AWC International Guest: Gemma Gary

The Pagan Collective of Victoria is very pleased to announce that our special international guest for the 2019 Australian Wiccan Conference will be UK writer and British “Old Craft” initiate, Gemma Gary.

Gemma Gary is an occultist, writer, artist, traditional ‘guise’ performer and a trustee of ‘Friends of the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft’. Her written work explores witchcraft and folk magical traditions, often with a focus upon these traditions as found in Devonshire and Cornwall. To find out more about Gemma, visit www.gemmagary.co.uk

The 2019 Australian Wiccan Conference will take place in Central Victoria from the 13th – 15th of September. Tickets are on sale now at http://www.awc2019.com

Earthsong 2017

Earthsong 2017

By Carrie

I place frankincense on the altars as offering…

I’m just going to say. Earthsong 2017 was an experience that I wouldn’t have missed. I say this every year and each year it is true for different reasons. This year we worked with an Egyptian myth cycle. We invoked Isis, Osiris, Horus and Set. I volunteered to serve the temple this year and my tasks ranged from setting up altars to sweeping the floor. I was privileged to attend the role with another Reclaiming Witch and friend and found it to be a grounding act of service.

Earthsong WitchCamp is held in the Reclaiming tradition. It is ecstatic and entirely non hierarchical and has activist roots. Reclaiming Witches adhere to the Principles of Unity but generally impose few other requirements. Campers attending Earthsong take part in a Path. Paths offered depend on the myth cycle being worked with as well as the teaching team for the Camp. Path is my absolute favourite part of Camp without question. In fact the sole reason I attended Camp this year was to take the advanced path- Pearl Pentacle with the teaching team offering it. Pearl Pentacle is a tool that comes to Reclaiming from Anderson Feri. Earthsong has been honored and blessed by the gifts of so many exceptional experienced teachers across the years and this year was certainly no exception. I find that I am working with the tools, techniques and knowledge long after Camp is over.

With the exception of one night each night of Camp involves a ritual. This year I found the nightly rituals to be a moving arc of grace and beauty. They were priestessed by Witches of considerable strength and experience and skill. I personally found that the rituals added a great deal to my Camp experience.

I was blown away by the strong and demonstrated sense of community that was shown at this years Camp particularly. I’m assisting with organising the Camp for 2018 and I can only hope that this continues next year because the inclusiveness and enthusiasm was so wonderful to witness.

When I attended my first Camp a couple of years ago I was told that they were nothing less than life transforming acts of magic. This years Camp experience as well as my ongoing work with Reclaiming has shown that to be completely and absolutely true. I would encourage anyone curious about Reclaiming to give themselves the gift of experiencing a WitchCamp.

 

 

Feature Article: Birds of Victoria

Birds of Victoria

By Dorian

For those of us residing in the depths of suburbia with its manicured lawns, high fences and vast stretches of asphalt and concrete, it can feel hard to connect to nature. For some, all nearby parks are sporting fields and forests are out of reach. Despite urbanization placing a low priority on creating a harmonious environment to be shared among all species, some have succeeded in adapting to this new industrialized world. Birds are one of these success stories; filling the air with their song alongside the ever-present thrum of busy roadways.

Learning about the native species with which we share a home can be an empowering and rewarding experience. Standing outside on a pleasant sunny day and not being able to distinguish and name many of the subconsciously familiar sounds we hear is a symptom of the problem of the modern, urban disconnection from the natural world.
Australia has over 800 species of bird, almost half of which are found nowhere else in the world.

It can be tempting to view the natural world as distant and outside the boundaries of the mundane; the prevalence of birds are a reminder that we are part of a natural community of living beings. This season, why not join us in getting to know some of our feathered neighbours.

The Grey Butcher Bird

The grey butcher bird is a passerine bird (a perching bird with three forward facing toes, and one back) with a large head, black eyes, long hooked beak and plump body. Its monochromatic plumage features a black head with a white collar, dark wings and pale undercarriage. A close relative of the magpie and currawong, nesting butcher birds are known to swoop when they feel threatened.

Grey ButcherbirdA handsome, serious bird with a piercing gaze, butcher birds have adapted well to urbanization. An aggressive, territorial predator, the butcher bird is named for its habit of impaling and butchering its prey on thorns, crevices or tree forks. Prey may be then kept in such a larder for later consumption or used to attract mates.

