Liminal Ecology and the “Paranormal”
A position of the Liminal Earth Society is that in order to Remythologize the Landscape, we need to recognize that the “unseen” world is as filled with potential entities as the world of the senses. As such, investigation of the “paranormal” needs to take into consideration that all entities exist within holistic systems that can be understood as “ecologies.” In the same sense that a marine biologist cannot study fish without studying the environment in which it swims, so the Liminal Cartographer or paranormal investigator cannot study non-normative entities without understanding the environment in which they occur.
This may seem obvious to some, but the implications are profound.
What is an “Entity?”
In this article, I will be using “entities” to refer to anything exhibiting the ability to express sensate quality. This quality is similar to the Quatrian concept of amak, which may be defined as “the quality something possesses which makes it memorable.” In many traditions, once something has been forgotten, it no longer “exists,” like the spirits of the dead in the Disney Pixar film “Coco.” Provided a spirit has an ofrenda, or ancestral altar, it can be remembered, and will continue to exist in a liminal or post-liminal state.
Entities exist to be remembered. Humans, animals, insects, plants, mosses, UFO entities, ghosts, spirits, elementals, fae, deities, and so on all share this ability to express sensate quality. However, none can do so without participating in some kind of community. This community, when dealing with normative entities, is the biosystem or biome, the network of ecology in which the entity exists. For NON-normative entities, there must ALSO be some kind of ecology, which is reflected in their environments, and can be investigated and understood holistically as a Liminal Environment.
What is a Liminal Environment?
The next time you go for a walk in the woods, consider an individual normative entity. Let’s say you’re observing a crow. You could just look at the crow, and enjoy its antics, but in order to really understand its crow-ness, it’s “amak,” you would also need to understand how it interacts with its surroundings. What does it eat? Where does it sleep? How does it react to other birds around it? What do its calls mean? Not only would this deepen your understanding of crows, it would also allow you a certain advantage if you wanted to interact with it.
Photo by Harsh Aryan on Unsplash
If you’re a professional researcher — a biologist specializing in Corvidae, say —you would go even further. What climate does it prefer? In what kind of trees does it build its nest? What’s the soil type, and does that contribute to its diet? What’s the folklore surrounding crows in the area? How does it interact with other local entities? You’d need to answer these questions again and again in order to establish patterns. THIS is the level of holistic research necessary to promote your investigation into crows from the level of hobby-dom to the level of actual possible understanding.
When paranormal researchers, occultists, witches, or others who work with non-normative entities seek to communicate with these entities, they often approach them as though they are walking into an unknown park for the first time and trying to understand a crow by first observing it, and then shouting things at it expecting a response. Is it any wonder that the evidence often collected this way never rises beyond the level of unintelligible whispers or inscrutable photos of mist?
When we visit a site reportedly experiencing paranormal/non-normative activity, be it ghosts, cryptids, UFOs, “Psi,” or various occult/magical entities, we need to take the entire ecology into consideration. Given that every entity expresses sensate quality by definition, it is quite probable that other entities on that site are also present in a non-normative form.
To cut to the chase, one can’t expect to successfully understand the ghost of a human in an area if one doesn’t also consider local ghost flies, ghost trees, ghost mosses, etc. One cannot understand a nature spirit without knowing the folklore of the plants and animals which also live in the area. One cannot investigate a UFO sighting without also knowing the local climate, geology, power lines, etc. that run through the area.
This leads us to propose a process we will refer to as Liminal Site Analysis.
Liminal Site Analysis
There is a field of study currently used worldwide to analyze sites holistically, which considers (when practiced correctly by trained professionals) every possible aspect of a site in order to gain an understanding of it. This discipline is called Permaculture Site Design. Permaculture is an holistic design strategy based on observation of the interactions between entities and energies on a specific site, with the goal of allowing the site to eventually produce a surplus based on these interactions.
This isn’t the place to get deeply into Permaculture (PC) and its principles, but as a trained Permaculture designer, it strikes me that we can use the process of Permaculture site analysis and transfer it to LIMINAL sites when investigating in the field.
Permaculture site analysis is a process used by PC designers to come as close as possible to an understanding of a site’s entire ecology prior to creating a landscape design for that site. It involves cartography, biology, botany, soil science, hydrology, climatology and more, based on both on-site observation and research. Although each designer has her own methodology, atypical PC site analysis includes:
- Wildlife (animals/insects)
- Sectors: wind/weather, animal migration patterns, airflow, noise, view, etc.
Etc. In short, the designer seeks to consider, and observe, any potential influences on the site. These observations are then used to create a map and a multi-page report which the designer then presents to clients:
Informed decisions can then be made regarding future actions on the part of the client, who now possesses an expert analysis of her landscape based on professional observations.
What would Liminal Site Analysis look like, considering what we’ve discussed thus far? I propose that the Liminal Cartographer/Paranormal Researcher produce a site analysis during investigations with two goals:
- Obtaining a greater understanding of a Liminal site and;
- Collecting data which may contribute to an overall understanding of paranormal/liminal phenomena.
The site analysts may not include a map (as this might be out of the scope of the timeframe of the investigation, but the following aspects of the site should be included in the analysis as much as possible. I use the word “site” throughout, but “subject” would also be applicable in many cases:
- Neighbors: How does the immediate cultural environment influence the site? What kind of culture/religion/industry? How do local indigenous communities understand the site?
- Structures: If a house, when was it constructed? What materials were used in the construction? Were any materials recycled/reclaimed from other sites and, if so, from where?
- Slope: Do objects roll downhill? Would incline account for any movement of objects that wouldn’t be otherwise in motion?
- Water: What’s the depth of the water table? Can water be heard moving through pipes? Is there standing water? Is there moisture?
- Plants: What plants are located in the area? What is the folklore surrounding those plants (i.e. are any associated with local spirits/fae/entities, etc.)?
- Wildlife (animals/insects): Self-explanatory.
- Soil/geology: What does the local soil consist of? What kind of bedrock is the site located on? Any mines, tunnels, or cave systems nearby?
- Climate: Self-explanatory.
- Sectors: wind/weather, animal migration patterns, airflow, noise, view, etc. How could any of these influence possible site activity?
- Access: Who/what can access the site?
- History/Folklore: What is the history of the site? Go back as far as possible.
- Investigators: What do those who are performing the investigation bring to the site? How are those individuals participating with the site’s Liminal Ecology?
Obviously this is a very cursory overview of a potentially complicated process. However, producing a more thorough methodology for site analysis within the study of the Liminal will provide the community with a deeper understanding of the Phenomenon, as well as more rigorous data. The Liminal Earth Society will pursue this line of inquiry during future investigations, and encourages other investigators to utilize similar methodologies when collecting data in the field.