Welcome to the latest issue of Sophia Project News, run by the Sophia Centre and the MA Cultural Astronomy and dedicated to the scholarly study of the human relationship with the cosmos. MA graduate Chrissy Philp's image above is of the campus at Lampeter, one of the four sites which makes up the University of Wales Trinity St David. As the northern hemisphere celebrates the winter solstice, we remember one of the most powerful of ancient calendar festivals, marking the transition from increasing darkness to growing light.
Welcome to Maria Nita
A very warm welcome to the Sophia Centre's newest member of staff. Dr Maria Nita is joining the team and will be teaching on the Researching Contemporary Cosmologies and Astral Religions modules. Maria was awarded her PhD in 2013 by the Open University for her research with Christian and Muslim environmental activists. She has taught Religious Studies at Bath Spa University, the University of Gloucestershire and Oxford Brookes University, where she is an associate lecturer in the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion. Maria has been conducting research into contemporary and celestial spirituality, eco-spirituality and eco-theology. Her current research collaborations include projects concerned with science and spirituality, sacred music, churchyards and sacred place, and we are looking very much to Maria engaging with the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.
January 2016 Conference
The Sophia Centre is one of the sponsors of January's annual conference of the British Association for Near Eastern Archaeology in Lampeter. Two students from the MA Cultural and Astronomy are speaking: Sanaa Taha on 'The Open Hand: Tracing a Solar Symbol in the Ancient Near East' and George Richards on 'Falling from the desert sky: meteorites, precarious boulders and other geological features as objects of cosmological significance in pre-Islamic Arabian culture'. From the MA staff Bernadette Brady is revisiting the famous astronomical ceiling in the tomb of Senenmut and Nick Campion is discussing cosmic cities in the Near East. All conference abstracts are on this weblink.
The First Sophia Graduate Conference
Joanna Martin reports
On Saturday 28th November, the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David London Campus hosted the inaugural Sophia Centre London Graduate conference to celebrate the success of the unique on-line, distance learning MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. Featuring a day of high quality presentations on diverse subject matter ranging from prehistoric skyscapes to medieval astrological techniques to the future of astrology in the twenty first century, attendees were entertained as well as participants in the fascinating discussions that followed each short presentation.
Dr Nicholas Campion opening proceedings
The conference began with a welcome by Dr Nicholas Campion who introduced session one on 'Astrology in the Modern World'. The first speaker was Dr Bernadette Brady (pictured below left), who discussed her research that challenges traditional cosmology and presents astrology as a rational and natural expression of a chaotic ontology arguing that this allows a deeper understanding of astrology as culture and it's practice in today's world. Frances Clynes (below right), then gave us a a brief look at her recently submitted doctoral thesis which looks at the effect of the internet on astrological practice and considers whether it is possible to create a sacred space between astrologer and client when conducting an astrological consultation online and if it is an appropriate venue for astrological work.
Dr Darrelyn Gunzburg (below left), took the chair to introduce the session two on 'Temples, Tombs and Megaliths' taking us on a journey from the western Iberian peninsula through to south central England before moving over to Malta. Dr Fabio Silva (below right), provided an overview of his research that explores the role played by landscape and seascape with regard to the function and meaning of the megalithic monuments in Western Iberia including an update on his most recent fieldwork in Spring 2015.
Pamela Armstrong looked at the skyscapes of people living in central southern England over five thousand years ago and the relationship they had with their skies focusing on the significance of the burial mounds that appear to reach for the sun, moon and stars. Tore Lomsdalen (below right), then closed session two with a discussion of his research on the Mnajdra Temple in Malta and his observations that the Neolithic builders applied their knowledge of the seasonal solar movement to predict religious and ceremonial events, feasts and celebrations.
An extensive vegetarian buffet provided the fuel for the discussion to continue over lunch before the conference convened again with Nick Campion in the chair to preside over session three 'Exploring the Past'. Claire Chandler (below left), introduced the Greek Magical Papyri and discussed their value as a primary source that has provided us with legitimate evidence of the ideas, beliefs and practices of ordinary people. Chris Mitchell (below right), then looked at the provenance of Arabic astrological techniques and illustrated the problems faced when attempting to trace the origins of astrological techniques attributed to Hellenistic or Arabic sources, bringing in Abraham Lincoln to demonstrate the dangers of misquotation and tampering.
