Cassius: "The fault, dear Brutus,
is not in our stars, but in ourselves."
Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar" I, ii 140-1
In some cultures the sun, moon, stars and planets are worshipped. In others they may be revered as representatives or symbols of divinity. Sometimes the sky itself is divine. In sacred texts celestial bodies are often metaphors for, or symbols of, gods or goddesses. Often sacred spaces and buildings are designed with a specific relationship to the celestial bodies. This is the theme of this year's conference of the "Sophia Project for the Study of Cosmology in Culture", which is going to take place in Bath on 25-26 June 2016. The title of the Conference is "Worship of the Stars: Celestial Themes in Observance and Practice of the Sacred". The talks presented examine the relationship between the sky, the celestial bodies and notions of divinity, religious practice and observance, and explore a variety of perspectives, through imagery, myth, anthropology, architecture, performance, literary studies and the history of art and the study of religions. More information about the speakers and abstracts of their talks: http://www.sophia-project.net/conferences/WorshipOfStars/speakers.php
"Hubris in the Skies"
In this year's Sophia Center Conference, I have the honor and pleasure to participate as on of the speakers. The title of my talk is: "Hubris in the Skies: expelling the sacred in Aristophanes' 'Birds' and 'Clouds'."
Abstract: To ancient Greeks the sun, the moon and other celestial bodies were thought to be personified divinities. Nonetheless, voices seeking non-supernatural explanations for celestial phenomena were already present in the writings of pre-Socratic philosophers. Even so, to re-imagine cosmic order governed predominately by the laws of nature and not the divine was to invite trouble, since it was perceived in one way or the other as sacrilege. In Clouds, the comic playwright Aristophanes makes implicit references to this tension, when he criticizes the corrections on the Athenian civic calendar made by the famous astronomer and mathematician of his time, Meton. On the same grounds, in Birds Meton is introduced as an air-geometer of a "star-city" located on the heavens. Beyond the comic element of the scene, the use of geometrical language to define and consecrate the city may have a further motive. I would therefore purpose that we may see Meton's role in both plays as an expression to target those social elites and intellectual thinkers, such as Socrates who were held responsible for stripping away the sacred related to the observation of celestial bodies and phenomena.
A few words about the "Sophia Project for the Study of Cosmology in Culture"
The Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, a research and teaching centre within the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The Centre's remit is the consideration of how we live on planet Earth, with particular reference to the sky and cosmos as part of the wider environment. Its work is partly historical, partly anthropological and partly philosophical. It has a wide-ranging remit to investigate the role of cosmological, astronomical and astrological beliefs, models and ideas in human culture, including the theory and practice of myth, magic, divination, religion, spirituality, architecture, politics and the arts. It deals with the modern world as much as indigenous or ancient practices. Its current projects include the Harmony Initiative which explores how people can or do live in harmony with the planet and connects to wider environmental concerns. The Centre supervises PhD students, holds conferences, publishes, sponsors events and teaches the University's MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.