Liminality Essay

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Valerie Swisher Professor Stainton Religion 177 12 October 2014 The Concept of Liminality Death and what happens after one dies has been questioned since life began. While what happens after death has key importance in most religions, what happens between life and death can sometimes play a larger role in how death is treated. Liminality, or the period of transition between life and death, influences the steps taken after a person has died. Usually, death is viewed as a journey, one which no one can know what exactly lies ahead; because of this certain rituals and customs have been created to ensure the deceased a peaceful transition from life on earth to the next stage. The religion of Hinduism, especially, stresses the importance of extensive…show more content…
Liminality encompasses all aspects of life after death, including entrance into the realm of the dead or the return to earth. The Hindu death rituals serve to guarantee that loved ones reach the next world and do not return as malignant ghosts. Family members or friends of the deceased perform these ceremonies; therefore, the fate of the dead depends on the action of the living. Axel Michaels states, “When people die, they become ancestors, forefathers, heroes, ghosts or demons, but not dead, not without ‘life’. What they become depends on the…relationship between the deceased and the survivors” (131). The rituals begin even before death occurs; traditionally, such as lying the dying person on the floor, an oil lamp is placed near the head, family members join in prayer and song and the Brahman who performs the funeral rites receives a gift of a cow (133). All of these steps are taken to prepare the person to die, and give him or her chance to accept that death is approaching. By accepting the imminent, one is less likely to leave their body unwillingly and attempt to return to it once they have passed; thus preventing the deceased returning as a hungry ghost…show more content…
This is a custom to remember the ancestors. As aforementioned, Hindus believe that the departed will return to earth if they are not given a proper send off, same goes for not being properly worshipped. The method of ancestor worship is based on getting the dead into heaven and eventually to rebirth. “The dead remain in the status of ancestors for only three generations, then they move up to the rather vague groups of heavenly creatures…The three generations of the deceased form a ladder with rising status, but decreasing proximity to the survivors” (Michaels 145). The ritual worship of ancestors takes place during scheduled intervals. Most commonly, deceased relatives are prayed for and to on a daily basis. “In a certain respect, they are even more dangerous than the gods: they are closer to the house, they are dissatisfied, they always demand respect,” Michaels ascertains on page 146. The concept of liminality definitely comes into play through ancestor worship. The Hindu religion recognizes that the dead exist on a threshold of sorts between the world of the living and the world of the dead. It also realizes that through the prayer and ritual practices, relatives of ancestors can utilize the power of liminality and send their forefathers into

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