Dr Patrick Curry then took the chair for the final session on 'Astrology in the Modern World (2)'. Liz Hathway (below left), discussed her MA dissertation which was an auto-ethnographic enquiry based around her own experiences as a Capricorn exploring the meaning and symbolism of Saturn in contemporary astrological practice. Laura Andrikopolous (below right) was the next speaker and with reference to her PhD scholarship on the psychologisation of astrology in the 20th century, considered how psychology and the theories of Jung have been integrated into modern astrological interpretation and the subsequent implications of this for astrology.
Bernard Eccles (below right), was last to speak and provided a thought provoking if somewhat disturbing view of the future of astrology in the digital environment of the 21st century arguing that astrology cannot survive in a world based on instant answers and in which there is no room for analogy. Bernard's presentation provoked much lively debate with some arguing that astrology is already thriving in the digital world as can be seen by the continued success of the online MA! After a few closing words by Nick Campion, it was time to launch the latest Sophia centre Press Publication 'From Masha'allah to Kepler: Theory and Practice in Medieval and Renaissance Astrology edited by Professor Charles Burnett and Dr Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum. We were fortunate enough to have Professor Burnett present alongside a virtual appearance of Dr Greenbaum (below left) who beamed in live on Skype from New York (ironically demonstrating the advantages of 21st century technology!).
Dr Nicholas Campion welcoming Dr Dorian Geiseler Greenbaum from New York
Charles began with an in-depth look at the book cover image of the horoscope of the creation of the world which was dedicated to the future Henry VIII and is a wonderful pictorial representation incorporating the world map, the four winds, the zodiac signs, the planets in their degrees of exaltation and the twelve astrological places or houses. Having mesmerised everyone in the room with a journey through the twelve places of the zodiac, Charles and Dorian then gave a full overview of the book.
'From Masha'allah to Kepler' takes an inside look at astrology and the ideas and techniques of astrologers. In both Western and Eastern cultures, the greatest astronomers of the period wrote about and practiced astrology, with most scholars, mathematicians, physicians, philosophers and theologians regarding astrology as a pure science that was taught in schools and Universities. The book examines questions such as what did astrologers write about astrology and how was astrology taught and practiced? How did astrological theory and practice evolve throughout time and cultures? What cosmological and philosophical frameworks did astrologers use to describe their practice? The book includes surveys of astrologers alongside description of the place of their craft in Christian, Islamic and Jewish culture and includes previously unpublished and unstudied texts.
Professor Charles Burnett details the zodiacal symbolism on the cover of 'From Masha'allah to Kepler'
The conference then closed with a wine reception providing those who wished to continue the discussion, the chance to do so in a more informal setting over a glass (or more) of wine. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day characterised by the high quality presentations that highlighted the wide range of academic interests within the MA and definitely provided me with lots of food for thought.
The Sophia Centre was well represented at the recent conference given by the European Society for Astronomy in Culture which ran in Rome from 9th - 15th November 2015. The theme this year was 'Astronomy in Past and Present Cultures.' Sophia students Anna Estaroth, Eva Young, Cheryll Parisi and Tore Lomsdalen attended as delegates. Presentations included those by Dr Nicholas Campion who gave a paper entitled, Astronomy and Culture in the Eighteenth Century: Isaac Newton's influence on the Enlightenment and Politics. Dr Darreyln Gunzburg's paper looked at, Time pursued by a Bear: Ursa Major and stellar time-telling in the Paduan Salone and Professor McKim Malville, who teaches on the Skyscapes, Cosmology and Archaeology module talked about Animism and Reciprocity at Sky Watching Places.
Our university's Welsh heritage was invoked in the two papers given by first Dr Bernadette Brady, Dr Darrelyn Gunzburg and Pamela Armstrong which looked at the pilot project into Welsh Monastic Skyscapes, which paper was then followed by Dr Brady's presentation of her own individual research into The Western Orientation of the Solsticial Churches of Gweynedd, Wales.
Pamela Armstrong presented her research into Mesolithic and Neolithic Skyscapes in Western Britain and though Liz Henty was unable to attend in person she was very much there is spirit when her paper, Continuity or change? A microscopic scale analysis of monuments and ritual in Aberdeenshire was read and warmly received by the archaeoastronomers who made up the audience. This was a strong turn out by the Sophia community reinforcing their commitment to the study of skyscapes and skywatchers across all eras and bodes well for SEAC 2016 which the Sophia Centre is hosting in Bath, UK next autumn. .
