 20 On the connection between burial practices a nd settlement patterns, see Moreland, The Significance of Production, pp. 21819. On the connection between burial practices, the movement toward political consolidation, assertions of national identity, and ecclesiastical expansion, see Geake, Use of Gr ave Goods pp. 126, 13536. 21 J. Moreland, Archaeology and Text (London, 2001), p. 26. Emphasis his. 22 Martin Carver ( ed. ), Sutton Hoo: A Seventh Century Princely Burial Ground and its Context ( London: British Museum Press, 2005), p. xxi. This thesis will be further elaborated below.
13 deliberately used Guthlacs mound as a place that communicated importance, as indicated by its key role in the text This use suggests strong continuities with preChristian AngloSaxon practices.23 However, Felix also imagined the landscape in terms of stable patterns of occupation based on the ownership of bounded plots of land. Thus Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac pres erves two distinct modes of engaging the landscape during the early years of transition in burial and settlement patterns. Ultimately, the text reveals that the changing cultural value of mounds cannot be reduced to the revaluation of pagan symbols necessi tated by the acceptance of Christianity. Felix placed these two systems of thought sideby side in the Life of Saint Guthlac and he used them together in his effort to present Guthlac as a saint. Only after preChristian practices of organizing the landsc ape had been abandoned and thoroughly forgotten could Guthlacs mound take on a role in the Christian cosmology as a place occupied by demons. Felix, by holding both systems of landscape organization in tension around the focal point of Guthlacs mound, pr oduced the possibility for this reading, but the structure of the text indicates that for Felix, mounds were not dangerous places. 23 Pre Christian here indicates practices that had not been affected by the Christianity introduced by the Augustinian mission. Ian Wood has argued that AngloSaxon and Frisian pagan practices prior to the Augustinian mission were influenced by memories of Christian practices during the Roman period. I. Wood, Some Historical Re Identifications and the Christianization of Kent i n G. Armstrong and I. Wood (eds.), Christianizing Peoples and Converting Individuals (Turnhout, 2000) pp. 2735, at pp. 3031. Common cultural values may have eased some aspects of Christianization, but pagan practices already adapted to Christian values would have been especially difficult to identify and eradicate. The use of burial mounds as symbols of ancestral presence may have been one such practice.
14 CHAPTER 2 THE TEXTUALITY AND MATERIALITY OF BURIAL MOUNDS IN THE LIFE OF SAINT GUTHLAC The Hagiographic Structure of t he Lif e o f Saint Guthlac From the outset, it should be noted that Felix did not write the Life of Saint Guthlac with the purposes of modern historians in mind. Before Felixs use of the mound can be explored, the historical context of the Life of Saint Guthlac m ust first be understood. The Life of Saint Guthlac like any historical text, was written in response to a particular set of circumstances and was intended to achieve a particular set of purposes. The prologue to the Life of Saint Guthlac provides indicators for some of this basic context. In the prologue, Felix identified himself, his purposes for writing, his subject, his narrative structure, and the priorities that informed his authorial choices for the text. Each of these passages, however, echoes or di rectly borrows from earlier texts. Felix used these passages drawn from earlier texts not only to express his identity and to describe his text; he also used them to establish relationships between the Life of Saint Guthlac and a surrounding body of literature. Since this is the basic context that Felix envisioned for the Life of Saint Guthlac it must first be explored before approaching his use of mounds and how his textual references intersected with the ways mounds were used in other contexts.1 The author identified himself at the outset as Felix, a servant of a C atholic community.2 Although Felix declined to describe himself furt her, he apparently 1 In the Bollandist tradition of scholarship, hagiographies are read against the grain in an attempt to discern authentic historical facts. Olsen, however, has argued that hagiography should first be approached with respect to its literary purpose and value, that is, along its intended grain. This provides the best context for understanding what a text is doing. A. H. Olsen De Historiis Sanctorum : A Generic Study of Hagiography, Genre 13 (1980), pp. 40729, at pp. 40712, 424 25. 2 Felix catholicae congregationis vernaculus VG prologue.
15 borrowed the phrase from Aldhelm ( c 639709),3 the prolific West Saxon abbot of Malmesbury and later bis hop of Sherborne. Aldhelm had used this same phrase to describe himself in the dedication for a text he had written entitled On Meters and Riddles, and the Rule of Feet .4 Throughout the Life of Saint Guthlac Felix regularly borrowed from Aldhelms writings, and he seems to have imitated Aldhelms style as well. M odern scholars have critiqued this style as an ornate and bombastic dialect of Latin typical in AngloSaxon England,5 but it s use in the Life of Saint Guthlac also indicates that Felix adapted hi s style to meet the expectations of this literary circle .6 This brief self description therefore does not merely indicate that Felix was a member of an unspecified Christian community.7 More positively, it indicates that Felix asserted his membership in an Anglo Latin community of readers and writers who admired and imitated the style of Aldhelm. Felix claimed that he was contributing to this literary community at the behest of lfwald, who ruled the kingdom of East Anglia from 713 to 749.8 Felix continued: 3 Colgrave, introduction to Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac p. 15. 4 Aldhelm, De metris et enigmatibus ac pedum regulis in R. Ehwald (ed.) Aldhelmi Opera, Auctores Antiquissimi 15 (Berlin, 1919), pp. 59 204, at p. 61. This is the sole occurrence of this phrase in the editions of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. 5 Colgrave identified Aldhelm as the primary influence on Felixs style, although Bedes influence can al so be discerned, especially in the later chapters. Colgrave, introduction to Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac pp. 1718. Felixs style is discussed in further detail in Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 67106. 6 C.D. Aggeler, Reinv enting the Holy Man: The Medieval English Guthlac Cycle and its Contents Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota ( 2001), pp. 2223. A concept of textual community has been developed specifically for early medieval hagiography. See M. Irvine, The Making of Textual Culture: Grammatica and Literary Theory, 3501100 (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 15, 470n45. Issues of audience will be discussed below. 7 Various proposals have been offered for Felixs identity. These will be further discussed below. 8 VG prologue. This claim has been contested. Jane Roberts has suggested that Felix may have dedicated his text to the East Anglian lfwald to obscure the pro Mercian political purposes she perceived in the text. J. Roberts Hagiography and Literature: The Case of Guthlac of Crowland, i n M.P.
16 Obeying your commands, I have composed the little book you ordered about the life of father Guthlac of blessed memory.9 Although this passage thus situates the text sometime in the first half of the 8th century, it also resonates with at least two earli er texts: Sulpicius Severuss Life of Saint Martin and Bedes Life of Saint Cuthbert These echoes and verbal borrowings are evident when the texts are placed in parallel: Life of Saint Martin I have written a little book about the life of Saint Martin . libellum quem de vita sancti Martini scripserem .10 Life of Saint Cuthbert Since, dear friends, you have commanded it, I have composed a book at your request about the life of our father Cuthbert of blessed memory . Quia iussitis dilectissimi ut libro quem de vita beatae memoriae patris nostri Cuthberti vestro rogatu composui . 11 Life of Saint Guthlac Obeying your commands, I have composed the little book you ordered about the life of father Guthlac of blessed memory . Iussionibus tuis obtemporans, libellum quem de vita patris beatae memoriae Guthlaci conponi praecepisti . 12 This verbal borrowing should not be mistaken the necessary result of a poverty of the Latin language.13 Alternatives can be found, for exampl e, in Evagriuss introduction to his translation of Athanasiuss Life of Saint Antony Evagrius began his text thus: Brown and C.A. Farr (eds.), Mercia: An AngloSaxon Kingdom in Europe (London, 2001), pp. 6986, at p. 76. 9 VG prologue. See Latin text below. 10 Sulpicius Severus, Vita Sancti Martini prologue, ed. J. Fontaine (Paris, 1967). Cited in Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 4748. 11 Bede, Vita Cuthberti prosaica prologue, ed. B. Colgrave, Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert ( New York 1969) [hereafter VCPr ]. 12 VG prologue. 13 The passage from the Life of Saint Guthlac con tinues with an elaboration on the trope of humility taken from the preface of the Life of Saint Martin, indicating that the choice of libellum is not merely coincidental. For a full discussion of the relationship between the two passages, see Downey, Inte rtextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 4748.
17 Therefore, at your behest, I have translated the life of blessed Antony.14 Instead of following the Evagrian model or devising a new introductory formula, Felix borrowed deliberately from the Life of Saint Martin and the Life of Saint Cuthbert By doing so, he communicated at least two distinct priorities for his text. First, Felix asserted that the Life of Saint Guthlac was comparable to the Life of Saint Martin a widely circulated text that proclaimed itself to be a little book humbly written about the life of a saint. The Life of Saint Martin, as quoted by Felix, was written by Sulpicius Severus shortly before the death of Martin, who was bishop of Tours in the mid 4th century. By the 8th century, this text was popular in both Frankish Gaul and Ireland, and substantial excerpts from it had been integrated into the anonymous Life of Saint Cuthbert ,15 written in the AngloSaxon kingdom of Nor thumbria between 699 and 705.16 Bede, intending to supersede this anonymous life and reject its promotion of certain Irish ecclesiastical practices,17 wrote his prose Life of Saint Cuthbert no later than 721.18 He may likewise have rejected the Life of Saint Martin as an inappropriate source if he associated it with Irish influence.19 Thus despite the strong influence of the 14 Hoc igitur ego vitans [ sic appears to be an error for vitam in the digitization process] ita Ant onium te petente transposui Evagrius, Vita Antonii prologue, ed. P. Bertrand, Die Evagriusbersetzung der Vita Antonii : Rezeption berlieferung Edition, Unter besonderer Bercksichtigung der Vitas Patrum Tradition, Ph.D. diss., University of Utrecht (2006) [hereafter VA]. 15 D. Rollason, Saints and Relics in Anglo Saxon England ( Oxford, 1989), pp. 75 76, 80. 16 Colgrave, introduction to Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert p. 13. 17 Catherine Cubitt has argued that a comparison of the two lives of Cuthbert emphasizes the deep rift within the Northumbrian Church caused by the rejection of the Irish Easter reckoning and other ecclesiastical practices. C. Cubitt Memory and Narrative in the Cult of Early AngloSaxon Saints, i n Y. Hen and M. Innes (eds.), The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages ( Cambridge, 2000), pp. 2966, at pp. 30, 3946. 18 Colgrave, int roduction to Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert p. 16. 19 The Life of Saint Martin was popular in Ireland, but it need not have arrived to Northumbria through Irish hands. Rollason, Saints and Relics p. 80. Alternately, Benedict Biscop (d. 689) and his successor
18 Life of Saint Martin on the anonymous Life of Saint Cuthbert influences from the Life of Saint Martin were scrupulously purged from Bede s Life of Saint Cuthbert and are also absent from his other writings.20 Felix, by joining a passage from the Life of Saint Martin with a passage from Bedes Life of Saint Cuthbert may have sought to repair this breach and revive the presence of the Life of Saint Martin in the AngloLatin community.21 Regardless of whether he anticipated renewed interest in the Life of Saint Martin itself, Felix certainly saw his text as borrowing from it and reviving its influence in the AngloLatin community. Second, by bor rowing from Bedes Life of Saint Cuthbert Felix asserted that Guthlac and Cuthbert both shared a textual identity as a father of blessed memory.22 This was an ambivalent comparison: it implied both that Guthlacs career mirrored Cuthberts and also that Felixs narrative mirrored Bedes. This suggests that Felix may have intended the Life of Saint Guthlac to supersede not only Sulpicious Severus Life of Saint Martin but possibly Bedes Life of Saint Cuthbert as well. Readers finding echoes of the lives o f Martin and Cuthbert in the Life of Saint Guthlac may have perceived that Martin and Cuthbert had both prefigured Guthlac. By ascribing the Ceolfrith collected an impressive library at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, which may have included the acquisition of the Life of Saint Martin from a Continental source. D. Rollason, Northumbria, 5001100: Creation and Destruction of a Kingdom (Cambridge, 2003), p. 140. Regardless of the provenance of the text, however, if Bede conceived a strong connection between the Life of Saint Martin and the Irish ecclesiastical practices and values he chose to reject, he may have deemed it an inappropriate model for his Life of Saint Cuthbert 20 Rollason, Saints and Relics p. 76. 21 Downey has noted that Felix borrowed from the Life of Saint Martin only in the prologue and when describing Guthlacs death in chapter 51, but she argued: the echoes are lengthy and substant ial. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 4551, at p. 46. 22 VG prologue. VCPr prologue. Although this was a common phrase in hagiographic texts, Felix surrounded the phrase with borrowings from the Life of Cuthbert to emphasize that Guthlac shared this identity specifically with Cuthbert.
