Welcome

Welcome to the website of The Traditional Cosmology Society.

The Society is concerned with exploring myth, religion and cosmology across cultural and disciplinary boundaries and with increasing understanding of world views in the past and present.

We are based in the department of Celtic and Scottish Studies of Edinburgh University. We hold meetings throughout the year, along with occasional day conferences. Cosmos: The Journal of the Traditional Cosmology Society is published annually, in Edinburgh. 

For information on how to join the society please refer to the page here.

The Traditional Cosmology Society is a registered charity in Scotland (Charity Number SC004052).

TCS Talk | The Case of the Water-Woman | 29th November 2019

G.01, 50 George Square, Edinburgh |  17:00-19:00 (roughly)
Friday 29th November

Louise_MILNEFor our third talk of the season, the Traditional Cosmology Society presents a lecture by our own Louise Shona Milne, entitled Metamorphosis, Myth, Dream-cultures and Desire: The case of the Water-woman.

In addition to her current position as President of the Traditional Cosmology Society, Dr Milne is Lecturer in Visual Culture at the Edinburgh School Art and Associate Professor of Film at Edinburgh Napier University. She is also a writer, critic, film-maker and visual anthropologist, and a leading scholar in the history of dreams and nightmares. She is currently working on an experimental film trilogy shot on Super 8 film, as well as on a number of documentary projects including, most recently, Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev: A Journey (2018).

In her TCS lecture, Dr Milne will address the imagery and mythos of the water-woman, a dense figure in dream-culture across different traditions, and one marked by the transformative power of desire (love, lust, fear, grief, hatred, vengeance). The basic image of a female spirit attached to a place of water has endured for millennia in Western literature, legend and the visual arts, but this image can and has taken an enormous variety of forms, from ideal female nudes to monstrous hybrids. Supernatural water-women in myth and folk culture –the mermaids, nymphs and nereids of river, spring and cave –are marked as daimonic by their double nature: they shift from one form to another. Mortal women in extremity may also undergo transformation into watery forms, as punishment or reward; when their situation matches certain conditions, metamorphosis is the mythic substitute for death.

Dr Milne argues that traditions concerning metamorphic water-women are mobilized, historically, to express changing cultural protocols about how desire works and how it should be harnessed. As the latter are redrawn and over time –notably under pressure from Christian authorities –people can be seen to adapt and alter water nymph visualization, as well as visualization of desire-driven metamorphosis in general: a process which we can follow in dreams, texts and art. The inexhaustible potential of the water-woman for every kind of metamorphosis propels an evolving repertoire of forms in art and literature. Arguably, moments of concentrated collective attention to this figure (e.g. in the permanent artistic media) signal that changes in the protocols of desire are underway.

(more…)

Minutes from 2019-20 AGM now available

At the end of August, the Traditional Cosmology Society held its 2019-20 Annual General Meeting and elected a new Committee. As was announced in the original notice, the minutes from the meeting are now (finally) available for those who could not attend. We especially invite all e-members, as well as those who could not make it to Edinburgh, to take a look, and let us know if they have any comments/suggestions/opinions/cosmological musings!

Please follow this link to access the .doc transcript of the minutes.

TCS Talk | Narratives of Bewitchment in Scotland | November 15th 2019

G.02, 50 George Square, Edinburgh |  16:15-18:00 (roughly)
Friday 15th November

For our second talk of the season, the Traditional Cosmology Society presents a lecture by Julian Goodare, Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Goodare was Director of the online Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, and has published widely on witchcraft in Scotland. His most recent book is The European Witch-Hunt (London: Routledge, 2016).

In his TCS talk, Professor Goodare will review statements contained in Scottish witchcraft trial records, given by people who presented themselves as victims of witchcraft. As recounted in these statements, bewitchment could take many forms: it sometimes affected the victims’ own health; at other times it was the health of a child or other family member, or the health of their farm animals, or their dairying, ale-brewing or prosperity generally. The bewitchment itself was placed within a wider narrative of community relationships, often involving quarrels, and sometimes including threats or curses.

Professor Goodare will focus on how the narrators explained the concept of bewitchment. The key legal point at issue in their testimony was: were these events caused by the suspect’s witchcraft, or not? On this point, the reported accounts varied greatly: some of the supposed victims explained the bewitchment in detail; others told of misfortune, but avoided saying anything about bewitchment. Some victims seem to have been reluctant accusers. At the other extreme, some victims told stories of their own experience of magical events, or even of having encountered the Devil. Seen together, these narratives reveal much about witchcraft victims’ beliefs, and about the remarkable spectrum of nuances they encompassed, a spectrum in which we come to glimpse a connection between the quotidian and the uncanny.

 

(more…)

TCS Talk | In Search of the Female Mythological Figure | October 4th 2019

2.54, 50 George Square, Edinburgh |  16:30-19:00 (roughly)
Friday 4th October

The Traditional Cosmology Society inaugurates its 2019-20 season of talks by presenting a lecture by Jelka Vince Pallua, formerly from the University of Zagreb, and currently affiliated with the Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Zagreb.

Professor Vince Pallua is a ethnologist and scholar of mythology whose interests have long encompassed the position of women in traditional cultures (see, e.g. her recent book The Enigma of Sworn Virgins, 2014), as well as issues of Croatian and Slavic ethnography; Mediterranean studies and traditional cultures of the Adriatic; Morovlachs and the phenomenon of morlachism; Croats in Italy and Italians in Croatia.

In her lecture, Professor Vince Pallua will draw upon a number of recent studies from the Croation context, to illustrate how an increasing number of areas in Croatia have been scientifically identified as sites where pre-Christian Croats left vestiges of their most sacred mythical events. In particular, her lecture will focus on the Proto-Slavic divine trilogy (the gods Perun, Veles and the goddess Mokosh), and present instances in which Mokosh appear to have been substituted by the mythical character Baba (the word ‘baba’ in some Slavic languages indicates a hag, ugly old woman).

Prof Vince Pallua will discuss two figurative representations of Baba, the only ones in figurative form known to-date, which she herself discovered in Istria, the southwestern part of Croatia. In Vince Pallua’s view, 15th century Croats in Istria kept alive the memory of the supreme Proto-Slavic goddess Mokosh, herself a female deity of fertility and the patron of female chores and craft (especially spinning and weaving), eventually incorporating Mokosh’s mythological legacy into Marian veneration.

(more…)

Programme Announced for the 2019 Thinking About Mythology Colloquium

The seventh edition of the annual Thinking About Mythology in the 21st Century Colloquium, jointly organised by the departments of Celtic and Scottish Studies and Scandinavian Studies in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) at the University of Edinburgh, has been announced.

Led by Emily Lyle, founder of the Traditional Cosmology Society and author of Ten Gods: A New Approach to Defining the Mythological Structures of the Indo-Europeans (extensively reviewed in a recent issue of Cosmos), the colloquium will focus this year on the interrelations between History and Myth, with keynote addresses by Joseph Nagy (Harvard) and Emily Lyle herself.

The event will take place at Room 1.06, 50 George Square, Edinburgh, on 19th–20th October 2019.

The full programme is available here.