As I write this, we in the Northern Hemisphere are upon the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice, like the Summer Solstice, is a threshold, a time of transition.
The word “threshold” may conjure up images of a doorway, hallway or other passageway that takes you from one place into another. It’s a liminal space, a space in between (limen means “threshold” in Latin). It marks a transition and an initiation of sorts. Dreams are a threshold between this world and the next. The act of birthing and dying are thresholds. When I was in labor for my first son, I had a clear vision of myself walking down a dark hallway, lights on either end of it. My hands were outstretched and I was running my fingers down both walls along the hallway as I walked from one end to the other. I *knew* that one hand was touching life and the other hand was touching death. While I wasn’t afraid for my life or my son’s life, I knew I was in a threshold. I was in a place of initiation, a place in between.
Seasonal thresholds have been honored by our ancestors as annual times of transition for thousands of years. Stonehenge is believed to have been built to mark the solstices. The pyramids of present-day Mexico and in other countries also appear to mark the solstices. While The Ancients all had different beliefs, gods, goddesses and reasons for marking and honoring seasonal thresholds, the basic thought was and is the same:
We are in a sacred and liminal space. Let us honor and acknowledge it. Let us pause, reflect and set an intent for what’s to come.
Although the solstices are well-known and observed times of transition, the truth is we are surrounded by thresholds all of the time. The threshold into your house. The thresholds in between the rooms in your house. Twilight. People who identify as mixed-race, transgender, and/or intersexual embody liminal space. As does the Trickster archetype, who walks, and often purposefully muddles, the fine line between the sacred and the profane.
The tradition of carry a bride across the threshold of a new home, in part, has to do with the idea that evil spirits can hang out in the threshold area. They may be banned from the house but there’s nothing to stop them from hovering in the liminal doorjamb. Carrying the bride through this liminal space for the first time was thought to provide some protection against her health and fertility.
This idea that the threshold is a magical space is seen in many cultures. In parts of India, the women paint and decorate their thresholds and take the responsibility very seriously. Certain colors and symbols are invoked to welcome wealth, health and safety while others are invoked to ward against evil, sickness and other scourges. House witchery, or Cottage witchery often includes some sort of threshold cleansing, protection and beautifying as well (more below).
In The Blueprint Cycles, I teach about the thresholds, or times of transition, present in each day. The day can be marked into quarters, much like the seasons, the lunar phase or our menstrual phase. Half of these four daily seasons are masculine, while the other half is feminine. There are thresholds in between each. A day technically begins at 12 a.m., or midnight. This is sometimes called the witching hour and marks the transition from the feminine phase of the evening into the masculine. Sunrise, a time of twilight, marks the transition into a different masculine phase. 12 p.m., or noon, is the threshold between the masculine half of the day and the feminine half. Evening twilight marks the transition into a deeper feminine phase of the evening. And so on it goes. Taking the time, even just three deep breaths, to mark these transitions during the day, can do a lot to ground and center us in the moment. It can help us “drop” what we don’t need to carry through the day anymore, and it can help us prepare and move into a new time of day/new way of being in the day.
How To Honor Thresholds
I think an interesting spiritual practice includes taking notice of thresholds during our everyday life, not just the big obvious ones such as the solstice (though those are fantastic too!). Below you will find a few ideas for noticing and honoring thresholds. The more you engage with these liminal spaces the more comfortable with them you will become. The more comfortable you become, the more able you will be to navigate the spiritual and the mundane. The more you are able comfortable navigate between worlds, the more divine inspiration you can bring into your everyday (mundane) life!
Do these rituals on any threshold in your house but pay special attention to the main threshold entering the house and to your bedroom threshold!
- Wash and sweep your threshold area. A mixture of warm water and lemon juice (both are cleansing) plus a pinch of salt (for protection) and a bay leaf (for blessing) is a great option!
- Sprinkle a line of salt in your threshold and then sweep it away to seep away stale or negative energy.
- Adorn your threshold area with potted plants, potted herbs, sun catchers or delightful/protective statues.
- Place a bell on your door or near your doorjamb. Ringing the bell when entering will announce your presence, clear the energy AND remind you that you are stepping through a threshold.
- Place three cinnamon sticks, bound by a red ribbon or string, above your threshold. Let the spirit of the cinnamon know that it’s job is to keep out/repel anyone who wishes you or your house ill will. The red ribbon also symbolizes protection. (I have cinnamon bundles over my main threshold into the house, above each bedroom door and one above my husband’s workshop!)