19 attributes of multiple saints to Guthlac, Felix effectively claimed that Guthlac embodied more saintly attributes t han had his individual predecessors. Thus by identifying Guthlac as a father of blessed memory just like Cuthbert, Felix made an assertive claim for Guthlacs superiority over the Northumbrian saint. Furthermore, by infusing Guthlac with attributes drawn from Martin as well as Cuthbert, Felix provided Guthlac with an extra dimension of sanctity that Bede seems to have purposefully suppressed in his Life of Saint Cuthbert Although the political background of the Life of Saint Guthlac remains uncertain scholars remain divided on whether Felix worked under East Anglian or Mercian influence,23 and there is no basis to speculate on his relationship to Northumbria the text can nevertheless be situated in a context of highly competitive saints cults.24 In short, Felix submitted his Life of Saint Guthlac to a community of critical readers, and he could have anticipated that the Life of Saint Guthlac would survive among these readers only if it were capable of appealing to them as a highquality text. Although s cholars have debated the intended audiences of AngloSaxon hagiographic texts, these texts on saints lives seem to have been primarily directed at an ecclesiastical readership competent in Latin; episodes with nonecclesiastical elites suggest that some t exts including several in the Life of Saint Guthlac may have been intended to appeal to lay aristocrats as well.25 As Felix borrowed from other texts 23 For example, Cubitt has written that the Life of Saint Guthlac should be understood as a pro Mercian text, whereas Nicholas Higham interpreted the text as a failed East Anglian attempt to subver t Mercian power. Cubitt, Memory and Narrative, pp. 2966; N.J. Higham, Guthlacs Vita Mercia and East Anglia in the F irst Half of the Eighth Century, i n Hill and Worthington (eds.), thelbald and Offa, pp. 8590. 24 Rollason has provided a thorough dis cussion of this topic a chapter entitled The Politics of Sainthood. Rollason, Saints and Relics pp. 105 29. 25 Rollason, Saints and Relics pp. 8388, 10304.
20 and integrated them into the Life of Saint Guthlac he therefore offered this Latinliterate and cultur ally sophisticated audience cues to trigger their awareness of his texts structure. When Felix identified his text as a little book about the life of a saint, he cued his readers to compare his text to the well known Life of Saint Martin, and when Felix identified his subject as a father of blessed memory, he cued his readers to compare his text especially to Bedes recent Life of Saint Cuthbert Felixs success can be judged in part by his relative influence over subsequent traditions: although both C uthbert and Guthlac are well represented in AngloSaxon calendars and litanies, only Guthlac inspired poetry in the vernacular.26 Felixs contemporaries thus seem to have valued the Life of Saint Guthlac not mainly for its content, much of which was borrowed from earlier texts, but rather for Felixs skill in structuring the content he borrowed into a coherent and compelling form, capable of meeting the demands of a well informed and highly critical audience in a region not well populated by saints.27 This audience recognized that textual borrowing was a characteristic of the genre of the Life of Saint Guthlac and that this could be a method used to achieve specific purposes. Modern historians and literary critics have often classified such texts about the liv es of saints under the genre of hagiography despite the extraordinary diversity that such texts display. Alexandra Hennessey Olsen, who asserted the value of hagiography as a literary genre, noted: Hagiography is a curiously amorphous genre 26 Roberts, Hagiography and Literature, p. 82. 27 It should be noted, however, that although Felixs text itself seems to have been valued for its elaborate and well crafted structure, later interpretations of the Guthlac traditions including modern scholarship have focused more on Guthlacs particular rather than universal experiences. Subseque nt traditions elaborated especially upon Felixs chapters 28 34, detailing Guthlacs arrival at the mound, his early temptations of despair and excessive fasting, and the assault of the demonic host. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac p 189.
21 which may be defined only by subject matter, not by form or style.28 Diversity in form and style resulted in part from the diverse purposes that motivated hagiographers. Olsen observed: Didactic and polemical purpose is such an important part of every hagiographic work that it often influences the authors choice of subject matter, form, and style.29 To a modern reader concerned with authenticity, the structure of the text may belie this priority. In juxtaposition to his avowed didactic purpose, Felix formulated the Lif e of Saint Guthlac as a straightforward biography commissioned by King lfwald of East Anglia. Felix described its structure thus: Since therefore you have required it of me, I have written for you about the career of Saint Guthlac, how it began, and what it was before his holy vow, and how his life ended. 30 Although the passage itself seems straightforward and in fact accurately outlines the subsequent narrative, Felix copied this text almost verbatim from the Life of Saint Antony Bishop Athanasius of Al exandria wrote this prose biography of the Egyptian hermit Antony in the 4th century, but it was known in AngloSaxon England through a Latin translation prepared shortly thereafter by Evagrius of Antioch. The Evagrian Life of Saint Antony circulated widel y in AngloSaxon England, just as it did throughout Latin speaking Europe.31 A comparison between these passages reveals the similarities: Life of Saint Antony Since therefore you [plural] have required Life of Saint Guthlac Since therefore you [singular] have 28 Olsen, A Study of Hagiography, p. 424. 29 Olsen, A Study of Hagiography, p. 416. 30 VG prologue. See Latin text below. 31 Rollason, Saints and Relics pp. 7677.
22 it of me, I have written for you desiring to learn about the career of blessed Antony, how it began, and what it was before his holy vow, and also how his life ended. Quoniam igitur exegistis a me, ut uobis scriberem de conuersatione beati Antonii, uolontibus discere, quemadmodum coeperit, quiue fuerit ante propositum sanctem, qualem etiam habuerit terminum vitae .32 required it of me, I have written for you about the career of Saint Guthlac, how it began, and what it was before his holy vo w, and how his life ended. Quoniam igitur exegisti a me, ut de sancti Guthlaci conversatione tibi scriberem, quemadmodum coeperit, quidve ante propositum sanctem fuerit, vel qualem vitae terminum habuerit .33 Felix could have anticipated that readers of the Life of Saint Guthlac would already have been familiar with the popular Life of Saint Antony and he may have expected those readers to recognize this passage.34 This recognition would have prepared his audience not for a historical record of Guthlacs career but rather for a variation on the events of Antonys life, adapted to Felixs own purposes. Felix understood his purpose to be the establishment of Guthlac as an AngloSaxon model of sanctity: I considered that this little book should be for t his useful purpose: that for those who know, it may be a sign to call them back to the memory of so great a man; and for those who do not know, it may be as an indication to an open path.35 Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac thus conforms to the definition of hagiography as a didactic or polemical text taking a saint as its subject. Felix was not primarily concerned with 32 VA, prologue. 33 VG prologue. 34 Regarding the intended audience of AngloLatin hagiography, see Rollason, Saints and Relics pp. 8388, 10304. 35 [A] d huius utilitatis commodum hunc codicellum fieri ratus, ut illis qui sciunt ad memoriam tanti viri, nota revocandi fiat, his vero, qui ignorant, velut late pansae viae indicium notescat. VG prologue. Downey found oblique echoes to this passage in the same passage from the prologue of the Life of Saint Martin discussed to above. She also considered the problem of intertextual reproduction. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthl ac pp. 2324, 51.
23 preserving the historical truth of Guthlacs biography in a modern sense. Instead, Felix set out to write a text that could establish Guthlacs sanctity and provide a model of holiness for others to follow. Although this statement somewhat undermines the value of the narrative of the Life of Saint Guthlac as a historical record of the past, it calls attention to the fact that Felix intentionally structured his text to achieve a specific historical purpose. Furthermore, Felixs stated purpose indicated that he did not consider his text to be a finished work or product. Instead, he conceived of the Life of Saint Guthlac as an openended text that could both inform the behavior of its readers and provide source material for later hagiographers. Felix therefore situated himself in a tradition of writing that did not treat texts as finished products but rather as part of an ongoing process of textual reproduction.36 He concluded his introduction thus: But so that the story of such a man of so great a name could be completed, I have arranged the text of the present document as best I could, leaving the greater part to authors of greater knowledge.37 Thus, as Felix understood and presented the text, the Life of Saint Guthlac had a purpose of its own and was an active participant in the production of historical change. 36 Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 7 9. 37 Sed ut tanti viri tanti nominis relatio conpleatur, textum praesentis cartulae, prout potui, digessi, maioris scientiae autoribus maiorem partem linquens . VG prologue. It is worth noting that modern analogies of these openended texts include wikis and internet memes. In both cases, preexisting material is appropriated and its content is edited. The most successful of these wiki entries or memes undergo the greatest extent of revision and reproduction.
24 Felix, in this passage, fulfilled the topos of humility that hearkened back to the e arlier characterization of his text as a little book like that of the Life of Saint Martin;38 however, he also expressed a conscious anticipation that, just as he was attempting to supersede earlier saints lives so too would his saints life one day be superseded. Indeed, Felix, who may have borrowed all Guthlacs miracles from earlier sources,39 certainly needed no one to tell him that later hagiographers would borrow from his text as well. In a way, this secondary borrowing would serve to legitimize the sanctity of Guthlac, since by attributing Guthlacs miracles to later saints, subsequent hagiographers would implicitly acknowledge the sanctity of the miracles Felix ascribed to Guthlac.40 The textual content of the Life of Saint Guthlac was therefore bor rowed from and borrowable for other hagiographic texts. Given this openended genre, the unique structure that Felix provided for that content was the primary means available to distinguish the particularity of the Life of Saint Guthlac as a unique tex t. Felix relied upon his ability to produce a compelling structure that could ensure the success of his text and the cult it promoted. For Felix, therefore, what mattered most was the unique structure, which he used to create both the coherency of its cont ents and intertextual connections established by borrowing from other texts. Thus in the prologue, Felix established expectations for the rest of the text by borrowing from other texts and structuring them in meaningful ways. In the course of the 38 Downey argued that this was an intentional echo of the Evagrian text. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 47 48. 39 As alleged by Meaney. Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac : History or Ha giography? p. 77. 40 Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac p. 189. Perhaps the clearest example is the hand of God motif, where a saint is signaled at birth by the appearance of a heavenly hand. The Life of Saint Guthlac is the earliest kn own source of this motif. Roberts, Hagiography and Literature, p. 73. Meaneys allegation that all Guthlacs miracles were borrowed did not apparently extend to the appearance of the hand of God, since she was only considering miracles effected by Guthla c himself.
25 prologue, Felix borrowed passages verbatim from Bedes prose and metric versions of the Life of Saint Cuthbert Pope Gregory the Great s Exegesis of Job and Letter to Leander Sulpicius Severus Life of Saint Martin, Evagrius translation of Athanasius Life of Sai nt Ant ony Paul of Tarsuss Letter to the Romans and the Psalms .41 Further borrowings have been identified throughout the Life of Saint Guthlac Throughout the narrative, Felix borrowed especially from the Evagrian Life of Saint Antony the Life of Saint Paul the Hermit by Jerome, the Life of Saint Martin, the Life of Saint Benedict in the Dialogues written by Gregory the Great, the anonymous Life of Saint Fursey and Bedes prose Life of Saint Cuthbert By integrating this diverse literature into his text Felix presented himself as an erudite scholar with access to a rich library. Furthermore, by using borrowed texts in the prologue, Felix established two levels of meaning. On one level, Felix used these passages to structure and accurately describe his text. Felix characterized himself as a member of a Christian community, and even if his exact position in that community remains unknown he has, for example, been identified variously as a monk of the Repton monastery and a clerk in the court of King lfwald42 his adoption of Aldhelms style confirmed that he actively 41 VG prologue. An important factor in Felixs biblical citations is the fact that he took many of them not directly from the bible but from their adaptations in other sources. However, both occurrences in the prologue seem to have been direct c itations. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 28 33. 42 Rollason has taken the dedication at face value, even though it is a unique example of an AngloSaxon hagiography dedicated to a nonecclesiastic. He thus argued that Felix wrote for the benefit of the East Anglian dynasty. Rollason, Saints and Relics p. 84. This interpretation was followed by Higham, who suggested that Felix may have been a clerk for lfwulf of East Anglia. Higham argued that the Felix asserted East Anglian poli tical dominance and sought to undermine thelbalds self sufficiency. Higham, Guthlacs Vita Mercia and East Anglia, pp. 85, 89. Cubitt posited a similar association with the East Anglian court. Cubitt, Memory and Narrative, p. 56. Conversely, Roberts concluded that the impetus for the Life of Saint Guthlac came from the double monastery at Repton, implying that Felix may have been a member of that Mercian community. She argued that the dedication to lfwald of East Anglia was necessary to keep this a hidden agenda. Roberts Hagiography and Literature, pp. 70, 76.
