An Expostmodern Response

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?


To read the post which started all of this discussion, click here.





11 responses to “An Expostmodern Response”

  1. Wilbert Avatar

    This kind of practice is the least of all my concern but
    when my mom asked me to accompany her one of the event I was blown away. They
    are cool people. I think I’d love to stick around for more.


  2. Abbs Avatar

    There are so many words we use in the english dictionary that have nothing to do with the literal meaning of the word. What do words like Karate Melkbos have to do with karate or melkbos lol? To answer your rather thought provoking rhetorical final question; yes!

  3. […] when I clarified it left some folks scratching their heads. Blogger Teo Bishop asked me if I could explain how exactly I’m not Pagan, since I follow the same gods that many […]

  4. Resa Avatar

    Here’s the thing– I’ve been talking about the progression of religious impulse from Gods-out-there to God as your buddy to I am part of the Gods for more than 20 years now. Deep personalization and interior integration of the divine is the leading force of neo-paganism. In ADF we get the full variety of religious expression from “I am propitiating those outside gods/forces over there” to “Brigid is my BFF” to “Last night I wore the mantle of Isis” because of the re-constructionist aspects of ADF. But the bulk of Neopaganism is all about direct participation in the divine and that’s been going on at least since Crowley’s time. It’s the true heart of the New Age, and it’s really interesting to watch people figure that out.

    The pagan community online, the techno-witches, as they called themselves back in the day when we were dialing up PODs net (pagan & occult distribution network) by phone modem, main function has always been to aid networking so that people can get together face-to-face more easily. You no longer only learn about Starwood or Heartland Festival, just to use a couple of examples, simply because you know someone who knows someone. You can plug into a search engine and find the nearest pagans. And as Drew points out, for people who live far, far away from anyone or who can’t travel for some reason, there’s a vibrant online community to support them which doesn’t necessarily subtract from the face to face community at all.

    The danger I see is that when everyone has a blog or a Facebook or their own website, there’s a tendency to not engage. If you’re not out there commenting on other people’s blog entries, (which doesn’t apply to anyone in this conversation, we’re all out there yakking away at each other :-D) and you’re not participating in your online communities, then you’re both isolated and invisible. And that doesn’t lead you to want to engage face to face. No matter how much some lurker might enjoy my posts, we’re never going to meet up online or IRL if they don’t introduce themselves and say hello.

    Sorry if this is a little disjointed. I started writing my comment early in the morning and I’ve had multiple levels of interrupt in the meantime. Anyhow, thanks for your post and the link ups to other interesting posts!

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      What a great comment, Resa. It didn’t feel disjointed to me at all. I appreciate your insight.

      You bring up a great point: the impetus falls on each of us to initiate contact and to engage in our own community building. We can’t expect a new social profile to do it for us. We have to show up, as it were, to our computers and begin reaching out. And, as you wonderfully point out, we can do this with the end goal of connecting to our various profile’s flesh and blood counterparts IRL.

      And yes…we are all out there yakking away at each other! I’d have it no other way!!

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Kristin Avatar

    The way I see it, our reliance on technology is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because, without it, I wouldn’t have found ADF and I would have no way to meet or communicate with other members. There are so few of us, scattered so far, and the internet allows us to have a global community.

    It’s a curse because it doesn’t really allow for true conversation, for discourse or dialog. Altus is fond of saying that, in conversations, we’re all just waiting for our turn to talk. That can be true of face-to-face conversation, but it’s almost certainly true of digital communication. We each write our blog posts, send them out into the void, and then respond to each other without necessarily engaging. Here I am, writing what I think about what YOU said. It’s too hard to engage online, to have that back-and-forth, “What do you mean by that? Can you elaborate on it?”

    Despite our global community, it can feel profoundly lonely… or perhaps I’m projecting, saying what I think and was toying with writing in a blog post of my own.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar
      Teo Bishop

      Yes. I see what you’re saying, and I agree with that.

      (Funny thing… I chose to read your comment out loud, just to get the experience of being spoken to.)

      I don’t think online community is an acceptable substitute for offline community. It may be, as Drew describes, a valuable community enhancer. Better to understand it as a tool used to help facilitate *actual* community building.

  6. Kevin Silverstag Avatar
    Kevin Silverstag

    Hate to seem negative, but this “ExPoMod” sounds like much the same drivel that Mondo 2000 was spouting, like, twenty years ago.

    It’s a great huge world out there, and the part of it that blogs and cares about blogs is a mote of dust blowing about in the wind.

  7. Drew Jacob Avatar

    Awesome response Teo. And actually, if you have a chance sometime, I *would* like to know where exactly Teo comes from (beyond the teaser answer you give in this post).

    Here are two things I find fascinating about the ExPoMod buzz:

    1. I’m not Pagan, and my original post was not about Paganism specifically, but the Pagan corner of the blogosphere is where all the responses and debates are coming from. And:

    2. The use of digital technology is only one small part of ExPoMod, and it’s the part that is turning Pagans off the most.

    Together, these two pieces of information tell me something important: Pagans are more ExPoMod than I thought.

    The technology issue is not really a big obstacle because people who prefer in-person stuff will always be able to do that instead. Adding technology just adds another layer of accessibility, it doesn’t deprive anyone of anything.

    And it seems like Pagans are ready for the rest of ExPoMod.

    So maybe y’all will see more growth in the 21st century than I predicted 🙂

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Drew! Glad to connect with you here. And yes – we’ll have to talk at some point about the origin of names…

      Also, I’d be interested to know how your following of the Old Irish ways wouldn’t be considered a form of modern (or ExPoMo) Paganism. Do you consider yourself a Celtic Reconstructionist? Christian? Do tell.

      I’m not sure I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion about technology’s merits and positive affect on community. Technology, specifically that designed to facilitate social interaction, does deprive people of something; mainly, the imperative to connect in a physical space. One might see this as a new freedom, but as I tried to explain in my post-and what I think Phaedra was getting at-certain experiences must happen outside of a digital medium. Cooking, for example.

      So long as technology is an additive and not the main staple, we may be alright. Does that make sense to you?

      1. Drew Jacob Avatar

        Makes perfect sense Teo, but I have three responses.

        1. Whether or not digital technology is a good thing, it is still rising to dominance. If this were 1820 and I said, “The future of our country lies with the railroad,” there might be lots of reasons why you’d dislike that fact. But nonetheless, railroads would still dominate a century of economy, society and romantic imagery. Similarly, digital media is going to be dominant and necessary – whether it’s good for community or not.

        2. Nonetheless, I do believe that digital media improves quality if life by allowing people more options for being connected. While previous technological advances have fostered alienation, this advance allows for greater community. That’s why I say it’s lifting alienation. It also allows people to occupy a niche interest without being marginalized. That is an awesome development. So not only will it be dominant, it does have positive outcomes.

        3. Nothing will ever replace certain nondigital experiences like cooking or ritual – for those who grew up doing them nondigitally (myself included). The problem is that we tend to assume other people will value the same things. I am continually shocked when people prefer to experience art digitally over visiting a museum, but it’s a growing trend. I don’t think we can treat “some experiences HAVE to be nondigital” as dogma. It’s an assumption we have to question to understand our century.

        Ultimately, I don’t think it will be a choice of “either digital OR nondigital.” I think physical experiences like cooking or ritual will continue to be done physically, but be enhanced by digital tools. Two weeks ago I used Google to find a how-to on making scallops, and then made the best scallops I’ve ever eaten. That’s one way of using digital technology to enhance cooking.