A Study on Liminal Spaces
Liminal comes from the latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold” which was first used in a written context by Van Gennep (Les Rites de Passage, 1906). Van Gennep, 1906, discussed liminal moments, periods and epochs as having a tripartite structure which is what creates this space. Immediately, the mind is turned to images of doorways, of bridges and of times between time. The word ‘Liminal’ can be used to describe the doorways or bridges of political, physical and cultural changes. This essay will mention these in brief while focusing on the spiritual liminal spaces as it pertains to the thresholds of the unseen Otherworlds.
A liminal moment is created by the act of leaving behind something that was once very important to the self in-order to start a new way of being or doing. It can be a moment that is personal, spiritual or social. A personal example would be giving up cigarettes, something that one is addicted to for the purpose of starting a new healthier way of being. A spiritual example would be an Initiation into Druidry, Baptism into the Catholic faith or the Wiccaning in Wicca. A social example would be a natural disaster or a revolution where the old government is toppled and before a new government arrises. These rites assist in the growth of the human being and in the turning of the wheel.
A liminal period is when you are inside the liminal doorway or threshold for an extended period of time. A time between stages of life such as during University, during a war, during a period of unemployment or during puberty.
Certain people, who are perceived as both dangerous and/or holy, will live outside of society and spend a life in Epoch, a life of being a liminal creature, such as Monks, Nuns, the homeless and even twins and the transgendered in some cultures.
The Triad of Liminality: A Tripartite Structure
Pre-liminal rites, literally “before the threshold” is the first spoke on the wheel of our triad. It initiates the rite through separation, such as death itself or a metaphorical death. For example, for a bride-to-be a pre-liminal rite would be to buy the wedding dress. For a student an example of a pre-liminal rite would be to obtain their graduation robes.
Liminal rites are rites of transition and the second spoke on the wheel of the Tripartite Structure of Liminality. For the bride mentioned above, a liminal rite would be one where the person is between two stages at life, such as the rite of walking down the aisle.
Post-liminal rites, literally “after the threshold” is the last spoke of the wheel of the triad and the time where the person completes the rites and enters into their new identity or new social roles. The couple is announced as married.
A Note On Safety Regarding Creating Spiritual Liminal Spaces
Warding, Protection, Cleansing
Within every ritual a small liminal tripartite structure is created.
The Purpose of Liminal Spaces
(Born There: Brigid was said to have been born in the liminal.)
Use In Ritual
The Creation of Liminal Spaces
(Physical Spaces: Doorways, Stairwells & Bridges
The Use of Darkness)
Natural Liminal Spaces
(The shore, the edge of a forest, ravines, rivers, the mouth of a cave.)
The Ethics of Purposefully Creating A Spiritual Liminal Space
“liminal”, Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.
Van Gennep, Arnold (1909). Les rites de passage (in French). Paris: Émile Nourry.