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Let Me Count the Ways: an alphabet of modern Paganism in Victoria

By Galloway, Daracha and Cecily M-B, with contributions and meddlings from Mary, Jan and Esther.

We have a vast and varied cross-section of paganism here in Victoria (or, as an overseas friend of mine recently put it, “the bottom right corner of Australia, before you get to the floaty part”). Below are just snippets of our favourite things about being pagan in Victoria. What are yours?

A is for Andrew

Nestled amidst the beautiful Yarra Ranges, Saint Andrews Community Market has been running for more than forty years now. It now runs weekly, and its eclectic and relaxed atmosphere makes it one the most pagan markets in the state. We especially recommend the drumming workshops on every second week!

B is for Beltane

The Maypole at Mount Franklin. Photo courtesy of the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering.

The Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering, which turned thirty-two years old in 2013, is the oldest pagan gathering in the Southern Hemisphere, and possibly the world. We love its rich history, acceptance of all pagan faiths and the community atmosphere of the weekend.

C is for Castlemaine

This picturesque town in the goldfields of central Victoria has been home to many witches over the years, and is still popular with witchy folk today. Highlights of the town include the Theatre Royal, the oldest continuously operating theatre on the Australian mainland, and Wesley Hill Market, another gloriously eclectic experience.

D is for Druid

Druidry is thriving in Victoria, with a number of public and private groves established about the place, notably the OBOD-Associated Melbourne Grove and its affiliates.

E is for Euphoria

The Euphoria Pagan Gathering until 2009, and was a long weekend of challenging and extremely transformative rituals, dealing with concepts such as the “shadow self”, facing fears, encountering guides, etc. We look back at these rites, organised by the iconic Seline and Hawthorn, with great fondness, and were absolutely thrilled to discover that the organisers have decided to present the “Rites of Euphoria” again in 2013 and beyond!

F is for Full Moon

Esbats are well and truly celebrated all around Victoria in different rituals, both public and private. One of the most notable gatherings is the one held by the lovely Seline Cardamon-Cairns. These circles provide a friendly and welcoming environment for both beginners and the more adept. You can find out more about them here.

G is for Greenery

Dandenong Ranges National Park

In Victoria, the winters bring harsh frosts, and even snow in places. Summers are long, dusty and dry, and some places don’t see rain for months at a time. But as the days slowly start to warm after the frosty months, and as the ground softens again after the harsh summer sun, we see the green coming back. Grass peeks out of scorched earth and leaves begin to appear on skeletal trees. Vegetable patches take off again, shoots pop up their heads and leaves unfurl. Victoria is a state dotted with state forests, national parks and conservation areas, and many of our small towns’ main streets are lined with oaks, elms, conifers or eucalypts.

H is for Heathen

Norse Paganism is also strong here in Victoria, particularly in the areas of Asatru and Odinism (though we have heard of smaller numbers of practitioners of Theodism). There are hearths, garths and kindreds far flung across the state, and the most active public group seems to be the Melbourne Heathen Moot.

I is for Ireland

Around a quarter of Australians with Irish Ancestry reside in Victoria today. In the early days of white settlement, many of the convicts and labourers who made homes in Victoria were also from the emerald isle – a legacy which lives on today through distinctly Irish place names like Koroit, Belfast (now Port Fairy), Portarlington, Coleraine and Maryborough. Little wonder, then, that so many new Pagans first find an affinity with aspects such as fairies or the ancient Celtic Wheel of the Year, and that so many Pagan meet-ups take place in Irish pubs!

J is for Jonquil

These sunny little chaps are usually the first inkling that Spring is on the way in Victoria, and by early Spring they are prominent in many gardens across the state as the first splash of colour. Jonquils and daffodils feature across a number of cultures and mythologies such as that of the Ancient Greeks, in which Persephone was lured to the Underworld by Hades while she was picking one. In further Ancient Greek ties, the Latin name for the standard Jonquil is Narcissus Jonquilla.

