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Helena Avelar (1964-2021)

It is with great sorrow that we inform you that, Helena Avelar, co-founder and head researcher of the Astra Project has passed away. Helena was passionate Historian of Astrology a wonderful colleague and human being. She will be deeply missed and her smile and wisdom will forever remain in our hearts.

Testimonies from CIUHCT’s memorial (English only)
For more see: 
See also the in memoriam by Charles Burnett in Mediterranea:

I met Helena several years ago, but I used to see her only once or twice a year. She was at that time studying at the Warburg Institute and only during her visits to Portugal I had the opportunity to talk with her. Casual talks. I always remember her and Luís’ original cakes for the department’s Christmas Feast. Everything changed when she concluded her PhD and returned to Portugal. Then, I had the opportunity to see her more often. I discovered an interesting and interested woman, as intelligent as sensitive. We felt immediate empathy. Then, she invited me for an interview for the Astra project. It was supposed to be an institutional interview, but then we realized that there were so many bridges between our very different fields of research. We had something else in common: the Warburg. In 2006, I had been a PhD occasional student, and we shared the same passion for the singular academic environment, the library and the photographic collection. This fact could bring together our different interests in the late medieval and early modern history of science. From then on, we shared so many dreams, and so many projects that we wanted to pursue.
In her memory, I will honour all of them, God willing. 

Ana Duarte Rodrigues

It is with profound sadness and enormous sorrow that we learned of the sudden passing of Helena Avelar, one of our most valued and talented colleagues. Her passing has come as an immense and painful shock to all her colleagues and friends in the ALFA team. Somewhere along the way, everyone has benefited not only from her exceptional competence and passionate commitment to the field of the History of Astrology, but also from her unsurpassed generosity and unlimited selflessness. We will always treasure the memories we have of her with the most unbounded gratitude: her unfailing advice has enhanced the quality and the progress of our research tremendously over time. It takes courage to accept that Helena Avelar is now among those stars that she loved and studied so much in the journey of her life, but her example and exceptional nature will live on, in many hearts and scholarship pages yet to be published.
The ALFA post-doc team – Eleonora Andriani, Samuel Gessner, Nick Jacobson

We have lost a creative young scholar and a wonderfully warm person, well known internationally for her rich knowledge of early modern astrology.  My deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues in Portugal and elsewhere.  Her knowledge, enthusiasm and deep understanding of the working tools of sixteenth-century astrologers enriched us all.
Rich Kremer

Helena Avelar wrote in her e-mail from the 3rd January 2021: “For now, I have a few projects that I really need to finish, but I’d like to keep this conversation ongoing, if there is no deadline for the nexts months. The study of the glosses in astronomical and astrological manuscripts is very relevant for the understanding of the practical application of the doctrine…”. What a pity for the history of astrology and astronomy that she cannot continue in her all amazing projects! However, her work, results and achievements will remain as a permanent enrichment of the history of science. We were impressed not only by her scientific skills and knowledge but also by her personal enthusiasm and charisma. We regret her departure from all our hearts. She will stay in our minds. Rest in peace, Helena.
Alena Hadravová & Petr Hadrava, Prague

In Memory of Helena Avelar
We are the fellow colleagues of Helena Avelar de Carvalho from the Warburg Institute. We write to deeply mourn her unexpected passing and to extend our deep sympathy for her partner Luis Ribeiro and all who knew and loved her.
Some of us were her fellow PhD students under Charles Burnett. Others were professors, fellows, students or readers at the Warburg. All of us delighted in her curiosity, generosity of spirit and knowledge of astrology. She brought an infectious enthusiasm for her subject to the Warburg, and enriched it in ways not seen there before. She taught techniques of astrology to scholars who had very little knowledge of the topic, but were keen to learn something about it to enrich their own work. Even those of us well-versed in astrology were in awe of her knowledge and technical skills in astrological history and practice. Many of us had deep conversations with her, in the library, offices or Common Room, working through issues in our research and receiving riches in return.
Those of us lucky enough to be friends of hers benefited from her generosity in sharing meals, books and even her carrel on the 4th floor of the Warburg library. If she came for a meal, she invariably would insist on washing up afterwards, with a speed and cleanliness that was head-spinning. If we went out for a meal, hours could pass in a restaurant while we ate, drank and talked. Those of us who had the good fortune to visit her in Portugal would be treated to extraordinary hospitality from her and Luis, from visiting old libraries and archives, to eating the best pastéis de nata in Lisbon.
We are so happy that we knew her. We will miss her very much.

Dorian Greenbaum, Charles Burnett, Juan Acevedo, Eleonora Andriani, Michael Noble, Mara Prengler, Liana Saif, Darby Costello, Sarah Ortega, Salam Rassi, Hanna Gentili, Talitha Schepers, Claudia Daniotti, Martina Zamparo, Nuria de Castilla, Alia Rosa, Lorenza Gay, Maite Chicote, Francesca Croce, Annika Gialdini, Luisa Capodieci, Josefina Rodriguez Arribas, Adrian Pirtea, Giosuè Fabiano, Katie Reid, Marcin Przybylski, Valentina Cacopardo, Anna Karaisl von Karais and Merlin Cox

I am very sad to hear that our kind colleague Helena passed away so suddenly. She was not only a brilliant and passionate scholar at the international, academic level on the history of astrology (from whom I learned much in the last years), but at the same time she was always helpful in sharing materials, networks and the newest literature and perceptions. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to know Helena personally who was very open to new ideas for interdisciplinary collaboration. Her job was her hobby. Sometimes when meeting with her (and her partner Luís) on the weekends at the CIUHCT, we discussed the interesting relations between geography/cartography and the history of astrology (and she was always so kind, bringing some sweets to share, too). During the pandemic, Helena was elegant as always and still very active, which is impressively documented with the podcasts available at the Astra project. May she rest in peace as a star in our universe!
Thomas Horst

It is with great sadness that I write this note about the loss of my dear friend, Helena Avelar, one of the most fascinating, unique, kind and generous human beings I have ever known. Her benevolence and modesty were admirable. I met her at a number of conferences, where I enjoyed and learned much from her presentations on traditional astrology in western culture. I have also much profited from reading her book, On the Heavenly Spheres: A Treatise on Traditional Astrology. My deepest condolences to her relatives and friends. I will forever cherish you in my heart, Helena.
Razieh Mousavi

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