Dr Nicholas Campion presenting his paper on Isaac Newton's influence on the Enlightenment and Politics.
Photo: Pamela Armstrong
Welsh Monastic Skyscape Study
Preliminary findings presented at Bristol University
Dr Bernadette Brady introducing the research project
On Thursday 29 October 2015 the WMS team of Drs Bernadette Brady, Fabio Silva and Darrelyn Gunzburg presented a research seminar for the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Bristol entitled Exploring (the) Welsh Monastic Skyscapes. The aim was to present the project to other medieval scholars for discussion and debate. Bernadette introduced the project first by defining the term 'skyscapes' - the complex union of the monastery's unique relationship to the heavens in its landscape, along with its own story, architecture, stone work, and local topography. With that definition in place she then explained the aim of the research, that of understanding how approximately twenty Welsh monastic sites could be understood as the complex union of the monastery's unique relationship to the heavens in its landscape.
Dr Darrelyn Gunzburg detailing primary sources
Darrelyn presented her work on the role of sunlight in twelfth century monasteries and showed how the light of the sun was a part of the theological skyscape of the monasteries and Fabio discussed our fieldwork, its strengths and limitations. All three speakers then presented some case studies of our findings showing the theological link between sun, landscape and the Christian theological agenda of 12th century Europe. In the last half hour, we received many insightful questions from the audience and excellent suggestions of additionally additional material that would help our arguments. We were then wined at The Hawthorns for general discussion and chat. One of the eminent audience members later emailed us thus: 'What a great afternoon / evening! Your group presentation was so invigorating and interesting, and we hope this is but the first of regular visits from your colleagues, singly or as a group.' All in all we felt we had benefited greatly from being able to present our work to a highly-engaged academic audience and the three of us are now writing up the paper for submission to an academic journal.
Dr Fabio Silva illustrating local horizon altitude and its affects on declination.
Photos: Pamela Armstrong
Bound for the University of Malta
Our congratulations to Tore Lomsdalen who has recently been accepted at the University of Malta to do a PhD on the subject of Cosmology in Prehistoric Malta.
Tore's research will use evidence-based reconstruction to explore the cosmologies and worldviews found on Malta during the Temple Period, which lasted from about 3,600 BCE to 2,500 BCE. He will focus on the identification of cosmological elements during this era by combining the study of skyscapes, landscapes, seascapes, taskscapes, iconography and material culture.
Tore's fieldwork methodology will be absolutely non-invasive. It will involve repetitive site visits, surveying and observations of alignments from monuments on the Maltese landscape towards topographic features and/or astronomical phenomena involving the sun, the moon and the stars. He will use both empirical data and statistical analysis in order to evaluate whether celestial alignments were intentional or merely coincidental; from there he will draw conclusions about the cosmologies which may have applied during this radical period which saw the first appearance of megaliths in the region.
We look forwards to hearing about Tore's research as it evolves and wish him all the best for the task ahead.
Photo: Tore Lomsdalen
The Circle of God:
An Archaeological and Historical Search for the Nature of the Sacred
(Oxford: Archaeopress, 2015)
Brian Hobley's monumental (800 page) book is a study of the symbolism of the circle, spanning the ancient Near East, megalithic culture, the Celtic world, classical Greece, Rome and early 'Dark Age' Britain and Ireland. As Hobley points out the most vivid and dramatic circular form in our world is the sun, from the Greeks onwards the entire universe was conceptualized as a sphere, and there is a tradition of circular shrines and temples of which two of the most notable are Stonehenge and the Pantheon. Solar symbolism is therefore central of Hobley's work. Moving through monumentality, ritual, divination and astrology, Hobley points out the final solar deity was to be the greatest of all, the Christ created by Constantine's creation of the imperial Christian church. Hobley's book makes a substantial contribution the literature on ancient cultural astronomy and archaeoastronomy, and particularly to the new study of material religion.
The New Age in the Modern West, Counter-Culture, Utopia and Prophecy from the late Eighteenth Century to the Present Day
(London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015)
This wide ranging book has been described as a history of hope. In the introduction it is described as a history of the future. It deals with a particular strand of golden age nostalgia and utopian hope beginning with the invention of the concepts of the New Age and Aquarian Age in the eighteenth century.
