Call for Papers  


Name: Bernadette Brady

from: University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Abstract Title: The Afon Cynfael - A river's part in the cosmology of the Mabinogi

The Afon Cynfael is a river in north wales in the ancient Kingdom of Gwynedd. It flows from the Llyn y Morwynion, Lake of Maidens, into the Ffestiniog valley. It is named in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the collection of ancient stories focused on the mythological past of Wales. Karen Bek-Pedersen (2013, p.287) argued that the stories of the Fourth Branch, 'contain intriguing details potentially pertaining to ancient cosmological ideas'. The Afon Cynfael is one of these intriguing details. On its banks a murder occurs where the central character, Lleû, has to balance between a bath-tub and a goat before he is vulnerable. Taking this story of Lleû into account, this paper explores why this river is named and argues that a consideration of the location of the river and Lleû's balancing act provides clues as to the nature of the cosmology contained within the Mabinogi.

Name: Grace Cassar

from: University of Wales, Trinity Saint David

Abstract Title: Is the seashore an opening into the sacred? Exploring the liminality of the littoral

This paper inquires how the animate seashore may be considered to be an opening where the sacred is made manifest, as suggested in Mircea Eliade's theory of the irruption of the sacred. Through the selected examples, this exploration examines how ancient Mediterranean societies interpreted and expressed their concept of liminality as contextualized within their cultural and metaphoric view of the land-, sea- and skyscapes. Moreover, by engaging with the new understanding of animism, this analysis argues how the mutating littoral, through a sensory engagement, unfolds into a birthing space for experiential interchanges wrought in natural, human and divine realms.

Name: Ilaria Cristofaro

from: Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture

Abstract Title: A Journey to the Late Bronze Age Minoan Underworld: The Reflection of Sunlight on the Sea as an Axis Mundi

Around the times of sunrise and sunset, the sun's reflection on a large body of water, such as a sea, appears as an elongated gold band, also called a 'glitter path'. For the first time, this research explores this intangible manifestation of light from an archaeological perspective, focusing on the Late Bronze Age culture present on the Greek island of Crete. The observations gathered during the phenomenological fieldwork revealed that the elongated sunlight reflection has the qualities of an axis mundi, echoing the liminal convergence of opposing realities. By comparing Late Minoan III funerary iconography with the fieldwork results, this study developed an interpretation of Minoan eschatological beliefs establishing analogies between the cultural and the natural world. It concluded that the vision of the glitter path across the chthonic sea might have been regarded, in the Late Bronze Age, as the luminous roadway toward afterlife regeneration.

Name: Giuseppe M. Cùscito

from: -

Abstract Title: "How dreadful is this place!" Jacob's ladder and teophanies in ancient Judaism

Several instances of encounters between humans and God (or the supernatural in general) can be found in the Bible, in the Apocrypha and in the Pseudepigrapha: in several occasions, Moses met God on a mountain, Ezekiel and Enoch had visions near a river and, while Jonah's rebellion against God's commands resulted in him facing the bottom of the sea, Jacob found himself sleeping on a particularly powerful place that gave him the dream vision of a ladder that linked heavens and earth.

The episode of Jacob's ladder will be compared to the aforementioned biblical passages dealing with supernatural visions and then will be interpreted through a historico-critical approach. The resulting interpretation sets the passage in the context of Pre-Exilic Judaism, focusing on the reason why that particular dream vision happened in that exact "dreadful" place and not elsewhere.

Name: Fenella Dean

from: MA Cultural Astronomy & Astrology, St David Trinity University

Abstract Title: The Materiality of Spirit and Place as Sacred Space with reference to the O2, Greenwich, London

The following presentation will discuss the materiality of spirit and place defined as sacred space focusing on the relationship between individuals and groups with respect to the O2, Greenwich, London. That is whether the experiences as exemplified in Robert Frost's poem Dust of Snow shape their relationships with the environment and how these connections may manifest themselves. Highlighting what Merleau-Ponti (1945) stated, that 'perception of landscape is never a purely cognitive process'. Additionally, Ingold (1992) wrote, 'we are enmeshed within webs of environmental relations.' The presentation will attempt to highlight the complexity of human relationships with the environment as scared space, with respect to the O2, Greenwich referencing ontological, social and cultural, and phenomenological academic perspectives.