26 participated in the discourse of the AngloLatin church. Felixs dedication to King lfwald reflected the royal support that religious communities received regardless of what specific poli tical motivations may have informed Felixs authorship of the text as indicated by other material and documentary evidence, and the possibility cannot be dismissed that lfwald did indeed commission this text on Guthlac.43 Although Felix outlined his text with a passage borrowed from the Life of Saint Antony he also structured his narrative to fit this outline. Felix advocated a didactic purpose that he modeled on the Life of Saint Antony but he worked toward this stated purpose by inserting moralizing parentheticals throughout the text and by portraying Guthlac as an exemplary hermit for others to follow.44 Each of these passages also produced another level of meaning by establishing intertextual connections with other texts, significant elements of whi ch have been considered above. By using intertextuality to structure a second level of meaning, Felix emphasized Guthlacs equivalence to other recognized saints, especially Paul the Hermit, Antony, Martin, Benedict, Fursey, and Cuthbert. Thus these passages carry both immediate value and intertexual implications in the Life of Saint Guthlac These borrowings mean we can know little about the historical Guthlac. Some historians, encouraged by the many political cues apparently scattered through the text, have endeavored to trace the historical circumstances of Guthlacs career.45 Audrey Meaney painstakingly analyzed the Life of Saint Guthlac striving to extract historical 43 Roberts, Hagiography and Literature, p. 76. Most other interpreters, as mentioned above, have preferred to take this dedication at its face value. 44 Rollason, Saints and Relics pp. 8486. 45 Higham, Guthlacs Vita Mercia and East Anglia p. 85.
27 truth from hagiographic tradition, to disentangle the historically true from the symbolic and conventional.46 She eliminated from her consideration the bulk of the text, since: The miracles that Felix ascribes to Guthlac are all borrowed or adapted from earlier saints Lives .47 She concluded: One would hope that the bare bones of events parentage, life as the leader of a warrior gang, conversion, two years of monastic life at Repton, followed by fifteen at Crowland living as an ascetic hermit, and his ordination by Bishop Headda are to be trusted, though there is no good early supporting evidence for Guthlacs existence. The miracles Felix ascribes to Guthlac are highly suspect, however, since they all appear to be adaptations from earlier hagiography, as could the portent at his birth and the account of his death. These are all included for a purpose: to show how worthy Guthlac was to be considered a saint; they have their part to play in the genre, but are worthless as history.48 E fforts to find an image of the past in the Life of Saint Guthlac have inevitably been frustrated by the hagi ographic practices that inter wove the text with threads taken from earlier hagiographies. I t should be evident that the Life of Saint Guthlac remains open to a broad range of readings, perhaps intentionally so. However, the cues for these readings are ambi guous. As noted above, they have allowed divergent interpretations of the text as either proEast Anglian or proMercian. Felix seems to have been unconcerned with establishing a single truth and he may have been comfortably aware that his text allowed for multiple conflicting truths. Thus, although Felix claimed to have solicited the witnesses Wilfred and Cissa for information,49 modern scholars cannot be sure how much, if any, of this information was authentic or 46 Meaney, Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac : Hagiography and/or Truth, p. 30. 47 Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac : History or Hagiography? p. 77. 48 Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac: History or Ha giography? p. 82. 49 VG prologue, Ch. 28.
28 made its way into his text. The Life of Saint Guthlac as a record of the past, seems to be of remarkably dubious fidelity. Guthlacs Mound a s a Hagiographic Place Despite some historians inabilities to read the Life of Saint Guthlac against the hagiographic grain to derive a political meaning, efforts to read the text along its literary grain have shown it to be a remarkably well constructed hagiographic text. Sarah Downey, who catalogued the verbal quotations, echoes, and references that Felix incorporated into the Life of Saint Guthlac noted: His Vita [ life ] is no haphazard pastiche by an author desperate for material; in fact, a certain lack of details about Guthlacs life probably allowed Felix freedom to write an ideal Vita .50 For Downey, the ideal hagiographic text created the sanctity of its subject, which in the case of Felix was Guthlac. By reproducing textual materials, Downey argued, Felix demonstrated Guthlacs sanctity. The relationships between texts or the intertextuality that Felix established by borrowing from source texts li terally structured Guthlac as a member of a textual communion of saints, transforming Guthlac as a hagiographic subject from a particular person into a universal model of sainthood.51 In fact, as mentioned above, Felix not only presented Guthlac as a saint who could be described in the same terms as earlier saints; he also intended Guthlac to serve as a saintly model for others to follow, both aspiring religious readers of his text and hagiographers drawing materials to fit their own saintly subjects.52 The L ife of Saint Guthlac therefore portrayed Guthlac as 50 Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac p. 25, see also pp. 2324. 51 Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 8, 1117, 6566, 87106. 52 Indeed, Felix asserted that Guthlacs search for a hermitage was inspired by his reading of the solitary life of earlier monks. VG 24. This is a further indicator of what Felix saw as the proper role of hagiography.
29 a new universal model of sainthood that embodied the examples of diverse earlier saints and was thus a more general and universal model than those of the particular hagiographic texts from which it was constructed. Christian Aggeler has studied the hagiographic practice of textual borrowing in the Life of Saint Guthlac as a process of intralingual (that is, Latinto Latin) translation.53 He noted that as hagiographers borrowed textual materials, they woul d either omit details that seemed inappropriate to their subject or they would translate them into new terms intended to contextualize their subject appropriately. He thus argued that despite producing a homogenized model of sainthood, hagiographers such a s Felix produced heterogeneous texts by transforming source materials to fit their unique narrative settings and titular heroes Thus while Aggeler described the Life of Saint Guthlac as an intralingual, intercultural translation of the Life of Saint Ant ony he also argued: Felix does not simply replicate this image, but also develops and adapts it for his AngloSaxon audience.54 However, Downey noted that Guthlacs similarity to Antony recedes in the later chapters of the text, when borrowings from the Life of Saint Antony are superseded by a broader selection of saints lives confirming Guthlac as a universal model and not just a clone of Antony.55 This broad borrowing culminated in Guthlacs death scene, which Felix modeled closely on Bedes Life of Sa int Cuthbert but also included text from the lives of Martin, Fursey, Cuthbert, and Benedict. Thus the text 53 Aggeler, Reinventing the Holy Man, pp. 1193, at p. 12. 54 One aspect of this was Felixs omission of the temptation of lust, which figured prominently in the Life of Saint Antony He asserted that this was part of a general AngloSaxon tendency to suppress issues of sexuality. Aggeler, Reinventing the Holy Man, pp. 3, 65. 55 Do wney, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac p. 35. See also Aggeler, Reinventing the Holy Man, pp. 66 83.
30 progressively affirmed that Guthlac was a quintessential saint for the AngloLatin community.56 The Life of Saint Guthlac is therefore an exemplary hagiographic text producing a universal model of sainthood but also adapted to the specific circumstances of the AngloLatin community of Felix and his contemporaries. The arguments of Downer and Aggeler have demonstrated that by writing the Life of Saint G uthlac Felix produced a universalized ideal of sanctity and translated it into the particular conditions comprehensible to an Anglo Saxon audience. Meaney filtered these universalizing passages to reconstruct the historical particularity of Guthlac: a young Mercian warrior who had a conversion experience, spent two years at a monastery, and then embarked upon an eremitic life, eventually being ordained as a priest. However, Felix did not intend his text to be used for such historical reconstructions. Instead, he meant it to demonstrate Guthlacs passage from a person with a particular history into service as a universalized ideal of saintly personhood. Early in the narrative, Felix suggested Guthlacs potential for sanctity by echoing textual materials from the progress of earlier saints. In the final chapters, Felix integrated full passages taken directly from earlier lives Downey discerned that Felix employed an intricate textual structure to bring this transition about.57 Notably, Felix began the 56 Felix clearly modeled his description of Guthlacs death on a similar passage in Bedes prose Life of Saint Cuthbert and although Felix introduced the detail of Easter, he retained the same number of days both before and after the Sabbath. Thus Bede had also written that Cuthbert foresaw his death on the fourth day of a week and died on the fourth day of the following week, centered on a S unday. VG Ch. 50. VCPr Ch. 37. Since Bede may have written the Life of Saint Cuthbert to assert a rejection of Irish ecclesiastical traditions, one of the most tendentious of which was the Celtic Roman rift in Easter calculations Felixs assertion that Guthlac died on Easter thus conflating Cuthberts death scene and an Easter date may have emphasized that the rejection Irish traditions specifically entailed the rejection of the Irish Pascal calendar. Guthlacs death scene may therefore represent an important assertion of AngloSaxon ecclesiastical independence from Irish influence. 57 Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 67105.
31 transiti on with Guthlacs arrival at the mound.58 Felix clearly signaled this transition in the text by restarting his narrative: So to begin to write about the solitary life of St. Guthlac, as I have proposed to do .59 In this context, then, the image of Guthlacs mound takes on special significance in the text. Felix used Guthlacs arrival at the mound on Crowland to divide his narrative neatly into two halves. The preceding twenty seven brief chapters narrate Guthlacs early life, his success as a warrior, his conversion to a monastic life, and his developing determination to follow the examples of earlier saints.60 The subsequent twenty six more elaborate chapters61 repeat the tales of these earlier saints, but in the person of Guthlac. In the first part, th en, Felix described his subject Guthlac as a unique historical person doing unique historical things; in the second part, Felix portrayed his subject as a universal and ahistorical type of sanctity in the guise of Guthlac. Felix introduced historical characters throughout both halves of the text most notably thelbald, who was reportedly in exile during Guthlacs life but had ascended to the throne of Mercia by the time Felix was writing; and Bishop Haedda, presumably of the Lichfield diocese but he used no temporal markers to distinguish the passage of time between Guthlacs arrival at Crowland and his death, on a Wednesday after Easter. Whereas the opening 58 Aggeler, Reinventing the Holy Man, p. 49. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac p p. 17, 111. 59 Igitur ut de sancti Guthlaci solitaria vita, sicut proposui scribere exordiar . VG Ch. 28. Colgrave commented on this passage: In fact it is pretty clear that Felix regarded the part preceding as a kind of prologue to the Vita proper which only begins with the establishment of he saint on the island which is to be the seat of his warfare. Colgrave, Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac p. 182n. 60 Pace Downey, who saw the transition between Guthlacs private and public miracles in chapters 3540 as the centerpiece of the text. Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac p. 188. 61 In the Colgrave edition of the Life of Saint Guthlac the first twenty seven chapters span ten pages; the subsequent twenty six chapters span forty pages.
32 chapters describe Guthlac as a dynamic character undergoing a conversion experience and acquiring the prerequisite instruction and inspiration to embark on an eremitic life, Felix emphasized the stasis of Guthlacs life after arriving at the mound. He described Guthlacs ascetic habits as his unchanging way of life since that time when he began to in habit the desert.62 This second part of the text is thus synchronized: there is no discernible passage of time between Guthlacs arrival and his death, and there is no discernible historical difference between the events of Guthlacs life and the events described in the lives of earlier saints. In the second part of the text, then, Felix allowed the miracles of Guthlac to pass without any sort of chronological indices. Meanwhile, he portrayed Guthlac looking more and more like the saints gone before. By arr iving at the mound, Guthlac passed from a historical subjectivity of particular personhood into an ahistorical subjectivity of universalized sainthood. Felixs Guthlac stepped out of time and entered the timeless world of the saints. The miracles that Feli x ascribed to Guthlac after this point could have been undertaken by almost any of the saints. Felix thus used textual borrowing to minimize Guthlacs individuality and produce a sense of timelessness. This methodical borrowing culminated in the episode of Guthlacs death, which Felix built with text borrowed from the lives of Fursey, Martin, and Cuthbert, and he quoted Guthlac speaking words taken from Gregory the Greats introduction to the Life of Saint Benedict .63 As Felix indicated by these textual borr owings, it was Guthlacs solitary life as a wonder working hermit that revealed his sanctity, not the dynamic years of his 62 Vitae sciicet illius haec inmota ortonomia fuit, ita u tab illo tempore, quo heremum habitare coeperat. VG Ch. 28. 63 Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac pp. 6566.