K is for Korumburra

This wee town, nestled in Victoria’s southeast, is also popular with the witchy folk today. Rumour has it that some of Victoria’s first Strega and related groups began in the east of the state back in the seventies (or maybe even earlier?), and little wonder – while many towns in the west of the state were predominantly English and Irish for many years, Korumburra and other places in the east have a strong history of migration waves from all across Europe.

L is for Lindsay

Norman Lindsay was born in Creswick in Central Victoria in 1879, dying in 1969 at age 90. Lindsay was famous for his paintings, etchings and sculptures, many featuring nude women. He also wrote novels, children’s books and essays, and illustrated many of them, too. A lot of his artwork was very pagan – scenes of Bacchanalia, Dionysian revelry, costume parties, half-human half-animals, sphinxes, fauns, decadence, lust and reverence. Lindsay’s artwork was controversial for his time. Some pieces were banned, destroyed or rejected by art galleries: pieces that explored sexual adventures or lusty pagan trysts full of nudes. The nude women in his paintings often held a regal air of authority, power and confidence. Infamous King’s Cross artist Rosaleen Norton also modelled in his painting ‘Crete’ as a nude riding a black bull. Lindsay’s art is still celebrated by many pagans today.

M is for Mysteries

Wherever there is Paganism, there are rumours, and Victoria is not spared from this. Sometimes a few are true, and help us steer clear of the many unsavoury characters that seem to be drawn to Witchcraft and Paganism. But most are untrue and are created out of spite or misunderstanding.
Then there are those rumours that create outright panic. In the 1980’s there were a number of books, such as the one titled Michelle Remembers, published, alleging a worldwide satanic abuse and conspiracy. Despite claims in these books being proven untrue, satanic panic exploded worldwide. Throughout the eighties and nineties, many Pagans and Witches in Victoria and the rest of the world were harassed, lost their jobs and had their homes vandalized as the moral panic about Satanic ritual abuse spread to Australia. In the papers at the time Victoria was described at hotbed of Occult activity, and to this day rumours circulate about a black coven up to no good somewhere in the Dandenong Ranges.
During the panic, some Pagans and Witches sought out media interviews to offer a contrasting view: that Paganism was a peaceful non-violent religion and that the biblical figure called Satan has no place in Witchcraft. Of course, the Victorian Pagan community is not without its own cases of real abuse and we must be vigilant. If you hear/witness abuse going on in any form under the guise of Witchcraft, please contact the police.

N is for North

The old religion(s) are alive and well far from Victoria’s capital. The most recent evidence of this is the Wedderburn New Age Festival, put on in the rural town by a local coven. The festival was by all accounts a hit, and quite popular with the locals, despite much protest and contestation by local church groups, who accused the ladies of “bringing the devil to Wedderburn“, a notion which had most Pagans either falling about laughing or wondering if they had inadvertently time travelled back a few centuries…

O is for Otways

The Great Otway National Park consists of just over one hundred square kilometres of beautiful mountains and temperate rainforest on Victoria’s southwest coast. This rugged and beautiful wilderness has attracted pagans of many walks of life for decades, and contains a number of active ritual sites for different groups and individuals.

P is for Pub


“…So I said to him, ‘not with my athame, mate!’ LOL!”

The tradition of Pagans in the Pub is still going strong as a means for Pagan folk to network, socialise and share ideas. There are pub moots happening all over Victoria’s larger towns. The largest and most well-known is Melbourne Pagans in the Pub, which is currently run by local Melbournite, Philippe.

Q is for Quercus

Victoria is dotted with beautiful oak trees across the cities and the countryside. The oak is an ancient and powerful symbol across a number of ancient cultures, and as such is still very important in paganism today. In Victoria, there are a large number of oak plantations and heritage listed trees. Among our favourites are the pair of Quercus Canariensis in the Manningham Heritage Gardens in Bulleen and the Federal Oak, which was planted by Sir Henry Parkes at Parliament House in Melbourne in 1890.

R is for Ritual

You say the Goddess and God have gone
But I tell you they live on!
For in the cities and hills
And in circles of stone
The voices of the Old Ways
The Spirit of Albion is calling you home…

(Damh the Bard – “The Spirit of Albion”)

At any given Sabbat or Esbat, or at other key times of the year, hundreds of Pagans across the state are conducting their own personal rites of celebration and devotion: in the cities and towns, in the hills and forests, in parks and gardens and on the beaches… Indoors and out, solitaries, large gatherings and everything in between.

