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Liminal Rites of Life and Death I : a Hekatean View

When we speak of a Rite of Passage, we are talking about a rite that honours a crucial milestone on a person's life. We are speaking of birthing celebrations, decisive crossroads of growing out of infancy and into early adulthood with puberty, marriages, initiations, graduations, old age and death.



A Rite of Passage marks a liminar time of profound change, a place of transformation. A time of destruction of the old to make way for the new state of being.


It is a propylaia of rebirth as much as death, where both sides of the Ultimate Mystery conjoin. In a rite of passage, we completely embrace the change ahead and we accept it as a leap into the crossroads.


The liminar spaces are profoundly sacred to our Trimegista Hekate, whose power extends beyond the limits of the worlds as she rules as much in Earth as in Heavens, she is as much Ouranian as Cthonian and she holds power in the underworlds and the Oceans.


Her regency over these spaces, as much physical as esoteric, is evident in her most prominent symbols, one example being the mentioned crossroads.

On themselves are places of liminality as they divide the borders between cities and separate one road from another. In a spiritual sense they hold weight representing Hekate's hand as psychopomp. It is her ways that the spirits can "cross over", and they can represent the simbolic roads we take as her devotees, the journey our destiny holds for us.


We can attest to this in her role in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, that narrates in full Persephone's rapture. Hekate arrives, emerging from the cave she inhabits in the literal depts of the earth (again a liminar place) to help Demeter and aid the Mother Goddess in the journey to and from the Underworld.


Hekate's epithets Propylaia and Enodia will also identify her as a a Goddess who walks between the cosmic spheres at will since she guards the gates in the borders of the worlds, between life and death, and guides in the roads of Iniciatic knowledge. She is one of the few deities that holds this priviledge and power, firmly situating her as the ultimate Liminar Goddess and a "witch" Goddess by excellence.


The case for birth


As any living creature we go from being a spirit "in- utero", not yet aware of terrenal life, in a place that isn't a place, in a time we're not experiencing consciously.


Living but not entirely present in the world, we exist by pure sheer will of the spirit to inhabit temporarily the physical realm, breaking into the world, air in our lungs for the first time in a baptism by amniotic fluid and blood, we transition into being a fully incarnated creature, soul into flesh. It is in that first primordial shared scream for life, mother and child together, where the first Rite of Passage is trully performed. Where go from being an idea to be a tangible reality in ourselves.


There is a supreme power in witnessing the first breath of a creature that transcends for the first time the plane from etheral to material.


In the quiet of that first night when the world is asleep and the woman is vigilant, a profound metamorphosis is produced within her. She has passed from being a woman in a magical life, or even perhaps perfectly mundane, into being a microcosm of the Goddess, giver of life, Initiatrix into the spark of living universe and at the same time, is given the paramount initiation herself into being a mother and guardian, numinous nurse of the new life, a kourotrophos.


In this moment, our beloved Goddess is present, in this epithet herself, and would watch over that child's infancy and adolescense, guiding them, if not as a mother herself, then in an actively nursing matter. The welcoming ritual ceremony (namely a blessing of the child or "baptism", depending on your beliefs), when performed is deeply meaningful since it celebrates the miracle of new life, as much as it introduces and places the new member at the care of the familial numens, Ancestors, Deities, and Genius Loci of the land.


The child assumes their place in their new world among the spirits that surround the family, which will conform their personal horde of allies along thir lifetime. In my particular practice, the actual ceremony will take place on the next full moon after the child's birth. It consists in a mysteric ceremony as the birthing itself in which the parents and baby in their arms would go through a threshold lighted with candles symbolizing the emerging into light of the newborn, asking the blessing and recognizing of the Ancestors and the Spirits of the sacred land, and finally general merrymaking.


The case for death, in the next post



Originally published as an invited conference for the event of Pagan Pride 2021 hosted by Templo de la Diosa

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Your description of the case of birth let me relive the birth of my son, and I got so moved I teared up, you wrote that so beautiful, thank you so much!

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Edio
Edio
Mar 23
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Good stuff here! Thanks for pointing out her ownership of the Big liminal spaces in life, like birth and death, puberty and menopause: these are clearly her domain, and big events call for "bigger" rituals. Many covens/ traditions enjoy specific practices around these events. .

I occasionally notice her presence in more common liminal spaces which are everywhere- like leaving the house, getting on the bus or starting a new job. I'll sometimes use a little affirmation at these times to deepen that awareness, something spontaneous like "Bless her in coming and going, bless her in stillness and staying".

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