The goddess and the “Full-moon” ceremony
They say that postmodern ideas of religion have no need for anachronistic or archaic pagan debris left by the wayside of complex religious institutions. These old rituals died long ago and good riddance. Nowadays, organized religion has tried to run over any alternative like a rotten piece of road kill. We’re talking about so-called legitimate organizations of the sacred that are overwrought with pedophile priests, crazed assertions of a one true faith, and greedy evangelicals that live the highlife of hookers, heroin, and hedonism. It’s a rockstar status and nobody seems to mind that these spiritual charlatans are conducting the heavenly orchestra. Have we learned nothing from Swaggart and Baker? Good god! These salesmen don’t even try to be pious. And most now equate the Ten Commandments with the ten venereal diseases that rack their holy-poisoned bodies. “Thou shalt not pick up hepatitis from the Whore of Babylon on Lexington and 2nd street.” “Thou shalt not covet the church leader’s wife until that harlot gets treated for gonorrhea and my rash goes away.” And yet we fork over millions in a feeble attempt to make Jesus happy. And why? Why my brethren do we buy our way into paradise when it can be found in any number of ways?
I recently attended a pagan ‘full-moon ceremony’ held at a local university. Since I’d had no real experience with pagan ideology, there were no preconceived notions on my part. I didn’t fear being cannibalized or chased with pitch forks. Actually a little raw fear may have intensified the experience. After all, I was warned of the pure, unadulterated evil of the pagan persuasion. I came to expect wild, crazed dancing and Bacchic fits. I was fully prepared to be terrified by a torch-lit procession of anthropomorphic lunatics chanting in unison and dragging the carcass of some poor pet-owner's dog in their wake. I even brought my pepper-spray just in case I had to douse somebody and make a run for it. Oh, I was warned. “There gonna be taking over and burning some effigy of Jesus.” One correspondent remarked. Another witness just hid in the bushes adjacent to the ritual and mumbled Christian counter-curses to ward off the pagan idolatry. “They should burn!” He seethed. “They should all burn in hell!” We can expect this kind of reaction as the pagan movement gears up for an all-out assault on the local political scene. Rumor has it that a neo-shaman and traveling warlock plans to usurp power from the conservative Christian hegemony that characterizes North Utah. “We’re afraid to leave our homes at night.” One local remarked, “The goddamn pagans have set up shop in the canyon and [sic] doing who-knows-what in the hills up there. I heard they eat babies and worship a goat.” The police department has been inundated with calls about maniacal howling, a Witches Sabbath, and a secret meeting place deep in the National Forest where pagans perform filthy rites and speak in tongues. The zeal of the local community in castigating this pagan tribe has reached fever pitch with the coming of the full-moon. A demonstration in the middle of town was checkered with signs that read, ‘Save our babies, punish the pagans!’ and ‘The only good pagan is a dead pagan!’ As I approached the small clearing where the pagans had gathered, I must admit to a feeling of trepidation. I could still hear the hissing of that freak in the bushes and the night seemed electric and ready to deliver something awful and unexpected.
As we stood in a horse-shoe pattern and read aloud the introductory prayer, I didn’t notice anything overtly heretical. We weren’t forced to trample a cross, lick anybody’s ass, or worship of bodiless head. Seemed pretty tame. Even by my standards and I was fully prepared for some hideous blasphemy. Or at least some screeching of the faithful sort. What I found was basically coherent and actually quite beautiful. Amid the nervous mumbling of the uninitiated, the comfort of those used to buying this brand of holy-roller, and strange screaming coming from somewhere not far away, the experience felt legitimate. I could tell by the care taken with the altar and the honesty of those participating that the mechanisms used to negotiate belief was apparent in the pagan experience. And although in the back of my mind, I really wanted some terrible goddess to show up, I didn’t know if all the players present could handle such a vicious jolt of the sacred. An appearance of Persephone to somebody not really equipped to handle the shock could lead to a sleepless night of anxiety or such a severe case of righteous bewilderment that being afraid of the dark just wouldn’t seem to cover it. How do you tell your Sunday preacher that a great and powerful goddess likes to straddle your chest at night and whisper beautiful sweet-nothings in your ear? That it arouses you and her scent still lingers long after she rejoins the underworld. What do you say to that? Well, be that as it may, the pagan experience was a kind of soft beauty. There was a calming lucidity that led to gentle smiles and warm caresses. And towards the end, in that stillness and the slight rustle of trees, there was a breeze and within it, the breath of a smiling and satisfied goddess.