Sir Gawain and the ritual process

J S Mackley

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


In the Middle English Romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain is offered a challenge to strike his opponent, the Green Knight, and then to receive a return blow a year later. The challenge and the consequences of Gawain’s actions, when considered through the lens of Arnold van Gennep’s Rites of Passage (as well as some of the sources that informed van Gennep’s study), highlight aspects of the ritual process. These elements include a magico‐religious fraternity, receiving of (and being received as) a stranger in a new environment, vegetation rites, covenant pledges and separation and inclusion rituals. The text of Gawain demonstrates that he undertakes a form of pre‐liminal testing in hostile terrains, while the Green Knight’s second test represents liminal testing and transition, and Gawain returns to Camelot for a postliminal rite of incorporation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Rites of Passage Time after Time
EditorsAdina Hulubas, Ioana Repciuc
Place of PublicationIsai
PublisherAlexandru Ioan Cuza University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-606-714-317-1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2016


  • Gawain
  • Green Knight
  • separation and inclusion ritual
  • vegetation rites
  • covenant pledges.


Dive into the research topics of 'Sir Gawain and the ritual process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this