Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Beyond the Fields We Know (V)


Waking, sleeping and dreaming are liminal activities, and the very act of breathing may be construed as liminal. Spirals, labyrinths, mazes, tors, mounds, stone circles, groves and sacred enclosures are liminal spaces opening into other realities and other modes of being and thinking — as are winding woodland trails, oak stands, clear streams and mountains (I find myself thinking of the Queen Mother of the West and the mythical Peach Blossom Spring here.).

We each approach the liminal in our own way and our own time, and the lens through which we filter our liminal experiences is a unique and very personal thing. For some of us, the gateway lies through church services and collective ceremonies — for others it is private prayer, meditation and silence — for still others, the way is through loving observation of the natural world, personal ritual, carefully crafted rites of passage and the old seasonal festivals. Sunrise, noon, twilight and midnight are liminal times of day when according to ancient lore, divination and magic could be worked by those skilled in such arts — such times would have been fearful and vulnerable intervals for those without magical gifts or the protections of the Craft. The old fire festivals of the Celts are perhaps the most powerful threshold times of all, for the four feasts of Samhain (Halloween), Imbolc (Candlemas), Beltane (May Day) and Lammas (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.

Life is full of thresholds or liminal spaces, and I sometimes wonder how many we pass by every day without recognizing them or realizing what adventures or enlightenment await us, in Lord Dunsany's words, "beyond the fields we know".

Ours is a winding trail holding wonders and surprises, and whether or not we realize it, we all encounter liminal spaces from time to time. We need such places in our mundane lives in order to survive and evolve, to become authentic beings and exercise the creativity which is the Old Wild Mother's shining gift to us. Liminal spaces 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.

From time to time, I encounter the liminal in art, meditation and stillness, in the flowing movements of Tai Chi and yoga, in smouldering sticks of nag champa incense, in deep twilight and the shapes of trees, in strong coffee and the keyboard sonatas of Scarlatti, in winter days in the shire when the air is so hushed that one can actually hear the snow falling in the trees, in loons (anywhere, anytime) and walks through the oak woods in late autumn, in the creaking timbers of old log barns, in wood smoke, in dark chocolate, in good brandy and the fragrances of bergamot, violets, lavender and rosewood.


This is the fifth and last part of a rambling article on liminal space which was posted here over the last few months. The earlier parts are indexed below.

Part I, April 2006
Part II, May 2006
Part III, June 2006
Part IV, August 2006


Endment said...

The light --- oh the light!

How I am drawn to the light - especially the light as it sifts through the trees

Lil said...

"Liminal spaces 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."

So very true...lately, I've been finding those spaces as I watch my daughter gaze and inhale the world around her. I can't help but stare at her features when she's unaware...and see our world through her eyes. It's wonderuous, it's alive...it's as though it's there merely to bring bliss into her life.