The butcher bird fills a similar ecological niche to the Northern hemisphere shrike; although shrikes are sometimes referred to as butcher birds, the species are unrelated; one of Australia’s many examples of convergent evolution.

Often mistaken for the cuckoo shrike, butcher birds are smaller, rounder birds with an average length of 27cm. They have a magnificent, varied, fluting song, using their voices to demarcate territorial lines; putting their entire body to work in creating incredible volume.

 

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike

Black Faced Cuckoo Shrikes are shy, unassuming passerine birds who subsist mostly
on insects and occasional fruits and seeds, typically feeding on the wing. Black Faced Cuckoo ShrikeContinuing
the tradition of European colonists struggling to comprehend Australian native wildlife, Black Faced Cuckoo Shrikes belong to the Coracina family; they are neither cuckoos nor shrikes. Preferring any woodland habitat except rainforests, Black Faced Cuckoo Shrikes are found Australia wide and are common even in the suburbs.

Elegant in grey with a black eye mask that becomes larger with maturity, they are slightly smaller than magpies, averaging at 34cm in length. Often mistaken for the smaller Grey Butcher Bird, the Black Faced Cuckoo shrike has a longer, sleek body and flighty temperament. They can be identified at a distance by their distinctive habit of shuffling their wings after landing.

 

Southern Boobook

If you’ve been out walking late at night and heard a soft, two-part call similar to that
of a dove, it’s likely to be originating from Australia’s smallest owl, the Southern
Boobook, also known as the Mopoke.

Southern BoobookNamed for the sound it makes, this charming, wide-eyed, true owl feeds on insects and small vertebrates, including mice, microbats and other small birds. An abundant and adaptable species even in the depths of suburbia, the Southern Boobook is 25-35cm in length with brown plumage with white flecks, with grey, green or yellow eyes.

While throughout history the owl has often been portrayed as a bearer of ill omens, the Southern Boobook is considered beneficial to human habitation by controlling rodent populations. The Southern Boobook can be found everywhere in Australia except for the most arid desert regions. The Southern Boobook can even be found in open farmland, requiring only a few high trees to provide sufficient roosting spots and perches for hunting.
– Dorian

This article first appeared in volume 3, issue 5 of our old newsletter, Spokes of the Wheel.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Feature Article: Wildcrafting Incense

Wildcrafting Incense

So many of us use incense in our homes and in ritual. There is something wonderful about watching a piece of resin bubbling away on a piece of charcoal and the room slowly filling with fragrant smoke.

The majority of our resins, gums and woods that we use in our incense blends are sourced from all over world. If you work with the local land or simply want to save some money you with want to try your hand at Wildcrafting.

Wildcrafting is the practice of getting out into your local forest, bush land, parks and gardens or even your own backyard and foraging for plants and herbs that have a practical use. With the goal of incense in mind you will be after plant resins.
Resins are produced by trees to help cover their wounds. Some of these resins release fragrant smoke when heated.

Tips for collecting Resin:

  1. We never want to harm a tree with our collecting so look for mature trees where the resin has become firm if it is still sticky and wet you want to avoid collecting the resin.
  2. Resin come in various colours, from white to amber to dark reds and browns. Look carefully over the tree. Older resin is often very difficult to spot.
  3. A small knife (we use a butter knife) is a really simple tool for loosening the resin off the trunk.
    There are so many trees that produce fragrant resins in Australia – you really are spoiled for choice! European trees in Australia are a good starting place: Pine and Cypress are especially fragrant. You could also spend years collecting resins from the large range of abundant Eucalypts.

Wildcrafing incense is fun and free, and it’s a great activity you can do with a few friends. Get out there and start collecting!

Ryan McLeod

This article originally appeared in our old newsletter, Spokes of the Wheel (volume 3 issue 2, Mabon 2016). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Feature Article: The Wildwood Tradition

Wildwood Tradition

This article by PCV Committee member Luca was originally published in our old newsletter, Spokes of the Wheel (volume 2 issue 5, Yule 2015). Photo by Kylie Moroney photography.

“Deep beneath the shade and power Of this tree we call our tower Day is fleeting, shadows fall Across this path our feet touch all”
-Charge of the WildWood

T o this I must confess, Wildwood witchcraft is a rather recent current of witchcraft. It came into being late 2006 through four young men when a “call out” was sent by one of the founders of Wild-wood seeking like minded individuals who might be interested in exploring pagan faith together and delving into the mysteries that witchcraft holds. A covenant was formed between these four but soon other witches from the surrounding area began to congregate and celebrate the moon and sun under the banner of “WildWood”.

