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
This lovely piece by Viv was originally published in our old newsletter, Spokes of the Wheel (Mabon 2015 – volume 2 issue 3). Feature photo by Mark Hayes.
The sunlight is golden treacle
I can see it just over the rooftops
And I wait here in the cold, with my blankets
Woolly jumpers and artificial sweeteners
As morning plods on
As the sun rises
And by 10:30 it has hit our yard
And the oak trees sing
The air warms, and everything breathes again
Remembers that summer isn’t that long gone
As winter draws nearer, the days will be filled
With a thousand tiny deaths,
One hundred compromises.
But right now the autumn sun is dappled on my skin
There are still tomatoes on the vine
Occult Church of the Covenant Noetica
By Sarah and Alex
The Hills Meets continue apace. March saw me finally make good on a threat I’ve been holding over everyone’s heads for a few months now: Sparkles, the Disco Owl.
A few people have mentioned, over the last couple of years, that our little mascot is subtle and hard to spot across a crowded room. Sparkles is neither of those things. Sparkles is nearly a foot high and covered liberally in white glitter, which he sheds over everything he touches, and came from a local $2 shop, and I’ve been promising to humiliate all of us by bringing him along to a meet for ages now. Sparkles is the Maxwell Demon of the owl world.
March was Sparkles’ Big Day Out; I mean, sure, we looked like a table full of loons congregating around an altar of Mystical Nature-Kitsch, but no-one had difficulty locating our table, and everyone took a little bit of Sparkles home with them, because glitter is a gift that keeps on giving whether people want it to or not.
This is Sparkles, posing with our regular, barely-discernible mascot, and our patron saint, Caffeine. I’ll now hand over the reins to one of our more recent regulars, who has definitely become part of the family, and who kindly agreed to talk about his experience of the Hills Meets (thanks for making us sound good, Alex; the cheque’s in the mail).
The Hills Meets – A Newbie’s Tale
I have been attending the Monthly Hills Pagan Coffee Meets now for about eight months. They are a lovely event, and I have felt like I belong at the event since I first attended. It has been lovely to see the different types of people who come along, with a large amount becoming regulars and others just popping in every now and then to say hi and catch-up.
One of the many aspects that I love about the meet is that conversation flows freely and touches on many subjects, from Paganism to gardening to tarot reading to just general life. It’s always great to hear what people have to say, as everyone has something new and interesting happening in their lives. Often, someone will say something and it will make you think about something in a new light. I love attending these meets and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. I really hope to see more new faces, even if it is only to pop in occasionally and see how everyone’s going.
Our Hills Meets occur monthly in Belgrave, and have become one of our most popular events. To find out when the next one is, visit our Community Calendar or the PCV Monthly Hills Pagan Coffee Meets Facebook page.
By Alex and Josie
On the 18th of March The PCV hosted our first Pagan Pride Day, in Edinburgh Gardens. It was an amazing day filled with amazing people and a great sense of community. The event started at 12pm. People started arriving and what was initially a small amount of people grew: we ended up with around 50 people attending.
At 2pm the talks about the various paths started. Our first speaker was Shaz. She spoke about ADF Druidry and Silver Birch Grove. Josephine talked about Alexandrian witchcraft, and we then had Dean who spoke about Asatru (Norse paganism), followed by KC guy who spoke about OBOD Druidry. Next, Fio Talked about the Reclaiming path, then Luca Talked about Wildwood, and Dorian Talked about Chaos magic.
After the talks on the different paths we moved on to our ritual for the autumn Equinox which was run by Josie and Ryan in a Alexandrian inspired style. The quarters were called by Fran (Air), Sarah (Fire), Alex (Water) and Mark (Earth). It was a beautiful ritual that included a meeting dance and lovely music.
