Gods, ghosts and newlyweds: exploring the uses of the threshold in Greek and Roman superstition and folklore

Kerr, Deborah Mary (2019). Gods, ghosts and newlyweds: exploring the uses of the threshold in Greek and Roman superstition and folklore. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This is the first reappraisal of the supernatural symbolism of the threshold in over a century. This thesis will challenge the notion that this liminal location was significant in Greek and Roman superstition and folklore – from apotropaic devices applied to the door, to lifting the bride over the threshold – because it was believed to be haunted by ghosts.

In Part One, this thesis examines the evidence of prophylactic devices and magic spells used at the threshold, along with the potential for human burial under the doorway, and concludes that there is no evidence for such a belief. However, this thesis does find evidence for a belief in the haunting of ghosts at the equally liminal location of the crossroads.

Part Two analyses threshold rituals pertaining to the Roman marriage ceremony and uses van Gennep’s tripartite framework of the rite of passage to argue that the threshold can be seen as symbolising the bride’s transition to a new household. This thesis argues that this rite of passage did not only apply to virgin brides, but was also applicable to those remarrying, as the goal behind many of the rituals was to safely ensconce the bride into her new house and family.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology (CAHA)
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GR Folklore
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/9408


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