Entangled Storyworlds: On the Liminality of Place-Lore
Folklorists have characterised legend as a genre that splits the world, contradistinguishing everyday life and the mysterious otherworld that confronts man and makes him feel insecure and vulnerable. Tension between the two planes – of the tangible everyday reality and the hidden supernatural powers in legends – can lead to different vernacular interpretations, ranging from fictionalisation of the legendry to accentuating the material evidence of the intangible world. Localisation of events in place-lore brings together the supernatural storyworld and daily environment, overcoming their incongruence and evoking a realm of inbetweenness, linking fiction with factuality.
The paradigm of liminality has today transcended ritual theories and found a variety of uses. Liminality is connected with “conditions of irrationality” and with “lived experience”, which transforms human beings (Horvath, Thomassen, Wydra 2018: 2). Indefiniteness, the lack of certainty, together with the need to interpret, identify, explain and control the unknown is characteristic to legends about supernatural places. Liminality as a category has also found firm place in legend research. John Lindow has discussed the spatial and temporal liminality of certain places, such as churchyards (2018); Kaarina Koski has shown that the vernacular concept of the sacred connects it with liminality, which appears in legends about church buildings as otherworldly places of supernatural encounters (2018).
The paper addresses place-lore about holy sites in contemporary Estonia. It argues that liminality of places and the related experiences are largely determined by place-lore, its generic qualities that evoke uncertainty and perplexity, and socio-psychological expectations that are generated by narrative traditions.
Horvath, Agnes; Thomassen, Bjørn; Wydra, Harald (eds.) 2018. Introduction: Liminality and the Search for Boundaries. Breaking Boundaries. Varieties of Liminality. New York, Oxford: Berghahn. Pp. 1– 8.
Koski, Kaarina 2018. The Sacred and the Supernatural: Lutheran Church Buildings in Christian Practice and Finnish Folk Belief Tradition. Storied and Supernatural Places: Studies in Spatial and Social Dimensions of Folklore and Sagas. Studia Fennica Folkloristica 23. Ülo Valk & Daniel Sävborg (eds.). Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society. Pp. 54−79.
Lindow, John 2018. Nordic Legends of the Churchyard. Storied and Supernatural Places: Studies in Spatial and Social Dimensions of Folklore and Sagas. Studia Fennica Folkloristica 23. Ülo Valk & Daniel Sävborg (eds.). Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society. Pp. 42– 53.