Turner – Betwixt & Between

Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites de Passage

by Victor Turner

[ Turner, Victor. 1970. “Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Ritesde Passage” in The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual, Cornell University Press]

Points & Quotes:

Rites de Passage … indicate and constitute transitions between states. By “state” I mean here “a relatively fixed or stable condition” and would include in its meaning such social constancies as legal status, profes­sion, office or calling, rank or degree. I hold it to designate also the condition of a person as determined by his culturally recognized degree of maturation as when one speaks of “the married or single state” or the “state of infancy.” (93)

“Van Gennep has shown that all rites of transition are marked by three phases: separation, margin (or limen), and aggregation.

  1. The first phase of separation comprises symbolic behavior signifying the detachment of the individual or group either from an earlier fixed point in the social structure or a set of cultural conditions (a “state”);
  2. during the intervening liminal period, the state of the ritual subject (the “passenger”) is ambiguous; he passes through a realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state;
  3. in the third phase the passage is consummated. The ritual subject, individual or corporate, is in a stable state once more and, by virtue of this, has rights and obligations of a clearly defined and “structural” type, and is expected to behave in accordance with certain customary norms and ethical standards.” (94, formatting added)

“The subject of passage ritual is, in the liminal period, structurally, if not physically, “invisible.” As members of society, most of us see only what we expect to see, and what we expect to see is what we are conditioned to see when we have learned the definitions and classifications of our culture.
[…] The structural “invisibility” of liminal personae has a twofold character. They are at once no longer classified and not yet classified.” (95-96)

“Often the indigenous term for the liminal period is, as among Ndembu, the locative form of a noun meaning “seclusion site” (kunkunka, kung´ula). The neophytes are sometimes said to “be in another place.” They have physical but not social “reality,” hence they have to be hidden, since it is a paradox, a scandal, to see what ought not to be there! Where they are not removed to a sacred place of concealment they are often disguised, in masks or grotesque costumes or striped with white, red, or black clay, and the like.” (98)

College as Liminal Period/Space

“I have no need here to dwell on the lifelong ties that are held to bind in close friendship those initiated into the same age-set in East African Nila-Hamitic and Bantu societies, into the same fraternity or sorority on an American campus, or into the same class in a Naval or Military Academy in Western Europe.” (101)

“The arcane knowledge or “gnosis” obtained in the liminal period is felt to change the inmost nature of the neophyte, impressing him, as a seal impresses wax, with the characteristics of his new state. It is not a mere acquisition of knowledge, but a change in being.” (102)

“neophytes are withdrawn from their structural positions and consequently from the values, norms, sentiments, and techniques associated with those positions. They are also divested of their previous habits of thought, feeling, and action. During the liminal period, neophytes are alternately forced and encouraged to think about their society, their cosmos, and the powers that generate and sustain them. Liminality may be partly described as a stage of reflection.” (105)

“But this liberty has fairly narrow limits. The neophytes return to secular society with more alert faculties perhaps and enhanced knowledge of how things work, but they have to become once more subject to custom and law.” (106)

The point, very simply put:

  • in bullet points

Terms:

Term—definition

Annotation Summary for Title of Work

Page 1 (1), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites de Passage*”

Page 1 (1), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “this paper, I wish to consider some of the sociocultural properties of the “liminal perfod” in that class of rituals which Arnold van Cennep as “rites de passage.” has definitively characterized”

Page 1 (1), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “IN this paper, I wish to consider some of the sociocultural properties ofthe “liminal perfod” in that class of rituals which Arnold van Cennep has definitively characterized as “rites de passage.””

Page 1 (1), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “” If our basic model of society is that of a “structure of positions,” we must regard the period of margin or “liminality” as an interstructural situation. I shall consider, notably in the case of initiation rites, some of the main features of instruction among the simpler societies. I shall also takenote of certain symbolic themes that concretely express indigenous concepts about the nature of “interstructural” human beings. “

Page 1 (1), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Rites de passage”

Page 1 (1), Underline (Blue):
Content: “Rites de passage are”

Page 1 (1), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” indicate and constitute transitions between states. By”state” I mean here “a relatively Jixed or stable condition” and would include in its meaning such social constancies as legal status, profes­sion, office or calling, rank or degree.”

