On Sunday, my friend VB and I went to a full moon celebration/dance party. Billed as “An Evening of Intentional Dance in Celebration of the Full Moon,” it was an all-ages event at a local dance studio, with an abundance of DJs and a strict ban on alcohol and drugs. The event kicked off at 6 pm sharp, with an opening ceremony led by a local belly-dancing teacher.
Going in, I had some reservations; the event promised to be so utterly saturated with new-age hippie vibrations that I feared what my inner cynic might do. (Burst out laughing? Retreat in horror? Snort or scoff at an inopportune moment?) However, it also promised a long night of enthusiastic dancing without the complications that the bar/club present, and I am always up for that.
So, we arrived at 6 and paid our entrance fee, took off our shoes at the entrance (house rules! Bare feet! I loved it!) and ventured into the dance studio. A small altar was set up in the middle of the floor, with candles, crystals, feathers, and burning sage. All we eager devotees of the moon gathered in a circle around her. First she went around the circle, wafting the sage smoke with an eagle feather, and then beating a native drum. We held hands and said some deep, heartfelt OMs together, and then she invoked the four cardinal points, the four elements, and the spirits of the land we inhabit.
It all sounds rather flaky. But it felt wonderful. I think it’s undeniable that human beings thirst for ritual, for collective experience, for a spiritual thread. I’ve been part of, and witness to, so many rituals and so many dances over the past three years – so many festivals, so many foreign “cultural experiences,” and they have been incredible and mind-opening. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been a part of a ritual grounded in my own land, invoking the spirits of the cedar forests and the wild coast, of this marvellous island which is my home.
And to sing, together! Once, about five years ago, I joined a “free singing” group. We would meet once a week and sit on cushions, in a circle, and just start singing – a tone would rise organically from our throats and we would fade in and out, modulating as felt natural, growing gradually into a melody, or perhaps into a cacophony of grunts and barks, pure noise-making. Singing in a group is an incredibly satisfying, visceral thing. Just to make noise together. One of the anthropological theories behind the San traditional dancing and singing is that it was partially to warn off lions. As an isolated nomadic group, a tiny island of fire and humanity in the vast sea of the Kalahari, making that joyous collective noise would warn lions that you were there and your group was strong. Prides of lions do the same thing. The lions roar together at night, perhaps communicating with other prides, or perhaps just letting them know: we are here, we are strong.
Singing together announces your presence to predators, to other groups of people, to the universe. It unites you as a group, and it is a very physical experience, feeling the resonance of your tone vibrating throughout the space.
Must go to bed. Continue tomorrow, perhaps.