Rites of passage and the liminal dead in medieval and reformation Britain
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This study explores accounts of the liminal, returning dead in medieval and Reformation Britain through the anthropological schema of the Rites of Passage, identified by Van Gennep early in the twentieth century. These Rites of Passage, on the concept level, have existed within human society for a very long time, as they take their foundations out of the very human conditions that support and carry the community and society itself. Society's perceptions of death as well as the Rites of Passage that surround death are examined over the said period, to argue that the returning dead were the very representation of failed Rites of Passage: the liminal presence. It is thus proposed here that even through major changes in shape and perception, these Rites of Passage and the result of their failure, the liminal presence retained their inherent properties. As such it is argued here that the liminal dead, were a continued presence within a society that underwent great religious changes. From the revenant, the walking dead, perhaps the purest incarnation of liminality to the later apparitions of ghosts in the Reformation period, the liminal presence, in all its incarnations, is shaped beyond anything else through the Rites of Passage, in all their universality.
KeywordsRites of Passage
Arnold van Gennep