Monday, 4 July 2016

Stargazing Scotland - Celtic Magic and Quantum Physics

My interest and respect for indigenous cultures started in 2013 when I began studying the Sami people - the indigenous Reindeer herders of Scandinavia. In all honesty this likely stemmed from my own envy of their lifestyle - I yearn for a more natural existence. Sometimes I find myself wishing I was born in a simpler time. You could argue my interest in the indigenous folk of the World is a direct result of escapism.

A Norwegian South Sami man lassos a Reindeer during the roundup.

This interest eventually led to Expedition Norway; during the Winter of 2014 I travelled alone to Lofoten and then to central Norway to document through film the relationship of the Sami people with the natural world.

With the South Sami people of Norway I discovered many things, including my own interest in Astrophotography and following that, astrophysics and the visible Universe.

One of my first Astrophotography images. Jupiter hangs in the sky whilst the Northern Lights dance over Sami country.

That interest has led to my current position as a night photographer and tour operator. I take inspiration from the cosmos and apply it to landscape photography. I also run Astrophotography and Stargazing Tours with the aim to increase appreciation of the cosmos. However, I haven’t pursued my fascination for indigenous culture since expedition Norway.

Colours in the Spring Galloway Gorse reflect those of the Red Supergiants that orbit the Supermassive Black Hole at the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Out of curiosity my partner Helen recently lifted an old book titled "The Celtic Tree Oracle" from the shelf. This led to a conversation about Celtic Cosmology and the relationship that the pre Roman inhabitants of the British Isles had with the natural World and visible Universe. This led to the decision to rekindle my interest in indigenous cultures by applying their interpretation of nature to my own photography.

The Celts were immersed in nature; during their time Britain was covered in forest, consequently trees play a major role in their belief cycle and annual calendar. Each month in the Celtic calendar is allocated a species of tree. My birthday is in March, therefore according to Celtic Tree Lore, Ash is my tree. This seemed like a good starting point from which to work.

I was surprised to learn that for the Celts, the Ash represents the infinite links between the microscopic world within our world of the macroscopic, and outward into the vastness of the cosmos. Perhaps this is because a single Ash tree can support a huge amount of biodiversity. It really is like a miniature city existing within one organism. This is used as a metaphor to illustrate the fact that your actions leave a fingerprint on the Universe itself, therefore you are part of an interconnected chain of events that shape the Universe.

Ash Trees on the river Bladnoch play host to a multitude of Biodiversity. Above, the Milky Way Galaxy plays host to a multitude of stellar life (and potentially other organisms). Moving outwards, the Universe plays host to countless other galaxies. As of above, so below.

This seemed like a strange coincidence considering my own interest in quantum physics and the theory that all possible events exist in a wave form of mathematical potential. Events are only determined once observed or experienced by ourselves as conscious manifestations of the Universe. Each person’s experience combines to leave a network of traces on the fabric of spacetime. It also links to my interest in the theory that the Universe is of infinite scale.

I’ve been stuck in an inspirational rut for a few weeks now, but inspiration can creep up on you from the most unexpected places. I decided to move a lamp last Tuesday night. That illuminated a hidden part of our bookshelf and led to Helen spotting "The Celtic Tree Oracle," resulting in the return of my interest in native culture and the decision to explore this through my photography. Strange how something as simple as moving a table lamp can result in newfound excitement and inspiration. Again we return to the idea that all actions, no matter how simple, link within a chain of events that combine into something greater. The Celts would interpret this using the Ash Tree's microscopic inhabitants. A quantum physicist would interpret this with a wave of mathematical possibilities that shape the Universe. I’m looking forward to exploring other cultures to find their own interpretations of the Universe, and applying this to my photography.

Watching the heavens through the top of a Sami Roundhouse.

Jesse Beaman
Stargazing Scotland

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