Among the topics covered are a reconsideration of the 1960s as a period of utopian hope, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a quasi-metaphysical attempt to manipulate history.
One of the starting points of the book is the cultural impact of Plato's statement in the Timaeus that great periods of history correspond to the complete cycles of the planets. Platonism bequeathed western culture a view of history as purposeful and directional, that was reinforced by Christian cosmology. Eventually, in the 18th century, this led to the formulation of the theory of progress. The substance of the book begins in the 18th century with Newton's use of precession to date historical events in the 'Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended'. By the 1790s this idea had led to the formulation of the notion of astrological ages, and the Aquarian Age. The book considers New Thought and Theosophy in the nineteenth century, C. G. Jung and the beatniks in the twentieth century and reconsiders the 1960s as a period of utopian hope. The book ends with an examination of the 2012 Maya Prophecy Movement and a final chapter on American Neoconservatism and the 2003 invasion of Iraq as the latest manifestation of the Platonic idea that history has direction and purpose, as a quasi-metaphysical attempt to manipulate the future.
Cosmology, Magic and Divination
Divination and Astrology: an Historical Fragment
This short essay is an historical exploration of some themes central to the discussion of astrology's relationship to divination, and therefore central also to the Sophia Centre's module Cosmology, Magic and Divination. Ebenezer Sibly (1751 - 1799) completed A Complete Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology in 1788. The revival of the study of astrology in England is sometimes traced to the publication of Sibly's text. He stated his intention to 'clear the sublime contemplation and study of the stars from the gross imputations it hath... sustained' by distinguishing between: 'an attainment of the contingencies and events of futurity, from a natural cause implanted in the motion and influence of the spheres, which it is at once honourable and praiseworthy to study'; and 'what is termed Magic, Exorcism, Witchcraft, and Divination, very aptly termed, "The Black Art"' which is a 'very ancient but mischievous practice'. Sibly's view regarding divination etc. has many precedents including St. Augustine, who regarded all astrology as being tarred with the brush of impiety.
Portrait and horoscope of Ebenezer Sibly from: A Complete Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology (London: Green & Co., 1788) plate between pp. 390 - 391. Taken from Philip Graves's collection, From Sibly to Simmonite; copyright Philip Graves, reproduced with his permission.
It seems likely that Sibly's perspective irritated James Wilson - an obscure English astrologer from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, now known mainly for his Complete Dictionary of Astrology (1819). Joscelyn Godwin suggested that Wilson 'despised Ebenezer Sibly, because of his superstition and inaccuracy', though it is not clear if this is based on specific evidence or is an inference from statements found in Wilson's Dictionary, for example: 'As to the ridiculous idea, that it [astrology] is sinful and presumptuous, none but a very ignorant person will entertain it for a moment.'
In elaborating his view of astrology, Wilson asserted a distinction between genethliacal (natal) and horary forms which overlaps substantially with Sibly's, minus the pejorative moral/religious judgement. Wilson's analysis was that 'Genethliacal Astrology rests on the more common and obvious effects of matter on matter... Horary Astrology depends on that uncertain species of sympathy... Those whose minds are ardent... are more subject to its operation than others...' The practical impact of these principles emerges in his assertion that in natal charts, death is 'caused, not indicated' by planetary configurations whereas in horary charts death is 'indicated, not caused'.
A paper could be devoted to the question, how far Wilson's application of the doctrine of sympathy concords with that of Ptolemy (Wilson acknowledged Ptolemy and Placidus as his primary influences). My interest here, however, is the position at which Wilson arrived as an outcome of a barbed exchange with Sir Richard Phillips, who had founded the Monthly Magazine in 1796 and reviewed Wilson's Dictionary therein. He argued: 'this art [astrology]... misleads, merely because it has been associated with the sublime objects in the heavens; whereas, any other set of signs, as Marbles knocked against a wall, or Cards dealt in a particular manner, which have had predetermined qualities assigned to them, would answer the very same purposes as the Planets.' Phillips's argument that astrology's only successes could and should be explained through the operation of chance was no doubt particularly galling for Wilson since the last three pages of the Dictionary's preface contained his attempt to disprove a previous instance of this assertion from Phillips.
