Liminal is defined as:
“Of or pertaining to the threshold or initial stage of a process.”
In anthropology, liminality is defined as:
“the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete.”
Liminal is derived from the Latin “limen,” which means “threshold”—that is, the bottom part of a doorway that must be crossed when entering through a door, room or building. A threshold is a gateway so to speak. A gateway from what is known to what is unknown.
Everything in life has a liminal period, a middle point, a threshold one must cross.
In Christianity, life could be seen as the liminal period and through death one reconnects with God in Heaven and that would be the re-assimilation phase. A liminal period could be seen as limbo – the state in between.
When one has to make a choice, that moment when you are hanging between your options, unsure, could be considered a liminal period. This period does not have to be something tangible such as a stone threshold separating one room from another but it can be invisible. It can be a moment in time, a thought, or a period of life. Falling, literally or metaphorically would be a liminal period. The moment of separation would be you and that which you are falling off of. The liminal period would be the falling phase through the air, and the re-assimilation period would be when you become grounded again reaching something solid. It could be from skydiving to falling in love but I believe there is a liminal period in everything in life, for life is constantly changing and forever moving.
Van Gennep described rites of passage such as coming-of-age rituals and marriage as having the following three-part structure:
- liminal period
The transitional or liminal stage. He notes that “the subject of passage ritual is, in the liminal period, structurally, if not physically, ‘invisible’”.