Where are They Now?
Alumna Rose Senior
Interviewed by Kathleen White
Rose Senior graduated from the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology MA programme in 2011. Her interest in ancient history and archaeology drew her to the programme while it was still at Bath Spa University. That interest also introduced her to University, and due to redundancy in her previous post as an HTV (now ITV West) researcher, led her to take up an administrative post in the Historical and Cultural Studies department, and then later in Admissions, at Bath Spa University where she still works. Rose is also a writer of historical and fantasy fiction, and is currently working on a photo journal/guidebook to British stone circles..
Rose talked to Kate White about the impact of the MA on her life and work.
KW: Why did you do the MA?
RS: I'm not an astrologer or an astronomer, but I am interested in the cultural nature of astronomy. As a fiction writer, I wanted to academically reinforce my research and to develop ideas for fantasy and historical genre pieces. My main motivations were to be stretched mentally and to develop my academic research skills. When I took the administrative post at Bath Spa, I met Nick Campion. At the time, I couldn't do a full-time course during the day, so I attended a few special lectures and seminars on the weekends. When the programme moved to Lampeter, that was my chance. I was one of the first to apply for the online course in 2007.
KW: What modules did you find most interesting?
RS: I love the breadth of the MA - philosophy, history, ethnography, research, psychology. It's such a broad Classics Masters. There's so much you can dip into. The module I enjoyed the most was History of Astrology. I became interested in Ficino and his time, how they picked up and developed knowledge from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. I also enjoyed Sacred Geography and Archaeoastronomy. My first degree is in Geography, so those modules developed that interest further. I've always been interested in astronomy, but am rubbish at maths, so couldn't pursue it as a science. The MA has allowed me to look at the night sky from a human point of view. The great
thing about this MA is that it's actually provoked more academic work in other disciplines like archaeology and history, to take into account the sky. For example, in the past, archaeologists shied away from alignments because they can't hold them in their hands like potsherds. There's usually very little physical archaeology around megalithic sites apart from the stones themselves. Geophysics and environmental forensics have come on in leaps and bounds as the technology has improved. I studied pollen analysis (Quaternary Ecology) for my Geography degree and it was a fairly new field then. There's still that quasi science bias that astrology has to fight through. Sites aligned to specific stars and to the seasonal changes in the night sky validates that humans were using the sky and had knowledge of it, thousands of years ago. Early cultures were often thought of as more primitive - cultural bias has a lot to answer for!
KW: How did the MA affect your attitude to astrology?
RS: I'm better informed about what you can and can't do with astrology now. In the Researching Contemporary Cosmologies module, I looked at how people viewed astrology versus other psychometric tests. Many people think the psychometric tests are more scientific, although both have the same validity - it's all about patterns and how you make decisions and judgments from them.
KW: What did your dissertation focus on?
RS: We live 10 minutes from the Stanton Drew stone circles, which are located about 15 miles west of Bath. The circles are similar in size to those at Avebury and would have been at least as dramatic in their time. It's a huge site dating to the same period as Avebury and Stonehenge but hardly anyone visits it by comparison. Initially I planned to do an archaeoastronomy project on the site for my dissertation, but with guidance from Nick Campion and Bernadette Brady, I used the site to answer a question in the Skyscapes, Cosmology, and Archaeology module and for my dissertation I decided to do an ethnographic study on the people who use the site and how it has been presented and studied in the past. I interviewed local druids and dowsers, archaeologists, and people who use the site for picnics and leisure. I even interviewed Professor Ronald Hutton. Very little academic work had been done on the site in terms of ethnography, so I was breaking new ground.
KW: What doors have opened since doing the MA?
RS: The MA developed my interest in stone circles and megaliths, and for the past couple of years I've been going to as many sites as possible and creating a photo journal. I've been to sites in Anglesey and Cornwall and this May I'm visiting Aberdeenshire to look at the recumbent stone circles there. I want to publish an up-to-date walking guide for people, so they can do day visits to these sites. There are lots of enthusiasts out there and there is plenty of website information, but having an up to date handbook is well overdue.
KW: What books are you reading now?
RS: I'm not reading any academic or reference books at the moment, aside from guides and maps for my upcoming Scottish trip. I get my 'academic' fix every quarter from Time and Mind, The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture. I'm just starting Ann Rice's Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis (part of her Vampire Chronicles series), having finished the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The Outlander books are about a World War II nurse who falls through the stones in a fictitious stone circle and ends up in Jacobite Scotland. It was recently made into a TV series.
KW: Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
RS: The main project is the photo journal and guidebook. I have been doing a fair bit of travelling, collecting information and materials for the guidebook and ideas for stories. I'm off to Wyoming, in western USA, in August to see the solar eclipse. My fiction writing has taken a back seat lately, as I've been busy with work and family, but I have written a few short stories. For people who are interested, you can find some of them on my occasional Wordpress blog under my writing name of Rose Jones.
Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Rose, and for your involvement with the Alumni Association of the MA. We wish you all the best with your travels and writing.
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