Seasonal or cyclic events – “hallowing a culturally defined moment of change in the climatic cycle or the inauguration of an activity such as planting, harvesting, or moving from winter to summer pasture.” A Thanksgiving Day parade, for instance, celebrates the harvest at the end of the northern growing season.
Contingent events – “held in response to an individual or collective crisis”
Life-crisis ceremonies – “performed at birth, puberty, marriage, death, and so on, to demarcate the passage from one phase to another in the individual’s life cycle”
Rituals of affliction – “performed to placate or exorcise preternatural beings or forces believed to have afflicted villagers with illness, bad luck, gynecological troubles, severe physical injuries, and the like”
The serious games that involve the play of ideas and the manufacture of religiously important symbolic forms and designs are often, in traditional societies, reserved for authentically liminal times and places.
The forms created may include icons, figurines, masks, sandpaintings, murals in sacred caves, statues, effigies, pottery emblems, and the like.
Symbolic structures, elaborately contrived, are exhibited to neophytes at the most sacred episodes and are then, despite the time and labor taken to construct them, destroyed.
Even in solemn rites of passage, it is considered licit to fool around with the factors of cultural construction, liberating the signifiers from the signified, filling the liminal scene with dragons, monsters, caricatures, fantasies made up of elements of everyday experience, torn out of context and improbably combined with other disrupted elements.
Alternatively, the ordinary, the expectable, is distorted. Human heads, limbs, genitalia are monstrously enlarged or unnaturally diminished, leaving the rest of the body of normal size.
The distinction between “work” and “play,” or better between “work” and “leisure” (which includes, but exceeds play), is itself an artifact of the Industrial Revolution.
Technological development, and other factors, have had the cumulative effect of bringing more leisure into the “free time” of industrial cultures. And leisure implies choice.
Thus not all participate in any of the rituals of postindustrial society, and as a result, these societies do not have a liminal period in their rites of passage.
In these societies, such rites are characterized by a liminoid (“resembling the liminal” or “liminal-like”) period. Other nonritual activities can also have a ritual-like element, because belonging to the group is not as important in such a society.
In tribal societies, liminality is often functional in the sense of being a special duty or performance required in the course of work or activity. Its very reversals and inversions tend to compensate for the rigidities or unfairnesses of normative structure.
In industrial society, the rite de passage form, built into the calendar and/or modeled on organic processes of maturation and decay, no longer suffices for the total society.
In the so-called high culture of complex societies, the liminoid is not only removed from a rite de passage context, it is also individualized.
Liminal vs. Liminoid: A Comparison of Characteristics
Kind of society – Liminal phenomena tend to predominate in tribal and early agrarian societies.
Frequency of occurrence – Liminoid phenomena are more characteristically individual products. They are not cyclical, but continuously generated, though in the times and places apart from work settings and assigned to “leisure” activities.
Integration into the social process – Liminal phenomena are centrally integrated into the total social process. Liminoid phenomena are plural, fragmentary, and experimental in character.
Liminal vs. Liminoid: A Comparison of Characteristics, 2
Common meaning for a group – Liminal phenomena reflect the history of the group, i.e., its collective experience, over time. Liminoid phenomena tend to be more idiosyncratic or quirky. Their symbols are closer to the personal-psychological than to the objective-social typological pole.
Nature of criticism – Liminal phenomena tend to be eufunctional, making the social structure work without too much friction. Liminoid phenomena go further in being social critiques or even revolutionary manifestoes.
Cost – The liminoid is felt to be freer than the liminal, a matter of choice, not obligation. The liminoid is more like a commodity – indeed, often is a commodity, which one selects and pays for – than the liminal, which elicits loyalty and is bound up with one’s membership or desired membership in some highly corporate group.
Liminal vs. Liminoid: A Comparison of Characteristics, 3
In such a postindustrial society, the play associated with marginality (in a ritual or in ritual-like activity) can be more extreme because the participants are not all members of the same groups in society, or their membership in a group is temporary or shifting.
Think of the play Marat/Sade , the movie Fight Club, or the music of some rap or rock musicians.
Even if all the aspects of society are mocked or satirized, the playful activity will not lead to the dissolution of the society, because everyone in the society does not participate in it or is not committed to it.