Name: Alan Ereira

from: Professor of Practice, UWTSD


The Kogi of the mountain massif the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia use special offering sites, ezuamas. Ezuama signifies a place of government whose authority extends through a natural non-material network. There are invisibly linked upper and lower ezuamas. Each is the responsibility of a lineage and a single resident devotes his life to each upper site. They undertake low-altitude environmental work at the high elevation ezuamas. This has not been previously reported. They perceive entanglement between lower and upper ezuamas, manifested in processes such as underground water flow, evaporation and precipitation (what goes down must come up).

I suggest that this may inform our reading of analogous mountain/water offering sites used by other traditional societies. A great number of traditional societies have made offerings at real and artificial mountains. It may be useful to consider whether this practice of ecological harmonisation has application in any of them.

Name: J. Anna Estaroth

from: University of Wales, Trinity Saint David (MA)

Abstract Title: Clava: spiritual places to encounter the Sun and Moon

In the mountainous landscape of the central Highlands of Scotland the horizons generate distinct lunar phenomena, where Clava cairns are clustered. This talk places the cairns in their social context, as defined by Audrey Henshall (1972) and Nick Card (2015). It also explores the role of dark and light described by Richard Bradley (2016). Surveys were completed of the southern horizon, and at specific locations the horizon appears to enable the midwinter sun to enter the dark beehive cairns, while simultaneously preventing midsummer full Moon to light up the open-air cairns. Today the places exude a sense of peace and calm, especially if you immerse fully into the environment, as advocated by Tim Ingold (2007). The cairns remain places of timelessness and can feel other-worldly, outside the rush of the twenty first century. These are spaces where the interplay of the Sun, Moon and planet Earth uniquely come together.

Name: Selma Faria

from: University College London

Abstract Title: Environmental Integration Versus Modern Cultural and Economic Ethos

With rivers and skies birthing the first agricultural societies and the seas, skies and oceans giving way to the advent of trade, environment has been the platform upon which humans have built the framework of modern resource consumption, the current market system. First exposing the impact that the latter has had in our current, scarcity based, spatial, cultural and socio-economic paradigms, this talk will then proceed to argue how we as a species could, within the context of natural evolution, be ready to outgrow these constructs. It thus becomes urgent to maintain that honoring the natural, quantum, chemical and biological integration humans have with the environment, could in fact be the sine qua non condition for the species to transit into what modern physics calls a type two civilization. This essay will then proceed to demonstrate how understanding the connection between cosmological features, planetary events and the chemical composition of our own bodies, becomes fundamental within the context of transiting from our primeval concerns for survival, into a social paradigm where one can now focus on integrative models, like clever resource management. Archaeoastronomy, environmental science, and physics will be the scientific branches permeating this interdisciplinary exposition, which final aim is to establish that one cannot become what one already is, one with the environment and the environment itself.

Name: Morag Feeney-Beaton

from: MACAA Graduate University of Wales, Trinity St. David, The Royal Opera House, London

Abstract Title: The extraordinary through the pursuit of the ordinary: the activity of swimming as a liminal act

The experience of being simultaneously at the centre and the circumference, for Thomas Berry, corresponds to participating in 'the integrative moment of the universe itself and the supreme mystery in which the universe and the self exist.' Such liminal experiences, often triggered by locations of natural beauty or established spirituality, are contingent upon being physically present. However, this paper asks whether such spiritual connectivity can be accessed through everyday activities, specifically swimming.

Pursued for physical well-being, swimming belongs to a tradition whereby immersion into water signifies cleansing of the body to purify the inner spirit. Echoes of this tradition are found within the aesthetic of wild swimming, whereby swimmers engage with the cycle of their surroundings, and in urban leisure facilities, defined by human endeavour, where the duality of internal pulse and external rhythm, in a watery universe with intimations towards the origins of human life, suggest a gateway to extraordinary time.

Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century (Kindle Locations 1099-1101). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.

Name: Stanislaw Iwaniszewski

from: Escuela nacional de Antropologia e Historia - Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia

Abstract Title: Mountains, waters, calendar, and maize: social interactions between human and non-human persons in the Postclassic Central Mexico

Mesoamerican scholars who examined how pre-Hispanic societies conceived of their landscapes, identified mountains, water, sky, and maize as critical features which jointly shaped peoples' attitudes to the surrounding world. In Mesoamerican worldview crop production depended on successful ritual negotiations with multiple non-human persons associated with the animated landscape, meteorological phenomena, and ancestors; those engagements based on the principle of reciprocity with the entities embodied in mountains and caves, springs and rains, winds and the sun, maize plant and earth fertility.

In exploring the archaeological remains and calendrical-astronomical alignments high mountain sites, the principle of reciprocity is tested. The ritual space of Nahualac provides the evidence of the reciprocal relationships between human communities and mountains, water, sun, calendar dates, agricultural growth. The study of the Mt. Tlaloc sanctuary emphasizes the Aztec appropriation of this concept to establish cosmic harmony between the subject polities and the great lord (huey tlatoani) of Tenochtitlan.

Name: Judy Jibb

from: Ms

Abstract Title: Giving voice to Akiko: Do the Chaudière Falls serve as a sacred site in contemporary NE Canada?

A natural circular shale waterfall in the Ottawa river valley was audible by canoe approach from seven leagues in all directions in 1613. The Algonquian heralded sacred landscape served ancients for communion involving earth, sky, gathering, ceremony and ritual. Today sacred engagement at Akiko seems practically impossible except from aircraft or the Eddy Bridge- due to obscuration by hydro turbines, crumbling industrial infrastructure and skyscrapers for federal workers in electrically-generated vistas and revealing a precarious situation given our age-old reciprocity with the many-voiced earth. A problematic human disconnection from sacred nature is examined at Chaudière Falls using the phenomenological approach, theorists Durkheim, Eliade and contemporary North American academic perspectives. Characteristics of sacredness found from literature review, ethnography, survey and personal reflexion, validate that sacred experience continues at this intersection of earth and sky, although vastly challenged by new collective appropriations, changing cultural factors and vagaries of individual belief.

Name: Jānis Ķīnasts

from: Art Academy of Latvia

Abstract Title: Placemaking beyond the given

Existing conditions of the Anthropocene are represented not only by climate change and related geopolitics induced displacement but also by a complexity of the Age of Unsettlement which can be characterized as a defuturing loss of the place itself (Fry, 2008), (Dilnot, Fry, & Stewart, 2015). Considering place as from philosophical context, history can be traced back to scholars like Bruno, Descartes, Leibnitz and Newton when the concept of the place was reduced to a point of location within spatial grid defined by 3 coordinates - x, y, z. At this moment the whole idea of topos was set in motion to be lost (Malpas, 2017).

Author argues that place is not only a spatial determinant, but as well topographically-logical event of gathering standing parallelly to both time and space within totality of environment, i.e. place is fundamentally relational to, of and for design; when critically understood it can inform different kind of environmental design.

The goal of this paper is to conceptualize place as being represented as gathering event of time, care, skills, borders, limits, landscape and space, and how it can inform alternative framework for environmental design.

Name: Susanne Klein

from: Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE Bristol

Abstract Title: Syntax and desire in early landscape photography

With the invention of photography landscape photography was born. For the first time it was possible to depict the 'truth of nature'. Some English photographers chose the syntax of European landscape paintings to capture bucolic scenes, idealizing a world endangered by the industrial revolution and social changes, others saw nature as a manifestation of the divine and transformed mere scenery into a moral landscape by using symbolism well known to the audience of that time. Capturing sheer wilderness was an American invention. The photographs taken by surveyors of the American West not only showed a completely new style but had also the purpose to serve as a guide to new lands to be conquered. Victorian travel photographers did not only want to show the exotic but capture the innocence and unspoiled nature of 'uncivilized' countries. We will discuss how the syntax of the different styles achieved the desired effects.

