[Last Update: June 28th, 2018]
“In the Crosshatch”
Liminality & The Human Condition
Copyright © 2014 C.E. by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: April 14th, 2018]
Liminal space-time is one of the most surreal yet essential aspects of the human experience. It is a point of convergence between conflicting ideas such as sweven and consciousness, the material and the spiritual, the natural and the preternatural, much as the present is an ever-transient convergence between our pasts and futures. The paraphernalia may vary from culture to culture, though some elements stick out as particularly common: the pounding of the ritual drums, the churling wisps of fragrant incense, the ecstatic chanting and moaning of the participants often lead by a Witch or Witchess, poppets or other effigies representing various nature spirits, the old gods, or even the participants themselves; but one element remains constant -- the melting away of the veil between worlds, and the resultant eminence of a primitive, visceral, virgin reality that lies in the wake of the derived dichotomies we so frequently use to bind our perceptions within the easily delineated limits of intellectual comfort. Some call this the cross-hatch, or the dreaming, or the land of the shades; though the nomenclature varies, the names all evoke a sense of the liminal nature of an experience that lies at the core of what it means to be human. And while many in our modern, Western society never get to participate directly in this so essential component of the human experience, or experience only the poor, watered-down analogues offered to us by the more populous modern Western religions, some of us keep the spirit of the "primitive" religions alive in the West by reconnecting with a form of spirituality that was practiced before the invention of written language.
I. Immediate impression
As one steps over the threshold from the mundane world into the magical circle, one becomes phenomenally aware of the spiritual life-force indwelling all one sees, hears, smells, feels, and tastes. The trembling softness of the soil held up by the strength of the unmovable earth reminds of the awesome power and nurturing gentleness of our ancient Earth Mother. The playful coiling and unfurling of the rising incense smoke reminiscent of the dancing of air spirits that some of the ancient Western religions would call faeries or muses. The reverberations of the drum beat gripping one from within, shaking the soul from its sleep. The sequestered nature of the location freeing from the distractions of the mundane world. All serve to convey one to the sense of otherness that awaits deeper in the circle.
II. Animal inhabitants
The ominous presence of animals otherwise loath to venture too near mundane human activities speaks to the primeval naturalness of the event. At night the moonlit shades fill with ravens, owls, black cats, and others, hidden but for their nocturnal calls and the rubescent glow of the bonfire reflected almost imperceptibly in the haunting stare of their large eyes. By day, deer, butterflies, birds, and all manner of diurnal creature draw summoned by the unheard timber of the old gods' call to the beck of the sun-dappled grove where this most ancient of works is wrought. Wolves and coyotes howl under the twilit sky when the work takes place during the hours of dawn or dusk. Nature Herself relishes in the vitality of the celebration.
III. Human inhabitants
The human participants fall ecstatically into a frolicsome revelry that frees us from the strictures of the every-day and reconnects us to the natural world in a way that disturbs the modern Western sensibilities of the uninitiated. Divested of her clothing, a woman dances seductively ‘round the fire, rapt by the beating of drums that impel her to sway and twirl enticingly to their rhythm while wrapped in the coils of a great serpent, ancient, wise, and powerful, whose own lyric form reminisces the undulation of the music. Bards lose themselves in the delight lathed upon the surrounds by their music as they strum on their lutes, beat their drums, or play on their flutes. Functionaries bear cakes and wine, mead, or ale, whilst often a peace-pipe containing hemp, tobacco, opium, or some combination thereof is passed around. “Magic mushrooms” might also play a role. Priests and Priestesses of the old ways recite the words given them by the old gods in the old days. And ever there is a sense of brotherhood and/or sisterhood, of compassion, of love, of sensuality, and of a profound peace unattainable by other means.
The ritual location is a place where mythology comes alive, and where humans can re-connect with the spiritual realm of the primeval. The closest that the modern Western religions typically bring us to this combination of utter abandon and solemn appreciation comes in the form of tent revivals and snake-handlers, speaking in tongues and professing a form of faith disconnected from the limited rationalizing of the more “refined” model we in the modern West are typically acclimated to seeing adulterate our modern notions of spirituality. We’ve become sorrowfully disconnected from the raw, unrefined and unfettered spiritual experience of our most “primitive” ancestors and foreign contemporaries, and we all suffer in ways most us of haven’t even begun to comprehend as a result. Save for those few of us who still chase this elusive beauty.
I.c. Fate, Destiny, and Determinism
In Understanding Human Nature with Steven Pinker - Conversations with History (15:18), Steven Pinker states that “when people reconstruct their autobiographies, they're much too apt to impose a satisfying narrative arc on it and to have everything foreshadowed by early events.”
Humans are one of a small number of species that have evolved to relay information from one individual to the next (Crows are another, as are Howler Monkeys and possibly also cetaceans). We are in fact such specialized vocalizers that our communication is not only informational like Crows and Howler Monkeys, but has evolved to include vocalization for aesthetic purposes, like the communication of the passeriforms (excepting, oddly, Crows, whose communication seems strictly informational and utterly devoid of aesthatic affectations). We evolved story-telling: The conveyance of information presented in an aesthetically pleasing framework; it is probably no coincidence that the most enduring stories are epic poems which were originally recited against a backdrop of musical accompaniment. Due in part to the psychological conditioning of hearing these stories during our most impressionable ages, we have a natural desire to place our own life stories into aesthetically pleasing frameworks with sensible narrative structures. We want to believe in omens and portents because this gives narrative cohesion to the events in our lives. When in our youths we hear legends, myths, folktales and faerie-stories, tales of angels and demons and giants, this tricks our young minds into thinking that we should grow up to interract with such beings; many adults in the U.S. still have a nominal belief in angels just as belief in fair-folk is still common in Europe; Christians believe their own lives to be epic struggles for their immortal souls, with every action either pleasing Yahweh or benefiting Satan as a part of some test to determine their eternal fate, and that this is in-turn relevant to the ultimate fate of the universe as all of Yahweh's "saints" shall one day fight against Satan and his legions in the Apocalypse. Religion provides us with a means of making our own lives seem more epic.