Summer School 2017

Nicole Montag-Keller Reminisces About This Year's Summer School

Summer School 2017
Photo Credit: Dr Jenn Zahrt

As Bernadette Brady said, it takes at least three days to make bread so perhaps it also takes three and a half days to boost knowledge, enjoy networking and broaden our experience through field work in order to craft the perfect metaphorical loaf of bread that emerges during summer school. For those who arrived on Monday, as is the usual tradition, Frances Clynes had reserved a table at All Bar One and many of us had a chance to get to know each other then. Even thought my flight was delayed, I still managed to meet some who stayed till 10 pm. The 'mise en place' for the 'bread baking experience' was done by 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning. That is when the group began to put together all the ingredients: joining, listening, contributing.

Summer School 2017

'Listening' at Summer School 2017. Photo credit: Dr Jenn Zahrt

Nicolas Campion started off by introducing Bath's relationship to the sky, where the Circus and Royal Crescent are interpreted to represent the architecture of Sun and Moon, symbols of a Cosmopolis. Further he introduced Bath's most prominent inhabitant, Adelard of Bath (c. 1080-1152), who was a translator, philosopher and astronomer and a man who had travelled to Syria and brought with him not only the astrolabe but also introduced the horoscope in Britain.

Laura Andrikopoulos shared her ideas on what she called 'Inscape': the exploration of the unconscious, the inner individual world in relation to outer landscape further extending to the cosmos. In his talk Anthony Thorley discussed the god 'Lugus', a pan-European God, representing agriculture upon the failure of a harvest goddess and his relationship to the sun in the constellation of Leo. Then Frances Clynes followed with her investigations on the Irish megalithic monuments, art and the Gods associated with this period. Fabio Silva expanded on the interrelationship of material culture and cosmology. He highlighted that studying Skyscape Archaeology is not simply about looking at the orientation of material structures, but is about rediscovering the connections between landscape and sky myths, a society's cosmology.

Darrelyn Gunzburg prompted everyone's experiences on how to approach images. She stressed the importance of posing questions and how to work on the answers when dealing with 2D and 3D works of art. Bernadette Brady concluded the tutor input by providing insight into how 20th century Astrology was shaped. She highlighted that Aristotle considered planets to be living beings ('on the Heavens'), having an agency and are modelled on human behaviour. By the time of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), medieval astrology then underwent a fundamental change, but even yet this can be traced back to the Pythagorean influence on Plato. The outcome is that by the 20th century astrology has become an amalgam of a number of different approaches to cosmology through time.

The day was rounded off by two student contributions. M.A. Rashed gave a talk on her dissertation titled, 'Cosmic Chaos in Islamic Apocalyptic Eschatology', which focuses on how the Last Day cosmic portents mentioned the Qur'ān, were understood and conceptualised in the period extending from the eighth to the seventeenth centuries CE. She talked about the extent to which they reflected Islamic cosmological beliefs. The central assumption of this research is that a better understanding of Islamic apocalyptic eschatology, as an alternative yet significant cosmology, can lead to a more thorough understanding of Islam as a religion, and subsequently, to the reason behind the pervasiveness of apocalypticism in areas of conflict in the Middle East. Anji Brice presented her research on personal cosmologies and highlighted what she learnt about her participants' take on fate, identity, love and cosmos and how they are all loose end life threads giving insight into the inner life of a person and the quality of human ambivalence.

The dough prepared on Tuesday, needed to rest for the first night.

On Wednesday morning, Maria Nita resumed by adding more ingredients into the mix. She introduced what she had written in her doctoral thesis on Green Christianity. She explained how green thinking and acting is communicated as a lived experience in the Christian community networks she researched.

Then Pamela Armstrong talked about her Skyscape research at Stonehenge and a number of other megalithic sites, which study includes looking at the material record during both the Neolithic and Mesolithic time periods. She explained how the design of various pre-historic monuments may hold a key to the cosmologies of the communities who built them. If we explore the relationship these structures make with the sky, we can gain insight into how the Sun, Moon and stars may have played a part in both the belief systems and time keeping practices of those who lived on these western England landscapes.

Three student presentations then followed. José Belmonte, myself and Jessica Heim talked about our current research. José Belmonte presented his findings on where the Greek-Roman god Mars originated in Mesopotamia during the Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian periods. His origins have been ascribed to the deities known as Meslamtaea, Ninazu, Erra, and Nergal. It was interesting to hear of his relationship to the netherworld and that Nergal was even equated with Herakles. I then presented my work on researching Personal Cosmologies on Reincarnation. I found out, that the participants' concept of reincarnation is not bound to church membership, but an expression of a private personal attitude, which could change throughout a person's lifetime. It can be a possibility, part of New Age process and therefore also part of contemporary spiritual culture.