Name: Melanie Long

from: UWTSD

Abstract Title: Wind and Waves and Wooden Wombs: the Ethnography of an East Coast Houseboat Community

Alongside house-dwelling "locals", there wander through the streets of a small Suffolk town "other" individuals, as much a part of the local community as those who inhabit solid, four-walled houses, but from a peripheral viewpoint they stand disconnected, possessing their own set of "norms", beliefs, and morals, all integrally linked to the environment in which they reside.

The boats inhabited are dissected from the "land-lubbers" by railway and road, an eclectic group, scattered along a towpath and clustered in boatyards of the Deben estuary. This is a liminal space, not quite on land or water, rising and falling with the tide, at the mercy of the moon, weather and seasons.

This is not a community where complacency or cowardice can comfortably sit, as life here requires a heightened sense of awareness; physically, emotionally, cosmologically, politically, moralistically, and environmentally. This is a place of both strength and fragility.

Name: J. McKim Malville

from: University of Colorado

Abstract Title: Pilgrims and Sacred Mountains and Lakes of Asia

Intense personal connections can build up between sacred mountains and those pilgrims who visit them. Pilgrimages to mountains can be liminal experiences; not only is the landscape alien and inhospitable, but pilgrims may struggle with altitude sickness, blizzards, dangerous terrain, as well as a possible immersion in icy waters. This paper discusses the subset of sacred mountains in Asia that combine the verticality of an axis mundi with bodies of water, such as Mt. Kailash, Dudh Kunda of Nepal, Adams Peak in Sri Lanka, Mt. Semeru of Java, and the "island" temples of Angkor. A frequent theme of these places is the churning of the Ocean of Milk. Mt. Kailash is the most sacred mountain of South Asia and is a major pilgrimage destination for four major religions of Asia. It's vicinity is the source of four of South Asia's major rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Karnali, which feeds the Ganga, and the Sutlej.

Name: Janet Markham

from: MA Cultural Astronomy and Astrology Graduate

Abstract Title: Mircea Eliade makes a distinction between sacred and profane space but can total landscape be considered sacred in an indigenous culture such as the Hopewell Culture of the Middle Woodland Period (100 BCE to 400 CE)?

The Hopewell Culture of the Middle Woodland Period (100 BCE to 400 CE) left a material legacy of complex, geometrically constructed earthworks; evidence of advanced mortuary practices and a wide range of ornately carved artifacts from non-local raw materials; possibly used for religious or ceremonial purposes. These earthworks and mounds are located primarily on the banks of rivers in Ohio with the shape of the mounds closely resembling the local landscape. The size of Hopewell earthwork sites (up to 4 square miles) and accuracy of construction has attracted archaeoastronomical interest in links to solar and lunar alignments.

This paper considers Mircea Eliade's definition of sacred and profane space with the creation of heaven, earth and an underworld, and applies it to the Hopewell Culture. The paper also explores contemporary ideas such as those of Social Anthropologist, Jane Hubert, that for indigenous cultures, sacredness may extend to the total landscape.

Name: Laura Michetti

from: California Institute of Integral Studies


In shamanic cultures sacred sites are portals to the divine realm and frequent visits are accompanied by offerings and prayers. Historically speaking the sacredness of a site is related to both its likeliness to be preserved but also to be destroyed. This paper will provide an overview of the sacred landscapes and sites of the indigenous Sami people of arctic Scandinavia. During the forced Christianization period of the seventeenth century the Sami experienced immense cultural loss. The landscape, however, maintained Sami language names and religious symbolism and therefore held within the rivers, rocks and mountains fragments of the threatened culture. In the current era, wherein the Arctic landscape is under threat due to the effects of climate change, the Sami are experiencing a cultural renaissance and as such are able to provide, in the subtle realm of human consciousness, a haven for the natural landscape.