The earlier members of Wildwood began to recognise this strand of witchcraft as its own beast. This was noted when one of the founding members branched out and carried the seed of Wildwood him to form his coven in England. At that time something affectionately nicknamed the “yewj” (the usual setup) became fully formed. The “yewj” being what had used to be a somewhat basic neopagan framework but had rather organically grown and evolved as had its participants.

Wildwood has since expanded, branched out and thrown its seeds to every possible passing wind with our witches now based in Australia, the Netherlands, America, England and even a witch or two in Japan.

Through its enigmatic beginnings Wildwood has thus become a definition of eclecticism, having drawn inspiration, vision and learning from Greco-Roman mystery traditions, English folk-lore, published Wiccan material, indigenous European shamanic practices and paradigms, Italian witchcraft, Luciferian and heretical witchcraft, historical witchcraft trials, the Reclaiming tradition of witchcraft and Celtic druidism. A few of the many authors who’ve had an influence on the members of Wildwood and our practice are Doreen Valiente, Dion Fortune, Starhawk, Robert Cochrane and Charles Godfrey Leland.

I remember hearing a member of our community succinctly describe Wildwood as a “Earth based, ecstasy driven, mysterytradition”. To pull it out of a romanticised and poetic context and put it into layman’s terms it can be broken down into three parts.

Firstly, “earth based” refers to our belief that the land itself is inherently sacred, that nature in all its guises and masks is the honest face of God Herself and that the earth itself is worthy of our protection and adoration, both practically and magically.

Secondly, “ecstasy driven” refers to the sorcerous practices and skills employed within our tradition, fetch-flight, possession and oracular seership not being seen as taboo (although we often pride ourselves as taboo breakers) but accepted and explored.

Thirdly, “mystery tradition” eludes to our tradition’s framework as well as our relationship with greater mystery; the otherworld being seen as the heartland of the witch. The framework of Wildwood can be broken down into an inner and outer court, inner being comprised of Dedicants and the Priesthood and the outer court being filled with Aspirants.

One thing that separates us from other mystery traditions is our actual lack of hierarchy, Priest/esses not having authority over Dedicants and Dedicants not having authority over Aspirants. The journey from Aspirant to Dedicant to Priest/ess being viewed largely as a journey inwards and into mystery, with certain names and mysteries being withheld from aspirants on the basis that without a context, these mysteries would mean nothing.

Our tradition, though young and fresh, makes brave strides forward, misstepping at times though always picking ourselves back up and dusting off with as much grace and tact as a bunch of cackling witches can do. We accept people from all gender expressions, sexualities, capabilities, races and walks of life and we never charge for the education, training and initiation of Wildwood witchcraft.

As a member of the Wildwood tradition of witchcraft and a rather recent resident of Melbourne, I look forward to being more present and active within the Victorian Pagan community.

– Luca

 

Feature Article: The June Solstice Down Under

The June Solstice Down Under

By Dean

This article by PCV committee member Dean is from the 2017 Summer edition of Oak Leaves, the quarterly international publication of ADF.

The June Solstice is the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. South of the Equator the seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. For ADF members in Australia then the short answer is to simply flip the Wheel of the Year so that we celebrate the High Days in accordance with the seasons here. Australia is a country, an island and a continent. It ranges from tropical rainforests near the Equator to vast wetlands and deserts, spinifex plains, saltbush scrub, mallee, dry open eucalypt woodlands, mountains ranges, cool ferny forested gullies and Mountain Ash forest – the largest flowering trees on Earth, all the way to the icy sub-Antarctic islands. Most parts of Australia have anywhere from 2-10 seasons reflected in Aboriginal knowledge and modern ecological understandings of the cycles at work within various ecosystems.

So what’s an ADF member to do for their personal or Grove High Day observances? We have to think about what the High Days mean to us as individuals and Groves. We have to think about the ADF Core Order of Ritual, the traditions of our Indo-European Hearth Cultures and balance that with what is going on in the local environment in which we live, work and come together for ritual. The Solstices and Equinoxes are astrological fixed points that do affect the amount of daylight, heat and behaviours of flora and fauna and the Cross-quarter days still hold traditional significance even if they have little agricultural basis in Australia. A sense of tradition, personal and/or ancestral connection to Indo-European Hearth Cultures is often a substantial factor in what draws people to Neo-Paganism and to ADF in particular here. Attunement with what is happening in nature, through ADF practices and simply spending time regularly in the local environment provides ample opportunities for observation of what is happening at different times near you, whether it is the oak shedding its leaves or the blue gum shedding its bark, or the flowering of daffodils or banksia trees.

