“I feel like I’m standing standing on the edge of it all this time.” ~ TFK, Scream.
In legend and mythology, sometimes when someone dies, the underworld or the land of the dead is a long way off. So, the soul needs someone to show them the way, to guide them. In Greek these soul guides were ψυχοπομπός, or, in English, the psychopomps. Think Charon as he ferries you across the Styx, or Hermes, as he escorts you on winged feet.
Now, clearly, when you die, you’re going from one state of being to another. In psychology and anthropology they talk about such times as “liminal states”. Liminal states are periods of transition where you’re crossing the “threshold” from one state of being to another. It maybe by death, or birth, or some other rite of passage. Usually, liminal states are times of turmoil, where the hierarchy and social structure is upset – a boy becomes a man, a man becomes a chief and so on. It’s the structure in which the rest of structure changes.
One Sunday, I was at Ghost’s church, and that church is currently hunting for a new longterm pastor. The interim pastor preached on Acts, but he was mainly talking about what the church could and should be doing during the transition time. I seem to recall him saying that such a time was for reaffirming foundational truths. I think he also said that it was a time to reassess and reconsider what sort of identity they wanted to have going forward. (The connection to the Acts passage was that “it was in Anitoch first that the believers were called Christians”.).
Right now, I’m on a plane, having just left CA where I was visiting my parents for Christmas (work that one out, I dare you! =P). On Christmas day, we went to my uncle’s house, where we began the evening with handmaking sushi from a decadent assortment of tuna, salmon, avocado, roe, cucumber and on and on. There was wine. We got to the point after the rice ran out that my uncle made sushi rolls that had so much soy sauce, wasabi and hot sauce, (then we’d add one of my grandma’s freshly grown hot peppers, just for fun) that only he and I would risk them.
As if that were not enough, we then went on to the sit down part of the meal with ham, scalloped potatoes, and asparagus. There was sparkling cider. They had at least five kinds of salt on the table, and I tried all of them. For dessert there were Russian teacakes, after dinner mints, peppermint bark, chocolate covered apples…On and on drew the extravagant feast.
And every time I go, it’s like this. Not in the exact details, but the characters, the conversation, the generous, lavish hospitality, the quality and array of food, it’s this place of peace where people welcome you as you’re passing through, in preparation or recovery from your long long journey. It is this magical space, where faithful people care for you, when you didn’t really do anything except show up.