Mar 30 2009

Blessing of the sun redux

Category: Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy,Events,Judaismalobel @ 2:21 pm


Several months ago, I posted about an upcoming rare event in Judaism — that is, the blessing of the sun, or Birkat Ha-Hammah, that takes place once every twenty-eight years, and is based primarily on the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Brakhot 59b.

The event takes place this year on April 8th, in the early morning. Because Passover happens to begin on the evening of April 8th (a truly rare convergence indeed), many morning celebrations will combine the burning of leaven (chametz) and the blessing of the sun.

For those who may be interested, here are a number of relevant links, spanning several perspectives, both confessional and non:

To quote the immortal bards Gerome Ragni and James Rado, “Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in.”

Mar 19 2009

Announcement: Archaeoastronomy lecture by Professor Clive Ruggles

For those who are in, or close to, Gloucestershire, England, you may be interested in a lecture on archaeoastronomy to be given at the Corinium Museum by Professor Clive Ruggles on Thursday, March 26th, from 7-8:30 p.m.

Dr. Ruggles is an Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester. Among his books are ‘Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth’ and ‘Skywatching in the Ancient World: New Perspectives in Cultural Astronomy’.

For more information, including contacts and the price of admission, please visit the British Science Association site, located here.

Mar 10 2009

News item — Is there anybody out there? (BBC)

Category: Life beyond Earth,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 12:15 pm


Camilla Kesterton, ‘Census Hopeful’, Oil and metal leaf on MDF and wood, 40 x 30cm, 2007
See more at:

On a note related to my posting of March 3rd, here is a recent article on the BBC News site related to one of the Big Questions that touches upon the realms of theology, cosmogony, and astronomy. Among the respondents is Brother Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican observatory.

Mar 06 2009

Behind the curtain. . .

Just a quick peek behind the workings of this blog. I’m currently spending much of my time reading materials in preparation for my comprehensive exams. (a.k.a. qualifying exams) For now, as has been the case for a few months, until these exams are completed, I only have a limited amount of time to devote to Chaldea (i.e., I’ll post whenever I can). I thought I’d bring a notable source I’m working with to the attention of others in similar fields.

For those interested in cultural perceptions of the heavens in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Israel, Persia, Greco-Roman cultures, as well as early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I highly recommend The Early History of Heaven, by J. Edward Wright. (2000, Oxford University Press)

I first took it out of the library in 2003, but soon found it indispensable, so I bought a copy. It’s a very thorough overview of the important writings and beliefs about heaven and/or the heavens (including heavenly cosmography) in these cultures, and it incorporates archaeological findings as well as textual sources. It is difficult to distinguish between astronomy proper and astral beliefs in many ancient civilizations; this book provides the reader with a solid awareness of the background views of the cosmos in these cultures, thereby setting the stage for later evolutions in cultural astronomy.

Have a good weekend, all!

Mar 03 2009

Cardinal Lajolo Visits University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory

Category: Christianity,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 1:29 pm


Both scientific conceptions of the universe and the views of the Roman Catholic church have, of course, changed immensely since the time of Copernicus. The Church has, in fact, come to take special interest in happenings astronomical. In this article, published by the University of Arizona News, we read of Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo’s recent visit to the Steward Observatory to meet with Vatican and UA astronomers. As the article reveals, “the cardinal reports about the Vatican Observatory directly to Pope Benedict XVI.”

On a related note, my thanks to reader Rebecca Kelley for sending along a link to a recent posting to the Uncertain Believer blog. The posting is entitled How Will the Church Respond to Discoveries About the Universe?

[Edited to add: I thought I’d read some rather enlightened comments from the Chief Vatican astronomer Reverend José Gabriel Funes on the question of possible intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and indeed, here is one article in which he discusses the matter, as well as a quote within it exemplifying his views:

“Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom,” he said. [. . .] “Why can’t we speak of a ‘brother extraterrestrial’? It would still be part of creation.”]