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The Magico-Religious Ritual Of Our Time

102 years ago, Arnold Van Gennep published The Rites Of Passage, a book examining patterns of ritual practice. In this book, Gennep noted the symbolic role of territorial security rites. He wrote:

“The prohibition against entering a given territory is therefore intrinsically magico-religious… The erection of a portal, sometimes together with natural objects or crudely made statues, is a more complicated means of indicating the boundary… Whoever passes… finds himself physically and magico-religiously in a special situation for a certain length of time: He wavers between two worlds.”

Where would we find magico-religious ritual portals in our time? I nominate the TSA security checkpoints at our nation’s airports.

tsa airport portal as security ritual

One thought on “The Magico-Religious Ritual Of Our Time”

  1. Tom says: Capano found dead in his cell.

    Oh, and in response to above – the definition would, clearly, suggest any and all border checkpoints, where some “official” grants you something (like ACCESS in your great example) or that have any kind of identity verification. The verification part is what got me thinking along the lines of “stamped documents” which would then extend the list out to “schools” whereby one “graduates” (oooooh), the DMV where, suddenly, (and officially) you become “a driver” (oooooooooooooooooooh), and so there are lots of these portals. i like your answer because it introduces some kind of weird twilight zone of “betweenness” or even “becoming” to some extent (like suddenly somewhere between these two doors the same land mass magically becomes a completely different country).
    Now for the “fringe” places (your call on these): How about restaurants (especially
    “themed” ones) where you go from famished to just speaking words & getting fed (and most of the time it’s what you wanted)! The bathroom. To Sleep!! (yeah, in this case the portal is your bed or sleeping bag or a bed of pine needles and off you go).

    It’s all magic to me any more. i cannot understand how we could be such a short-sighted, basically “evil” in the sense that we’re brutes, carnivores, war-mongers, lying sacks of shit, complete assholes, stupid beyond belief – continuing to make the same mistakes over and over (and often expecting something different that what you get). We don’t cooperate MOST of the time, are self-centered louts of the lowest order when it comes right down to it (sexually, egotistically, all the abuses we perpetrate on each other), think only most shallowly and just keep transitioning from thing to thing in our minds, have all the intelligence there is as a species and then forget all about it and do this “fantasy land” existence we’re locked up in – it’s completely absurd this “existence” of ours (and close to if not definitively meaningless).

    So maybe life too is one of these magical portals where you are “born” someplace on this rock floating around in space and live for a certain length of time having a bunch of “experiences” and then twinkle out and dissolve back to whatever it was before we were born (like sleep – how can i describe it?).

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