Call for Papers  


Name: Bernadette Brady

Abstract Title: The Role of Light in Welsh Cistercian Abbey Churches

This paper considers how the union of sun, landscape, and architecture contributed to the siting of Welsh Cistercian abbeys. From August 2014 to March 2016 myself, Darrelyn Gunzburg and Fabio Silva, with assistance in the field of Pam Armstrong, surveyed and measured the orientation of all Cistercian churches with extant foundations in Wales, as well as the elevations of their surrounding landscapes. Using methodologies drawn from cultural astronomy, analysis of this data revealed that through the intentional orientating of the abbey within the local topography, each church formed a relationship to the sun's light on theologically significant days. Other notable observations include the emphasis on sunsets and the west, the focus on the astronomical equinox rather than the Julian calendar equinox, and the solar position on Michaelmas and/or Saint David's Day. The implications of these results for wider debates in the field of Cistercian studies is discussed.

Name: Tina Burchill

Abstract Title: Dark Fire: Dimensions of Luminosity in the Chthonic

This paper is an exploration of the light and darkness that exists in chthonic space, beginning with an analysis of early mythology, notably the Sumarian myth The Descent of Inanna and the Greek myth The marriage of Persephone and Hades. We examine how, for ancient cultures, the descent into the darkness of the Underworld maintained the homeostasis of the cosmos, enabling the continuation of the cycles of nature and the fertility of the land.

The premise that the world of fire below the earth is a crucial polarity (and mirror) to the sky above is examined, and, using myths and fairy tales as a navigational tool, we explore the Jungian idea that what is exiled turns into a monster, the below transforming over time into 'hell' and deities becoming demons and witches.

Further, drawing on the work of James Hillman, we discuss the proposition that our culture's fixation on material objects is a consequence of this banishment of the dark light of the chthonic.

Name: Nicholas Campion

Abstract Title: Dawn: Exploring Sunrise

Something magical happens every day. The Sun rises. Actually, the fact that it happens every day means that it is easy to take it for granted. We may even forget that without it there would be no day, no life - and no light. Artistic responses to the Sun - and Sunrise - vary from the painter Joseph Turner's reputed statement that 'the Sun is God', pointing to a reverence for the Sun as representative of the divine, or as divine in itself, to the mundane reality of waking up and getting to grips with the day in John Dunne's 'The Sun Rising'. This talk explores what happens when darkness disappears and we enter a world of light, crossing the boundary from night to day, passing through the liminal that separates nocturnal from diurnal, exploring painting and poetry as well as personal experience.

Name: Géza Kulcsár

Abstract Title: Fiat lumen: from primordial light to daylight

The goal of this talk is to analyze a representative set of accounts reflecting on the role of light in the Book of Genesis, for reasoning about a comprehensive Traditional understanding on the origins of day and night, governing our lives since ages. In Genesis, a single omnipotent God starts the work of creation by an act of speech: Let there be light ('genetheto phos', Gen 1:3) - the famous first 'fiat', which has a distinguished subject: light, 'lux'. Thus, 'lux' is the first corporeity, the absolute germ of the cosmos per se. We consult the aforementioned, highly influential medieval texts, one of a mystical (Zohar) and one of a scholastic (Grosseteste's De luce) character, to elaborate on the Traditional aspects of the cultural understanding of origin and role of day and night. As for the Zohar, in accordance with the metaphysical spirit of medieval mysticism, the commentary on the first day of creation revolves around a rather negative, even pessimistic, account of the principle of duality implying or necessitating darkness. The duality of light and darkness is brought into correspondence with a fundamental duality underlying a process of corruption in creation. The (Neo-)Platonically infused Aristotelian scholasticism of Grosseteste aims at summarizing a long but scattered history of traditional light genealogies, and, in particular, at reconciling in an unprecedented way the Book of Genesis and Aristotle's De caelo. The main tenet of Grosseteste, elaborated and emphasized in the first part of De luce: Light is the first corporeal form. A key observation of reading De luce is to focus on the varied use of the two Latin terms for light: 'lux' and 'lumen'. First of all, 'lux' is the first corporeal form, which is corporeity itself, whose potential of diffusion is fully actualized. In turn, in the setting of De luce, 'lumen' is exactly that elusive aspect of Day and Night which corresponds to their exclusive alternation which is implicit in the Book of Genesis and exoterically explicit in the human experience. We find that there is a program of Traditional reconciliation behind the superficial contradictions and paradoxes within and in between various cosmogonic models. For mankind to be able to contemplate consciously on Day and Night as regulators and reminders of Absolute Unity, their temporal alternation still has to come into effect; as 'lux' is not detached from the Absolute source, a radiating, active form of light, 'lumen', has to appear; radiating heavenly bodies thus actualize the corresponding a priori symbols by circulating in the sky and bringing forth the seemingly eternal alternating recurrence of Day and Night. The metaphysical Tradition appearing in the world by the words of the Book of Genesis is indeed the first Light of a simultaneously non-spiritual and non-materialistic realization of the Absolute, and Day and Night are its symbols.