Page 1 (1), Underline (Blue):
Content: “indicate and constitute transitions between states. By “state” I mean here “a relatively Jixed or stable condition” and would include in its meaning such social constancies as legal status, profes­ sion, office or calling, rank or degree. 1 hold it to designate also tl1econdition of a person as determined by his cultura1Jy recognized degree of maturation as when one speaks of “the married or single st ate II or tl 1.e ” state o f . f m ancy. “”

Page 1 (1), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” 1 hold it to designate also tl1econdition of a person as determined by his cultura1Jy recognized degree of maturation as when one speaks of “the married or single st ate II or tl 1.e ” state o f . f m ancy. “”

Page 2 (2), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Van Gennep has shown that allrites of transition are marked by three phases: separation, margin (or linien), and aggregation. “

Page 2 (2), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “on. The first phase of separation comprises symbolic behavior signifying the detacl1ment of the individual or group either from an earlier fixed point in the social structure or a set of cultural conditions (a “state”); during the intervening liminaJ pe­ riod, the state of the ritual subject (the “passenger”) is ambiguous; he passes through a realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state; in the third phase the passage is consummated. The ritual subject, individual or corpoi:ate, is in a stable state once more and, by virtue of this, has rights and obHgations of a clearlydefined and “structural” type, and is expected to behave in accordance with certain customary norms and ethical standards.”

Page 2 (2), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “These are the important times of birth, puberty, marriage, and death.””

Page 3 (3), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” They may admit persons into member­ship of a religious group where such a group does not include the whole society, or qualify them for the official duties of the cult, sometimes in a graded series of rites. “

Page 3 (3), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I shall pay only brief heed here to rites of separation and aggregation, since these aremore closely implicated in social structure than rites of liminality. “

Page 3 (3), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The subject of passage ritual is, in the liminal period, structurally, if not physically, “invisible.” As members of society, most of us see only what we expect to see, and what we expect to see is what we are conditioned to see when we have learned the definitions and classifica­ tions of our culture.”

Page 3 (3), Underline (Blue):
Content: “The subject of passage ritual is, in the liminal period, structurally, if not physically, “invisible.” As members of society, most of us see only what we expect to see, and what we expect to see is what we are conditioned to see when we have learned the definitions and classifica­ tions of our culture.”

Page 3 (3), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A society’s secular definitions do not allow for the existence of a not-boy-not-man, which is what a novice in a male puberty rite is (if he can be said to be anything).”

Page 4 (4), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The symbolism attached to and surrounding the liminal persona is complex and bizarre.”

Page 4 (4), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The structural “invisibility” of liminal personae has a twofold character. They are at once no longer classified and not yet classified.”

Page 4 (4), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” In so far as they are no longer classified, the symbols that represent them are, in many societies, drawn from the biology of death, decomposition, ca­tabolism, and other physical processes that have a negative tinge, such as menstruation (frequently regarded as the absence or loss of a fetus). “

Page 4 (4), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The other aspect, that they are not yet classified, is often expressed in symbols modeled on processes of gestation and parturition. The neophytes are likened to or treated as embryos, newborn infants, or sucklings by symbolic means which vary from culture to culture.”

Page 4 (4), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The essential feature of these symbolizations is that the neophytes”

Page 5 (5), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “neither living nor dead &om one aspect, and both living and dead S!ern another. Their condition is one of ambiguity and paradox, a ~,::fusion of all the customary categories”

Page 5 (5), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Dr. Mary Douglas, of University College, Lond~n, has recently advanced (in a magnificent book Purity and Danger [1966]) the very interesting and illuminating view that the concept of pollution “is a reaction to protect cherished principles and categories from contradiction.” She holds that, in effect, what is unclear and contra­ dictory (from the perspective of social definition) tends to be regarded as (ritually) unclean. The unclear is the unclean: e.g., she examines the prohibitions on eating certain animals and crustaceans in Levit­ icus in the light of this hypothesis (these being creatures that cannot be unambiguously classified in terms of traditional criteria). From this standpoint, one would expect to find that transitional beings are particularly polluting, since they are neither one thing nor another; or may be both; or neither here nor there; or may even be nowhere (in terms of any recognized cultural topography), and are at the very least “betwixt and between” all the recognized fixed points in space­ time of structural classification. In fact, in confirmation of Dr. Doug­ las’s hypothesis, liminal personae nearly always and everywhere are regarded as polluting to those who have never been, so to speak, “inoculated” against them, through having been themselves initiated into the same state. I think that we may perhaps usefully discriminate here between the statics and dynamics of pollution situations. In other words, we may have to distinguish between pollution notions which concern states that have been ambiguously or contradictorily defined, and those which derive from ritualized transitions between states. In the first cq5e, we are dealing with what has been defectively defined or ordered, in the second with what cannot be defined in “