Silver Birch Grove is my local Grove in Melbourne. It is Celtic in Hearth Culture, while my own Hearth Culture is Norse. Yule (in June) is my ritual new year, and my favourite High Day! When I lead a ritual for our Grove’s Yule celebration I try to incorporate traditions from the Norse into our High Day. There’s no snow, but morning frosts and the chance of cold rain…which always seems to stay clear while we hold our rituals. The creek is flowing higher with rain water, the damp earth of the nemeton has sprouted winter grass, while the eucalyptus and wattle surrounding our grove are lush and green. It is actually safe for us to have a ritual fire in our portable fire pit (fire is banned over most of Summer) for our Yule log. People bring holly, sprigs of pine and pinecones as well as native foliage from their gardens to add to the altar. The local blue-tongued lizards have gone into torpor. The calls of Australian magpies, little ravens and cockatoos as well as Winter visitors from the hills like currawongs and yellow robins rise through the air.

Last year at Yule we had Thor as our deity of the occasion. We usually tell a story of the deity of the occasion and last year I told the story of Thor and his goats visiting a family at Yule. The poor family had no food to offer their guest hospitality so Thor revealed himself and killed his goats to feed them and provide a feast with ample leftovers for the coldest nights. In the morning, he resurrected the goats from their bones with his hammer Mjolnir and continued on his way. We had a special imported beer with a goat on it as a perfect offering in addition to our usual offerings. When it came to the waters of life, I work in a sumbel, for Yule is traditionally a good time for one. As I bring my drinking horn filled with more mead than usual, participants are invited to make a boast, a toast or an oath. Yule being an especially auspicious time for oaths. We do three rounds for people to reflect on the past year, the present and the future. The ritual went well, Thor seemed pleased and the folk seemed jolly as we finished the ritual and had our own picnic feast.

For those of us in Australia the challenge is to find relevant meanings in our High Day celebrations that bring together aspects of traditional Hearth Cultures within very different environments. It’s still something that is unfolding and perhaps with more ADF members in time we will see a diversity of new expressions of old Hearth Cultures honouring the Kindreds Down Under.

 

 

Feature Article: Arrested for Witchcraft – Australia in 1990

Arrested for Witchcraft

This recount by Bret Fishley was originally published in our old newsletter, The Spokes of the Wheel, Volume 1 issue 2, Beltane 2014.

Charged with Witchcraft… I look back on that time and it seems like a life-time ago. The names have been altered but otherwise it is a true story…
How do I describe Fitzroy Crossing back in 1990? It was a frontier town then and still is I guess in many respects. The Fitzroy River, amazing tropical thunderstorms, the heat, up to 50 degrees sometimes, the crows and brown shouldered kites, willy-willy’s, dust and more heat…

The main thing you would have noticed is that there were more black faces than white ones in town that I loved. There is a good reason for this. Back in 1969 when slavery was abolished this was the place where people drifted to when the Bunuba, Guniandi, Mangala and Walmajarri-Wankatjunka people were told to leave the surrounding pastoral stations.

I was living in an old native welfare house/shed/shelter built in the early 70s to accommodate the Walmajarri-Wankatjunka people at Mindi Rardi reserve when this story I am about to tell unfolded. It was just me and a few old people at that stage.

I was not your average work gear or neatly casually dressed whitefella. I was getting around in a sarong with my bronze pentagram with a snake wound around it, a t-shirt, my didge and my dingo. It was a quest for spiritual connection with the land that had brought me to Fitzroy Crossing. A desire to learn about Aboriginal law and culture that earned me something of a reputation in town as a devil worshipper among the local fundamentalist Christians from the Assembly of God and the other denominations.

It all began when I went down to Broome for a few weeks and arrived back to discover that someone had taken over the shed I was living in, so I stayed with a school-teacher friend in a government employees’ house for a little while. Whilst he was away the Christian Fundamentalist house-mate, Vik, asked me about some seeds that my friend had germinated in the kitchen. She was somewhat perturbed to my response that they looked like marijuana seedlings and threatened to call the police if I did not remove them. I said I had no right to get rid of them, that she should talk to Pete and find out what they were first.