33 early conversion. Thus Felix indicated that this latter portion of the text, which Meaney dismissed as worthless as history, was in fact the most important portion to his purposes. The passages that follow Guthlacs retreat to the burial mound borrow heavily from earlier saints lives Whereas Guthlacs early years seem rooted in historical particularities, his life after settling on Crowland seems to have mirrored an eternal and universal image of sanctity. Meaneys judgment thus marginalized Felixs worldview, which is a worthwhile historical subject of inquiry in its own right. Felixs use of the mound as a timeless place is an important aspect of this unique occurrence of a mound in hagiography. The episodes of Guthlacs withdrawal to the wilderness resonate especially with the Life of Saint Antony the Life of Saint Martin, and the Life of Saint Benedict but the text describing the mound borrows verbal elements from none. The mound is thus a uniquely AngloSaxon element of the landscape that Felix used at the turning point of his text.64 This deliberate use of a mound at a critical moment in the narrative indicates that Felix antici pated his readers to interpret Guthlacs mound as a meaningful place. In order to understand Felixs text, it is therefore necessary to explore how mounds had become meaningful for Felix. Mounds a s Meaningful Places A fresh review of the archaeological evi dence for mound use during the AngloSaxon period permits a better idea of the traditions to which Felix could have been referring to when writing the Life of Saint Guthlac These traditions did not consist solely 64 Aggeler, Reinventing the Holy Man, p. 43. Notably, Felix borrowed from Bedes Life of Cuthbert when first describing Crowland. VG Ch. 25. As will be shown below, however, this passage should not be conflated with the passage describing the mound.
34 of symbolic meanings attached to material objects but involved a range of practices that engaged the materiality of mounds Materiality is a vibrant area of research in the growing field of material culture studies.65 Theories of materiality build upon the recognition that thoughts, action, and language are necessarily mediated by material things. The archaeologist John Robb has argued: a gency is fundamentally material, for two reasons: because material things mediate and form the context for relationships between people, and because people form important relations with material things. The materiality of agency provides the basis for formulating a range of interpretative strategies with which we can tackle the material residues of the past.66 Materiality, as an interpretive strategy, allows a study of the material contexts in which the Life of Saint Guthlac was written particularly regarding mound use. It focuses study on what mounds were actually doing in human relationships : how people formed relationships by using mounds, and how mound use reflect ed how people used and related to the world around them.67 A study of the materiality of mounds must therefore take into its scope the patterns of social life that intersected with burial mounds, as features in the landscape, as places of burial, and as spaces for social interaction. Many factors hinder the study of early Anglo Saxon mound use. Foremost among these is the disappearance of mounds prior to the advent of modern archaeological practices. Disappearance in England has largely been a function of soil 65 For a recent overview of material culture studies, see D. Hicks, The Ma terial Culture Turn: Event and Effect, in D. Hicks and M.C. Beaudry (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies (Oxford, 2010), pp. 25 98. The discussion of mounds that follows thus draws eclectically on functionalist, structuralist, and post structuralist methodologies. 66 J E. Robb, Beyond Agency, World Archaeology 42 (2010): pp. 493520, at p. 494. 67 For a study of the materiality of mounds in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain, to which the following analysis is much indebted, see J. Barret t, Fragments from Antiquity: An Archaeology of Social Life in Britain, 2900 1200 BC ( Cambridge, 1994)
35 conditions and erosion, compounded by human activities such as agriculture, forest husbandry, and systematic leveling.68 These processes have work ed to prevent the identification of mounds and obliterate any material remains. When remains are nevertheles s identified, they predominantly survive around the perimeters of mounds; destructive processes are most severe on the remains of centrally placed burials and structures. Furthermore, burial without grave goods became common by the 8th century Thus even w here mounds have been identified, few material indicators of later AngloSaxon burials may survive in areas with acidic soils.69 Together, these factors have incalculably reduced the amount of data available for archaeological recovery. Where mounds have survived into the modern period, many have attracted the deleterious attentions of robbers or amateur antiquarians. For example, s everal of the mounds at Sutton Hoo were plundered in the 16th or 17th century. The surviving mounds were then subjected to antiquarian excavations in the 19th century. The only record of these excavations is a single announcement made in a local periodical reporting that two bushels (70 liters or 18.6 gallons) of iron bolts had been collected and converted to horseshoes.70 Archaeol ogist Martin Carver has inferred that these bolts were shiprivets taken from Mound 2, where an additional 496 rivets were found during 20thcentury archaeological campaigns .71 He approximated that the two bushels comprised roughly 2000 rivets, corresponding to the estimated number of rivets 68 H. Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead: The Reuse of Prehistoric Roman Monuments as Early AngloSaxon Burial Sites, Medieval Archaeology 41 (1997): pp. 132, at pp. 2223. 69 Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead, pp. 22 23. 70 Carver, Sutton Hoo: A Seventh Century Princely Burial Ground and its Context p. 3. 71 M. Carver, The Anglo Saxon Cemetery at S utton Hoo: An Interim Report, i n Carver, The Age of Sutton Hoo, pp. 34371, at pp. 34446.
36 required for a 24m long ship. This compares to Mound 1 where 1560 rivets were recovered from a ship measured at 27m in length, which Carver calculated to have originally carried 2500 rivets.72 Although no evidence survived from the antiquarian intervention to demonstrate that Mound 2 was as richly furnished as Mound 1, the antiquarians certainly found sufficient motivation to excavate a total of at least seven mounds.73 The se unrecorded excavations at Sutton Hoo are symptom atic of a pervasive loss of information regarding AngloSaxon mound use due to secondary intervent ions, and Carvers analysis hints at the ingenuity required of modern archaeologists to recover lost information. Conversely some antiquarian excavations preserved much information that would have otherwise been lost due to modern agriculture and urbanization. For example, high concentrations of burial sites known from East Yorkshire represent the excavations of two especially thorough antiquarians active at t he turn of the 20th century.74 In the absence of systematic survey, Howard Williams an archaeologist of AngloSaxon mortuary rites, has therefore concluded that distribution maps at least with regard to monument reuse must be assumed to reflect such hi storical accidents of excavation rather than the actual distribution of Anglo Saxon practices.75 Taken together, these factors of unrecorded loss and unsystematic recovery restrict 72 Carver, Sutton Hoo: A Seventh Century Princely Burial Ground, pp. 16668, 187. 73 Carver recorded that seven or eight of the surviving mounds had been subject to major excavations before the archaeologic al campaigns of the 20th century, and two further mounds evinced unsuccessful attempts. Carver, Sutton Hoo: A SeventhCentury Princely Burial Ground, p. 462. 74 The excavators in question are William Greenwell (18201918) and John Robert Mortimer (18251911). B.M. Marsden, The Early Barrow Diggers (Stroud, 1999), pp. 131 150. 75 Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead, pp. 19 21.
37 archaeologists to a highly unrepresentative sample of the remains initially associated with Anglo Saxon mound use. A further limitation to the study of the mound use that preceded Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac is the self imposed disciplinary preference among many Anglo Saxonists to confine their studies within the borders of modern England. Thus studies of Anglo Saxon mound use, including the present discussion, largely exclude reference to Wales, Scotland, Ireland, northern Gaul, northern Germany, and Scandinavia.76 Carver has noted that useful comparisons are hindered by chronological uncertainties for sites in many of these regions.77 Recent surveys are indicative of the narrow focus of AngloSaxon mortuary archaeology: The AngloSaxon Way of Death, Death in Medieval England, and Death and Memory in Early Medieval Britain.78 One notable exception to this narrow geographic focus is a survey provided by Michael Mller Wille, who produced a brief summary of a conference on the convergence of burial practices throughout medieval Europe as formative to the concept of Europe.79 Nevertheles s, 76 Regarding Wales, see D. Petts, Cemeteries and Boundaries in Western Britain in Lucy and Reynolds (eds.), Burial in Early Medieval England and Wales pp. 2446. Regarding northern England, see D. M. Hadley, Burial Practices in Northern England in the Later AngloSaxon Period, in Lucy and Reynolds (eds.), Burial in Early Medieval England and Wales pp. 20928. Regarding Scotland, see S. Foster, The State of Pictland in the Age of Sutton Hoo, i n Carver (ed.), The Age of Sutton Hoo, pp. 22833. Regarding Ireland, see M. Seaver, Back to Basics: Contexts of Human Burial on Irish Early Medieval Enclosed Settlements, in S. Conran, E. Danaher, and M. Stanley (eds.), Past Times, Changing Fortunes (Dublin, 2011), pp. 11329. Regarding Austrasia in Gaul, see G. Halsall, Social Change around A.D. 600: An Austrasian Perspective, i n Carver (ed.), The Age of Sutton Hoo pp. 26578. 77 M Carver, Reflections on the Meanings of Monumental Barrows in AngloSaxon England, in Lucy and Reynolds (eds.), Burial in Early Medieval England and Wales pp. 13243, at p. 134. 78 S. Lucy, The AngloSaxon Way of Death: Burial Rites in Early England (St roud 2000); D. M. Hadley, Death in Medieval England: An Archaeology (Stroud, 2001); H. Williams, Death and Memory in Early Medieval Britain (Cambridge, 2006). This focus is narrow, in part, due to the wealth of literature already produced regarding Anglo S axon mortuary practices. Notably, Hamerow, in her efforts to integrate AngloSaxon archaeology into North Sea contexts did not attempt a general synthesis of mortuary evidence. See, for example, Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements pp. 10709, 11619, 16768. 79 M. Mller Wille, Death and Burial in Medieval Europe, Scripta Minora 1992 1993 (Stockholm, 1992).
38 AngloSaxonists limited use of potential supraregional comparisons of Anglo Saxon mortuary rituals precludes recognition of many potentially significant aspects of burial rites. Despite these difficulties and methodological shortcomings archaeologists have succeeded in recovering significant evidence for mound use in England. The earliest use of mounds began well before the AngloSaxon period. Prehistoric mounds had been constructed in England primarily during the Neolithic (40002500 BC E) and Bronze A ges (2500 500 BC E), although intermittent projects continued into the Iron Age (500 BC E1 CE).80 Archaeological evidence indicates that most mounds were used for burial, but some sites have yielded no indicators of burial rites, suggesting that these mounds may have been built for other purposes. The earliest mounds tended to be long barrows, frequently with one end built taller and thinner to overlay a chamber built of timber or large stones. L ong barrows were constructed only during the Neolithic period, a nd by the Bronze Age, round barrows became the dominant mode of construction. During the Iron Age, square barrows were constructed as well. The shape and size of prehistoric mounds thus varied, but many were monumental projects that were intermittently or continuously augmented and adjusted over the course of centuries. Evidence for these longterm or recurring construction projects is associated primarily with Neolithic mounds. Mound construction was especially intensive during the Bronze Age but suffered a sharp decline during the Iron Age, leading to an almost complete 80 Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows are the subjects of a thorough survey in Woodward, British Barrows Scholarship on Britain typically differentiates the Iron Age from the Roman Period, which is typically dated to the Roman occupation of 43 CE. However, for those areas of northern Europe that never came under Roman governance, discussion of the Iron Age typically includes much of the early medieval per iod, sometimes extending as far as the conversion of Scandinavia in the 10th and 11th centuries.
39 abandonment of mound construction from the Roman period through the 5th century.81 Despite this disuse, many prehistoric mounds survived in the Anglo Saxon period as recognizable features i n the landscape.82 These prehistoric mounds have been shown to have played a statistically significant role in Anglo Saxon burial practices between the 5th and 12th centuries. Over 1200 AngloSaxon burial sites have been identified from this period, the largest of which have yielded thousands of burials preserved from continuous use over a span of centuries.83 Archaeological interpretations have been assisted by the high occurrence of grave goods in burial finds and by the frequent association of cemeteries wi th monuments and landscape features. At least 230 of the 1200 identified burial sites (19.2%) show reuse of prehistoric mounds,84 and over 100 additional sites (8.3%) evi nce construction of new mounds in the AngloSaxon period.85 In sum, mounds were associat ed with over a quarter (27.5%) of known AngloSaxon burial sites. The spectacular aspects of burial mounds have long drawn the attentions of antiquarians and archaeologists, and detailed analysis indicates that mounds were likewise significant to AngloSax ons. Monuments, including prehistoric mounds, attracted new burials beginning in the early Anglo Saxon period. The earliest of these so called secondary burials date t o the 81 Carver, Reflections on the Meanings of Monumental Barrows in AngloSaxon England, p. 133. 82 Prominence in the landscape was likely a dominant factor in their selection for reuse during the AngloSaxon period. Thus many mounds were located on ridgelines and promontories. Lucy, The AngloSaxon Way of Death pp. 12430. Woodward has also highlighted the likely importance of view and visibility as determinants f or prehistoric mound construction. Woodward, British Barrows pp. 12844. 83 Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead, p. 29n25. 84 Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead, p. 17. 85 Lucy, The AngloSaxon Way of Death p. 147.
