Tag Archives: pagan gatherings

Pagans’ Progress documentary

Narrated by the fabulous Jenny Agutter, this 1997 documentary stars Kate West, Ronald Hutton, and Dave Smith (Damh the Bard). A neat little doco, pleasantly bringing information of modern wicca and paganism to the world, with those interviewed bringing their experiences and views forward in an array of traditions and paths. Here is it in part 1 and 2.

Nice to see Dave Smith younger, thinner, with groovy tie-died pants! Nothing has changed otherwise…. Many Victorians know Dave Smith now, as he tours Australia as Damh the Bard, usually with Adelaide band Spiral Dance.

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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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The C-Word

“Community” is a word thrown around the pagan scene a lot these days, often by folks who are bemoaning its breakdown.

“I try to stay out of the pagan ‘community’ these days, if you can call it that anymore (sic),” writes one forum member.

These seem to be the same folk who get all misty-eyed about the “good old days” of paganism – back in the eighties and nineties – and blame today’s deterioration mostly on internet-based gossip, phoney-baloney elders, slander and witch wars.

I have already touched on the positives of the digital age for pagans. I still believe the internet can be a huge help to pagan groups, when it is used constructively. What some nostalgic types seem to be forgetting is that “bitchcraft” has been around for a long time, and pagans have been mud-slinging and name-calling for equally as long. As most Australian pagans who do their homework will know, Alex Sanders used a very different C-word in a letter to Simon Goodman way back in 1983.

As for the folk griping about the recent rise of fraudulent or otherwise dodgy “elders”, well, they are not unique to this religion, either.

But what exactly do people mean when they say “community”, anyway? In a traditional sense, the word refers to people who live in the same place, or have a similar characteristic in common. I do not live particularly close to any pagans, with the exception of one or two. In many cases the only characteristic I share with other pagans is that we are pagans. By feeling closer to the people in my town than I do to strangers sitting at their computers, I do not fit into the pagan community by this definition.

With that vague notion in mind, how would we define who is a part of this community and who isn’t? Should the term be reserved only for regular attendees of Pagans in the Pub? For members of a working circle, coven or kindred? There have even been recent rumblings about forming some sort of governing body, to which all pagans would be accountable. This would not work for a number of reasons, the main one being that it is not a very good idea.

I have been involved in the pagan “scene” here in Victoria for well over a decade, and through a number of different avenues have been exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of pagan people, places and practice. Below, I have selfishly put together my definition of pagan community, along with some thoughts on what I’m fairly sure it isn’t. Be sure to let me know yours.

Close-knit, not anonymous.

I think perhaps one thing the aforementioned nostalgic folk are missing is the size of the community. We have grown significantly in numbers in the last decade, but does that really mean we should all be holding hands, or stopping by for tea on Sundays? If two people are pagans, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will instantly become best friends.

This rarely happens.

Earlier on, when there were fewer people interested in paganism, it was sometimes quite relieving to bump into someone with similar beliefs, albeit ostensibly. Today, we seem to be drowning in Galadriel Moonkitty Darkravens, and this can be daunting/off-putting.

There also seems to be a networking fetish running rampant through modern pagans. Folks, it’s not about the quantity of people you know, it’s about the quality. What’s so wrong with an intimate gathering of close friends? So what if this pagan “celeb” or that likes your status update?

Free/NFP, not paid.

A lot has already been said about Craft for Sale. Let me reiterate: if someone is making big buckets of cash from the workshop/ritual/whatever you are attending, it is likely said event is bollocks. Paganism is not a commodity. Ritual is not a commodity. Magick is not a commodity. Plenty of organisations will, however, ask for money to cover essentials (in fact, there are very few pagan gatherings left that are totally free, thanks to our old friend Public Liability Insurance), which is fine. Just be discerning. If someone claims to be not for profit or acting for a charity, look into it first.

Helping out, not helping yourself.

One observation I have heard commonly is that the pagan community is quite a selfish one. I disagreed with this until I gave it proper thought.

How many pagans do you see going to tree planting days? To Clean Up Australia Day? You would think that, as nature-worshippers, we would be all over this sort of thing. But sadly, it seems we are all too ready to attend workshops for spiritual self-betterment, but struggle to help out at a grass roots level. To me, a pagan community with any real purpose would be out helping the environment, or their fellow human beings. Lending a hand to others without expectation of reward isn’t just a Christian thing: it’s part of being a decent person.

Optional.

I had started to write another criterion before this one: “Devoid of Tossers”. But I deleted it. As I mentioned above, there is no way to police the flakes, fruits and nuts in the greater pagan community. What we do have the power to do is to move away from those who “give us the irrits”. Either go solitary for a while or seek out others. There is a running joke between Daracha and I that for every decent, intelligent pagan there are around forty-five nutters. Non-irritating pagans do exist: they are just trickier to find than the dreaded Galadriel Moonkitties.

There are many more pagans in Australia now than there were ten years ago. It is also a lot easier for these pagans to communicate. Rather than lamenting the loss of true community, I think we should turn the lens back in on smaller groups of people. Baby steps. The pagan community is not gone. It is just adrift in a sea of faces…

Galloway.

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