Name: Kim Malville

Abstract Title: The Cosmogony of Darkness and Light

This presentation joins the astrophysics of the very early universe with those creation mythologies in which cosmic parents and other deity-pairs who, by dying, bring light into our universe. The so-called grand unified theories of astrophysics imagine the universe appeared with a burst of energy from the void that produced particles and antiparticles in roughly equal numbers. Because of the expansion of the universe, a firestorm of particle and anti-particle annihilation occurred about 1.3 seconds after the onset of expansion. Annihilation resulted in the elimination of practically all of the antimatter with a very tiny excess of matter floating in a sea of light. Only one particle in a billion in our universe is matter; the rest are photons. Similar narratives involving the origins of light coming from Babylon, Japan, Egypt, Polynesia, and elsewhere describe a sequence of events starting with the, sometimes violent, separation of cosmic parents resulting in light entering the dark void. Heaven and earth are separated and time begins to flow. What meanings can we take away from the resonances between these narratives coming from seemingly different dimensions of the human experience?

Name: Natalie Marr


Abstract Title: Meeting the night halfway: Dark Sky Place as creative milieu

The Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park is a member of a growing international community of Dark Sky Places, 'windows to the universe' (Marín, Wainscoat & Fayos -Solà 2010) where the division between Earth and cosmos is at its most permeable. Dark landscapes obscure detail, depth, scale, and distance, shifting the sensing body into the realm of the peripheral and contingent.

In recent years, scholarship advocating a "return to the dark" has championed the ways in which the deterritorialising qualities of darkness may give rise to alternative ways of being in the world (Edensor & Falconer 2015, Edensor 2017, Williams 2008), asking how we might more creatively orient our lives around day and night (Gallan & Gibson 2011).

Dark though they may be, Dark Sky Places are also full of light; just of a different kind. It is to the interplay of light and dark as they are variously encountered, apprehended, and engaged in these places that my presentation attends. Not only in our awe-inspired encounters with a star-filled sky, but equally through those quieter, intimate negotiations with light and dark as they compose and de-compose experience in this peculiar landscape tension between below and above, the personal and the planetary.

My presentation will include excerpts from an alternative field guide I am developing as part of my research. The field guide seeks to elaborate a series of impressions and experiences, whilst extending invitation to its users to engage in mutually constituted encounters with the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. Approaching the Dark Sky Park as a creative milieu my research explores how we think and move with a Dark Sky Place, and where that might take us.

Name: Joanna Popielska-Grzybowska

Abstract Title: Sides of creation - the role of light and shadow in the Pyramid Texts

The Pyramid Texts are considered to be more positive in their message than the Coffin Texts. The oldest religious texts do demonstrate delight and lust for life and due to the fact that they were composed in order to assist the pharaoh on his way to the sky, the true existence of the king in the Beyond could never be questioned or endangered. The king was very often identified with Ra as the sun in his daily journey. However, despite everything evoked, there are references to inimical forces, or perils, that are present within all beings. This was the case with shadow, which - for the ancient Egyptians - constituted an integral part of each soul, namely one of the spiritual elements of a being. The ancient Egyptian concept of soul is multi-faceted and very complex, and the existence of akh - a luminous spirit and shuut - shadow make it even more intricate. In the Pyramid Texts, the latter word does not appear often, only four times as Swwt and once or twice as Sw. Doubts about quantity arise from the fact that the word Sw can also mean 'empty' [Wb IV: 426-427], and Swt 'feather, plumage' [Wb IV: 423-426]. This is not accidental, of course, since they all come from the name of the god Shu (also Eg. Sw), who is the child of the creator - the first god after him. He is the air, the space between the sky Nut and the Earth Geb (the latter are children of Shu), and thus obviously - as space, as invisible matter - is associated with emptiness, and then with shadow as that which surrounds and protects. Shadow is 'something that surrounds,' but it also constitutes a kind of alter ego, that which is empty, unlike the human or divine being, who is filled with the gist of being. What did the Egyptians need a darker side of the soul and thus darker side of creation for? Was it dangerous?

