Welsh legend tells the story of the semi-divine hero, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who cannot be killed during the day or the night, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither riding nor walking, neither clothed nor naked, nor by any weapon lawfully made.
A lot like Samson, whose downfall came through his wife’s betrayal, Lleu Llaw Gyffes is slain after he reveals he can only be killed at dusk, wrapped in a net, with one foot on a bath and one on a black goat, by a riverbank and by a spear forged for a year during the hours when everyone is attending a church service. Lleu’s death is all about thresholds, conspiracy and a nagging wife—the very same elements involved in Samson’s defeat.
Similar symbolism is used in the initiation rite of the Masonic Lodge. The candidate is dressed in pyjamas, with a blindfold over his eyes and a noose around his neck. His left trouser leg is rolled up. He wears one slipper and his other foot is bare. His left breast is exposed, then pricked with a dagger or compass. Threshold concepts are invoked because the candidate is neither fully clothed nor naked, he is neither bound nor unbound, neither free nor a slave, neither seeing nor sightless, neither barefoot nor shod.
Unless we recognise the ancient evocation of threshold and its nature as a sacrificial altar, we are unlikely to realise our spiritual peril at this point. A threshold was a place where covenants were cut.
Back in episode 6, I spoke about ‘kaph’, one of the Hebrew words for the stone marking the threshold of a doorway, its link to the idea of the cornerstone and its relationship to the names Cephas and Caiaphas. It’s believed that our English word cup is derived from ‘kaph’. Now if you know a little bit of Hebrew, you might recognise ‘kaph’ as the letter K and you may also know the primitive form of this letter came from a picture of the palm of a hand.
Take a look at your outstretched hand. You’ll notice it has a shallow depression—and it was this shallow basin in the threshold stone with its resemblance to a hand that gave it its name. The basin itself was called a ‘saph’, and it’s such an integral part of the cornerstone that ‘saph’ came to be another word for threshold.
The purpose of a basin right on the doorstep was to catch blood. Whenever an honoured guest was expected, the fatted calf, goat or lamb would be slaughtered for a feast and its blood painted on the lintels and doorposts. There were no banners, balloons or sparkly lights to greet the guest, just the blood-stained sign on the door that the celebration was ready.
To accept the invitation into covenant, all the guest had to do was pass over the blood. Remember that word: Passover. It probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.
This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. May the Lord of all creation bless you today.
Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.