Name: Nicole Montag-Keller

from: MA CAA student, UWTSD

Abstract Title: In what ways is the Ermitage landscape garden in Arlesheim (Switzerland) a sacred space and a human construct?

The Arlesheim landscape garden was opened in 1785, inspired through a garden ideal, where paradisiacal Eden was not fenced off through walls, but offered shady spots where flowers blossomed, birds sang, fresh water purled and where, above all, nature seemed to have been installed through itself. Qualitative research through questionnaire and interviews was conducted with participants and compared to a self-reflexive sacred geography of the researcher which highlighted, that sacred space is a personal and private human construct, which is shaped through experience in a certain location, at a certain time surrounded and influenced by a certain cultural framework suggesting that the Ermitage garden is a contested space. This contested space combines water, grottos and a star constellation within a valley like landscape and brings it into a dialogue resulting in a human construction of meaning making. The meaning making processes are then manifested through buildings, archaeological discovery and legends all pointing to the significance of the Ermitage space.

Name: Tamzin Powell

from: Sophia Centre- Past Student with Nick Campion, now author/writer

Abstract Title: The Witches Ways in the Welsh Borders

The expanse of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean in the Welsh Borders is rich in references to nature, and for the local cunning folk, to the ancient Romano-Celtic deity Abundantia. There is a phenomenological connection with deity and elementals and the Otherworld is ever-present. For cunning-folk and pagans, the relationship between the skies (planets and stars) in the form of the moon and the changing seasons (in forests and valleys) are redolent of connection with 'other-than-human- entities'. Their participation in rituals equates with 'flesh and place'; practising Wica (a practical energy/force) is in express distinction from Wicca (named by Gerald Gardner). An association with the landscape also facilitates creativity, as a stage for magical practice. Using 'Wica' in rituals is the same as 'La Force' observed by Jeanne Favret Saada in her Deadly Words, book of 1969, conducting research into Bocage Cunning folk.

Name: Alexander Scott

from: Univeristy of Wales Trinity St David

Abstract Title: When the Mersey Dries Up: Water, River, Sea and the Liverpudlian Sense of Place

This paper presents an idiosyncratic take on the conference's theorisation of the entanglements of people and places, land and sea. It does so by concentrating on personal attachments to my hometown, Liverpool. Picking up on anthropologist Jacqueline Nassy Brown's identification of "dropping anchor, setting sail" as a defining characteristic of the city's culture, the paper investigates different manifestations of rivers, water and sea in literary and musical representations of Liverpool (e.g. ones by Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Orhan Pamuk, WG Sebald Karl Čapek, Carl Jung). The paper's approach aspires less to orthodox scholarship or linear argument than to offer speculative excurses on notions of place and space. In the process, the goal is to ponder why I, like 100,000s of Liverpudlians, remain wedded to a civic identity which continues to foreground global trade and connectedness many decades after the city's maritime heyday has expired.

Name: Glenda Tinney

from: Univeristy of Wales Trinity St David

Abstract Title: Engaging young children with a sense if place

Early childhood literature explores the significant benefits of outdoor and nature experiences in supporting children's holistic wellbeing. However until recently, the benefits are often explored from the perspective of the child rather than the interrelationships and understanding of the natural world that being in the natural environment provides.. . This paper explores the opportunities offered in the early years to develop a ' sense of place ' and to support children engage with local places..The paper will evaluate the research context within this arena as well as evaluate the authors own practice in outdoor education in the early years. The work will also explore the growing emphasis on exploring nature in the early years from the theoretical context of 'sense of place'.

Lampeter Campus

University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Lampeter Campus
Ceredigion SA48 7ED
Tel: 01570 422351

London Campus

University of Wales Trinity Saint David
London Campus, Winchester House
11 Cranmer Road
London, SW9 6EJ
Tel: 0207 566 7600

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