A threshold is a part of a house, in traditional views it is a symbolic border between the house and the outside world, “our” and “alien” space.
The floor rug acts here as a symbol of the separation of the essence of the worlds of the house and the street. A person has two main states: house – street. When entering a house, a shift occurs, a psychological breakdown, the influence of which depends on whether it is your own home.
A person crossing the threshold makes a convulsive movement of his feet, as if wiping them, intuitively waiting for a rug under his feet – this is an external manifestation of a change in the internal state.
The entrance and exit from the dwelling already in ancient times had a sacred character, illuminated by ritual actions and words. (Entry and exit in a psychological context falls under the Freudian analysis of birth trauma, here the floor mat is the “placenta” of the newly born state).
In everyday life, the threshold, as a borderline and therefore dangerous locus, was associated with many prohibitions: it was not allowed to sit or step on the threshold, say hello or talk through it, or transmit anything to each other across the threshold, especially children.
According to some signs:
- You can’t eat on the threshold, otherwise people will gossip
- Do not pour water over the threshold after washing or slop, otherwise night blindness will attack
- It was forbidden to take revenge on the hut from the threshold, otherwise you will sweep the “wicked” into the hut and matchmakers will bypass it
- You cannot sweep the garbage across the threshold, especially for a pregnant woman, otherwise she will have a difficult birth, and the child will often vomit
- If you chop something on the threshold or hit it, you will thereby let the witch and toads into the house, and also give yourself over to the fevers that live on the threshold
- Being on the threshold was associated with death
The threshold as the border of the house was defended with the help of amulets. They sat down to weave the floor rug with songs of praise for the brownie:
I am weaving a rug –
Threads from north to south
Don’t wander in the dark, my friend.
Even at the construction stage, a drop of mercury or dried snake skin was placed in the threshold of a new house, and a horseshoe or a piece of pink salmon scythe was nailed to the threshold.
If someone left home for a long time, it was customary to tie one part of the red thread on his wrist, and put the other under the rug so that the traveler does not forget the way to his home.
Some peoples buried a piece of iron under the threshold on St. George’s Day so that those who crossed it would have healthy legs. After building a new bathhouse after the fire, they buried a strangled black chicken in the ground under its threshold. Ornaments-amulets were woven on the bath rugs so that the steam was light.
When going to church to baptize a child, they put hot coals, a knife, an ax or a sickle on the threshold or near it to protect it from the evil eye. The baby was passed to the godmother through an ax lying on the threshold of the house.
Sometimes the godparents stepped over the knife, which was placed upside down on the threshold. The newborn boy was passed by the godmother through the threshold to become the “guardian of the house.”
Numerous episodes of family rituals were associated with the Threshold. At a wedding, a young woman, entering her husband’s house after the wedding, should not touch the Threshold, which is why she was sometimes carried in her arms.
However, in some places the bride, on the contrary, stood on the threshold or jumped from it with the words: “Shoot, sheep, the top is coming!” The young woman stepped on the threshold, thus claiming her rights in the new home.
Until the 19th century. the custom of burying unbaptized babies under the threshold was preserved. This corresponded to the understanding of the threshold as a place where the souls of the dead dwell, and as a border between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
The stillborn children were buried under the threshold, believing that the priest would baptize him when he crossed the threshold with a cross in his hands.
When removing the coffin from the house, it was customary for all Slavic peoples to hit it on the threshold three times, which symbolized the farewell of the deceased to the home. This was done so that the deceased would no longer return home (Eastern and Western Slavs) or so that no one else died in the family (Southern Slavs).
However, in some places, on the contrary, it was not allowed to touch the threshold and doorways with the coffin. Some believed that if this happened, the soul of the deceased would remain in the house and it would not be easy for it to survive.
During difficult childbirth, the woman in labor was transferred three times through the threshold of the hut, which symbolized the exit of the child from the mother’s womb. The newborn was first put on a fur coat on the table, and then carried to the threshold and said:
“As the threshold lies quietly, calmly and peacefully, so my child, the servant of God (name), be quiet, calm and healthy.”
A woman, returning home after giving birth, stepped over the baby laid in the hut along the threshold, with the words:
“As this threshold is strong, so you will be strong … All lessons and prizewinners, stay on the threshold, and I will take my health with me.”
In family rituals and especially in folk medicine, the idea of overcoming melancholy, a habit that they wanted to get rid of, illness and deliverance from suffering is associated with the threshold.
Ukrainians had an orphan child on the day of the funeral of his father or mother, sitting on the doorstep, to eat a piece of bread and salt so as not to yearn for the deceased and not to feel fear.
Out of melancholy, they sprinkled the patient with water across the threshold, with the healer standing outside, and the patient in the hut. To wean the baby from the breast, the mother fed him one last time, sitting on the doorstep or standing with her feet on either side of the doorstep.
The threshold was the site of many healing procedures and rituals. With pain in the back or lower back, a person would lie down on the threshold, and the last child in the family, a boy, would put a broom on his back and lightly chop it with an ax.
On the Threshold, sorcerers, witches and other danger were symbolically destroyed. Among the Moravians, a woman who was influenced by witchcraft drove an ax into the threshold, with this she gouged out the eyes of the sorceress and pricked her body.
At Christmas, the Hutsuls bypassed the cattle with bread, honey and incense, closed the barn and then drove an ax into the threshold to close the wolf’s mouth. Slovaks drove an ax into the threshold during a thunderstorm as a talisman.
Sitting and standing on the threshold as an action that contradicts everyday practice was widely used in Slavic magic, including those associated with evil spirits, and could be accompanied by other actions of a blasphemous nature.
The girls wondered while sitting or standing on the threshold of the bath. Coming out of the bath, the girl stepped on the threshold with her left foot, and with her right foot on the ground and uttered the words of a sucker conspiracy. To see the devil in the bathhouse, they entered it at night and, stepping over the threshold with one foot, removed the cross from the neck and placed it under the heel.
It was believed that on Easter everyone could see the brownie and talk to him: for this one should not go to Matins, but sit on the threshold and light a candle brought from Matins on Great Thursday. The hostess on Holy Thursday spun a special thread before sunrise on the doorstep, sometimes stripped naked.
One who enters, shaking off his feet on the rug – together with the dirt from his soles, he must say goodbye to bad thoughts. The act of getting rid of evil at the entrance is reflected in the Bible.
In the Gospels it is repeated many times “shake off the dust of your feet” (Matt. 10:14). The biblical “Peace be unto thy house” – these are the words of the incoming, that is, stepping on the rug.
It’s amazing how in our time, when every object of everyday life is philosophically, scientifically comprehended, when every object is computerized and mechanized, a rug is not noticed – a necessary and almost sacred object.