S is for Spring


Both red and white hawthorn can be found all around Victoria in the Springtime.

Spring in Victoria is quite a sight, and usually begins with a few very busy weeks. During this time, the air seems to warm up noticeably, everything is energised after the frosty months, and there is a real “feeling” of Spring everywhere you go! Then the wildflowers start dotting the roadsides, and the hawthorn blooms happily. If you only go to the country in Victoria once a year, Spring is the time to do it!

T is for Tradition



Like the rest of Australia, Traditional Witchcraft maintains a quiet but consistent presence in Victoria, where there have been a small number of covens and associated solitary practitioners for decades now.

U is for Unexplained

With its fairly spotty history, the notion that Victoria is quite haunted in places comes as little surprise to many. Among the creepiest of the creepy are the Old Melbourne Gaol; Werribee Park Mansion; The Elephant Bridge Hotel in Darlington, Western Victoria; and Mayday Hills Asylum, which later became the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, in the state’s North-East.

V is for Varied

People new to Paganism here are often amazed at the amount of choice they have within the community. Back in the dark days before the internet, many groups kept themselves to themselves, and it was hard for “outsiders” to get any information at all, even about Paganism in general. Now Victoria (and the internet!) is home to many active and public groups from a wide range of traditions, and witches, magicians, druids, heathens, pagans and others can network freely if they so choose.

W is for Wiccan Conference

The Australian Wiccan Conference began as an annual conference of the Pagan Alliance (PA). It started in 1984 and was originally a meeting place for the PA in New South Wales with an AGM held at the end of the weekend, until it was decided that the conference could be held in other states. As of 2008, on its 25th Anniversary, the AWC had been held in every state in Australia, being held in QLD in 2008 for the first time. It is normally held on the weekend closest to the Spring Equinox in September, and usually runs for 3 days and 2 nights. People travel from all over Australia to attend the conference, or to present a lecture or workshop. Musicians such as Spiral Dance and many other bands have performed there, and a ritual is usually conducted on the Saturday evening. It is destined to be held in Victoria in 2014.

X is for eXcellence

Yes, I know. But X is tricky!
X is dedicated to all the excellent and exceptional pagan people we have met over the years: to those pioneers who were there at the birth of new groups and ideas, to long-standing elders and members our community, to those who have visited Victoria from interstate and overseas, and to all other decent pagan folk!

Y is for Yule

We have already spoken at length in this article about Victoria’s frosty winters. The icy ground and the green grass make Yule a safe time of year for shenanigans such as big bonfires, fire twirling and more… And non-Pagan folk have started embracing these traditions, too! While the night itself is usually a doozy of a leaf-sizzling frost in most regions, it provides cold ground and a clear sky – excellent conditions for welcoming back the sun!

Z is for Zen

Paganism in Victoria has seen many allies in recent decades, and sometimes from unexpected places. The Buddhist Council of Victoria, for example, have been actively engaged in organising education and awareness programs about so-called “alternative” religions in schools in the state for many years now, as well as interfaith dialogue with many religious groups, including Pagans. There is also the Satyanada Yoga Ashram in Central Victoria which opens its doors to Pagans and people of all faiths, especially during seasonal festivals.

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Craft No Place for Arrogance

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I was talking to an important friend a while back, about Traditional British Wicca and the people that seek it out. I won’t post up the conversation, but will glean bits that I want to talk about in my own words. Gone are the days when Alex Sanders and Gerald Gardner initiated a person the day after they met them, and raised them to third degree by the end of the week. You have to put in time, perseverance and honour now. Well, you did then too, but anyone interested was allowed into the scene and into the secrets.

Today, after a few decades of modern day Wicca, there is a large level of discernment. You can’t just waltz in anymore, you need to prove yourself to the coven you want to enter. They need to get to know you – all parts of you – they want to see how you will react in difficult social situations, how you handle other people, and how you behave within gossiping circles, and indeed, whether or not you even bother getting involved. Do you LOVE to argue about everything? That might not be a good thing, if you want in.

