In the medieval world it was customary for map-makers to draw maps with Jerusalem at its centre. In doing so they blended myth and reality. A 1300 Hereford Mappa Mundi, with Jerusalem marked at the centre is an example of just such a map. It made room for the Garden of Eden in the eastern reaches of the circular medieval world. The map was studded with real place names - Rome, Paris, Oxford, Alexandria - and with references to biblical lands stretching to the Red Sea and Arabia. But it was also decorated with images from myths that dominated the medieval mind: unicorns, sphinxes, mandrakes. Myth and reality blended seamlessly until, tragically, renaissance map-makers stripped myth from their world view, even removing the charming decorative heads of wind, cheeks bulging, blowing from the margins of the maps.
Prior to the onslaught of Christianity, Delphi Greece was regarded as the centre of the universe. An ancient tradition told how Zeus dispatched two swift eagles, one from the furthermost West and another from the furthermost East and they flew back towards each other. The birds met at Delphi and there the stone was set. The stone was henceforward known as omphalos, or navel of the world, the exact spot that was believed to be the centre of the earth. The omphalos, a sacred stone of a vaguely conical shape, was believed to be a dwelling place of the god. The tradition was reinforced by votive gifts, in navel form, which were sent to the Delphic oracle for centuries: one of these was an impressive eagle-adorned omphalos of the fifth century B.C. A later omphalos can be seen in the museum at Delphi.
In 'Women Who Run With The Wolves' Clarissa Pinkola Estes refers to Descansos, a symbol that marks a death (pages 365-366). She speaks of the thousands of deaths that we have each experienced as hopes and dreams are cut off and we take new directions. Making Descansos involves mapping intimate terrain - marking with a cross on a graph the places, starting with infancy, all the way to the present, where parts and pieces of ourselves have died.
Consider the following questions that have been framed in geographical terms.
Where are the boundaries of your body?
Frame questions in a geographical format and make a map of your personal terrain. Get inspired and use tactile images to enhance your map.