40 middle of the 5th century. 86 This dating neatly coincides with Bedes record of the arrival of the AngloSaxons circa 451.87 The origin of this practice whether it was an indigenous development or a practice adopted or imported from elsewhere is uncertain.88 Nevertheless, t he use of prehistoric mounds for secondary burials had important practical effects for the early Anglo Saxons. By burying their dead on and around monuments, the AngloSaxons used these monuments as a palimpsest to establish an ancestral presence in the landscape that infused these monuments with new meaning.89 Mounds thus became important symbols of ancestral presence for the AngloSaxons. This establishment of mounds as places of ancestral permanence in the landscape corresponded to a period of shifting settlement patterns.90 During the preceding Roman period in Britai n (1st through 5th centuries) villas and urban centers 86 On the use of prehistor ic monuments for Anglo Saxon cemeteries, see Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead, pp. 132; H. Williams, Monuments and the Past in Early AngloSaxon England, World Archaeology 30 (1998), pp. 90108; Lucy, AngloSaxon Way of Death, pp. 12430. 87 B ede, Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum I.15, ed. B. Colgrave and R.A.B. Mynors, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford, 1969) [hereafter HE ] 88 This difficulty arises from poor chronology and a lack of comparative studies with Continental burial rites. Carver, Reflections on the Meanings of Monumental Barrows, pp. 13335. Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead, p. 26. For a rare comparison of Anglo Saxon and Continental mound use during the early medieval period, see B. Eff ros, De partibus Saxoniae and the Regulation of Mortuary Custom: A Carolingian Campaign of Christianization or the Suppression of Saxon Identity? Revue belge de philologie et dhistoire 75 (1997), pp. 26786, at pp. 28283. 89 Williams has compellingly ar ticulated this general argument for the AngloSaxon reuse of prehistoric monuments, and he has also characterized this practice as a claim on resources or the imposition of identities. Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dea d, pp. 2526. The use of cemeteries to establish ancestral presence has been further theorized elsewhere. See e.g., Barrett, Fragments from Antiquity pp. 5253, 136 37. 90 Hamerow, who has dedicated much study to the shifting settlement patterns of early Anglo Saxon England, noted: burial frequently continued to take place in ancestral burial grounds even when settlements moved. Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements p. 105. Compare to the fragmentation of Neolithic society discussed by Barrett, Fragments from Antiquity pp. 14952.
41 had emerged as places of continuous settlement.91 Although a few of these places continued to be occupied through the subRoman period (5th century) new settlement patterns dominated Britain during the early Saxon period.92 Settlements in the 5th and 6th centuries were especially short lived. Many continually shifted, even over the course of a single generation. These settlements have been characterized as migrating settlements, or Wandersiedlungen.93 Hu man presence in the landscape was therefore exceedingly transitory during this period. Mounds, as well as other prehistoric monuments made meaningful by collocating them with ancestral cemeteries, provided early Anglo Saxons with stable loci to preserve their sense of community identity in this shifting landscape.94 By the mid 6th century, a significant amount of labor was being given over to constructing monuments for the dead. This included both increasingly intensive projects of prehistoric monument reuse and the construction of new monuments, especially burial mounds.95 In the 7th century, th e construction of new mounds reached its apogee 91 Fleming, Britain after Rome, pp. 8 12. 92 Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements pp. 9394. 93 Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements pp. 10406. 94 This identity could also be imposed or created. Williams, Ancient Landscapes and the Dead, p. 26. Regardless of whether the identity itself retained a constant value, however, mounds allowed a constant sense of community. The anthropologist Tim Ingold, considering the territorial behavior of hunter gatherer societies, described the construction of as a zero dimensional kind of tenure, in which ownership centers on places, sites or locations. T. Ingold, Territoriality and Tenure: The Appropriation of Space in Hunting and Gathering Societies, in T. Ingold (ed.), The Appropriation of Nature: Essays on Human Ecology and Social Relations (Iowa City, 1987), pp. 13064, at pp. 14748. Barrett applied this model to Neolithic Britain: The burial mounds now emerged as the most significant, permanent points of reference to anyone wishing either to locate themselves in that landscape or to describe the setting of the plain and the ridgeway. Barrett, Fragments from Antiquity p. 128. 95 Williams described the 7th century reuse of a Bronze Age mound in Swallowcliffe Down as an act of considerable effort that involved the w holesale reconfiguration of the monument. Williams, Death and Memory p. 32. With regard to the new constructions see M. Carver, Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of Kings? (Philadelphia, 1998), p. 166.
42 in Britain .96 Mounds were larger and more richly furnished than ever before, and their construction could involve just as much effort as activities of subsistence.97 Either project the reuse of a mound or the construction of a new mound required a significant investment of labor that could only be achieved through a community effort. These monumental burials were thus community projects and promoted a sense of community identity.98 Thus Felix tacitly noted that at some point Guthlacs mound must have been constructed as a social project. His reference to the clods of earth of which Guthlacs mound had been built may be r ead as an oblique reference to memories of more recent mound constructions, perhaps even the monumental burials at Sutton Hoo which would likely still have been remembered among Felixs contemporaries.99 Although settlement patterns were already changing by the time when Felix wrote the Life of Saint Guthlac this brief archaeological excursus helps explain why he used a mound to mark Guthlacs transition from historical particularities to a model of universalized sanctity. Mounds were recognizable features in the British landscape prior to the AngloSaxon period, and the AngloSaxons attached new practical meanings to 96 C. Scull, Before Sutton Hoo: structures of power and soc iety in early East Anglia, in Carver (ed.), The Age of Sutton Hoo, pp. 3 23, at p. 20. 97 For Mound 2 at Sutton Hoo, Carver calculated: it would have taken about 660 manhours to build Mound 2, assuming they had wheelbarrows or their equivalent. Thi s is the equivalent extra workload of an additional harvest; it thus represents a considerable investment. Carver, Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of Kings? p. 166. 98 Timothy Pauketat has similarly argued that among the Mississippian mound builders, CE 1000120 0, the mound building practices were not the consequences of political evolution but were the actual structuring process of change . In Mississippian times, the building of earthen platforms was a surface phenomenon that inculcated a coordinated power and an inclusive tradition. T. Pauketat, The Tragedy of the Commoners, in M. Dobres and J.E. Robb (eds.), Agency in Archaeology (London, 2000), pp. 11329, at p. 123. 99 The latest datable mound burial is Mound 14, based on its assemblage for which Carver suggested a date range of between 630 and 670. Carver, Sutton Hoo: A SeventhCentury Princely Burial Ground, p. 310. However, as noted above, there are significant difficulties in dating Anglo Saxon burials from this period, and change in bur ial rites did not become pervasive until around 720.
43 these features as they began to use them as burial sites. These practices appropriated the ready symbols of mounds and established them as sym bols of ancestral presence and points of permanence in a landscape that otherwise seemed to be in constant flux. Felixs use of a mound at the point of transition in the Life of Saint Guthlac therefore resonated strongly with preceding practices that had established mounds as markers of permanence with ancestral burial. For Felix, writing in a society still familiar with these traditions of mound use, a mound was therefore an AngloSaxon version of Antonys desert tomb and an appropriate place for Guthlac t o join his spiritual forebears and become a member of the communion of saints. Mounds a nd Demons Scholars have generally drawn on these preChristian practices of mound burial to interpret the mound in the Life of Saint Guthlac as a place of pagan ancestor s qua demons. Although scholars have variously read the text in terms of Guthlacs historical career or Felixs literary purpose, there has been a broad consensus that Guthlac chose to inhabit a mound or at least that Felix portrayed him doing so because mounds were already considered places of demonic possession. This interpretation builds from Felixs description of Crowland: No settler had been able to inhabit it alone before Guthlac the servant of Christ, on account of the phantoms of demons dwelli ng there. 100 Furthermore, after Guthlac had established his dwelling on the broken mound, he was assaulted there by troops of demons: Indeed the door was open to them as came in from all around; for entering through nooks and crannies, neither door joints nor cracks in the wattle 100 Nullus hanc ante famulum Christi Guthlacum solus habitare colonus valebat, propter videlicet illic demorantium fantasias demonum VG Ch. 25.
44 denied them entry; but erupting from heaven and earth, they covered the whole space of the air in dark clouds.101 These and similar passages have encouraged modern scholars to infer that Felix understood mounds as places already inhabited by demons. This interpretation, which depends upon a Christian cosmology, pervades scholarship on AngloSaxon burial mounds and has been projected back into interpretations of the preliterate pagan past. Hilda Ellis Davidson, in her seminal article o n AngloSaxon mounds, believed that something of this picture was due to the pagan tradition of the dead in the gravemound, and that these creatures are its inhabitants.102 More recently, Sarah Semple has cited the descriptions of Guthlacs mound as evidence for the AngloSaxon fear of barrows. She concluded: The root of this perception may be the remembrance of early AngloSaxon pagan activity which took place at barrows. 103 Howard Williams also followed this interpretation: in this instance, the mound was inhabited, and inhabitation is the key theme linking the associations of the mound and the focus of conflict between Guthlac and the demons. 104 Stephen Pollington succinctly summarized the underlying arguments thus: In Christian times, the sites of heathen graves gained a new importance as unconsecrated ground. Barrows were designated as cwealmstowa, places of legal execution, and there are many examples of Middle Saxon burials around and between such mounds; presumably the punishment extended to the af terlife where the soul would be attacked by the mounds inhabitant. 101 Subeuntibus enim ab undique illis porta patebat; nam per criptas et cratulas intrantibus non iuncturae valvarum, non foramina cratium illis ingressum negabant; sed caelo terraque erumpentes, spatium totius aeris fuscis nubibus tegebant. VG Ch. 31. 102 H. Ellis Davidson, The Hill of the Dragon: AngloSaxon Burial Mounds in Literature and Archaeology, Folk Lore 62 (1950) pp. 16985, at pp. 17677. 103 S. Semple, A Fear of the Past: The Place of the Prehistoric Burial Mound in the Ideology of Middle and Later AngloSaxon England, World Archaeology 30 (1998): pp. 10926, at pp. 118, 123. 104 Williams, Death and Memory p. 206. His emphasis.