After the ritual we moved on to our second session of talk which were about the different meetings and gatherings around Victoria we started off with Ryan talking about the CBD pub moots, then Sarah talking about the Monthly Hills Pagan Coffee Meets. Next was Mark who talked about the Central Vic meetups, and we then had Dean who talked about the Heathen meetups, which include a ritual. This was followed by Nickole talking about Earthsong Witchcamps. We then had Dorian who talked about the newly started Frankston/Cranbourne Meetups, and Shaz then talked about Druid Coffee. The Queer Pagan Men’s meetups where then talked about by Buck, Michel then talked about the Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering, and finally we finished off with Seline talking about Into Me I See.
It was an absolutely amazing day filled with friendship and community spirit. As a fairly new member of the Pagan community I found it to be a great way to learn more about what is available in Victoria and also to meet more like minded people. I would also love to thank the amazing PCV for running the day especially Sarah for being MC and making sure everything ran smoothly. I would also love to thank all the speakers and those who ran the ritual and finally thankyou to everyone who attended as without you it wouldn’t have happened.
“I just saw a Reclaiming witch, a Druid and an Anarchist eating grapes together. And they were LAUGHING.”
– overheard at the Pagan Pride Day picnic
After a busy and marvelously social day at Pagan Pride Day, we headed on down to Bar 303 in Northcote to see Spiral Dance and KC Guy live in concert, presented by the PCV.
This concert was the perfect way to finish off a day of the Pagan community coming together. KC Guy’s voice is truly enchanting, and just what we needed to chill out and lose ourselves. Spiral Dance has a decades-long track record of bringing Pagans together with their beautiful and very danceable music, and dance we did!
The hot, sticky night didn’t stop any of us from busting out our best daggy Pagan dance moves to tunes like The Quickening, Faerie Tale and our favourite, Black Annis.
By the end of the night our throats were raw, our clothes were heavy with sweat and every last one of us were wearing enormous watermelon-slice grins as we exploded out into the cool night air of High Street.
A million, squillion thankyous to KC Guy and Spiral Dance for travelling from South Australia to perform for us and provide the perfect ending to a perfect day. Thanks also to Bar 303 for having us, to everyone who helped out on the door, and to Mark Hayes for his beautiful photos of the night.
You can download a copy of the Pagan Pride Day Flyer here: PPD 2017
Photo Reuse Policy: You are welcome to use these photos for *personal use* on social media, etc, but please credit/tag the Mark Hayes Photography Facebook Page when you do.
Community Action Meeting Minutes
Held on 12/03/2017 at Saff’s in Castlemaine
What is known about the individual known as Robin Fletcher, Tim Ryan, Balin, The Red Druid and Robin Slater:
He was released from custody on Friday into the community, being stated as not being at any more risk of reoffending than any other sex offender.
He is believed to be a former member of the seminary of Corpus Christi just outside of Monash, of which he was thrown out of in 1979 for magical practices.
He has known associations with the Church of Antioch in Alphington (there is still information about him on their website currently).
It is believed that he became affiliated with the Golden Dawn at Monash in the 1980’s and there met some of the people that would later act as emissaries for him.
He is said to have later became involved with individuals that founded the New Varangian Guard a community that at the time was strongly linked with the magical community, where he became involved with the Riders of the Mark and started his Red Druid practices.
There is a book that has a chapter dedicated to him, written by Vikki Petrias & Chris O’Connor called Rock Spider, that describes some of his known behaviors, including the way he operates as a spider in its web, pulling the strings.
It is known that he is well read, has a near eidetic memory and is quite knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics. He has written a number of papers and acts as an authority on these matters.
The first jail term he served was for library book fraud, because it was the only thing that could stick at the time.
In the 1980’s Tim Ryan decided that a young man had information that he wanted and orchestrated his abduction and subsequent torture via two of his acolytes. The young man was later dumped naked on a rail line and tied to the boom gate. When he was freed he went to a friend for help, who immediately took him to the police. This friends testimony destroyed his career.
These crimes had a lasting effect on the community for years to come.
