I’m always a big fan of liminality. For those unfamiliar with the word, it is an anthropological term, coming from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”. The concept is easy enough to grasp; it’s that strange moment in between two boundaries, the transition between one stage and another. It’s a point of ritual, a rite of passage that is both poignant and ambiguous.
It can include initiation into a group, like a wedding… or a transition in one’s life, such as achieving a puberty… or moving to a new location or situation.
Of course, liminality can be found in the ancient world…. Whether over the literal threshold of the Delphic Oracle (of which today’s mailbag responses pertain to), the sacred acts of the numerous mystery cults, or interwoven again and again in the mythology.
The epic tale of Cupid and Psyche, for instance, is a classic example of liminality in myth.
Psyche, both too beautiful to be human and yet not quite a goddess, proves her very existence is liminal. Her marriage to Death in Apuleius’ version makes her no longer a maiden, yet not quite a wife. Moreover, she resides between worlds… and then her transition to immortality to live with Cupid serves as a liminal rite of passage. She shifts from mortal to immortal, human to goddess, when Psyche drinks the ambrosia and seals her fate.
The rite is completed and the tale ends with a joyous wedding and the birth of Cupid and Psyche’s daughter… a rare example of a happily ever after Greek myth!
Liminality can also simply reflect the passage of time.
The dawn and the dusk… birthdays…. New Year’s Eve.
It is the latter one, which may be the most astounding of all… because no other liminal stage is felt by so many at the same time. Within one 24 hour period, literally billions mark the moment of one year becoming the next. Even in cultures that traditionally did not follow the Gregorian calendar now light up their buildings with fireworks in massive international cohesive effort.
What do we do with this liminal moment? It is a time to reflect, to plan, to remember and to visualize.
And so with this contemplative stream of thought, we ask this week’s mailbag question, dear reader:
What have we learned in 2020? And how do we plan for 2021? Both as individuals and as a collective community…
As always you can write me directly at [email protected] or comment below.
A quick word before we get into today’s responses, please note that those wishing to partake in the Essential Greeks 2021 program, the course will begin SUNDAY, January 17th. Our welcome webinar will commence at noon EST (eastern standard time, US).
Also, we are offering the Early bird special for a few days more – so if you are interested, take advantage and get $100 off the total price!