45 This was the fate which befell St. Guthlac when he built his hermits retreat in the side of a burial mound: he was beset by harmful spirits .105 These arguments therefore depend on two premi ses: first, that pagan practices established the mounds as places of ancestral presence; and second, that these ancestral spirits were demonized upon the acceptance of a Christian cosmology. These interpretations of Guthlacs mound accord well with the inf luential interpretation of Sutton Hoo proposed by Martin Carver, who headed the last and most thorough excavation campaign there and published its findings.106 Excavations at Sutton Hoo revealed a cemetery of seventeen richly furnished barrows, constructed d uring the 6th and 7th centuries.107 Two of the 7thcentury burials included the interment of large seagoing vessels,108 and the last datable mound burial a woman inhumed in a chamber may have been built during Guthlacs lifetime.109 Carver 105 S. Pollington, AngloSaxon Burial Mounds: Princely Burial in the 6th and 7th Centuries ( Swaffham 2008) p. 83. His footnotes to this passage included the scholarship of Carver, Ellis Davidson, Geake, Semple, and Williams. 106 Carvers influence has been felt in the steady stream of publications on the rich finds of Sutton Hoo, through a number of volumes he has edited, and his prolific contributions to other edited volumes. I am heavily indebted to Carvers scholarship, as the footnotes passim the present discussion indicate. Since his linguistic model cannot be usefully applied to Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac however, I hope my arguments will augment his insights rather than cont radict them. 107 Among the many publications on Sutton Hoo, the most thorough is Carver, Sutton Hoo: A Seventh Century Princely Burial Ground and its Context 108 These two burials one in a chamber beneath a 24m long ship and the other a chamber on a 27m lo ng, but without surviving evidence of a corpse have been especially influential in Carvers interpretation of mound use at Sutton Hoo. As mentioned above, one of these burials was signficiantly disturbed in the 19th century. Nevertheless, Carver has argued that these burials asserted a sense of community with other groups using boat burial rites in southern Sweden. For these connections and their problems, see M. Carver, Boat B urial in Britain: Ancient Custom or Political Signal? i n O. Crumlin Pedersen and B. Munch Thye (eds.), The Ship as Symbol in Prehistoric and Medieval Scandinavia (Copenhagen 1995), pp. 11024. A further ship burial from this period has more recently been found in Estonia. M. Konsa R. Allme, L. Maldre, and J. Vassiljev, Rescue E xcavations of a Vendel Era Boat grave in Salme, Saaremaa, Archaeological Fieldworks in Estonia 2008 (2009), pp. 53 64. 109 The assemblage recovered from the female bed burial Mound 14 suggests a 7thcentury date within the broad range of 630 and 670, and Carver has thus inferred a date of the middle or second half of the century. Carver, Sutton Hoo: A Seventh Century Princely Burial Ground, pp. 113, 298, 310. Thus this
46 interpreted the burials at Sutton Hoo in the context of Christian pagan conflict, a conflict contested from the cultural cores of Christian Gaul and pagan Scandinavia. Carver described the cemetery at Sutton Hoo as the last defiant gasp of a Scandinavianstyle paganism in England before the AngloSaxons succumbed to the advance of Chris t ianization: Sutton Hoo was the burial ground of kings who can now be shown to have been dynastic (honouring children), militantly pagan and claiming the right over life and death . So, if we believe (in line with modern theories of material culture) that burial, and perhaps most particularly burial at this level of status, is a deliberate statement made by intelligent humans at a moment of crisis, then the signals which emanate from Sutton Hoo are specific, the cry of a people at once pagan, autonomous, maritime and concerned to conserve an ancestral allegiance with the Scandinavian heartlands and th eir politics, across the North sea [ sic ].110 The conquest of Christianity and defeat of Scandinavian paganism thus necessitated new types of mound use: Sutton Hoo is here interpreted as a short lived and theatrical monument created in response to the first Christian missions to England [begin in 596 in the neighboring kingdom of Kent] The burials expressed the identity and autonomy of East Anglian aristocrats, their aspiration to kingship and their resistance to the political and ideological agenda of early seventhcentury continental Christianity. When the ideological battle was lost, East A nglia became a Christian kingdom and the former princely burial ground became a place of execution.111 In short, Carver has interpreted the mound burial s at Sutton Hoo as symbol ic expressions in the vocabulary of a def iant paganism. burial may have been near contemporaneous to Guthlacs birth, which Meaney calculated from indicators in the Life of Saint Guthlac as either 674 or 676. Meaney, Felixs Life of Guthlac : History or Hagiography? p. 76. 110 Carver, The AngloSaxon Cemetery at S utton Hoo: An Interim Report, pp. 36365. 111 Carver, Sutton Hoo: A Seventh Century Prin cely Burial Ground, p. xxi.
47 Carvers arguments rely o n the premise that AngloSaxons throughout the AngloSaxon period treated mounds as a symbol firmly attached to pagan cosmology, despite the cultural disruptions of Christianization and the upheavals of the long 8th century. T he continuation or abandonment of mound burial practices thus reflected the acceptance or rejection of paganism As long as AngloSaxon culture remained pagan, mounds retained their positive connotations that attract ed elite and common burials alike After Christianization, however, mo und burial was shunned and used only to materialize the exclusion of criminals from the Christian community Those who were socially undesirable could be consigned a place among the pagan dead, that is, among those denied the benefit of Christian salvation.112 There are compelling reasons, however, not to apply this interpretation of burial mounds to the Life of Saint Guthlac Although Felix could have used Guthlacs mound as an elite, dynastic, pagan, and Scandinavian symbol, there is little to indicate such a symbolic use in the text The supposed wealth of the mound had been stolen, the memories of those interred had been forgotten, Felix attributed no ritual importance to the spot, and the political horizons of the Life of Saint Guthlac remain rooted in the local AngloSaxon kingdoms of Mercia and East Anglia. These circumstantial details aside, the fundamental problem in both Carvers interpretation of Sutton Hoo and the prevailing scholarship on Guthlacs mound arises from the unexplained assumption that Christianization necessarily entailed the demonization of mounds. 112 Andrew Reynolds has also offered this as a possible explanation for the location of Late Saxon execution cemeteries at earlier Anglo Saxon burial mounds, although his primary analytic concern was the relationship between deviant burials and boundaries. A. Reynolds, Anglo Saxon Deviant Burial Customs (Oxford, 2009), pp. 238, 24950.
48 This theory of demonization depends on assumptions of both the continued Christian acceptance of the pagan cosmology that established the mound as a place of ancestral presence and Christian rejection of pagan cosmology as a worldview dominated by demons. Felixs acceptance of the mound as a place of ancestral significance has been established with reference to his use of the mound as the transition point in his hagiographic text, as a symbol ic place where Guthlac could join in the communion of saints. However, the association of the mound with demonic presence has not been adequately established for the Life of Saint Guthlac The hypothetical association of mounds and demons in the Life of Saint Guthlac must be rejected for at least three reasons: Felix described the mound in a sequence where demonic assaults began only after the saint had already arrived at his hermitage there; Felix deliberately kept passages describing demonic presence in t he landscape separate from his passage describing Guthlacs mound; and no evidence for a demonic association with mounds can be compellingly shown to predate the Life of Saint Guthlac First, Felix wrote the passage that described Guthlacs mound as part of a sequence modeled on the Life of Saint Antony .113 According to the Evagrian life Antony determined to follow the example of Elijah, presumably the account of Elijahs flight to Horeb and his seclusion in a cave there.114 Antony therefore had a friend seal him in a 113 On Felixs tumulus as a translation of the Evagrian supulchra, see Aggeler, Reinventig the Holy Man, p. 50. 114 1 Kings 19: 3 9. In the preceding chapter, Antony quoted 1 Kings 18: 15, an oath to appear before King Ahab, which begins the sequence leading to his flight to Horeb. This passage also recalls Obadiahs concealment of one hundred prophets in caves to protect them from Jezebel. Cf. VA, Chs. 7 8. Felix hinted that Guthlac considered both Elijah and the Egyptian hermits as his models, as well as Moses and Jesus Christ. VG Ch. 30.
49 tomb. Only then was he assailed by demons: The devil thus fearing that Antony would in due time cause even the desert to be inhabited, he and his minions bloodied Antony with various wounds so that he could neither speak nor move due to the magni tude of his suffering.115 Felix extended this same sequence over the course of several chapters. He recorded that Guthlac was likewise inspired by the examples of holy men, that he settled on a burial mound as a sort of tomb, and that he too was assaulted by an army of demons.116 In their final assault, the demons expressed the same purpose as the devil had in his attacks on Antony: they demanded that Guthlac depart from the desert. However, they only made this demand after they had physically removed Guthlac from the mound and carried him out into the swamp, and they used the word for desert rather than mound.117 Therefore, in the course of this sequence Guthlacs mound cannot be interpreted as a place initially possessed by demons. In the chapter describing the mound, Felix described only Guthlac settling there and immediately adopting a rule of fasting and asceticism that he preserved throughout the duration of his life.118 This description accords with Guthlacs transformation at the burial mound into a universal model of sanctity, and the appearance of the devil and his minions in this passage would have violated the structural purpose of this episode. They only appeared thereafter. 115 Metuens ergo diabolus, ne accessu temporis eremum quoque habitari faceret, ita eum aggregatis satellitibus suis, uaria caede lacerauit, ut doloris magnitudo et motum auferret et uocem. VA, Ch. 8. 116 VG Chs. 24, 28, 31. 117 [E]xtra cellulam suam duxerunt, et adductum in atrae paludis coenosis laticibus inmerserunt imperantes sibi, ut de heremo discedisset VG Ch 31. 118 VG Ch. 28.
50 This leads to a second point: the impression of the demonic possession of Guthlacs mound can only be achieved by conflating other distinct episodes with the passage describing the mound. The only plausible such passage preceding Guthlacs arrival at the mound described his withdrawal into the Fenland wilderness.119 In this passage, Fel ix recorded that as Guthlac was asking for information about the Fens: Tatwine confessed that he knew of an island in the hidden parts of the further desert, which many had tried to inhabit but had rejected on account of unknown monsters of the desert and terrors of various forms . No settler had been able to inhabit it alone before Guthlac the servant of Christ, on account of the phantoms of demons dwelling there.120 This passage described Crowland, which cannot be directly equated as a metonym for the later image of the mound for several reasons. First, two entire chapters intervened, describing Guthlacs exploration of the Fens and his return to the monastery for provisions and final farewells, between the first mention of demons and the description o f the mound. Second, Felix borrowed this passage regarding demonic possession of the landscape from Bedes Life of Saint Cuthbert Cuthbert had likewise sought a secluded hermitage and settled upon the island of Farne. As Bede recorded: No settler had been able to inhabit it alone without trouble before Cuthbert the servant of the Lord, on account of the phantoms of demons dwelling there.121 119 Most scholars prefer not to commit to a strict reading of Felix but instead offer general comments such as, inhabitation is the key theme linking the associations of the mound and the focus of conflict between Guthlac and the demons Williams, Death and Memory p. 206. However, see J. Harte, Hell on Earth: Encountering Devils in the Medieval Landscape, in B. Bildhauer and R. Mills (eds.), The Monstrous Middle Ages (Toronto, 2003) pp. 177 95, at p. 190. 120 Tatwine se scisse aliam insulam in abditis remotioris heremi partibus confitebatur, quam multi inhabitare temtantes propter incognita heremi monstra et diversarum formarum terrors reprobaverant . Nullus hanc ante famulum Christi Guthlacum solus habitare colonus valebat, propter videlicet illic demorantium fantasias demonum . VG Ch. 25. 121 Nullus hanc facile ante famulum Domini Cuthbertum solus ualebat inhabitare colonus, propter uidelicet demorantium ibi phantasias demonum. VCPr Ch. 17.
51 Felix therefore used this passage to compare Guthlac to Cuthbert and Crowland to Farne. If Felix had intended to demonize the mound, this passage would have provided him an optimal description of demonic possession. However, Felix delayed his description of the mound for a further two chapters, describing the mound in a context drawn from Evagrius Life of Antony rather than Bedes Life of Cuthbert This passage therefore cannot be meaningfully associated with Guthlacs mound. Thus the demonization of mounds depends upon the conflation of two distinct narrative structures: the withdrawal of Guthlac into a dangerous area, as emphasized by his connections to Cuthbert, and the attacks Guthlac provoked after settling in a particular place, as emphasized by his connections to Antony. The site of Guthlacs dwelling, the burial mound, cannot therefore be assumed to have been a sy mbolically dangerous place for Felix. Instead, the saints entry into a dangerous area provoked demonic assaults only after he had settled in a particular location. Finally, Guthlacs mound cannot be convincingly interpreted as a place of demonized pagan ancestors in the context of external textual and material evidence. The most compelling such contexts are the evidence for executions and deviant burials at mounds as catalogued by Andrew Reynolds and the manuscript illuminations of hell that resemble mound landscapes as identified by Sarah Semple.122 This evidence cannot be meaningfully applied as context for the Felixs description of Guthlacs mound for the simple reason that it cannot be shown to predate the Life of Saint Guthlac written around 730.123 Reyn olds identified only four execution cemeteries that may date 122 Reynolds, AngloSaxon Deviant B urial Customs pp. 26265. S. Semple, Illustrations of D amnation in L ate Anglo Saxon M anuscripts, Anglo Saxon England 32 (2003), pp. 23145. 123 Colgrave, introduction to Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac p. 19.
52 as early as the 7th or 8th centuries and may thus be roughly contemporaneous with Felix. Of these, only two are associated with mounds: Sutton Hoo and Walkington Wold.124 However, Carver preferred a date for the Sutton Hoo deviant burials no earlier than the 8th century,125 and a recent reanalysis of Walkington Wold has produced a similar general date.126 Although in both cases, the archaeological evidence may predate the Life of Saint Guthlac the broad date ranges provided by radiocarbon analysis also allow that the earliest executions associated with mounds might not have occurred until around 775, over a generation after the Life of Saint Guthlac had begun circulating throughout AngloSaxon England. The manuscript evidence compiled by Semple is even later, dating from the 10th and 11th centuries.127 In short, although Felixs description of Guthlacs mound and his struggles with demons may have influenced these later material and textual practices, ther e is insufficient evidence to prove that mounds were associated with demonic presence prior to the Life of Saint Guthlac 124 The other two cemeteries are Cambridge and St aines, both associated with ditches. Reynolds dismissed the inclusion of South Acre, Norfolk, as an early execution cemetery due to unreliable carbon dating and evidence suggesting that the execution cemetery may have unintentionally disturbed an earlier c emetery. Reynolds, Anglo Saxon Deviant Burial Customs pp. 126, 236. 125 The 95% probability range for the earliest three radiocarbon samples are 680 980, 650980, and 650780. Carver, Sutton Hoo: A SeventhCentury Princely Burial Ground, pp. 55, 34748. Thus the earliest executions at Sutton Hoo may have predated the Life of Saint Guthlac but they also need not have begun until at least fifty years later. 126 The 95% probability range for the earliest sample is 640775. J.L. Buckberry and D.M. Hadley, An Ang lo Saxon Execution Cemetery at Walkington Wold, Yorkshire, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 26 (2007): pp. 30929, at p. 312. Again, this burial may or may not have predated Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac Furthermore, Walkington Wold is located in Yorkshire, and thus unlikely to have informed a text situated in the area of Cambridgeshire. 127 Semple, Illustrations of Damnation, p. 243.