Summer School 2017

West front of Bath Abbey with Jacob's ladder to the left and right. Photo credit: Nicole Montag-Keller.

Jessica Heim presented her research on amateur and professional astronomers' relationship to and feelings about the sky. She found that her interviewees and questionnaire respondents had strong personal connections to the night sky. Many indicated that access to a dark sky at night was very important to them, and nearly all agreed that light pollution was a problem in Minnesota. There was less consensus as to whether light pollution was a solvable issue, yet many voiced concerns that the loss of the night sky would be a major loss for humankind.

After the morning session, the dough needed to be kneaded and we spent the afternoon at Bath Cathedral doing hands on skyscape field work. Bernadette Brady, Darrelyn Gunzburg and Fabio Silva taught us the basic techniques of fieldwork after which we surveyed the Abbey.

Furthermore we took our take on drawing or sketching an angel:

Summer School 2017
Sketching by Darrelyn Gunzburg. Sketching an angel of Jacob's ladder, Summer School 2017 Field Work. Chris Harris (right), José Belmonte (middle), Nicole Montag-Keller (left)

Bernadette Brady introduced us to the Victorian style of architecture inside of the Bath Abbey and Fabio Silva supported the measuring of azimuth, altitude and position (longitude and latitude) in order to determine when the sun shone on the West portal. We also looked at the stone design running up the front of the Western face of the Abbey, known as Jacob's Ladder. Darrelyn Gunzburg asked us to compare the ladder's left side to its right side, the only three dimensional structural approach to this biblical theme worldwide. Once we organised our survey measurements our findings showed that the sunset of Bath Abbey's West front and Jacob's ladder illumination are oriented to St. Michael Saints Day.

The dough then rested until we met for the field trip to Wells Cathedral the on Thursday morning. That is when we met the famous and fabulous Jon Cannon. I met him for the first time last year so I was delighted to follow his rich and in depth time travel journey again this year.

Wells Cathedral has a unique connection to Glastonbury. Jon said that we have to imagine the West portal being an open textbook to read in, and in its heyday the many statues were even coloured. It was the only medieval church of its time in Britain.

Summer School 2017
Jon Cannon educating the crowd, Summer School 2017 Field Trip. Photo credit: Gabrielle M. Caswell

We started in the garden having a look where the name Wells, which means 'source', is derived from. We learnt about the oldest interior fittings within the southern transept. In the north transept we saw the mechanical clock in full swing at noon, followed by a visit to the impressive construction of the chapter hall. My personal highlights were the stained glass windows of the Lady Chapel oriented towards the East.

Summer School 2017
West Front of Wells Cathedral, Summer School 2017 Field Trip. Photo credit: Gabrielle M. Caswell
Summer School 2017

Windows of Lady Chapel in Wells Cathedral, Summer School Field Trip 2017. Photo credit: Nicole Montag-Keller

After a well-deserved lunch break we walked through the Bishop's palace and gardens. The tour was rounded off with a visit to the church Saint Cuthbert, where destroyed medieval stone artworks were found in the course of a renovation.

The day ended with a tea and we headed back to Bath full with many new impressions to absorb and the dough, which had been well kneaded, was again put to rest.

Half a day left, Friday. Chris Mitchell talked to us about how to work with text as a primary source. He made us aware, that astrological manuscripts are seldom online, but if we make our way to the library we will enjoy interacting with the original documents and can take on a phenomenological approach to researching. Further Nicolas Campion rounded off the official talks with his presentation on space Ethics. He stressed, that we should not think that dictionary definitions are right, but that they indicate what people think at that time.

Summer School 2017

Destroyed stone art in St. Cuthbert Church at Wells, Summer School Field Trip 2017. Photo credit: Nicole Montag-Keller

For a look at all the tutor lectures, check out our MA CAA Video Conferences moodle site. They're uploaded under 2017 Summer School Tutor Lectures. During the last session we shared ideas on what might happen for Summer School 2018. Accommodation in Bath is costly in comparison to bed and breakfast at our home campus, Lampeter in Wales. We may try having the Summer School there one year, shifting the week to follow the weekend Sophia Conference. We may have a bus transfer from Bath on Sunday evening after the conference end and hold summer school during the same week as graduation. We are on our way to new ventures and places.

By this point of the week, the dough was baked, a wonderful loaf of bread emerged some part of which is now present in each of the participants of the Summer School 2017 experience. I enjoyed every second.

Browse previous issues here

SP News, editor Pam Armstrong

The SPNews welcomes articles, features, reviews, ideas, art work and photography.

The Ed's email is always open.
Pam Armstrong
Newsletter Ed'.

Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved.