The MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is a unique course which deals with the ways in which human beings attribute meaning to the planets, stars and sky, and construct cosmologies which provide the basis for culture and society.
The course is taught within the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, in the Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts.
Why Cultural Astronomy and Astrology?
We are all creatures of the universe: every atom in our bodies has passed through three stars – we are literally star dust. For thousands of years human beings have speculated about their physical, emotional and psychic connections with the sky, stars and planets, and the results manifest across beliefs and behaviour, from spirituality and the sacred to creativity and the arts, and from politics to architecture. The MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is the only academic degree in the world to examine our relationship with the cosmos.
The programme draws on different disciplines from the Humanities in order to gain as full a view as possible of the entire subject. Through history we look to the past, and through anthropology we study the present. We also draw on archaeology, sociology, philosophy and the study of religions.
The words astronomy and astrology have distinct meanings in the modern world. Astronomy is the scientific study of the physical universe. Astrology, meanwhile, is the practice of relating the heavenly bodies to lives and events on earth. The split between astronomy and astrology is a feature of modern western thought.
Cultural Astronomy is the study of the application of beliefs about the stars to all aspects of human culture. It includes the new discipline of archaeoastronomy: the study of astronomical alignments, orientation and symbolism in ancient and modern architecture. Astrology also exists in some form in most cultures. In the MA we examine the relationship between astrological, astronomical and cosmological beliefs and practices, and society, politics, religion and the arts, past and present.
The topics we study range across time and culture. If you study with us you will examine the cultural consequences and expressions of astronomy, astrology and cosmology; collect data on what people believe about the stars right now; explore the history of astrology; examine the use of the sky, stars and planets in religion; investigate ideas about the relationship between soul, psyche and psychology and the cosmos; research ancient practices of magic and divination; keep a journal of your own sky observations; look at how the sky and stars are represented in the arts, literature and film; and learn how to measure and interpret celestial alignments at archaeological sites. You will be awarded the MA on successful completion of a 15,000 word dissertation based on a supervised research project.
We offer flexible levels of study and students who don’t wish to take the whole MA programme may take one or two modules as Occasional Students, three modules for a postgraduate Certificate, or six for a postgraduate Diploma.