Wilson's response to Phillips's review appeared in a book of astrological tables that he published in the following year, 1820. That his disagreement with Phillips had been weighing on his mind seems evident from the first page of the preface, where he announces 'the Triumph of Truth over prejudice; exemplified in the victory gained by Astrology over her feeble adversaries, in the person of their redoubted champion, the Editor of the Monthly Magazine.' Wilson's distinction between horary and genethliacal astrology was central to the verbal joust whose' victory he had already thus claimed. The point of primary interest here is that Wilson - feeling obliged, perhaps, to bring Phillips's thoughts about marbles and chance within his analysis - conceded: 'I do not deny, that any system founded on sympathy, provided its variations are sufficiently numerous, and its principles well understood, may be fully depended upon, whether it be founded on marbles, cards, or anything else.
My suggestion is that this may be the first time an astrologer took the position that horary astrology - or perhaps better, a principle that subsumed horary astrology - could be entirely effective whether planets and other horoscopic factors were referred to or not, and that this could be understood within an entirely natural (as opposed to supernatural) frame of reference. In this way, Wilson's position raises questions concerning the nature of divination, and its relevance to astrology. Amongst those is the question, whether his account of divination through marbles and similar paraphernalia is viable in principle - and, if it is, whether it is viable as a form of astrology, or if divorce from all the physical constituents of the horoscope (such as planets) would necessarily push it beyond the definition of 'astrology'. The direction one takes in the face of such questions has consequences for the universe one believes oneself to live in, most particularly its capacity - or lack thereof - to respond sympathetically to us. Which in turn is absolutely central to the Cosmology, Magic and Divination module.
The illustration on the right depicts the obscurity of James Wilson. I have not been able to find a portrait (or horoscope) of him; if anyone knows where either can be found, do please let me know. Image: Garry Phillipson
My thanks to Kirk Little, who drew my attention to the controversy between Wilson and Phillips; and Philip Graves, whose digital publication of Sibly and Wilson's texts (see: www.astrolearn.com) brought them within my purview.
 Ebenezer Sibly, A Complete Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology (London: Green and Co, 1788)
 E.g. Nicholas Campion, History of Western Astrology Volume II (London: Continuum, 2009) pp.205-6; James Herschel Holden, Biographical Dictionary of Western Astrologers (Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers) p.658
 Sibly, Illustration, p.1059. I have modernised the spelling in all excerpts in this article - e.g. 'conftitutes' becomes 'constitutes'
 See: St Augustine (tr. H Bettenson), The City of God (London: Penguin, 1984) p.188 (Book V, Ch. 8)
 James Wilson, A Complete Dictionary of Astrology (London: William Hughes, 1819)
 Joscelyn Godwin, The Theosophical Enlightenment (State University of New York: 1994) p.142; James Wilson, A Complete Dictionary of Astrology (London: William Hughes, 1819) p.iv
 Wilson (1819) p. iv. 'Genethliacal astrology' or 'genethlialogy' has the same root as the Greek 'genethlia', meaning 'birthday' and is the study of birth, or natal, horoscopes. For the major forms of astrology see e.g. Annelies van Gijsen, 'Astrology' in Wouter J. Hanegraaff (et al.; ed.), Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism (Leiden: Brill, 2006) p.110
 Wilson (1819) p. xxi
 Wilson (1819) p. x
 Wilson (1819) p. iii. For Wilson's treatment of 'sympathy', see: pp.xx - xxi; p.380. For the doctrine of sympathy in Ptolemy, see e.g. Daryn Lehoux, What Did the Romans Know? (University of Chicago Press, 2012), pp.160 - 2; also see pp. 135 - 154 for sympathy per se
 R. Phillips, 'New Books Published in November; With an Historical and Critical ProŽmium', The Monthly Magazine; or, British Register No. 333 Vol.48:5 1st December 1819 , p.453
 Wilson (1819) pp. vii - x
 James Wilson, A New and Complete Set of Astrological Tables (London: William Hughes, 1820)
 Wilson(1820) p. iii
 Wilson (1820) p.iv. Wilson reproduced Phillips's review, introduced some minor changes - presumably inadvertent - which do not affect the sense
 Wilson (1820) p. vi
 For divination see e.g. Geoffrey Cornelius, The Moment of Astrology (2nd edn.) (Bournemouth: Wessex Astrologer, 2003) - and particularly the statement of his 'primary theme' at p. xxii. Elements of this discussion also show parallels to discussions of chaos theory as an explanatory mechanism for astrology - see: Bernadette Brady, Cosmos, Chaosmos and Astrology (Ceredigion: Sophia Centre Press, 2014)
The MA Alumni Association would like to pay a debt of grateful thanks to Dr Bernadette Brady for running her short course on Egyptian Astronomy. This course introduced us all to the Egyptian sky with its mythic, religious, as well as civil role in Egyptian society. It began with the pyramids of the Old Kingdom, carried through into the Middle and New Kingdoms' astronomical ceilings and clocks, and ended in the Hellenistic period and the implications of the Dendera Zodiac. Bernadette's ability to make difficult concepts understandable and her raw passion for the subjects she loves made Middle Egyptian astronomy come alive. After leading us through the Book of Gates and the Books of the Sky, one attendee commented:
'The books are mesmerising and make words seem redundant and highlights this sympathetic worldview you mention. Thank you very much for an amazing seminar.'