The Alexandrian and Gardnerian Traditions have begun to discriminate, because they have had too many nutjobs within their scene, which in turn, gives them a bad name. Just like anything. People with mental issues and mental illnesses frequent the pagan/witchcraft scene, as Galloway and I have mentioned in some form, within previous posts. You will definitely meet some personalities with whom you will clash with, and a lot you think should not be in a position of power. A lot of these people are like a moth to the flame in the pagan/wiccan scene because it makes them feel like somebody unique. Some people love to tell others how it is, so they love to be in an expert position where they can spread their word. Some love to know every bit of knowledge so they can hold debates with others about topics, and show off what they know, whether the other people want a debate or not. Some people just want to enjoy the sunshine and rainbow colours of a pagan event, not debate about what Aleister Crowley said to Austin Osman Spare 100 years earlier.

My friend in this British Wiccan group spoke to me about some recent ‘applicants’ wanting into the Craft and the coven, who did not ‘get’ the requirements. There were some personality traits lacking in these people that may never ever exist, unless they take a step down from their high horses. Arrogance and ego. These two words are not really all that welcome within Wicca today, at least not particular levels of it. Elitism at a level is not welcome either. I have, over the years managed to delineate between these three words and find two levels too it – there could even be more than two levels. I’ve seen elitism, ego and arrogance in its most pleasant form, where the people involved are within the ‘nicer’ spectrum of these three words, and these people are usually running the show, because they need to keep the negative people out. You need to be arrogant to be ruthless. And I’ve seen plenty of people in the ‘severe’ spectrum of them too. The severe arrogant, egotistical people are the ones I will talk about.

Pride, superiority, and snobbery have been observed in this scene when it was not even needed. The nicer elitists are discerning and judicious, which is where your elitist word comes in, they are in a position of power, and decide who they want in their group. They need to be discerning, or else they will get sick of a lot of people very quickly, and probably then won’t be able to get rid of them. Ever. Even I’ve seen that in local wiccan groups. Initiates are not given another degree, because they have been rude, demanding and selfish, and won’t do the work.

The Craft Whore

One particular kind of person I am most interested in is what Galloway and I call the craft whore. This person knows the ins and outs of everything to do with paganism, witchcraft, wicca, and other pre-christian religions and magical groups like Thelema, that had the fair grace to leave the shores of Britain. They will kiss the arse of those they consider elders, and even then, deep down, think they know more than those elders. There was one person that I loved hearing about from my friend, who wants into a coven, but cannot fathom some of the requests and personalities needed to be accepted. This person has no real opinion of their own – as a craft whore, they have read everything under the sun about everything, having decided what they think is right, but they do not have their own experiences to distinguish an opinion of their own. Nor could they fathom that they needed empathy. They looked confused when the words humility, hilarity, compassion and even maturity were needed within the Craft. When asked if they could do something, they simply did not understand and instead said that they had read about it, and had heard several opinions about the same thing, all from reading. Where is the experience? Where is the personal involvement within a situation, where you had a ‘moment’ with someone else in ritual, and could determine what you felt, what emotions surfaced. Empathy, selflessness and humility are important in the craft as much as hilarity and mirth. Not apathy, selfishness, arse-kissing, power and knowledge. While knowledge is important, it is not the only thing.

This person also wanted mystery and secrecy within a ritual they once conducted, and the ritual did not work the way they wanted it to, because they were too serious about it – YES! Being too serious in the Craft can be a big problem sometimes, and the Gods will just laugh at you. The person was also so confident that the ritual would be amazing, faultless and so perfectly written, that there was no rehearsal. Their rude behaviour towards other elders in the scene was just a time-bomb waiting to go off, the elders were invited by this person to this ritual so they could prove to the elders how amazing they were. It ‘died in the arse’ as some would say. Instead of gleaning respect, the individual lost more than they already had. They were rude to their fellow ritualists, and so arrogantly confident, that when things went wrong, they refused to admit that things had gone wrong, therefore never apologised. As far as it has been seen, this person has not learned from any of their mistakes, and still cannot fathom empathy. They arse-kiss anyone they think are worthy, and think they are better and more knowledgeable than those who they deem beneath them. They think that what they know will get them in, also who they know, and how popular they are. There is so much more to it than that. Sometimes these people expect too much from the coven, and get disappointed it’s not what they anticipated.

