HRH Prince Charles, Dr Nicholas Campion and Morag Feeney-Beaton (left)
8th July 2016
A Personal Account of the Day by Morag Feeney-Beaton
I would like to thank my fellow graduating students for sharing their special day with me, together with their friends and family. It seemed to us all that Graduation Day was essentially a transformative one, an endless stream of happenings, which could lend themselves to a ritualistic interpretation.
There was certainly a strong sense of pilgrimage, of a journeying to a special place in order to be transformed. Indeed the idea of journey was a constant theme of the occasion. Not merely symbolizing the pathway of knowledge, the long journey that we had all taken to achieve our Masters and Doctorate, it could also be the actual physical journey into Wales, through the mist, the rain and the mountains. And then there was the journey marking the progression of the day itself, and it could even refer to the new journey that we, as graduates, are all just now about to embark upon.
A characteristic of ceremonial time is that place and space can be converted into a sacred arena. On graduation day, it is the university gymnasium that is transformed into the Robing Room and thus has become a magical place. Once regaled in our gowns, peacock blue hoods and mortarboards, we were clearly identifiable as the initiates, the chosen ones, while the masters in their eminent coloured robes were distinguishable as such, as the wise. This investiture signifies that we, the graduans, had stepped out of the ordinary into the unknown - into a mid-place, a liminal stage of anticipation and expectation.
Jonathan Jones, Dr Nicholas Campion, Dr Bernadette Brady, Dr Darrelyn Gunzburg and Morag Feeney-Beaton. Photo: Poul Madsen
A highlight of the day was without doubt the interest that Prince Charles as Patron of the University exhibited in the MA and doctoral studies in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. The fact that the Prince of Wales chose to single out our MA is an enormous feather in the cap for the course, and is recognition of its success and of the uniqueness of the Sophia Centre. While this was indubitably an honour, despite the Prince's royal status, it wasn't his role to enact our Graduation ceremony and transform our status. That prerogative fell to the University in the form of the Vice Chancellor.
Our ceremony, beginning with the faculty procession and speeches of welcome, went on to award Honorary Doctorates to the Venerable Master Chin Kung (Doctor of Letters) and Richard Roberts (Doctor of Science), and in so doing, set out clearly the ethical tone of the University of Wales Trinity St. David. For us, the step taken to graduation was a physical one, with each of us stepping up on to the stage to shake the hand of the Vice Chancellor and then subsequently stepping off the stage, almost as if we were crossing a bridge over to the other side, the graduate side.
Many of the ceremonial words were spoken in Welsh. For those of us not fluent in Welsh, it was a magic incantation consolidating the significance of our graduation. I thought of Stanley Tambiah, and The Magical Power of Words. By these magical words, we were transformed into masters of the university, or as my husband kept saying, masters of the universe! And now, newly admitted into the Institute of Graduates, we were permitted to join the procession that closed the ceremony, taking up our place within the academic community.
Happy graduates. Photo: Poul Madsen
The gathering place for the new graduates was by the tree in the courtyard, protectively overlooked by the UWTSD shield. This, I believe, is a specifically MACAA ritual beloved by Nick and Bernadette, whereby we gather together as initiates as a group celebrating our champagne moment, cheekily tossing our hats into the air and toasting one another, the moment transforming the space into sacred space, and the tree into our tree. We, the graduates, masters and friends, were engaged in the process of creating sacred space through our activity, indeed of practicing one of our modules, Sacred Geography. Our final surprise came in the form of the paperweight glass presented by Darrelyn, a gift from the alumni association as a welcome to our new status - a real marker of the day. The transparency of the glass somehow felt symbolic, with the etching and inscription catching and holding the time and place.
Morag Feeney-Beeton with fellow students and tutors in the background. Photo: Patricia Beeton
Many of the graduates and their families shared a meal with Nick at the Black Lion, a relaxed social gathering which epitomized the gentleness of the end of graduation day. And then, for me, the misty rainy day that followed was spent in hidden woolen mills and walking around the castle ruins of Newcastle Emlyn, proving to be a gradual return to the reality of daily life. The return journey, if you like, but fully-armed with an MA.
The Academic Bond
Graduation had been happening around the countryside - we weren't alone in experiencing that. Rather than diminish our ceremony, the idea that it could be seen in the context of graduations nation/world-wide made us feel part of a wider community dedicated to the pursuit and expansion of knowledge. Certainly it was a very special and meaningful event for us all, and many of my fellow graduates expressed a desire to move forward by continuing with their studies. The day had created an all-prevailing sense of positivity, mingled with love and pride which made it a warm and rewarding experience, giving us a sense of closure as well as pointing the way to the future.
I can't finish this piece without expressing enormous thanks and gratitude to Nick, Bernadette and Darrelyn for not just being there on the day, but together with all our tutors and guest lecturers, for creating such an extraordinary ambience of knowledge and nurture which has enriched us all.
Those graduating were:
- Frances Clynes, whose PhD Topic was an examination of the use of the internet by astrologers in the framework of dualistic cosmology.
Dr Frances Clynes. Photo: Poul Madsen
MA Graduates were
- Dragan Van de Moortel, whose dissertation was an examination of cosmology in the celestial-religious images in the fourteenth-century VisokiDecani monastery in Kosovo
- Jonathan Jones, whose dissertation explored the claims, practices and recent development of financial astrology
- Kevin Marley: his dissertation examined the popular attitudes to the night sky
- Liz Hathway, whose dissertation looked into contemporary beliefs and practices concerning the planet Saturn
- Mara Steenhuisen, with a dissertation exploring the mysterious phenomenon of 'orbs'
- Morag Feeney-Beaton's dissertation was an investigation into the cosmology and sacred symbolism in spinning and weaving, and whether they are perceived by contemporary practitioners
- Stevi Gaydon, with a dissertation that looked into modernism and theosophy in early 20th century astrology
- Iva Pellumbi, whose dissertation explored the use and significance of the Sun and Planets in 'I Segreti della Signora Isabella Cortese
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