Wednesday, 6 August 2014

wolfssegen oder an der grenze

Derived from the same Latin root as the Roman Limes—the border of the frontier and furthest reaches of the empire, a liminal being is one that is on the perimeter and stays back and forth between more comfortable and familiar categories, and defies easy classification. Limen—or liminal points—are the terms for the threshold of mental or physical sensation, those disappearingly small perceptions that are just on the edge of the senses or awareness and a gauge for dismissing what one may have just imagined. Such beings partake of two, usually opposed, states and are stock-characters of folklore and fantasy, from chimera and hybrid creatures, part human, part beast, to vampires, zombies and other ghouls, neither alive nor dead—even to cyborgs and thinking-machines and the uncanniness that surrounds them.
Equally curious is the repulsion and attraction that normal humans have to them, whether classic and reputable or new and novel. Wolfssegener, Wolf Charmers, are ancient professionals—probably dating back to prehistory—and were quite respected in villages, like the figure of a shaman or witch-doctor, for keeping themselves and livestock safe from wolf-raids. Once Europe was taken by the mania of witch-trials in the late Middle Ages, however, Wolf-Charmers were persecuted as werewolves themselves. Such hysteria is a cyclical occurrence and happens in all cultures, and for all the attention that this chapter has received, it may not even be the most wide-spread maker of monsters (NDSAP propagandists in 1930s and 1940s framed the historic witch-hunts as a conspiracy to destroy Aryan womanhood, and even the early and revival witch-trials differed significantly in character—the former more concerned with practitioners currying unfair advantage over their neighbours with magic and the latter having more to do with social-order and the anarchy caused by being in league with the Devil). As in Medieval Europe, coping with the stresses of societal change—those forces which push the limits of what we perceive as normal and normative, which included the dawn of the Age of Exploration, the Reformation and counter-movements, seem to compel populations to create, designate liminal status.