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TO LOCK UP ELEUSIS: A QUESTION OF LIMINAL SPACE

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In this article, I argue that the geographical periphery, the eschatia, represented an area within the ancient Greek worldview that reflected a territorial parallel to the intermediate state of the Greek rites of passage. There were also a number of mythological ties between the eschatia and this ritual mid state, the most basic aspect of both of them consisting of a simultaneous being and non-being that entailed a sense of profound confusion of all proper categories. Placed not only betwixt and between the land of the dead and polis as the land of the living, but also between an Olympian and a chthonic divine sphere, the uncultivated geographical periphery represented an ambiguous and primordial landscape, where men had still not been distinguished from the realm of the gods, the animals, and the dead. As the geographical periphery thus was considered to reflect a primordial quality, the intermediate phase of various rites of passage was seen as the ritual imitation of this area. Having journeyed to the ends of the earth and the land of the dead, Heracles could therefore suggest closing down the Eleusian mysteries. Operating with a theoretical concept of liminal space, I will in this way try to show how the idea of ritual liminality, as initiated by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner, may be transferred to a spatial context.

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/content/journals/10.1163/156852700511595
2000-11-01
2016-12-09

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