There was no mention of the Full Moon at the most recent Full Moon rite I attended. This struck me as strange, but I didn’t bring it up. After all, I hadn’t arranged the Meetup and I wasn’t leading the ritual. But, I did take note.
Are we what we say we are, I wondered.
Some of the people in attendance, myself included, introduced themselves using their self-chosen, magical or Pagan names. Mine, Teo, is a derivation of my given name and, admittedly, lacks a certain mystic flair that those chosen names of the fantasy/animal-totem variety possess. I could have been a Wolf Claw, or a White Dragon. Instead, just Teo – pronounced “tAy-oh”. The unusual name sometimes makes for awkward introductions, even at Pagan Meetups.
“Teo,” I say, extending my hand.
An awkward nod. A polite, understanding smile. You’re Pagan, the smile acknowledges. A bit strange, and I accept that because I’m a bit strange, too.
Are we who we say we are, I wondered.
There’s a buzz in the Pago-blogosphere about this idea of expostmodernism, specifically as it relates to religion, it’s survival, or it’s demise. According to Drew Jacob, “the core of expostmodernism is a culture shift in a direction that is pro-individual,” and the primacy of the individual’s personal journey. Individuation by selection of a new name fits right into the expostmodernism ethos.
The expostmodern seeker, as Drew describes her, is not unlike the author of this blog. I write into the void, meeting on occasion, either here or on another blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook, a like-minded, text-based traveler with whom I try to forge something akin to a pen-pal relationship. Except, I don’t have the benefit of seeing their handwriting, catching their scent on the page, touching something – anything – tactile and of the earth. Its all text. Text projected onto glass. Scrying through code, the expostmodernist forges a kind of community that doesn’t resemble the groves, covens or mystical orders that I imagined when I first started down this path.
Drew may be right. The future of religious community may be grounded (a word that is ironic, possibly inappropriate to use in this context) in text/hypertext-based, Internet-centered communication. However, my deep longing for physical, organic, of-the-dirt community, marked and made fleshy by the sensory experiences (sharing food, lighting non-virtual fires) which are unattainable through the internet, gives me cause to question whether the eventuality he predicts will provide the spiritual sustenance I need.
Who will stir the soup?
My family is a kitchen family. We gather where the food is made, we pontificate where the food is made, we fantasize where the food is made. We make magic around the gas-stove hearth, along with hand-rolled tortillas and fried eggs, and the doing is part of what connects the members of this family to one another. The shared activity, and all of the mess it can make, creates for us a sacred space. A sacred spiritual, yet very much physical space, filled with sweet, savory and sometimes burnt smells and tastes.
I think Drew is hitting on something close to home when he describes the desires of expostmodern individuals. I crave a communal experience, not simply the sense of belonging to a religious order. For me (a true start to an expostmodern sentence) it isn’t a question of form, so much as it is a question of quality. I’d like to attend a Full Moon ritual that leaves me breathless and awestruck at the sight of our heavenly Queen. I’d like for someone to ask me — “Teo…where did that come from?”, and then I’d like for that same person to follow me online & dig deep into my blog posts and unpack ideas with me. I’d like continuity between what I conjure up on my computer screen and what I’m cooking in my kitchen.
Is that too much to ask for in an expostmodern world?