Dr Bernadette Brady in action on WebEx
The course was attended by equal numbers of students and Alumni. Bernadette raised a huge £975 in total, all of which has been donated to the Alumni Association. This gives the Association an extremely good financial base from which to begin to function in providing financial opportunities for students and Alumni. Thank you, again, Bernadette from the Steering Committee, as well as all of us who attended the course.
Ongoing Autumn and Spring Alumni Short Courses and 'Continue Your Education For Free' lectures.
Bernadette's course kick-starts what will be the ongoing fund-raising Autumn and Spring Alumni Short Courses. These are three-week online real-time course run for two hours each session through WebEx. The courses are not recorded, although attendees can record them on their smart phones. Handouts and PDFs of the PowerPoints are provided. The next short course will be presented by Dr Dorian Greenbaum on Hellenistic Astrology in late March-April 2016 (dates to be finalised shortly).
In between these fund-raising Autumn and Spring Alumni Short Courses we will be offering free lectures presented by Alumni in our 'Continue Your Education For Free' series. The first will be given by 2004 alumnus Bernard Eccles entitled 'Judgement Without Consideration' on Thursday 11 February 7:00 - 8:00 pm followed by a Wine and Cheese discussion (BYO Wine and Cheese!) 8:00 - 8:30 pm. There is no charge for these lectures but you will need to register so that we can make sure you are sent the link to log in. Information and registration details will be sent separately by email. Meanwhile please note these events in your diaries:
Continue Your Education for Free
(for Alumni and present MA students only)
Thursday 11 February 2016 - 7:00 - 8:30 pm
7:00 - 8:00 pm: Bernard Eccles (pictured right) - 'Judgement Without Consideration'
8:00 - 8:30 pm: Wine and Cheese discussion (BYO Wine and Cheese).
Spring 2016 Alumni Short Course - (fund-raiser)
Dr Dorian Geiseler Greenbaum (pictured right)
Cosmos and Character: Topics in Hellenistic Astrology
Lecture 1: Wednesday 30 March 7:00 - 9:00 pm
Philosophy and Fate in Hellenistic Astrology
How philosophy informs Hellenistic astrology. The problem of fate in astrology: or is it?
Lecture 2: Wednesday 6 April 7:00 - 9:00 pm
Endowment and Chance: The Lots of Fortune and Daimon
Nature versus nurture. Body and soul. A look at how Hellenistic astrology works with these in a mostly forgotten doctrine.
Lecture 3: Wednesday 13 April 7:00 - 9:00 pm
Love and Compulsion: The Lots of Eros and Necessity
A look at love, desire, force and compulsion: two sides of the same coin?
A separate email will be sent to current MA students and Alumni re costs and registration.
As we now have our bank account up and rolling and monies in various forms coming in to the coffers, we need a Treasurer based in the UK who can keep the books for us. If any Alumni with book-keeping skills would be wiling to take on the job, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Remember for those Alumni who love to cook and bake, the Alumni Association offers a Classic Premier bib apron with contrast coloured panel to the right and sliding neck band with adjusting buckle:
Alumni Online Shop
Cost is just £20 including postage worldwide. Jennifer Fleming (right) models the stylish Alumni apron.
