If you have ever travelled on the London underground (train system), and especially waited at stations built on the curve of the track, you are more than likely to have heard a periodic announcement as the train pulled in: ‘Mind the gap’.
Such an announcement, encourages due care and attention, lest anyone miss their footing and partially slip, unintentionally, into the gap between the safety of the platform, and the huge and powerful train!
The ‘gap’, then, is an interesting concept, and as regards the ‘gap’ known in deep spirituality, it is a theme well-know to ancient and latter-day Celts and those of other faiths, especially but not only those ancient and/or nature-based faiths, such as my wican, and pagan friends, and fellow-druids etc.
To many, today, that understanding of the ‘gap’ is known as liminality or liminal space – from the latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold.
‘I looked for someone among them who would…stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…’. Ezekiel 22.30a (part), The Book
If you’re standing outside your house, for instance, you’re obviously outside. And, once inside your house, you’re obviously inside. But, you need to move through the doorway, walk across that front step, over the threshold, and that’s the limen; that’s what liminality is all about – partially in, partially out!
The limen or liminal space, then, is that glorious ‘in-between-ness’, and from a spiritual point of view, is one filled with power and potential, and where elements of the mundane and spiritual mingle. It’s from there that we can benefit.
It’s a place that some want to inhabit (occasionally), but some don’t. I’m assuming you do, so I’ll carry on writing. What follows is a brief introduction to liminal space.
The liminal can be encountered accidentally as we journey through life, but also intentionally, and in various ways. For instance:
Accidental Or Planned?
I live not far from Capel Curig in north Wales, and a fifteen minute drive from where I live is a wonderful family-owned bakery. I hadn’t been there for some time (as my ministry takes me far and wide), but upon entering the bakery I immediately happenchanced upon the wonderful aroma of bread being baked.
Immediately, in my mind and memory, I was transported back many years to when I was a small child and would visit my grandmother. She always seems to be baking fresh bread over the open fire, and the smell was absolutely gorgeous. It enveloped you as you walked into her house, in a sort of ‘aromatic hug’. Invitational.
Smell, it seems, can be liminal and transport us in our memory to re-experience wonderful and deep moments. It only lasted a few seconds, and I was ‘jolted’ back into ‘the present’, by the female baker asking me, ‘And what can I do for you, love?’. An accidental liminal encounter! (Though I like to think even these things are more than accidents in the grand scheme of things. Maybe planned by the Other?)
I had the privilege of conducting a number of hand-fasting ceremonies recently, and one only a couple of weeks ago. During part of the open-air ceremony the couple exchanged vows as they held each other’s hands, and I concluded with a prayer, wrapping cords around the couples’ clasped hands, and finally draping the stole I was wearing (or rather the end of it) over their hands.
At that point it was as if time stood still. In their garden, the air temperature seemed to drop ever so slightly, local noise (the coughs, joyful crying, babies gurgling etc) seemed muffled and yet birdsong could be heard in the distance; and it was as if there was an increase of ozone, that kind of ‘electric’-on-the-skin feeling, that one experiences from an approaching storm, and it filled the air. We were, and there was no doubt in my mind, ushered into liminal space – that space of power and potential, and where things happen, where we can encounter the Source in a profound way.
Some who attended, came up to me afterward, and asked what had happened. For many of them, it was an unknown but a most welcome experience. It was an intentional encounter of the liminal kind!
Yes, encountering the liminal can be by ‘chance’ or by intention.
Ways To Encounter!
It can be encountered in various ways. For instance: At the baker’s, mentioned above, it was smell; and part of my work is ushering discerning men and women into liminal space for healing, growth, meditation, transformation, house-cleansing especially and more, involving herbalism, especially of the aromatic kind, or the use of power-rocks ie intentionality.
‘…even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him [Paul] were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured…’. Acts 19.12 (part), The Book
As mentioned, I lead various ceremonies, and ritual and liturgy, because what we do and say can open us up to liminal space, and allow us to step into that ‘mid-space’ by moving over the ‘door step’.
Ofcourse, if ritual and liturgy are just done without thinking then little is achieved. But, if time and reverence is given to the event, and there is intentionality, then things happen and we are ushered into liminal space, that glorious ‘inbetween-ness’.
This is interesting to note when celebrating the Caim (intercessory) prayer – and more will be said about that in the coming days
‘There are things known, and things unknown, and in between are the Doors’. Aldous Huxley
Ofcourse, there are a myriad of other ways to access that threshold. For some it may be poetry, for others it may be music or spiritual writing, an awesome sight etc. And, the depth at which people ‘surrender’ varies. Some may only skate upon the surface, maybe fearing to go too deep. Others surrender to the experience completely, and reap the benefits.
‘The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless’. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Another part of my ministry is to usher people into liminal space and utilise the imagination by creative visualisation/active imagination, wherever they are.
Many often believe that the imagination is not real and not useful – advertisers and others know differently. Whatever we do starts with a thought that comes from afar; we allow it to mull around in our imagination or the imaginal realm as many call it; and it slowly ‘solidifies’ and becomes an physical action, though intentionality.
And so, I work with clients, moving them into that imaginal realm of power and potential, where they can encounter….well, they can encounter whatever they can imagine: archetypes, angels, their Companion or the Friend, the Source etc, maybe imagining exotic and beneficial locations to obtain answers, healing, growth, transformation etc in a wonderful ‘inner’ adventure.
Maybe these are metaphors for things so deep our words fail us, but symbolism in the imaginal realm can take us further? Maybe, it’s for that reason that much inspiration, contact with the Other etc is mediated through dreams and the imagination?
‘The man who has no imagination has no wings’. Muhammad Ali
It is in that liminal space, that the gap between the mundane and the Other, that things happen – power and potential, and awesome encounters take place.
Accidentally or intentionally you can enter liminal space; you can ‘fly’ and, you can benefit.
PS: Over the next few days, we’ll return to the theme of liminal space, and look at its various stages, examples of how it can be utilised by you or for others, and how it can be expressed (in liturgy, ritual, mediation, visualisation etc).
Do contact me regarding liminal space. Part of my work as an anamcara [gaelic/Celtic for ‘soul friend’] is to work with discerning men and women who want to obtain answers to questions, discover more (about themselves), grow, mature and/or be transformed though creative visualisation/active imagination as a ‘vehicle’ to be ushered into liminal space via the imaginal realm, and/or who would like to enquire about a ceremony, herbalism etc – all forms of liminality..