Panel 2

Conceptualising sky and heaven – Human interactions with meteorological and cosmic phenomena

The sky as a physical space evades direct human access. It can only be observed from a distance, but is the origin of and stage for many fascinating phenomena that greatly influence human lives. Therefore, it has always been a fruitful subject of reflection and speculation of various kinds generated by the human need to explain observable phenomena. While seeking those explanations, people inevitably project diverse conceptions and beliefs into their own understanding of ‘sky’. Although ‘transcendent’ beings and places, such as gods and the afterlife as a celestial abode, are often located in heaven, the conceptualization of heaven itself, of sky and celestial phenomena alike, seems to derive primarily from everyday human experience.
Within this panel we aim to shed light on conceptualizations of the sky/heaven as well as its meteorological, cosmic and topological dynamics in different pre-modern cultures (c. 3000 BC–1500 AD) and to compare them with each other.

Possible questions are:
• What concepts regarding the emergence or the nature of different celestial phenomena (for instance, of winds or the day-night rhythm) can be found in different cultures?
• How can we interpret the conceptualization of celestial phenomena as (cosmic) divinities or as supernatural beings?
• To what extent were celestial phenomena considered a means of communication of (supernatural powers in) sky/heaven with humanity? How do humans cope with the impact caused by celestial
phenomena and try, for their part, to influence them?
• How is the spatial structure of the sky conceptualized? What is the relation between sky/heaven and privileged entities of terrestrial topography (Jerusalem, Olympus)?


Panel organisers:

Laura Borghetti, Sandra Hofert, Mirna Kjorveziroska, Marie-Charlotte v. Lehsten and Katharina Zartner