Page 5 (5), Underline (Magenta):
Content: “Dr. Mary Douglas, of University College, Lond~n, has recently advanced (in a magnificent book Purity and Danger [1966]) the very interesting and illuminating view that the concept of pollution “is a reaction to protect cherished principles and categories from contradiction.” She holds that, in effect, what is unclear and contra­ dictory (from the perspective of social definition) tends to be regarded as (ritually) unclean. The unclear is the unclean: e.g., she examines the prohibitions on eating certain animals and crustaceans in Levit­ icus in the light of this hypothesis (these being creatures that cannot be unambiguously classified in terms of traditional criteria). From this standpoint, one would expect to find that transitional beings are particularly polluting, since they are neither one thing nor another; or may be both; or neither here nor there; or may even be nowhere (in terms of any recognized cultural topography), and are at the very least “betwixt and between” all the recognized fixed points in space­ time of structural classification. In fact, in confirmation of Dr. Doug­ las’s hypothesis, liminal personae nearly always and everywhere are regarded as polluting to those who have never been, so to speak, “inoculated” against them, through having been themselves initiated into the same state. I think that we may perhaps usefully discriminate here between the statics and dynamics of pollution situations. In other words, we may have to distinguish between pollution notions which concern states that have been ambiguously or contradictorily defined, and those which derive from ritualized transitions between states. In the first cq5e, we are dealing with what has been defectively defined or ordered, in the second with what cannot be defined in “

Page 6 (6), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Often the indigenous term for the liminal period is, as among Ndembu, the locative form of a noun meaning “seclusion site” (kwn­bmka, 1mng’iila). The neophyte.,; are sometimes said to “be in an­otl1er place.” They have physical but not social “reality,” hence they have to be hidden, ince it is a paradox, a scandal, to see what ought not to be there! Where they are not removed to a sacred place of concealment they are often disguised, in masks or grotesque costumesor striped with white, red, or black clay, and the }jke. “

Page 6 (6), Note (Orange):
Matter of of place?

Page 6 (6), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A further structurally negative characteristic of transitional beingsis that they have nothing. They have no status, property, insignia, secular clothing, rank, kinship position, nothing to demarcate them “

Page 7 (7), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “structurally from their fellows. Theirprototype of sacred poverty. “

Page 7 (7), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Their condition is indeed the very”

Page 8 (8), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The liminal group is a community or comity ofcomrades and not a structure of hierarchically arrayed positions. This comradeship transcends distinctions of rank, age, kinship position, and, in some kinds of cultic group, even of sex. Much of the behavior recorded by ethnographers in seclusion situations falls under the “

Page 9 (9), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “rindple: “Each for al}, and all for each.” Among the Ndembu of ~ambia, for example, al1 food brought for novices in circumcisioneclusion by their mothers is shared out equally among them. No :pecial favors are bestowed on the sons of chiefs or headmen”

Page 9 (9), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I have no need here to dwell on the lifelong ties that are held to bind in close friendship those initiated into the same age-set in East African Nila-Hamitic and Bantu societies, intothe same fraternity or sorority on an American cafnpus, or into the same class in a Naval or Military Academy in Western Europe. “

Page 9 (9), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The passivity of neophytes to their instructors, their malleability, which is increased by submission to ordeal, their reduction to a uni­ form condition, are signs of the process whereby they are ground down to be fashioned anew and endowed with additional powers tocope with their new station in life.”

