Written by Lisa Iris Views: 1398
Janus: Doors and Threshold Guardians
“There are things known and there are things unknown and in between are the doors of perception.”
This Aldous Huxley quote, which inspired Jim Morrison, is very apropos of January.
Mythically speaking, January is about doors and new realities. The psychedelic paintings of Alex Grey feature multi-faced deities who await the spiritual seekers who have crossed the DMT threshold. Did ancient Etruscans and Romans encounter these gods first? (The more you read of ethnobiology, the more plausible it seems!) Let’s jump into January and meet the dual-faced deity who rules this month.
Keys To the Kingdom
The Roman god Janus is all about The Doors. “Janua” is Latin for doorway or gate, either material or esoteric. Like Alex Grey’s visionary art, Janus has two faces - in some portrayals, three or four. His ability to see backwards and forwards is unique, as is his status as the only Roman god without a Greek counterpart. His predecessor was Etruscan: Culsans, also a dual-faced god.
Janus began as Janus Pater – Father of All Gods – who existed before the mighty Jupiter. With access to the Heavens, he held the key to all mysteries; in fact, he holds two keys of gold and silver, symbolizing the major and minor arcana. He ruled liminal spaces, such as thresholds, transitions, life passages and duality: beginnings/endings, life/death, youth/age, war/peace. In the Roman forum, near the Curia (Senate House) was a small temple dedicated to Janus. Its double doors were closed during times of peace and open during times of war. The gods could be reached only by offering sacrifices to Janus, defining him as Threshold Guardian.
From Pagans to Pontiffs
Janus’ keys of major and minor mysteries, or arcana, brings Tarot to mind, and crossed gold and silver keys appear on The Hierophant card. This was an appropriate choice of symbol, as The Keys of Janus form the Papal Insignia!
The Coat of Arms of both Vatican City and the Holy See feature crossed keys of gold and silver, begging the question: was the mythic persona of St. Peter derived from the Roman god Janus? As sentry of The Pearly Gates, this apostle is depicted holding gold and silver keys, that determine who gains access to Divine Presence, much like Janus guarding admittance to the presence of Roman gods.
Superstitions and Traditions
If you’d like to honour Janus today, show appreciation to a Janitor, the key-master who bears the god’s name. Feeling indecisive? Just toss a coin! Did you get “heads?” It was believed that Janus invented the coin, as a gift to develop human commerce. Janiform heads appeared on Roman coins in 240 BCE. The vintage depictions of Old Father Time and the New Year’s Baby, were a nod to Janus, as opposite views of time depicted at the threshold of the year.
Doorway rituals endure as stepping over a threshold with your right foot – especially on New Year’s. Brides are carried over thresholds. Door wreathes indicate good fortune. Brigit’s Crosses ensure protection. Decorative door knockers invoke the apotropaic power of lions, Medusa, Angels, the Green Man or Grotesques: protecting bronze gates or carved in stone above entrances. (A “No Soliciting” sign works for me!) The origin story of Passover describes the application of lamb’s blood on doorways, sparing the Israelites of the 10th Egyptian plague. Now, a mezuzah is affixed to doorways, for remembering the Covenant upon entering and leaving the home. Epiphany Door Chalking, blessing the home, survives in parts of Europe.
Liminal - Betwixt and Between
To quote author Nancy Levin, “Honour the space between no longer and not yet.”
The liminal is not just a physical place, but a state of being during transitions – such as between jobs, homes, partners, recovering from illness or loss. Ultimately, a liminal state is what you make it. Is it Limbo, a dissociative state, or a dreary waiting room? Or is it a space charged with possibility? To trust the liminal state, and have the inner strength to befriend the unknown, makes one less susceptible to mistakes incurred by random influences, seeking easy answers and falling prey to quick fixes. For example, the risk of being recruited by cults (whether religious or MLMs) when one is at a loss for direction. During liminal times, there is the danger of drifting into strange places. Perhaps that’s why The Hierophant and St. Peter embody adherence to the rules, as a means to safe passage, to “Enter through the narrow gate…”
How often we speak of these, as essential to mental health. The ancient world equated boundaries with the triumph of order over chaos. (Separation = Creation, bringing to mind Genesis: the separation of waters for land to appear). Observances in ancient Rome defined the exterior and interior, the public and private, the sacrosanct purpose of specific spaces. Boundaries created stability, prosperity, protection and a national identity, in harmony with the gods.
Threshold Guardian – Your Friend or Foe?
It’s said that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year – due to lack of sunlight, weather and post-holiday realities. It could be the realization, that despite fizzy champagne resolutions, you’ve schlepped last year’s baggage into the present. Yet again, you’ve hit The Wall, the Ceiling, or fallen through the trapdoor. You can call it “Confronting the Threshold Guardian.”
Your aspirations have summoned this archetype, the obstacle to your heart’s desire. The Threshold Guardian is a cultural trope, reverberating as “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” and “WHO RANG THAT BELL?” as your vision board Oz shimmers out of reach. Is the Threshold Guardian a Bouncer blocking you from your destiny, or is he your best friend in disguise?
Picture the Tarot’s High Priestess, The Hierophant’s counterpart. She isn’t chilling in a courtyard with a scroll for light reading. She’s guarding whatever’s behind that curtain, beyond The Twin Pillars: the entrance of Solomon’s Temple. She’s sized you up and isn’t impressed. Like confronting the Sphinx, there are riddles to be solved, tests to be passed. How do you respectfully approach the Mystery that She protects?
Initiations aren’t fun or informal events. Rituals were designed to terrify or discourage the curious or insincere. The role of the Threshold Guardian is to determine “How much do you REALLY want this?” His/Her role isn’t to present Participation Trophies but to test your resolve.
To quote The Crystal Wind Oracle, the Threshold Guardian is an indication that “You’ve travelled far. A delay can be a gift of time, to plan your strategy and hone your skills.” The Threshold Guardian is “a projection of your fears or the inner voice of negative self-judgement.” Confronting those fears and inner demons of self-doubt, we return to the concept of purification and initiation.
Purification is expunging inner and outer distractions, prior to achieving clarity and self-discipline. Initiation is the practice of choice, to achieve the next level of self-knowledge. Once internal fears and weaknesses have been faced and conquered, your presence is equal to the Threshold Guardian’s power. How else would you know what you could achieve, if you hadn’t been tested?
The way is open and the path is clear. This victory belongs to you. The life you envisioned, on threshold’s other side, is exactly where you’re standing. You are one with the future that you seek.
About the Author:
Threshold Guardian Artwork and this text is Copyright 2024 Lisa Iris. Reprinted with written permission from Crystalwind.ca and Antonio DeLiberato, exclusive worldwide agents for Lisa Iris.
Lisa Iris is an artist and proprietress of MYTHOS Art and Counselling 289 High St., Fort Erie, ON. Her artwork is represented exclusively by crystalwind.ca and is featured in The Crystal Wind Oracle by Antonio DeLiberato.
Lisa enjoys opening her home to kindred spirits for conversation and for making magic happen.
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