May 11, 2011

The Doorways Are Lost

I will admit, it all started with a mishear. In my defense, Loreena McKennitt's lyrics can sometimes be hard to understand without a sheet, at least initially. But the end result is that it got me thinking about liminal spaces, magic, and transformation. And this blog post has been percolating for a while as a result.
I love Loreena McKennitt's song "The Old Ways", it is a lament about the passing of an age as a new age takes over. The singer is recounting her encounter with a representative of the old ways who is passing from our world, and her longing to rejoin them. One line in this song struck a chord in me, which I heard as "The doorways are lost, he sang as he flew"*. This started me thinking about doorways, and liminal spaces. The idea that the doorways between the old and the new had been "lost" kept open the possibility of finding them again and perhaps recapturing some of the magic of the old ways. It also opens the question of whether perhaps those old doorways have already been rediscovered, but we have not yet recognised them.
The idea of liminality is that there are places and times where one stands "between". Usually between an older life and a newer way of being, and this transition may be accompanied by some sort of ritual or recognition. These liminal times involve being in the state or time "before", the transition itself (which may be accompanied by a ritual), and the state or time "after". This transition can be easily visualized as a doorway or passage that must be traversed before the transformation is complete.
Bastillion Bachman had a wonderful "cave of transformation" in Brigadoon that epitomized liminality perfectly - one entered the "cave", which was actually a tunnel. Inside the cave you encountered some vendors that would allow you to take an animal form and emerge from this tunnel having been transformed.
So thinking about transformation and liminiality, I started thinking about doorways. A book, when you look at it, is a small door. You open that door and traverse each passage of the book until you emerge. A good book leaves you transformed, for better or worse.
But what about something like your computer monitor? Is that not an opening to other worlds? If I open a doorway into another world via my keyboard, my monitor becomes the doorway to that space where transformation can occur.
I love the idea that the Fairy doors that were abandoned when the Old Ones went into the West, might be found again. And that we can still be magically transformed if we find one.

*The actual line is "The Old Ways are lost, he sang as he flew", which makes a lot more sense in context of the song title - but I prefer my version :)

The Old Ways - Loreena McKennitt


Anonymous said...

What you're describing about the lyrics I've heard termed a "Mondegreen," after Lady Mondegreen. (I'm sure Google will tell you the actual lyrics.)

Have you read Little, Big by John Crowley? It's all about liminality (although that's not clear til the end).

Fogwoman Gray said...

I will definitely find it!