Victor Turner said of the betwixt-and-between (where one is likely to experience marginalized feelings during this Transition stage of a Rite of Passage) that one is caught up, as it were, within a Liminal Zone—like a limbo or purgatory—which Turner describes as Anti-Structure. You have left the settled life of being part of the Structure of a society to enter into this no-persons land. You have stripped away or have had stripped away much of your former identity (this point is for my sister to read re. her recent dream of identity loss; Hi, Lee!). You have obstacles to face in your Descent as you pass through the Forbidden territory of Anti-Structure, before you can (with your successful passage) re-enter Structure but in a new role and status based on the transformation of your consciousness and personhood you will have attained during this important, meaningful Transition. There is usually a role model or Guide to lead you through this stage; s/he has been where you are aiming to go and has achieved the new status/ level of consciousness you seek to attain with your Quest. Your Guide will help you so far as you need, or ask.
Liminality is such an important stage for anyone (or group) seeking to bring about a positive, transformational adjustment in order to realize a deeply beneficial goal, that I want to share more examples here for you to ponder in their possible relation to your own contemplated, desired changes.
Hiawatha and the League of the Iroquois (A Whole-Society Revitalization)
Hiawatha has lost his wife and three daughters, who were murdered by a chief of his own village during a blood feud among the Iroquois tribes and other regional tribes. He wanders in the woods, desolate and alone. Some say he develops cannibalistic (Windigo-like) thoughts which he despises in himself.
Hiawatha, either from a boat looking into the waters or in a cabin looking in a pot of water, sees a figure—a god, as he is called—named Deganawidah, looking back at him. This figure—some say a real man with a speech impediment also in the woods—conveys to Hiawatha a Condolence Ritual to help him and his peoples grieve their losses, and he imparts guidelines for a new political confederacy, an alliance of the member tribes: the League of the Iroquois. Six tribes eventually joined this League, which still has relevance today. They put aside their internal fighting and agreed to select lifelong delegates (sachems), installed by the Clan Mothers, who would adjudicate disputes. Greater peace, and strength, ensued for many generations to follow.
Lost Horizon (A Personal Calling and Realization of True Potential)
Robert Conway and a small crew of allies (unknowingly hand-picked) are hijacked when a small plane leaving China-controlled Tibet (in the post-WWII era) suspiciously crash lands in the deep snows of the Himalayas. Porters carrying just the right-sized and number of coats appear and the porters escort Conway’s group through a difficult passage in the Himalayas over several days. Eventually they round a bend and see the spectacular, verdant and temperate valley where the Abbot and staff of the amazing Temple of Shangri-La welcome them.
Conway comes to understand after meeting with the aged Abbot that he has been called to replace this spiritual giant when he (soon to be) passes. Yet he has to reach a degree of faith in the validity of this calling and of the purpose of Shangri-La itself in both a world-beneficial and personal sense. He escorts his cynical brother away from the Temple when his brother nearly convinces him Temple staff have been lying, but once his brother dies in an avalanche and the woman who claimed she was not protected from aging at the Valley suddenly ages and dies, Conway develops but one core ambition: to return to Shangri-La even after he returns briefly to the US. Following another arduous adventure and crossing (a Second Threshold), Conway returns to Shangri-La to return to the woman there he had fallen in love with and to assume his unselfish, divinely inspired role.
Star Wars Episode 5: Return of the Jedi (Spiritual Warrior Training and Transformation of Consciousness)
A name that you all recognize: Yoda. Luke Skywalker departs (separates) from his compatriot rebels to find this Jedi Master so he can train to become a Jedi Knight, “like his father before him.” Luke’s training has all the character of a Liminal Passage. He feels frustrated and powerless at first, doubting his own abilities and doubting the veracity of Yoda’s capabilities as a Teacher. Yoda shows patience with young Luke and reveals his own strengths only as needed, asking the Acolyte to work at self-mastery instead of relying on his master’s techniques. When Yoda sends Luke into the mysterious, swampy domain where he will meet his own negative side in the form of Darth Vader (his Dark Father nature, after all), Luke disregards Master Yoda’s suggestion that he leave his light saber behind. Luke ends up defeating only himself by allowing his fear and anger to lead him to confront the image of Vader therein, a lesson very important for Luke to learn.
Luke gains Jedi skills from Yoda, yet he has more to learn in the forge of experience as the saga continues. He returns to the fields of battle to save his friends and to serve the Rebellion as best he is able.
To conclude this reflection on Liminal Passages, consider their role in your personal Life Story. The more deeply the Liminal Zone is entered into and absorbed, the greater the transformation of consciousness that may occur and with that, the greater the benefits may radiate out from the Hero(ine) to the Whole and its values they are pledged to defend and uphold. The Hero is a Role Model for those s/he serves and hence can become a guide or Teacher for other Acolytes.
images are from pixabay.com
And so the Great Cycle continues, life after life, purpose after purpose. What is YOUR PURPOSE for being Here? What strengths can you develop to be of greatest value to the Whole?
I welcome YOUR Comments and STORY!
I think every transition in life has a liminal passage–kid to adult; graduations; marriages; becoming a parent; going through the change; children leaving home; and ultimately death. In my Masters Program for Mental Health Counseling our Professor pointed out that most movies are about transitions. They are interesting and difficult and seldom do any of us do them well. Thank you for sharing some awesome iconic liminal passages. This helps put our own into perspective. My recent transition is “the change.” The physical changes aren’t fun but the mental ones, I believe, are the real challenge. Basically, facing growing old.
Excellent Wanda. Aging gracefully is certainly a great opportunity to brand and change. You remind me of Robert Frost’ s poem “Birches”…
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I’m going to have to re-read that poem. I love Robert Frost!