53 A Landscape w ithout Mounds Thus the structure of the Life of Saint Guthlac indicates that Felix imagined mounds as places of ancestral importance, places appropriate for a holy man such as Guthlac to enter into a communion of saints with his spiritual forefathers. This use drew on mounds as a nexus of ancestral presence through continuous burial across generations, as a symbol of permanence in an otherwise changing landscape, and as a marker of community identity. However, by the time Felix was writing, the AngloSaxons had largely abandoned the material practices that affirmed these associations. A new mode of permanent settlement was working to marginalize the role of mounds in landscape, and these changes were just beginning to be felt during the early 8th century. Felixs dismal description of the Fenland landscape has seized the imagination of modern scholars. The initial impression given by his description is that of an empty wasteland stretching beyond the pale of human society: There is in the Midland parts of Britain a most dark swamp of immense size . Here in pools, there in muddy spots, sometimes with waters that are black with flowing fog, and often punctuated with islands and woods in the twisting turns of little streams, it extends in a lengthy tract from the south as far north as the sea.128 Felix further elaborated upon this bleak landscape in the subsequent passage descr ibing Guthlacs arrival at Crowland, already excerpted above with reference to its borrowings from Bedes Life of Saint Cuthbert : 128 Est in meditullaneis Brittanniae partibus inmensae magnitudinis aterrima [the majority reading is acerimma ] palus . [ N] unc stagnis, nunc flactris, interdum nigris [ or nigri ] fusi vaporis laticibus, necnon et crebris insularum nemorumque intervenientibus flexuosis [ or flexosis ] rivigarum anfractibus, ab austro in aquilonem mare tenus longissimo tractu protenditur. Igitur cum supradictus vir beatae memoriae Guthlac illius vastissimi heremi inculta loca conperisset, caelestibus auxiliis adiutus, rectissimo callis tramite tenus usque perrexit VG Ch. 24.
54 Guthlac arrived at the said place traveling with Christ through the trackless bogs within the borders of the dark swamp. It is called Crowland, an island placed in the middle of the swamp, which had been known to few and hardly cultivated on account of the very remote solitude of the desert. No settler had been able to inhabit it alone before Guthlac the servant of Christ, on account of the phantoms of demons dwelling there.129 These passages thus paint the landscape in dismal hues. The dominant interpretation of Felixs landscape has built upon such an impressionistic reading of these passages. One interpreter summarized Feli xs description thus: the fen was a flat, empty space, ready to be populated by the protagonists in a spiritual drama.130 Alfred Siewers a scholar of AngloSaxon literature, likewise interpreted Felixs image of the Fens as empty space as a product of Chr istian theology and as a necessary precondition for later nationbuilding.131 Regarding both the Life of Saint Guthlac and Beowulf as evidence for Mercian statebuilding and AngloSaxon nationbuilding Siewers argued that images of the landscape in these te xts can be understood as the precursor for : the establishment of the autonomy of the individual hero (and of his warrior/proto Christian culture) with respect to the natural landscape, the Subject in relation to the Other. Politically this is paralleled in an emergence of an ideology of individualized, proprietary and patrimonial but national monarchy in the Anglo Saxon and Frankish realms.132 Siewers asserted that the text s produced this image by providing a narrative that treated the landscape as a palimpsest and ultimately as a cenotaph: And in a trend begun in 129 Guthlac per invia lustra inter atrae paludis margines Christo v iatore ad praedictum locum usque pervenit; Crugland dicitur, insula media in palude posita quae ante paucis propter remotioris heremi solitudinem inculta vix nota habebatur. Nullus hanc ante famulum Christi Guthlacum solus habitare colonus valebat, propter videlicet illic demorantium fantasias demonum VG Ch. 25. 130 Harte, Hell on Earth, pp. 17795. 131 A. K. Siewers, Landscapes of Conversion: Guthlacs Mound and Grendels Mere as Expressions of AngloSaxon Nation Building, Viator 34 (2003), pp. 1 39. 132 Si ewers, Landscapes of Conversion, p. 37.
55 that formative era of early medieval narratives of nationbuilding, landscape became in the West both a palimpsest for human moral and political concerns, and a cenotaph in its lack of real engagement with larger forces of nature.133 Nicholas Howe, studying AngloSaxon literature in general and not specifically the Guthlac texts, likewise identified emptiness as a literary trope in Anglo Saxon heroic literature: the dismal la ndand seascapes of the t exts described an emptiness that made room for the heroic literary theme of interior, existential crisis. Howe thus described these landscapes as a counter to the world of human sociability and community. 134 They provided a space where a hero could clearly articulate his individuality, standing alone in an otherwise barren world. Thus studies of the Life of Saint Guthlac have tended to focus on the desolation of the landscape as described by the text. This approach, however, has neglected analysis of how Felix constructed this description and the basic textual mechanics that made this description possible. Howe described this process as inventing a landscape: To invent a landscape is to order the natural terrain, or to impose organizing divisions on it, so that it becomes a human creation; it means that people live in a constructed or bounded landscape that affects the ways they feed, clothe, and shelter themselves. 135 John Hines has thus attempted to explore the later AngloSaxon poem known as Guthlac A to f ind evidence for processes of land acquisition.136 However, this approach can also be usefully applied to 133 Siewers, Landscapes of Conversion, p. 39. Corpses and ancestral spirits are notably absent from both Guthlacs mound and the dragons barrow in Beowulf 134 Howe, The Landscape of AngloSaxon England, p. 106. 135 Howe, The Landscape of AngloSaxon England, p. 91. 136 J. Hines, Voices in the Past: English Literature and Archaeology (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004), pp. 6270. Moreland has critiqued Hines for undervaluing the productivity of his texts. J. Moreland, Historical
56 Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac With regard to the processes of inventing or organizing the landscape contemporary to Felix, Moreland has argued that charters were the dominant means of asserting land acquisition: They were tools, essential elements, in that process and in the capturing of resources from the landscape. As such, they contributed to the construction of the community that created them.137 Thus it is worth interrogating the Life of Saint Guthlac for echoes of cartulary practices.138 Although cartulary evidence from the 8th century is admittedly incomplete not a single charter survives bearing the name of lfwald, Felixs purported sponsor, for example139 at least one surviving charter does suggest a remarkable association with the Life of Saint Guthlac This charter, known as Birch 154 (Sawyer 89), is a grant of land by King thelbald of Mercia to an Earl Cyniberht for the construction of a monastery in Worcester in 736.140 Not only does this charter chronologically fall near the date of likely composition for the Life of Saint Guthlac its witness list also contains many names which appear in Felixs text: thelbald, Wilfrid, Offa, and Cissa. Aside from thelbald, who is clearly identified as the king of Mercia in both texts, the double Archaeology Beyond the Evidence, in Moreland (ed.), Archaeo logy, Theory and the Middle Ages pp. 276301, at p. 295. 137 Moreland, Historical Archaeology Beyond the Evidence, p. 295. 138 Della Hooke surveyed the 470 preConquest documents from the West Midlands, including Birch 154, discussed below. She observed that the initial precedents for cartulary formulae including an emphasis on recording landmarks were typically derived from Roman law, formulae became increasingly sophisticat ed over time. D. Hooke, The AngloSaxon Landscape: The Kingdom of the Hwicce (Manchester, 1985), pp. 50 52. It therefore seemed best to select a near contemporary charter for comparison. 139 This is most likely due to the pervasive loss of documents from eas tern England due to Danish invasions. D. Hooke, The Landscape of AngloSaxon England (London, 1997), pp. 8586. 140 Cartularium Saxonicum: A Collection of Charters Relating to AngloSaxon History 154, ed. Walter de Gray Birch, 3 vols (London, 1885) [hereaft er Birch]. Charters are more commonly referred to by their various catalogue numbers. Thus Birch (or CS ) 154 is also Sawyer 89 and Kemble 80.
57 appearance of the other names may be mere coincidence.141 Nevertheless, given the date of the charter and the names of those present, it is tempting to imagine that t his charter recorded a gathering of those who may have known Guthlac, either to provide Felix with information or to hear a reading of his finished text. More importantly, this charter allows a comparison between how the landscape was invented in the sense proposed by Howe in both hagiographic and cartulary terms. The charter recorded: I, thelbald, hand over to the possession of the church with lavish generosity some small part of land, that is 10 hides, to my venerable companion Cyniberht for t he construction of a monastery in the province that since antiquity has had the name Husmere, near the river called Stur, with all the essentials that pertain to it, with fields and forests, with fishing and meadows. T he said estate is bounded ( in circuitu est ) on two side s of the said river, having on its northern side the forest which they call Cynibre and on the east another whose name is Moe r h eb, the greatest part of which pertains to the estate above.142 The terms of this charter articulated posses sion of the landscape in three ways. First, the author named the estate, in this case Husmere. The author then enumerated the resources belonging to the estate: fields, forests, fishing, and meadows. Finally, the author described the bounds of the estate i n terms of natural features and named 141 Felix described Wilfrid us as an abbot; here Uuilfridus is identified as a bishop. He described Oba as a comes of thelbald; the same name Oba appears here. He described Cissa as a priest, but he appears here without any additional appellation. Several of these names appear elsewhere see especially Birch 149, 150, 157, and 163 which may indicate continued relationships or promotions over time. 142 Ego Aethilbalt aliquam terrae particulam id est x cassatorum venerando comite meo Cyniberhtte ad construendum coenubium in provincia cui ab antiquis nomen inditum est Husmerae juxta fluvium vocabulo Stur cum omnibus necessariis ad eam pertinentibus cum campis silvisque cum piscariis pratisque in possessionem aecclesiasticam benigne largiendo trado. Ita ut quamdiu vixerit potestatem habeat tenendi ac possidendi cuicumque voluerit vel eo vivo vel certe post obit um suum relinquendi, est autem supradictus ager in circuitu ex utraque parte supranominati fluminis habens ex aquilone plaga silvam quam nominant cynibre ex occidentale vero aliam cui nome est moerheb quarum pars maxima ad praefatum pertinet agrum. Birch 1 54.
58 places.143 Thus Birch 154 used both boundaries and an impressionistic description of the bounded area to express the acquisition of landscape resources as a plot of land. Although the terms of charters varied and general ly became more elaborate through the AngloSaxon period,144 the identification of these elements in a charter roughly contemporaneous to the Life of Saint Guthlac especially a charter that may have been witnessed by persons Felix claimed to know provides the best possible baseline for comparing Felixs approach to the landscape to cartulary practices. Felixs description of the Fenland bears remarkable similarity to the description of the Husmere estate in Birch 154: There is in the Midland parts of Britain a most dark swamp of immense size, which begins by the banks of the R iver Granta (Cam) not far from the fortification called Gronte (Cambridge). Here in pools, there in muddy spots, sometimes with waters that are black with flowing fog, and often punctuated with islands and woods in the twisting turns of little streams, it extends in a lengthy tract from the south as far north as the sea.145 First, Felix identified the area of his description as the immense swamp in the Midlands near the River Cam. Then he elaborated on the components of its landscape: pools, mud flats, foggy waters, wooded islands, and twisting streams. Finally, he completed its boundaries: from the river Granta extending northward to the sea, that is, stretching from Cambridge to the Wash. This description of the landscape, therefore, contains all the same elements as Birch 154 and thus seems entirely in accord with contemporary 143 Hooke has emphasized the importance of boundaries in AngloSaxon charters. Hooke, The Landscape of AngloSaxon England, pp. 84101. 144 Hooke The Landscape of AngloSaxon England, pp. 8487. 145 Est in meditullaneis Brittanniae partibus inmensae magnitudinis aterrima [the majority reading is acerimma ] palus quae, a Grontae fluminis ripis incipiens, haud procul a castello quem dicunt nomine Gronte, nunc stagnis, nunc flactris, interdum nigris [ or nigri ] fusi vaporis laticibus, necnon et crebris insularum nemorumque intervenientibus flexuosis [ or flexosis ] rivigarum anfractibus, ab austro in aquilonem mare tenus longissimo tractu protenditur. VG Ch. 24.