It is enthralling how the dark side of creation and existence was incorporated into the completeness of the created world. Therefore and therein, one can trace the quiddity of the world as a complete work of the creator, according to ancient Egyptians creation beliefs. Emphasis will be laid on the question of the presumed necessity of darker aspects of the world juxtaposed with the light jAx(w) as one of the elements of creation in the perused texts.

The ancient Egyptians paid great attention to language, words written and spoken out loud. They intensively used plays on words and 'sportive' writing. Furthermore, with written words and those spoken out loud, all utterances were intended to create religious reality, to materialise indispensable things. Therefore, the author of the paper aims to scrutinise, with reference to contextual arguments, the language of the Pyramid Texts, namely the grammar, choice of vocabulary, phraseology, possible onomatopoeic effects, to elucidate seeming and complementary paradoxes of a multi-faceted character of shadow and light as sho

Name: Tamzin Powell

Abstract Title: Night and Day in the Valley: An Ethnography of Witchcraft and Magical Practices in the Welsh Borders

Margaret Eyre, folklorist, ethnographer, in a presentation to the Folk-Lore Society on Dec.7th 1904, said, "We have still living amongst us magic in all its three distinctive forms- white, black and domestic...where the power lies in the charm itself, and which can be practised by anyone...but True Charming - White Magic - is a gift, a power in the possession of one person, wise man or wise woman... in no way to be confused...with evil workings of the Devil's servants (which is black)."

This paper will consider descriptions of the nature of black and white magic in witchcraft; cunning folk and the occult, with emphasis on the light and dark aspects of landscape, place and identity. The borders of Wales and England is a place of mystery and shadows, its associated powers are often used by local cunning folk, to imbue magical context into place and space. For the local community, witchcraft has been feared by many generations and is still deemed with suspicion today. Using primary sources from Margaret Eyre's 'Folk-Lore Society 'correspondences, evidence will show how the theme of light and dark becomes obscured in a witch's concentration - so that both the powers of the Devil and Christ can be imbued within a magical context.

Contemporary field notes about light and dark occult practices show how victims can be 'caught in spells' and that only an unwitcher can help find a way out. Informants have embedded within their subculture, ideologies which explain binary expressions of good and evil; sun and moon, and life and death - all in the context of magical practices.

Name: Frank Prendergast

Abstract Title: Shadow Casting Phenomena at Newgrange: a postscript 30 years on

During the winter solstice of 1986, the author first visited the Neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange, Ireland to witness the now well-documented solar hierophany inside the burial chamber. Outside, an equally dramatic natural spectacle of a different kind had already commenced. Shortly after local sunrise, the tall standing stone (GC1) closest to the tomb entrance began casting a shadow on the obverse face of the entrance kerbstone (K1). The kerb has 97 contiguous stones delimiting the base of the 90 m diameter cairn covering the burial chamber. GC1 is one of twelve Bronze Age standing stones that ring the cairn. These have an average height of 2.5 metres and irregularly spaced at distances ranging from 7 m-17 m from the kerb. Shadow casting is synchronised with the apparent diurnal motion of the sun. Relatedly, the tip of the shadow cast by GC1 at winter solstice traverses diagonally downwards from the top of K1, across the elaborate megalithic spiral art that decorates the face of K1 and terminates at ground level before pulling back from the monument as the sun ascends in angular altitude. Prior to 1986, this spectacle had been the subject of intrigue and conjecture as to any embedded astronomical significance or cultural meaning.