They are the kind of person who would read this blog post and not realise it’s them that I am talking about. That is how ignorant they are about their own character.

Authority Issues

Another issue in the craft is the problem with authority. In an old coven, you’ll probably have respectful elders who have been around for a long time. They will know a lot. And they will probably tell you what to do, not in a power-trip way, but because you may need to learn how to do it. It’s all for your good; your betterment within the Craft. If, of course, what you are told to do is a bit dubious, then this elder may not be who they say they are. Today, as mentioned earlier, elders and coven members will suss you out for a long time if you want into a scene, you have a chance to get to know them too, and decide whether they are the right kind of person to listen to/be involved with. But if you have a problem with authority, you may lose your chance at entering into this particular Craft scene. One person my friend spoke of, learned that this person did not like authority, so when she tested them, they failed the first test when they took it personally, thus ‘giving the finger’ to the Craft. Well, there was one arrogant person who never made it into the first level of the Craft because they showed their colours straight away! You must test your students in every way possible to see whether they are worthy. If you want into a group and don’t like authority, you will be tested – it may be like you are being bullied, and if you retaliate arrogantly, you should perhaps think about leaving. You probably just failed and will be given no other chance, unless you realise your mistake, apologise and want a re-test. How will you learn and move on if you cannot handle being told what to do?

These people were trying to get into one of the traditional Wiccan covens you hear about – from the line of Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders of Britain, who have exclusive groups, but are not all that uncommon in the world. It didn’t work for them. You may think you are right for this or that coven, but in reality, it may not be right for you, you may be disappointed it’s not how you expected it. These days you must show your worth in all ways, not just what you’ve read. And you have to do the work – you cannot read every book out there and think you’ll be let in just like that.

This is why some covens go underground as mentioned in this small article here. People wonder why the traditional wiccan covens of the world shut up shop and not let anyone in so easily anymore. Can you blame them? With people like those mentioned above, it’s no wonder there are elitists out there keeping to themselves.

If you have not dealt with any of the issues from your childhood, then do not expect to bring your issues to a pagan group of any sort, dump your attitudes on them and be heartily welcomed. You WILL be told you are not mentally equipped to be involved in the Craft, and they will be correct in telling you that. Some mentally ill people ignore this – actually, most do. Be wary of this.

Some of the fluffier covens out there just like this one, will let just about anyone within their graceful doors, and frequently have issues that pop up in time. Letting anyone in can be a problem, especially when there is a good chance that you might let in the most recent mentally ill patient recently released from the local institution. They let anyone who is anyone in, and often, these places are the ones you would rather avoid because every nutter who likes the idea of paganism and witchcraft is allowed in. These ‘covens’ usually destroy themselves in time because of this. In-bitching, fighting, disagreements, problems with who is the ‘leader.’ Some could be sociopaths who love to seduce you and eventually garner money from you for their own personal desires. Be careful who you make friends with!

Conclusion:

–          If you are in a group or coven, don’t be too shy to discriminate and be discerning, if it’s for the good of your group.

–          Test your newer members unscrupulously.

–          There is good elitism and bad elitism – you may see both examples in the pagan scene, if you study people.

–          Be in control of who you chose to hang around with, you ARE allowed to leave a group whenever you feel uncomfortable.

–          Remember empathy, loyalty and honour is virtuous.

–          Knowledge will get you places, but not everywhere.

–          Power is nowhere near the most important thing in the Craft, and it will not get always get you where you want.

–          Show respect to all elders – they will know if you are just sucking up to them.

–          Don’t think that everyone new to the public pagan scene knows nothing, they may surprise you – treat everyone with respect upon meeting them.

~ yet another bossy post by Daracha ~

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