Moshing a circle pit of friendship


liturgySometimes shoving means loving

Michael Chmielewski

Moshing is a misunderstood phenomenon. As with most unfamiliar practices, such as religions, sub-cultures, or other such movements, the behaviour of those groups is alien to people on the outside, and this is the case with metal and its rituals. The “normal” culture looks at metal and shrugs its shoulders with a confused stare, and this mystery is personified in the mosh pit, metal’s most important ritual.

Why are a group of people, who are almost always men wearing black, running around and smashing into one another? What’s the point?

In an article by National Geographic outlining moshing and some scientific and anthropological work that has been done on the ritual, Nicholas Mott likens it to spirit possession and to herd behaviour found commonly in animals, including you, me, and that guy in line and Henderson’s – mammals. Although moshing may only be familiar to our culture from the last few decades, the practice’s roots lie deeper in human behaviour and history.

As a metalhead myself, I’ve been going to shows in Regina and the surrounding area for five years, but I never moshed until a year ago. For four years mosh pits never particularly enticed me. Truthfully, it seemed a little immature, and I was there to learn things on guitar that I could apply to my playing and just to enjoy some loud music. Yet, it always had my curiosity, and there was a physical element to it too; five years ago I was 15, and those dudes moshing were big men, so for life and limb I stayed away from the front middle part of the venue.

Eventually, I got over my original apprehension, growing to a mighty six feet three inches and 230 pounds, and I felt more confident to throw it around with the best of them. My first mosh pit was last year at the Metal Alliance tour, which came to the Riddell Centre. Three Inches of Blood was playing, and towards at the end of their set they played “The Goatriders Horde” which is not only my favorite Three Inches of Blood song, but one of my favourite metal songs ever. So, I was suddenly compelled to mosh. Everything was set in place. It was primal, and almost felt like a religious experience.

I ran in and started the ritual. When the song finished I felt amazing. I hadn’t sustained any injuries (beginner’s luck, I know), and I honestly felt like I had got a lot of stress off my mind from what was then a brutal semester. Every metal show I’ve been to since I’ve moshed, which has led to many bruises and a couple minor injuries, cuts here and busted knees there.

You’re thinking, this sounds fucking stupid. But would Christian prayer and ritual look stupid to the Atheist? Does not western over excess appear vain to rest of the world? Everyone thinks their practices, their beliefs, and their rituals, are the ones that are logical and the natural state of being – but there is always someone else that thinks it is irrational.

In general this phenomenon is rooted in a sense of belonging, or guidance, which underpins all religions, quasi-religions, and sub-cultures. This feeling, and the rejection of counter beliefs, has been with humans for longer than recorded history.

As for myself, my journey throughout metal’s “spirituality” has evolved, because now I play and write music in a metal band. When I play shows, I see people moshing to songs that my band and I wrote, and seeing that evokes in me a feeling better than moshing itself.

Photo courtesy of Roger Kisby/Getty Images

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