In his quest to locate contemporary manifestations of liminal performance, Victor Turner wrote about “retribalization as an attempt to restore the original matrix of ritual” (1984:25). Vague as to what constitutes ‘retribalization’, Turner seemed to be subtly mandating his readers to seek out those communities, organizations or tribes in their own immediate geographies whose activities or events were somehow distinguished from the more ritually impoverished mainstream of Western society.

Through investigating and, more importantly, participating in events which embody the multidimensionality of tribal ritual – speech, music, dance, art and so on – Turner suggested that the transformative experiences of our agrarian forebears could be rejoined and recovered by post-industrial citizens long separated from such creative activities by the division of labour and other changes in society. It is a suggestion he made throughout his writing, first appearing in The Ritual Process (1969), where he briefly mentioned the liminality of that event that will dawn or, rather, dusk on my immediate geography in about 32 hours: Halloween.

Notwithstanding his perpetual distinction between the liminal and liminoid, Turner believed that events such as Halloween had discovered “the cultural debris of some forgotten liminal ritual” (1979: 58) and somehow managed to excavate a connection to a numinosity thought lost to large-scale, complex societies.

32 hours from now, those of you planning to gear up, doll up, paint up and dress up for the first Halloween to hit a Friday night in a long time (and the fact that the week’s biggest party night coincides with the real date of Halloween makes staying up late and doing what you do all the more potentially transformative and/or numinous) should take this to heart. There are many semi-accessible liminal and/or liminoid (depending on how stodgey you are in defining their space) zones to get into these days. But, regardless of your age and the transformative numinosity you might want to be tapping into, there’s something special about that one night of the year that exists betwixt-and-between dusk and dawn, childhood and adulthood. So if you’re dressing up and planning to misbehave, make it count.

References

Turner, Victor. (1969) The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure. Chicago: Aldine.

Turner, Victor. (1979) Process, Performance and Pilgrimage: A Study of Comparative Symbology. Delhi: Concept Publishing

Turner, Victor (1984) “Liminality and the performative genres,” in John J. MacAloon (ed.) Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle: Rehearsals toward a Theory of Cultural Performance. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues Inc.

Advertisements