Encountering Liminal Deities At Crossroads, Where Veils Are Thinnest

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Umbrian-sienese anonim - Hercules at the crossroads (Public Domain)

Encountering Liminal Deities At Crossroads, Where Veils Are Thinnest

In antiquity every village, town or city had a central crossroads, probably marked by the largest statue, fountain, temple or cathedral in the area. This is not by chance. Since prehistory crossroads have served communities as both functional and deeply mystical places where different paths converged. Historically routes, roads, paths and trails were symbolically associated with life’s journey, but crossroads held rich metaphorical significance for many ancient cultures, primarily because they were both meeting places and points of departure. Associated with human fate and fortune for at least 3,000 years, crossroads have also been associated with change, redirection and new life paths. However, because life’s path is speckled with hardship and tests, crossroads were imbued with religious and supernatural beliefs, such as the presence of demons, witches and a troupe of other divine beings.

The Gibbet of Montfauconat at a crossroad outside Paris.  Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century (1856) by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (Public Domain)

The Gibbet of Montfauconat at a crossroad outside Paris.  Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century (1856) by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (Public Domain)

Crossing Over to a Liminal Plain

In traditional folk stories and legends all over the world, crossroads are most often depicted as places where the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds is thinnest. This meant crossroads were spots where one could potentially interact with supernatural entities or experience paranormal phenomena. But deeper still, symbolically, crossroads represented locations where two different realms intersected, and this is why crossroads emerged in mythology as powerful symbols of the liminal state, a place neither fully here nor there.


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