Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Ramble - Threshold

The word threshold has been in use for many centuries, probably since early humankind worked out the algorithms of crop cultivation and storing food for leaner times. It comes to us through the Middle English threschold and the Old English threscold or threscwald from the Old Norse threskǫldr, all meaning the place where grain crops are threshed or trampled underfoot to separate the noble seed from husk and stem.

Mircea Eliade wrote of thresholds as potent mythic symbols and passages, corridors where passage from the profane to the sacred becomes possible. The philosopher Martin Heidegger described thresholds as joinings or spaces between two worlds: potent common or middle grounds which hold, join and separate two different realms, all at the same time. Thresholds are sacred places which form a boundary between what is "here" and what is "there", but they are, in themselves, neither here nor there. They are compelling places, and they can exert a powerful tug on the sensibilities. Every hero's journey or heroine's journey begins with a threshold, with a call to adventure: a breathtaking, serendipitous, watershed moment in which she or he discovers a threshold, responds to its eldritch music and steps across into another realm.

Thresholds have the power to open a cranny between this world and other realms, letting tumultuous otherworldly forces blow through. The ancients knew it, and they undertook special measures to secure their thresholds, carving protective sigils on door lintels, placing sprigs of rowan and Brigid's crosses in their doors, burying pins and needles under their hearth stones, sweeping and blessing their thresholds and mounting horseshoes overhead to keep the fey without. Sunrise, noon, twilight and midnight were thought to be thresholds when divination and magic could be worked by those skilled in such arts — such times would have been fearful for those without magical gifts or the protections of the Craft.

Sleeping, dreaming and awakening are threshold states, and so is the very act of breathing. Doors, windows, hearths, labyrinths, bridges and stone circles are thresholds opening into other modes of being and thinking — so are quiet woodland trails, secluded oak groves and springs. The old fire festivals of the Celts are perhaps the most powerful threshold times of all; the four feasts of Samhain (Halloween), Imbolc (Candlemas), Beltane (May Day) and Lugnasadh (Loaf Mass or First Harvest) fall at the times of the year when the veils between the worlds are thin and magic is indeed afoot in the great beyond.

Ours is a winding trail of wonders and surprises, and whether or not we realize it, we all encounter thresholds from time to time. We hear siren voices from beyond the threshold in our own unique key and tongue, and the lens through which we filter the experience is a very personal thing. Thresholds allow us to step out of the ordinary world for a while and into the rich realm of the archetypal, the strange and the creative. We need such places in our daily lives to grow and evolve, to become wild authentic beings and exercise the creativity which is our birthright.

In my own life, I encounter thresholds in art, books, photography and stillness, in lighted candles and incense, in deep twilight and the perfect shapes of trees, in strong coffee and the keyboard sonatas of Scarlatti, in winter days in the shire when the air is so still that one can hear snow falling among the trees, in herons and loons (anywhere, anytime) and walks through the oak woods in late autumn, in the creaking timbers of old log barns, wood smoke, dark chocolate, good cognac and the fragrances of bergamot, lavender and rosewood.

On cold October mornings, Spencer and I pause by our favorite hedgerow and stand for a while looking around. This is my beautiful boy's third autumn with us, and he loves every raven, dancing leaf and gust of wind. For him, each is a threshold, an adventure, a doorway into wonder and enchantment. Walking through this burnished autumn together, we sense wild forces in motion on the trail ahead of us — there is a cranny between here and there, and trickster forces are blowing though it like a brash inviting wind. It's good to be here and alive, and we simply would not be anywhere else.

Is this a Samhain or Halloween ramble? Definitely...

5 comments:

One Woman's Journey said...

Beautiful image - as I read "In my own life, I encounter thresholds". This early morning I smile - because almost all of these are this One Woman.
The scents you mentioned - it seems they have drifted miles to my woods. I burn incense in the cooler weather and this was a reminder to start this early morning. Lavender helps me to sleep many a night. Have a peaceful weekend.

KViz said...

I hope you continue to ramble...endlessly.
Your beautiful thoughts and pictures make my day. Thank you!

the wild magnolia said...

I experienced a great autumn delight reading your words today. A good word study perks me up every time.

Ramble on, dear one.

sending hugs, magnolia

Sonia said...

what a beautiful rambling- thank you so much for awakening me to the thresholds in my world. Have a good Samhain.

Angie said...

We have never met, physically, yet you write the words from my heart and soul. Thresholds.....I'm so grateful that you are there.