- Pause at your threshold or at EACH threshold you cross during the day. Just a take a beat to come to the present moment and to realize what you are walking away from and into.
- Pause at the threshold of sacred or ritual space to take a cleansing breath and to focus your intention for a moment.
- Lay or sit in a threshold for at least 15-20 minutes. How does it feel? Can you sense your place in between two worlds?
- Hang a horseshoe over your threshold. Shaped like the crescent moon, these goddess symbols have long been thought to bestow blessing and protection over the thresholds they mark.
Menarche, Birth, Death, Menopause, Marriage, Divorce, Graduation, Birthdays. . . these are all examples of life’s thresholds. While we culturally have built-in acknowledgements for most of these times in life (wedding ceremonies, funerals, graduations, etc.), there can be great value in creating your own ceremony or ritual to honor the act of stepping through the threshold from one phase of life to another. If nothing else, when you are in the process of crossing one of life’s thresholds, pause for a moment or two, take a deep breath and just consciously acknowledge that you are indeed crossing a threshold.
Sunrise, Sunset, Noon and Midnight all mark the thresholds of the day. While you may sleep through at least one of those thresholds (and you should!) you can take a moment to pause at the other three. During your lunch break, take the time to feed yourself some nourishing food and reflect on the morning you just had. What did you accomplish? What can you leave behind you? What do you need to return to tomorrow morning? Lunch, no matter what time you take it, is a liminal space between the masculine and feminine parts of the day. After lunch is a time for reflection, analyzing, and resting. If you can schedule your most active tasks for the first part of the morning and then take it more slowly and calmly after lunch, please do so! The Spanish have it all figured out with their afternoon siesta, or rest, after lunch!
I had a powerful dream several years ago when I awoke briefly at sunrise. A spiritual guide came to me as I slipped back into the threshold between wake and sleep. He taught me that the sunrise and the sunset have powerful healing properties and we’re supposed to watch them in balance with one another. The colors of the sunrise (masculine) correspond to the colors of our chakra system, which are also the colors of the rainbow (another threshold between worlds!). Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet . . . as the sun rises higher the sky reflects all of these colors, some of them all but invisible to our eyes. As the sun rises it activates our chakras, beginning with the root (red) chakra and working it’s way up to the violet (ultraviolet) color of our seventh chakra and the noon day sun. This activates our energy system. Past noon, the sun begins its descent, ending with the red sunset (feminine) and deactivating our energy system as it goes. People who watch or are awake during too many sunrises and not enough sunsets are more likely to need artificial “downers” such as booze, television, sleeping pills, food and other things to make them sleepy. People who experience more sunsets than sunrises will need artificial “uppers” such as excess caffeine, sugar, adrenaline, etc. His prescription was to balance your sunrises and sunsets. Try to pause every day just long enough to soak in the colors of the sky and to acknowledge what is happening. Soon, your energy levels will find a healthy balance. Even better, he recommended experiencing sunrises and sunsets in community, with loved ones, as often as possible as this leads to a sort of synchronization and makes for more compassion and understanding in interpersonal relationships.
Pausing between our daily activities (the car is DEFINITELY a threshold place!) is a fantastic and healthy way to separate this from that. Little rituals such as a cup of coffee or tea, changing our clothes, take three deep intentional breaths, etc., can go a long way in helping us be present and to “leave work at work” or other worries behind us as we move onto a new task, activity or part of our day. These threshold rituals can be very healthy for kids as well!
The Winter Solstice
I’m hesitant to include a solstice ritual here for two reasons: 1, my inbox and social media feed are full of these rituals and I suspect yours may be as well. 2, I’d really love it if you sat with this idea of thresholds, took in the suggestions I’ve already given you and create your own solstice ritual.
As for me? I plan to watch the sunset into it’s early grave this evening. I’ll take a moment to reflect on the year, including the dark and hard parts. Then I’ll light a candle or light the fire in the stove and burn what I’m leaving behind. Tomorrow morning, I’ll wake for the sunrise, give thanks and think about what I want to come to me in the New Year.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about threshold spaces please see my courses. My work deals in thresholds. Daily, seasonally, life phases, dreams, ancestors, altars, food and meals . . .