Illustrating a superstition

The first part of the project attempts to illustrate the Gaelic word and superstition  ‘Deiseal’ or ‘Sunwise’ by charting the path of the sun in the Outer Hebrides from the shortest day to the longest day using 50 long exposure solargraph cameras positioned across the island from mountain tops to the moor and sea cliffs.

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Camera positioned in Fiavig
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Butt of Lewis Lighthouse – Rubha Robhanais – 32 days – Guinness can – 0.25mm pinhole – duct tape – cable ties – black and white photographic paper
‘Deaseil’ was an ancient superstition in the Highlands and islands that denoted that for important and everyday occasions acts should be performed in a sunwise or clockwise direction. It was extremely bad luck to do otherwise.

 

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Stornoway War Memorial – 24 days – Guinness can – 0.25mm pinhole – duct tape – cable ties – black and white photographic paper

‘The Caledonians paid a superstitious reverence to the sun and practically every religious festival began with the ceremony of walking thrice ‘deiseil’ round the circle, cairn, altar or bonfire that marked the site, the object of the rite being to aid the sun by virtue of mimetic magic’

The Silver Bough – Marian Mc.Neil

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The ‘Deasil’ or turning from East to West according to the course of the sun is a custom of high antiquity in religious ceremonies

T.Pennant 1772

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‘Desil’ is still practised in Lewis and elsewhere. This is the custom of making the circuit of houses, fields or animals carrying the fire in the ‘Dess’ or right hand.

F.Drake-Canell 1939

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Various ceremonies were gone through while the kindred of the deceased carried the body ashore and placing it on a bank long consecrated to the purpose, made the ‘Deasil’ around the departed

Scott 1828

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When a cow or sheep or any other animal used as food was found dead on the hill its carcass must not be taken home or utilised in any way until one first went round it ‘Deiseil’ sunwise with fire.

The fire so used was called ‘Teine Naomh’ Holy Fire

Rev. M.MacPhail Folklore xi 1900

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Mangersta cliffs – 30 days – Guinness can – 0.25mm pinhole – duct tape – cable ties – black and white photographic paper

Solargraphs can be made using  one of the simplest forms of  camera – needing only a sealed container, a pinhole and a piece of black and white photographic paper to collect the image

 

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Collecting a camera from Rinn Mollerup – Bru
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Rinn Mollerup – Bru – 10 days – Guinness can – 0.25mm pinhole – duct tape – cable ties – black and white photographic paper

 

For my cameras I’ve mostly used a Guinness can (out of preference) duct tape and cable ties, a 0.25mm pinhole and Ilford MGV multigrade black and white paper

Part of the fun of the project has been finding where to ‘hide’ the cameras and also the retrieval of them. This has been a bit like laying lobster pots and returning to check what’s in them.

Over the course of six months I have hidden 75 cameras to allow for losses. In that time they have been stolen, washed away by the sea, attacked by birds and shot at. But enough have survived to present 50 images.

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Recovering a camera from the Ness moor (photo Alex Boyd)

 

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Photo from Ness moor camera – 29 days – Guinness can – 0.25mm pinhole – duct tape – cable ties – black and white photographic paper

The project is part of a commission for the An Lanntair ‘Bealach’ Creative places award

 

6 Comments

    1. Hi Gail – Many thanks for your comment – the images have been shown at An Lanntair and Taigh Chearsabhagh . I’d like to exhibit them in other venues perhaps in a different format. I’m continuing the project here in Senegal on a residency based on an island also. Very different light but lots of superstitions. I’ll be adding more to the blog documenting this – J

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  1. Hi Jon,

    I’ve been piloting a similar project for a course on environment, culture and communication. I’m very intrigued by your use of the medium as a means of exploring aspects of local culture and superstition.

    For my own projects I endeavour to use only cans that have been discarded as litter and erect the camera close to the place where it was discarded as a means of inhabiting the objective space of the can to facilitate a greater comprehension of our environment over long periods.

    It would be great to exchange some insight on the projects, respectively.

    Best,

    Liam

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    1. Hi Liam – many thanks for your comments – I like your take on using the discarded cans – I am currently on a residency in Senegal and continuing some themes of the Deiseal idea . I’d be delighted to exchange ideas and insights.
      All the best

      Jon

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  2. Hi, Jon, just saw this terrific project of yours. Great images and the history and superstition are rich with additional atmosphere. Hope Senegal is a nurturing place for you. Can’t wait to see where you go with it.

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