I woke up next morning to the police banging on the door saying they had a report that there were drugs in the house. I thought it prudent to take the initiative to get rid of the seedlings just in case, whilst the police were searching the lounge. That afternoon I decided, what was in retrospect, a rather provocative course of action, that being to set up a small alter in the kitchen with candles, some Aboriginal healing liquid from tree bark, some dead grass woven into a pentagram and Vik’s bible.

When Vik got home she denied calling the police. I knew she would. We entered the kitchen and I said “well if you did not do it then swear on your bible and I will believe you”. She glared at me and said “I told you I would ring them” and she snatched her bible off the table and marched off to her room in a furious rage slamming her bedroom door.

I went off to visit friends, waving to a bunch of coppers on the way, who were all half-pissed having a BBQ at the neighbours’ house. Several of them acknowledged my wave as I passed.

I returned home later that night and heard several cars pull into the front yard. The school head master and several half pissed police swarmed into the house and told me to pack my things… I was being evicted! Ha! Eventually I got all of my stuff in the police ute and they took me to the police station.

What followed was a comical but intimidating interrogation about my links to people like Tim Ryan, that they interchangeably described as Witches and Satanists. It turned out that Gorje, one of the police who I came to know quite well later, had spent the day researching links between cults and criminality. I do not think I won many friends when I rebutted their accusations of my being a satanist by pointing out the pentagram I wore had the pentagram up the right way. Whereas their Police insignia incorporated an upside down pentagram. The symbol of the devil… And they were accusing me of being a devil worshipper? I did not even believe in the devil.

They then set to work trying to intimidate me into leaving town, suggesting the midnight bus would be the best option, insistently suggesting it might not be safe to stay. I said no and that they should drop me on the bank of the Fitzroy River where I would camp. Thankfully I had the good sense to hide because I awoke in my swag later that night to the sound of approaching vehicles. It was the Police, and from the sound of their voices they were angry. Thankfully they did not find me. I still remember my heart thumping in my chest as I watched them searching with their torches from about 200 metres away. Frightening.

What followed was a six-month campaign mainly run by Gorje, to try and charge me with something, and well, just generally make my life uncomfortable. This included him finding me on subsequent full moons with a search warrant signed by a local red neck court official. On a couple of other occasions he arrested some Aboriginal guys I was socialising with, on the rare occasions I went down to the Crossing Inn. Just because they were with me. The police even tried to apply pressure on the local Dept of agriculture guy to shoot my dingo, Erintja.

The last straw was one day when I was abseiling off a bridge with a friend and Gorje leant over the railing telling us we were in trouble and that we should report to the police station. I rang the Ombudsman’s office and explained the situation and he said they could not do anything unless they had a charge. So I showed up to the Police Station with my friend and asked what the charge was. I waited, tapping my foot and feeling somewhat annoyed. After a few minutes I said, “Well, what is the charge, officer? Can’t think of a charge, eh? Well, come and find me if you can find one.” I then motioned to my friend to lead the way out the door and we left.

I made a complaint of Police harassment and some Special Investigations Police from Broome were sent up to investigate. But they completely exonerated the police involved in the harassment. I was thus able to take the next step and go back to the Ombudsman who agreed to look into the issue. The police were out–raged and were hell bent on finding something to charge me with. This was when they decided to charge me with witchcraft under the Public Nuisance Act. I was served with a court summons by Gorje.

Meanwhile there was a lot of communication with the Ombudsman, who also enjoyed chatting with the old Aboriginal people that I lived at Mindi Rardi with, if they happened to answer the public phone when he rang. Apparently Gorje ultimately shot himself in the foot getting stuck into the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman made the next move and Gorje disappeared from the local police station and another officer was also disciplined.

This all happened concurrently with the court case. Vik, who had been sacked from her teaching job for spreading rumours to the kids about her housemate being a homosexual, was the star witness for the prosecution. I represented myself. The Police Prosecutors went in pretty hard, but I just answered all the questions honestly and openly. The Judge reserved his decision until his next visit.

His judgement was scathing, labelling it a witch-hunt and absurd. He described the Police utilisation of resources, to bring this matter to trial, as a gross misuse of public funds.

A win for witches everywhere.

It’s all quite surreal looking back on it… Who would have imagined something like this might have happened in modern times, in the Australian outback, in a place like Fitzroy Crossing?

– Bret Fishley