With the backing of the National Monuments Service Archaeological Division, the author embarked on a programme of scientific research to investigate the phenomenon. This broadened to include shadow casting by other standing stones in the ring to establish any temporal relationship of their shadows with K1 - the focal point of the entrance facade - at astronomically interesting times of year. The methodology used digital surveying techniques and, crucially, the first field application of close-range terrestrial photogrammetry in an archaeological context. Other pioneering tools included the creation of an astronomically orientated 3D CAD wireframe model of the standing stones and kerb. Viewpoints of the model to simulate shadow casting were generated at user-defined times and dates corrected for the effect of obliquity of the ecliptic relevant to the Bronze Age and for current epochs. The results were verified using time-stamped photography-of-date now held in an archive. This paper will use the opportunity afforded by the 30 years that have elapsed since completion of that research to offer a retrospective critique of what were innovative findings in their time, and when such approaches and ideas were without parallel in the archaeological or archaeoastronomical literature.

Name: Valerie Shrimplin

Abstract Title: Shadows in Renaissance Painting: 'Standing between Darkness and Light'

Defined by Leonardo in his book On Painting as 'standing between darkness and light,' shadows are and always have been everywhere, but not always depicted in art. Rarely shown in Early Christian and medieval art, the portrayal of shadows really comes into its own in Renaissance Italy - linked with the immense advances in scientific study (especially optics) of the age. The Renaissance interest in shadows, as with linear perspective, demonstrates a wish to explore, explain and depict the natural world.

The use of shadow in Renaissance painting can be either the use of shading to give bodily and other forms a three-dimensionality hitherto not achieved - or the actual depiction of cast shadows, sometimes with symbolic meaning (such as Masaccio's St. Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow, where the shadow is not menacing or feared, in fact quite the opposite).

Scientifically speaking, shadows were considered in relation to astronomical features and theories, such as Copernicus's argument in Revolutions (1543) that the earth 'must in fact have such a shape as its shadow reveals, for it eclipses the moon with the arc of a perfect circle. Therefore the earth is not flat ... but it is perfectly round (as illustrated in Apian's drawings in his Cosmographia, 1545).

In addition, the depiction of shadows can bring a psychological or even magical resonance to Renaissance painting, relating to contemporary neoplatonic interest in Plato's Cave (Republic VII) where chained men only see shadows of the real world. Shadows can be mysterious, ethereal or even divine, such as when shadows cast by an unseen source indicates the presence of God as much as of the sun.

Modelling in light and shade was ubiquitous, as was more general light/dark symbolism (including sun-symbolism) but the depiction of cast shadows was sometimes only hinted at. Artists like Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca showed a reluctance to depict actual shadows, perhaps seeing them as cluttering and confusing in a painting, whilst Domenico Veneziano, like Masaccio, used them to great effect. By the time of the High Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, in his Treatise on Painting, wrote extensively about cast shadows, yet in paintings like his Virgin on the Rocks (two versions) set in a dark cave, there is little indication of actual cast shadows. Michelangelo too, although placing a huge emphasis on light and sun-symbolism in his Last Judgment, rarely included dramatic shadows which are just lightly indicated. Had the depiction of cast shadows simply become unfashionable as disturbing the overall harmony of a painting?

In conclusion, attention will be drawn to a few later examples of shadows in art, showing how subsequent trends remain in the shadow of the tradition established in the Renaissance.

Name: David Stevenson

Abstract Title: Optics and Cosmology: from Ptolemy to Freud

This paper explores how the scientific materialist worldview, where any inexplicable phenomenon is regarded as an artefact of incomplete understanding or error, arose from earlier models of the cosmos. In these earlier cosmologies, the mysterious remained an important component and the role of light was a key factor in expressing an ordered hierarchical ontology.

Demonstrating the role of optics in the development and evolution of our understanding of the cosmos, the conception of light in the writings of Euclid, Plato and Ficino is surveyed. It is postulated that light starts off as an aspect of divine ineffability, and through the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment becomes the light of human understanding. This development in understanding is traced through an examination of the optical studies of Descartes, Kircher and Bentham, and explored through four optical technologies: the spyglass, the camera obscura, the magic lantern, and the panopticon.

As Gebser, in the Ever Present Origin (1985:72) point outs, darkness must necessarily accompany the light, and this paper also examines the idea that the darkness that exists as the opposite of the Enlightenment, ends up located in the mind itself. This is investigated through an examination of Freud's use of the metaphor of the optical phenomenon of projection.

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University of Wales Trinity Saint David
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