As the scene recovered a publication known as The Who, What, Where, How Directory started up, the Directory would later play a role in helping provide evidence of Tim Ryan’s criminal actions to the police. In the early 1990’s a woman came to members of the Directory and said that there was a man trying to force her daughter into prostitution. These members took this information to the police, who then placed him under observation, to try and gather solid evidence of his misdeeds. During this period of observation, they found proof that he was prostituting the girls, using them as drug mules and that his wife at the time had tried to recruit a hitman to kill the girls.
He was arrested for a final time in 1996 on charges related to these crimes and served an eight-year sentence. He was used as a trial for keeping sex offenders locked away from the community under supervision.
Where does/can the community go from here?
The community has a large element of vulnerable people, that could fall prey to people such as Tim Ryan. Community education is a key way to help protect these people, this education needs to come from the community as a whole.
To this end greater communication with pagan businesses on this front would be beneficial, providing them with flyers such as the one provided by PAN would be a great idea, a lot of new seekers come to businesses such as this as the first point of contact.
Hosting events for new practitioners to meet others, gain access to information and to help answer some of their questions in a safe, public venue is also an idea that needs to be considered.
Content Warning: Mention of Sex Offender
On the 8th of February 2017, the Herald Sun reported that sex offender and “witch” Robin Angus Fletcher is likely to soon be released from a supervised facility and into the community.
To this day, Robin Fletcher – who has also been known as Timothy Ryan, The Red Druid and Balin – claims that his belief in witchcraft justifies his many heinous crimes. It simply does not.
Fletcher’s monstrous acts, which include child sex abuse, rape, forced prostitution, torture and abduction, have shattered the lives of his victims and their families. Our thoughts remain with all of those who have been affected so horrendously by his actions. These actions have also left shockwaves throughout the wider Pagan community, which are still felt decades later.
Paganism as an umbrella term covers hundreds of separate religions and belief systems, including but not limited to Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidry, Heathenry, Neopaganism and Pantheism. The vast majority of these focus on nature worship and/or reverence of ancestors. Child sex abuse, non-consensual sex acts, substance abuse and violence play no part in modern witchcraft or Paganism.
As such, the Pagan Collective of Victoria and the undersigned groups, individuals, organisations, groves, hearths and covens would like to emphasise that we have no affiliation whatsoever with Robin Fletcher. We find both the man and his acts utterly reprehensible, and will continue to actively condemn illegal and degenerate behaviour committed in the name of spiritual or religious beliefs.
The Pagan Collective of Victoria
Alexandrian Tradition – Australia
Ashley A. Kallady
Caroline (Cara) Denigan
Central Vic Heathens
Central Victorian Pagans
Circle of the Sacred Grove
Delphic Sisters of Olde
Daylesford Tarot Readers
Druids of Victoria
Frankston/Cranbourne Pagan Coffee Meets
Galloway and Friends blog
Gliding Seal Events
Golden Wattle Seed Group (OBOD)
House of Hexenn
Ly De Angeles
Lyceum of Heka (Fellowship of Isis)
Melbourne CBD Pagan Pub Moot
Melbourne Heathen Moot
Monthly Hills Pagan Coffee Meets
Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering, inc
Muses of Mystery
Mystical Dragon, Seaford
Oak, Smash & Thorn Pagan Morris
Ordo Templi Crux Ansata (Australian Praeceptory)
Pagan Awareness Network Inc.
Pagans in the Pub Melbourne (Philippe Duquesnoy and Kathy Norman)
Phoenixfire (Glen Smeaton)
Queer Pagan Men Australia
Sandra of Macadamia Grove (OBOD)
Seline Ines (Into Me I See, Serpent Circle)
Southern Hemisphere Pagan
Silver Birch Grove (ADF)
South Bay Pagan Kids (San Jose, CA, USA)
Tara Tucker and family
Tasmanian Pagan Alliance, inc
Temple of the Morning Star
The Assembly of Light Bearers
The Hedgewitches’ Grove
The Melbourne Grove (OBOD)
The Serenity Oracle
Victorian Reclaiming Community
Viking Mystic Rune Readings
Witches and Pagans Victoria
Witches of Oz
Witches of Victoria
Young Pagans of Adelaide
Australian Pagan Groups and Organisations, please contact us if you would like to be added to this list of undersigned.