59 cartulary practice. Furthermore, there is nothing particularly dangerous or dismal about this description, aside from two passing references to its darkness.146 For Felix, this description of the Fens seems to have been little more than business as usual. Indeed, Felix subsequently confirmed that he conceived of the Fens as an estate to be occupied by Guthlac. Followi ng his description of the Fens, Felix reported that Guthlac explored the area.147 Later AngloSaxon charters indicate that a physical reconnaissance of the chartered estate was an integral part of the cartulary process.148 The tracing of boundaries and inventory of resources evident in both Birch 154 and Felixs description of the Fens seem to indicate that this practice may have already been current in the early 8th century. If so, it was a necessary prerequisite to settlement, and indeed, Felix immediately thereafter described Guthlac as a settler: No settler had been able to inhabit it alone before Guthlac the servant of Christ .149 Felix borrowed this passage almost verbatim from Bedes Life of Saint Cuthbert ,150 indicating that he considered the word choice to be particularly apt for a saint establishing a hermitage. Following this reconnaissance of the Fens, Guthlac formally departed from his monastery, and then, as Felix recorded: He returned to the said place from whence he had come, as if to the home inher ited from his father.151 These passages, which 146 If aterrima palus could be taken as a Latinized proper name, the reference to black waters may only be an explanatory note, rather than a stigmatization of the landscape. 147 VG Ch. 25. 148 Hooke, The Landscape of AngloSaxon England, pp. 9091. 149 VG Ch. 25. 150 VCPr Ch. 26. 151 [A]d supradictum locum, quasi ad paternae hereditatis habitaculum, regressus est VG Ch. 26. This is an original passage by Felix, evidencing no textual borrowing.
60 Downey characterized as a progressive retreat to Crowland,152 may conversely be understood as Felixs effort to legitimize Guthlacs occupation of the Fens. Felix heightened this impression of Guthlac as the s ole rightful owner by repeatedly describing the Fens as an otherwise uncultivated wilderness and asserting that Guthlac dwelled there alone.153 In this sense, the later demonic assaults may be seen as a violation of Guthlacs property rights. Thus St. Bartholomew appeared to recover Guthlac from his tormentors and return him to his place.154 Felix thus used techniques from cartulary practice to justify Guthlacs habitation of the Fens, in contrast to the demons for whom he presented no legitimizing claim. Car tulary practice, therefore, seems to have provided the fundamental basis for Felixs understanding and description of the landscape in these passages. Given Felixs use of cartulary conventions, it is useful to investigate how charters functioned as essent ial elements for organizing the landscape during the long 8th century. As documents that established and defined the locations and boundaries of estates, charters facilitated stable patterns of occupation that could endure across generations. Charters can thus be reasonably connected to the stabilization of 152 Downey, Intertextuality in the Lives of St. Guthlac p. 103. 153 From chapter 24, where Felix first described the Fens, to chapter 28, where Guthlac established his h ermitage on the mound, Felix used the word desert ( heremus ) twelve times, uncultivated (incultus ) three times, variants of inhabit ( habitare, inhabitare, habitaculum ) nine times, and variants of alone ( solus solitudinis solitaria ) nine times. He further emphasized the importance of these words by placing them in frequent proximity to each other. For example: Crowland had been known to few and hardly cultivated on account of the very remote solitude of the desert ( Crugland propter remotioris heremi solitudinem inculta vix nota habebatur ). VG Ch. 24 28. 154 locum suum VG Ch. 32.
61 settlement patterns that occurred during the long 8th century.155 Beginning in the late 7th century, these stable settlements emerged, corresponding to an intensification of agriculture and production.156 Mo reland has argued that these changes likely began in the countryside perhaps to meet the needs of ecclesiastical communities establishing patterns of agricultural production that could sustain the growth of towns and provide a power base for aspiring k ings.157 Although Moreland acknowledged that the available evidence does not support a precise chronology, he suggested that settlements stabilized and economic production intensified before 700, but that the trading towns known as wics did not emerge as centers of commodity production and exchange until around 720.158 Thus by the time Felix wrote the Life of Saint Guthlac around 730, the landscape had recently undergone dramatic changes, beginning with the transition from shifting settlements to stable towns around 700. During this time, charters had emerged as an important documentary means for fixing human patterns of occupation upon the landscape. As a conventional organizational method, then, charters gradually came to supersede the organizational function of ancestral cemeteries. Whereas mounds and other ancestral places had earlier functioned as reference points for a shifting landscape, mounds lost this functional purpose as settlements stabilized during the 155 It became common practice in England to record land transfers with charters beginning in the late 7th century. Hooke, The Landscape of AngloSaxon England, p. 10. Wh ether charters were descriptive of or prescriptive for producing a stable order is, however, beyond the scope of the present discussion. 156 In addition to the evidence of increasing production and stabilizing settlements, Hamerow has connected the intensifi cation of agricultural production with new house types, new forms and greater numbers of cropstorage facilities, and changes in the layout of farmsteads and villages, particularly during the eighth and ninth centuries. Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlement s pp. 124, 139. 157 Moreland, The Significance of Production, pp. 231 32. 158 Moreland, The Significance of Production, p. 215.
62 course of the long 8th century.159 This loss of purpose may have facilitated the abandonment of ancestral cemeteries for churchyard burials that began with an almost universal cessation of furnished burials around 720. This change is most often interpreted in terms of the stabilization of social structur es rather than changes in settlement patterns.160 However, an alternate explanation may be that once ancestral estates came to fulfill the organizing role that ancestral cemeteries had earlier provided for shifting settlements, ancestral cemeteries could be abandoned allowing the adoption of churchyard burial.161 Regardless of the process of change, however, the practical effect of the changed burial patterns was that burial monuments lost their significance for organizing human behavior in the landscape at the same time that charters emerged as a pervasive means of landscape organization. These changes were still in process as Felix wrote the Life of Saint Guthlac Charters had become a significant means for organizing the landscape, and this means of organizat ion is uniquely reflected in his description of the Fens. Felixs adoption of cartulary conventions may reflect the legal experience often acquired by ecclesiastical 159 Ingold has usefully categorized various models of territoriality, or behavior that expresses inhabitation of the landscape. H e described transient behavior organized around significant points in the landscape as a zerodimensional form of tenure. This could include the shifting settlements of 5ththrough 7thcentury England, oriented on places of ancestral presence such as burial mounds. Ingold described stable behavior based on continuous possession of defined plots of land as a two dimensional form of tenure. This model accords with the 7thcentury stabilization of AngloSaxon settlements and use of charters to define bounded plots. See Ingold, Territoriality and Tenure, pp. 13031, 147 57. 160 Geake has provided the most thorough analysis of the cessation of furnished burial and has surveyed influential interpretations. Geake, Use of Grave Goods p. 134. Guy Halsalls studies of mound burials in Gaul and their relationship to times of social instability have been an influential point of reference. See for example, Halsall Social Change around A.D. 600, pp. 26578. 161 No single explanation has been convincingly offered fro the adoption of unfurnished churchyard burial. Geake, The Use of Grave Goods pp. 13435.
63 scribes.162 The description he provided of the Fenland landscape thus resonated with a number of material practices settlement patterns, the intensification of agriculture and production, and the abandonment of ancestral burials that served to erase the significance of mounds as places of permanent ancestral community. 162 Semple studied this especially in 10thand 11thcentury England. Semple, Illustrations of Damnation, p. 244. However, the witness lists from charters such as Birch 154 indicate a significant ecclesiastical presence during the production of charters began at a much earlier date.
64 CHAPTER 3 CONCLUSION A lthough burial mounds were later considered dangerous symbols in Christian cosmology, Christianization did not automatically render these places dangerous. On the contrary, Felixs Life of Saint Guthlac indicates that mounds retained their preChristian si gnificance well into the Christian period. This significance derived primarily from material practices that engaged mounds first as prehistoric monuments that could be used to organize the landscape as reference markers. The early AngloSaxons invested these mounds with meaning by collocating ancestral cemeteries at these sites. These sites therefore came to represent a seeming permanence in contrast to the shifting nature of settlements during the early AngloSaxon period. They served as a stable foundation to express community identity and organize relationships between people and the world around them in both space and time. Through these material practices, mounds came to symbolize ancestral presence, permanence, and community identity. In the Life of Saint Guthlac Felix acknowledged these aspects of preChristian mound use by placing the image of a mound at the critical point in his text. Felixs artful use of intertextual references in the prologue indicated that he was aware of and skilled at structuring borrowed passages into a text that would be meaningful to a highly sophisticated AngloLatin audience. Thus Felixs placement of the mound at the midpoint of his narrative structure, which he emphasized both by placing it at the center of a sequence taken from the Life of Saint Antony and by alerting the reader that a new narrative had thus begun, should not be dismissed as an unintentional accident. Instead, it should highlight Felixs intention to draw upon the significance of mounds in
65 the very episode that marked Guthlacs transformation from a dynamic historical individual into a universalized model of sainthood. Felix used Guthlacs arrival at the mound to symbolize his transition into a saint, characterized by timeless miracles borrowed from earli er hagiographic texts and thus a member of the textual communion of saints established through hagiographic practice. This use of the mound thus represents a uniquely Christian appropriation of preChristian associations of mounds with spiritual forebears, permanence, and community identity. At the same time, however, the Life of Saint Guthlac also evidenced new approaches to the landscape that obviated the material practices that had earlier invested mounds with meaning. Felix produced an image of the Fenl and landscape that resonated strongly with contemporary charters. As seen in the example cited above, Felix shared in the cartulary practices of organizing the landscape by naming an area, describing its resources, and defining its boundaries. Cartulary pr actices contributed to the stabilization of the landscape by organizing settlements around established plots of land. Over the course of the long 8th century, this approach to the landscape came to supersede the earlier organization around significant points such as mounds with ancestral cemeteries. In conjunction with the transition to unfurnished churchyard burial that began around 720, this new organization of the landscape interrupted the practices that had earlier invested mounds with meaning. Mounds w ere no longer needed as organizing foci, which meant that ancestral cemeteries could be relocated to new places of Christian significance. The Life of Saint Guthlac thus holds two distinct modes of organizing the landscape in tension. On the one hand, Feli x drew upon the preChristian traditions of
66 burial that made mounds into symbols of ancestral presence, permanence, and community identity. On the other, Felix approached the landscape in cartulary terms, indicating a new landscape organization that no longer depended upon ancestral cemeteries as the primary tool used to organize the landscape. As the latter mode of organization came to dominate the landscape during the long 8th century and the former mode was forgotten, Guthlacs mound must have become a perplexing image for later AngloSaxons. Once mounds lost their preChristian practical significance in the landscape, the saints occupation of the mound in the Life of Saint Guthlac lost the meaning Felix had ascribed. To later readers, Guthlacs occupati on of the mound may have made sense only in the context of a direct assault on the demonic forces that Felix described in the Fens and that repeatedly attempted to drive Guthlac from his hermitage in subsequent chapters.1 By placing the inoperative symbol of a mound in the midst of this thoroughly Christian cosmology, Felix produced the possibility that mounds would become a place of demons and danger. Ironically, although Felix contributed to establishing this relationship between mounds and demons, he did so only because mounds were not yet dangerous places but were instead ideal places for holy men to become saints. 1 Thus Aggeler interpreted Felixs Guthlac as a unique example of the hermit as militant aggressor. Aggeler, Reinventing the Holy Man, p. 52.
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72 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Matthew Delvaux completed his undergraduate degree in 2006 from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He received a Bachelors of Science in European history and foreign languages (German and French). His undergraduate thesis, Out of Chaos and Night: The German Officer Corps and the Revolution of 1918, was recognized by the Department of History with the Nye Award for Excellence in Research in Military Affairs. Upon graduation, Matthew was commissioned as an armor officer in the United States Army. He was stationed at Fort Wainwright and assigned to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. As an infantry platoon leader with Delta Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Anti Tank), he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 0809 and was stationed in Diyala Province. Upon redeployment to Fort Wainwright, he was assigned as the logistics officer for 5th Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry, facilitating training for a subsequent depl oyment. Mathew left active service in 2011 to pursue an academic career. He began study of medieval history at the University of Florida in August of that year. His graduate coursework has included classes in history, classics, and anthropology. He also participated in the UF 2012 Medieval Archaeology Field Practicum, excavating the site of an IronAge settlement at Uppkra, Sweden. His course of study is directed toward receiving a masters degree in European history and a certificate in medieval archaeology.