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” The arcane knowledgeor “gnosis” obtained in the liminal period is felt to change the inmost nature of the neophyte, impressing him, as a seal impresses wax, with the characteristics of his new state. It is not a mere acquisition of knowledge, but a change in being.”

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The structural simplicity of the liminal situation in many initia­tions in offset by its cultural complexity. I can touch on only oneaspect of this vast subject matter here and raise three problems in connection with it.This aspect is the vital one of the communication of the sacra, the heart of the liminal matter. “

Page 10 (10), Underline (Blue):
Content: “Jane Harrison has shown that in the Greek Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries this communication of the sacra has three main components ( 1903, 144-160). By and large, this threefold classification holds good for initiation rites all over the world. Sacra may be communi­ cated as: (1) exhibitions, “what is shown”; (2) actions, “what is done”; and (3) instructions, “what is said.” “

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “communication of the sacra has three main components”

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “By and large, this threefold classification holds good for initiation rites all over the world. Sacra may be communi­ cated as: (1) exhibitions, “what is shown”; (2) actions, “what is done”; and (3) instructions, “what is said.””

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Yellow):
Content: “Sacra”

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “”Exhibitions” would include evocatory instruments or sacred ar­ticles, such as relics of deities, heroes or ancestors, aboriginal chur­ingas, sacred drums or other musical instruments, the contents of Amerindian medicine bundles, and the fan, cist and tympanum of Greek and Near Eastern mystery cults. I”

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Other sacra includeimages, figurines, and effigies; the pottery emblems “

Page 10 (10), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “include masks,”

Page 11 (11), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A striking feature of sud1 sacred articles is often the ir formal simplicity. It is their interpretation which is complex, not their outward form.”

Page 11 (11), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Among the “instructions” received by neophytes may be reckonedsuch matters as the revelation of the real, but secularly secret, names of the deities or spirits believed to preside over the rites-a very frequent procedure in African cultic or secret associations (Turn er 1962a, 36). They aie also taught the main outlines of the theogony, cosmogony, and mythical history of their societies or cults, usual ly with reference to the sacra exhibited. “

Page 11 (11), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” Great importance js attached tokeeping secret the nature of the sacra, the formulas chanted and instructions given about them. “

Page 13 (13), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In discussing the structural aspect of liminality, I mentioned how neophytes are withdrawn from their structural positions and conse­quently from the values, norms, sentiments, and techniques associated with those positions. They are also divested of their previous habits of thought, feeling, and action. “

Page 13 (13), Underline (Blue):
Content: “In discussing the structural aspect of liminality, I mentioned how neophytes are withdrawn from their structural positions and conse­quently from the values, norms, sentiments, and techniques associated with those positions. They are also divested of their previous habits of thought, feeling, and action. During the liminal period, neophytes are alternately forced and encouraged to think about their society, their cosmos, and the powers that generate and sustain them”

Page 13 (13), Note (Orange):
Anth 1002

Page 13 (13), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “During the liminal period, neophytes arealternately forced and encouraged to think about their society, their cosmos, and the powers that generate and sustain them. Liminality may be partly described as a stage of reflection.”

Page 14 (14), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “But this liberty has fairly narrow Hmits. The neophytes return to sec~lar society with more alert faculties perhaps and enhanced knowl­edge of how things work, but they have to become once more subject to custom and law. “

Page 18 (18), Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I end this study with an invitation to investigators of ritual to focus their attention on the phenomena and processes of mid-transition. It is these, I hold, that paradoxically expose the basic building blocks of culture just when we pass out of and before we re-enter the structural realm. In sacerrima and their interpretations we have categories ofdata that may usefully be handled by the new sophisticated tech­niques of cross-cultural comparison. “

Page 18 (18), Underline (Red):
Content: “Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge & KeganPaul. “

Page 18 (18), Underline (Red):
Content: “Gennep, A. van. 1960. The Rites of Passage. London: Kegan Paul. Routledge &”

Page 19 (19), Underline (Red):
Content: “Gluckman, Max. 1954. Rituals of Rebellion in South-East Africa. Man­ chester University Press.”

Page 19 (19), Underline (Red):
Content: “Turner, V. W. 1962. Chihamba, the White Spirit (Rhodes-LivingstonePaper 33). Manchester University Press. L. “

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