From ArticleWorld

Liminality, from the Latin līmen, for threshold, is glossed as the ritual state of being 'betwixt and between'. Participants are isolated from the rest of the community and then must undergo physical tests or together ingest hallucinogenic substances. On their 'return', they are considered to be changed, and their new selves are re-integrated into society. For example, they may now belong to the adult community, or the warrior group. The time in between, while they were experiencing the ritual and its effects, is the 'liminal' period. Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner have written extensively about ritually-induced liminal stages, and their importance as transition phases from childhood to adulthood, or full-belonging to a tribe or group. Liminal stages are often seen as times when normal rules and structures are inverted or totally flouted. It can be acceptable to do things in a liminal stage but never at any other time. Some people see Carnival as a liminal activity.


While emerging from liminality or a liminal condition marks people permanently, Turner writes that an equally significant part of rituals involving liminality is a phenomenon that he termed communitas. Anthropologists often observe that during the liminal stage of an initiation rite or other ritual, normal social divisions are discarded. There is no hierarchy, and all are participate in the ritual as equal human beings. This is often observed in relatively less formal 'rituals', such as pilgrimages. Devotees are in transition between the stage of not being blessed, or cleansed, and the post-pilgrimage state of merit or grace, and it is common to interact and share with people from very different social strata.