Wishing you all blessings of the Winter Solstice,
Dr Darrelyn Gunzburg
On behalf of the Alumni Steering Committee
MAC 4A Steering Committee
from left: Darrelyn Gunzburg, Nicholas Campion, Faye Cossar, Hanne Skagen, Jennifer Fleming, Chris Mitchell, Ada Blair, Paula van Kersbergen, Rod Suskin
Where are they now?
Wendy Stacey was one of the first intake of students into the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology MA programme in 2002, graduating in 2004. Wendy trained as an astrologer in 1987 in her native New Zealand before moving the UK in 1995. Alongside a thriving private practice in astrology, in 2002 she became the chair of the Astrological Association, which involves organising the annual AA conference, and in 2007 the head of the Mayo School of Astrology. In addition, Wendy lectures on sociology and research methods at UK colleges and is currently doing her PhD at Southampton University on how the birth chart describes the birth experience, research she has been involved with for over 25 years.
A decade after graduating, Wendy talked to Kate White about the impact of the MA on her life and work.
KN: Why did you do the MA?
WS: I did the MA for two reasons. First, because I'd been studying and researching the impact of Caesarean section births on the timing of when babies were born, progressively over the decades. The majority of babies born around the globe are now being born during working hours-Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm-and my research looks at the unintended consequences of that within the birth chart. I was really interested to put this into an academic framework. And second, I felt so privileged and excited to do this MA, to be with the people who were in that first group of students. It was so organic and exciting, it felt like we were going to Hogwarts, it's how we described it at the time. We were all finding our own way. Just the fact that this MA existed was extraordinary. It was quite emotional. I never will forget the opening of the Sophia Centre, and Bernard Eccles saying it's taken us 500 years and we're [cultural astronomy and astrology] back in the academy.
KN: What modules did you find most interesting?
WS: I loved all them of them! It was the discussions we had on every subject, they were invigorating and thought provoking, it challenged us. I loved the main compulsory module the most which involved so much discussion - and another one that was quite interesting was Stellar Religions with Professor Michael York, particularly the conversations about aliens. There was never a dull lecture!
KN: How did the MA affect your attitude to astrology?
WS: For me personally it didn't change my attitude at all, but I did feel I had to defend astrological consultancy and wanted to be sure that astrology didn't became solely academic, to become over intellectualised and become just an object of study. I wanted to ensure the riches and treasures associated with astrology, such as its application in the consultancy process, didn't get lost.
KN: What did your dissertation focus on?
WS: It focused on the research I have been doing for over 25 years now: looking at how babies are progressively being born between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, due to the increase in Caesarean sections but also other medical interventions. The results of the dissertation were that, due to an increase in elective Caesarean Section, more babies are being born within these working hours (and less births outside these hours and also less between the lunch hours of 12-2) which has a collective impact on the birth chart. For example, there are increasingly more people being born with the Sun (and Mercury and Venus) in the top part of the chart (i.e., more diurnal birth charts) than if they were born randomly (or spontaneously) which subsequently means there are less people being born with these planets in the bottom part of the chart. To astrologers this means that there is a decreasing amount of the population who could have say, a second or fourth house Sun; or for example, fewer Pisceans who could have Libra rising, or fewer Leos who will have Aries rising.
KN: What doors have opened since doing the MA?
WS: My research has opened some doors in terms of expanding the study, particularly in regards to intervened births, and has enabled me to work on much larger datasets. The PhD has opened doors that have allowed me to continue this research, which is a lifetime project for me, and in this regard I pay thanks to Nick, Patrick and Pat Harris from the RGCSA (Research Group into the Critical Study of Astrology). The research is sociological with a health and medical lean-it's medical anthropology, really. It has also opened the door for me to look at generational sociology, that is looking at populations that make a mark in time (such as the Uranus-Pluto conjunction generation who were born during the Pluto in Leo years and who contributed to spearheading the change in medicalisation and childbirth methods). In terms of work/employment, nothing has changed and I continue to do the work I have done for the past twenty years (except for more teaching).
KN: What books are you reading now?
WS: A lot of good novels, as a relief to reading so many sociology textbooks. At the moment it's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.
KN: Any new projects in the pipeline?
WS: I really now want to continue my research, I want to start looking at birth in a much larger context, and applying astrology to that. How does the birth chart describe the birth experience, particularly in relation to emergency Caesarean sections?
Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview Wendy. We wish you all the best with your continuing research and business.
Wendy with her graduation group.
All Photos: Selina Alidina
At the partty afterwards with her husband
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