FOLLOW THE TRAIL OF VISIONS

LOOK AT THE SKY AND REDRAW THE MAPS

A WORLD OF CREATURES STILL DWELLS IN YOUR MIND

SO DRAW A LINE AND STEP OVER IT

Atlas, the sun of the titan Lapetus and the nymph Clymene took part in a rising against the upper god Zeus and was condemned to carry the vault of heaven. This figure from the Greek mythology is often depicted supporting the pillars that held heaven and earth apart, or carrying a celestial globe. It was Eudoxus of Cnidus (408-355 BC) who developed a theory that explained the motions of the planets by a series of 26 concentric spheres centred on the earth. He also was the first that drew the stars on a globe representing the sky as seen from the outside, instead of seen by an observer on earth. The original globe is lost, but the poet Aratus, who lived at the same time, made a vivid description of the globe with its human figures and animals of the constellations, that survived to our days. The Farnese Atlas (11), a sculpture now standing in Naples, is seen as the best surviving example of these early celestial domes, being a Roman copy of the second century AD, made on the basis of a now lost Hellenistic original.

Dilyéhé is the name of the group of stars that are represented in the string figure in the hands of a Navajo woman (12). In the Greek zodiac they are called Pleiades, after the seven daughters of the same titan Atlas and the oceanid Pleione. This star group is only briefly visible in spring at near dawn rising and mid December just after dark. They mark the change of seasons and figure prominently in the myth and literature of many cultures. Great concentration is needed to make this complicated string figure and it is through this exercise that an understanding of the interrelatedness of all things and moral stories about the sense of life can be memorized and recalled.

The lost world of Mu, an enormous continent in the southern hemisphere with Australia at its centre, was an unorthodox scholarly vision of Colonel James Churchward. In his concept it was the cradle of all world cultures, Egyptian, Hindu, Babylonian, Greek and Chinese. This idea of one primordial continent is found in many legends and mythologies and also parallels more accepted scientific concepts of 'continental drift' whereby one continent, Pangaea, or two Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south, were fragmenting during the Jurassic period (208-144 million years ago) and formed the seas and continents as we know them now (13).

The vault of heaven was not readable and could not be described without first establishing a system of coordinates (polar axes, equatorial plane, meridians and parallel lines) that all related back to the earth, using imagined axes and centres around which the planets and the stars seemed to rotate. These celestial observations combined with the reference points on the earth slowly lead to an understanding that the earth could not be flat and its form was a globe (14). It was "the reduplication of the scheme of the cosmos on our microcosm" (François Wahl/1980) that after much debate lead to this understanding.

Each map design has to use distortion. There is no way to project a globe on a flat surface without warping, or cutting up, the geographic image (15). 'Western society' conventions of mapping in the last centuries always put the north on top, are either centred on Europe and Africa or the Americas, and have fixed our perception of the world. There is no top and bottom, left and right in the universe. Our connected idea of gravity, or up and down in relation to the surface and the centre of the earth is understandable but erroneous. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning maps up side down, dressing the image of the earth in another fashion can renew our vision of the world, show new relationships. Buckminster Fuller did this with his Dymaxion World Map (1936-1956), that is build up out of triangles that can be put together in all kind of variations. The continents as a continuous unity (16) is one of such possible variations that shows, in Fullers words, "the outdated divisions of the world in East and West, North and South".

 

The 'Whole Ocean Map' of the Norwegian oceanographer Athelstan Spilhaus (approximately 1980) is one of the rare world maps that shows the continuous image of the water surfaces of the earth (17). Most of the worldmaps are centred on the land surface and to do so big 'scissor cuts' have to be made in the oceans. Th map of Spilhaus does the opposite and makes cuts in the continents.