This is our holy place
As it was for those who came before
A threshold between both Sky and Land
A threshold between Land and Sea
And between Life and Death
This is our sacred place
by Brian Terry
If there is a theme present in modern witchcraft, it can be summarized as liminality. The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning “a threshold.” In modern witchcraft, this applies to the importance of a threshold in rituals, bewitchment, spellwork, and holding sacred space between worlds.
Witches themselves have always been considered liminal figures. In fact, many stories of witches portray them as living on a “threshold” of sorts. In the Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, the so called witch lives on the bank of a pond which frequently floods her small cottage. The transition between land and water is seen as a liminal place. In other stories the witch lives on the outskirts of town, or near the boundary of a wood. This depiction symbolizes the liminal state that a modern witch may enter during trancework, an altered state of consciousness. It also parallels the in-betweeness that is a common theme or practice in modern witchcraft.
Some of these practices may include, initiatory rites, walking through symbolic
doors, invoking spirits to aid the practitioner, cross-roads magic, and walking between worlds. Even the eight Sabbats contain transitory energy as the sun appears to wax and wane in the Earth’s journey through the year, and the door to the Otherworld is left ajar at specific times; Samhain, Beltane, and Midsummer. Other liminal places include, fences or hedges which create a boundary, the ford in a river, entering a fog, the beach where the water meets the shore, dawn or dusk, or even that transitory state between sleeping and waking. In all of these a change occurs and a threshold crossed.
The magic circle can also be considered a liminal space. It serves as a protective space against malevolent spirits, a space where magic can build and be focused, as well as, a space between realms; a space betwixt worlds where there is no time. It also acts as a psychological aid which puts one in the right mindset for the ritual. Whichever way you perceive the magic circle, it is definitely a shift from everyday conscientiousness. This shift can be subtle or a very profound one. In any case, the circle allows for much creativity and freedom from the ordinary within the confines of its magical space.
Liminal spaces and places are borders of the mind and of magical realms. They are neither here nor there but powerful inbetween places betwixt time and space. They are boundaries and edges, and thresholds of magic and enlightenment.
featured photo: Massimiliano Morosinotto
supporting photos:Annie Spratt