For anyone experiencing distress as a result of the contents of this post please know that assistance is available. See http://www.sacl.com.au/ or make a free call to the Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 806 292 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
The PCV’s public Lughnassadh ritual was this year hosted by the always welcoming folk of Silver Birch Grove ADF. Thankyou again for such a lovely and meaningful ritual to celebrate the first harvest. 🙂
By Ang Bausch
On Sunday we arrived at Rushall Reserve to celebrate our Lughnassadh ritual. It was a very steamy day and the water in the creek very low.
Laughnassdh is a day where we Honour Lugh by show our skills or make meaningful offerings. Silver birch grove followed the core order of ritual, our deity of the occasion was Lugh.
Shaz first offered small apples, her first harvest and then we showed our skills and offerings. Then our senior Druid Shaz, took the omen with the ogham cards. Alder was the card chosen- meaning a shield, guidance and protection. The group took this to be a good omen.
Shaz’s skill was her story telling of Lugh at the gates of Tara, Callum showed his skills in creating our circle, Dean offered his herb smug stick to the fire. Cole offered Obsidian to the grove treasures and an athame he made with birch wood by hand. I offered a poem written for Lughnassdh, Mark offered his herbs and rhubarb, Josie offered her zucchini slice made with her own garden vegetables , Ryan offered us his hand made incense bags, Sarah offered us a beautiful horse shoe, Alex offered his herbs to the fire.
Thank you to all those who attended today and took part in our ritual. We ended our rite with our usual picnic lunch.
By Shaz Lizzy
The Pagan Collective of Victoria’s public Lughnassadh ritual will be hosted by Silver Birch Grove ADF on the fifth of February, 2017, and is open to all Pagan and likeminded folk. Below is a re-post of a very informative article about the Grove, which is just one of the many active and friendly Pagan groups open to the public here in Victoria. 🙂
Silver Birch Grove is a member Grove of ADF. The full name of our organization is Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid fellowship, Inc. The first part, pronounced arn REEokht fane, is modern Irish for “Our Own Druidism” (or “Druidry” or “Magic”) and that’s what we are — an independent tradition (denomination) of Neopagan Druidism. Since many people have trouble pronouncing and spelling our Irish name, we usually just say “ADF.”
ADF is working to combine in-depth scholarship with the inspiration of artistry and spiritual practice to create a powerful modern Paganism. We’re researching and interpreting sound modern scholarship (rather than romantic fantasies) about the ancient Indo-European Pagans — the Celts, Norse, Slavs, Balts, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Vedics, and others. Upon these cultural foundations we are working to build a religion that these ancient people would appreciate and understand yet one which has depth and power for modern people. We’re developing genuine skills in composition and presentation in the musical, dramatic, graphic, textile and other arts. We’re bringing together people trained in ritual, psychic skills and applied mythology to bring the remnants of the old ways to life. We’re creating a non-sexist, non-racist, organic, flexible and publicly available religion to practice as a way of life and to hand on to future generations.
Silver Birch ADF is a Melbourne based congregation of Neopagan Druids serving the greater Melbourne Area. Silver Birch Grove primarily focuses on the Celtic hearth cultures. We are a growing group of friends who enjoy studying the mythology, archaeology, and anthropology of the Indo-European cultures. We also honour our Ancestors and the Deities associated with these cultures by celebrating the high days in public rituals. Our religion is a way of life. As such we believe in following the 9 virtues of Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Hospitality, Moderation, and Fertility. We also meet for study, hiking, arts/crafts, culture, meditations, blessings, and community works.
We are working together to research and revive the practices of the Old Ones in a way that makes sense for the modern world. We are striving to create a spiritual environment for the community where each member can grow spiritually, artistically, and intellectually, where we all achieve greater communion with Mother Earth, the Nature Spirits, our Ancestors, and our Deities. We hope to continue to grow and serve the community both spiritually and materially through rituals, workshops, and public works. Membership is open to all who wish to honour the cycles of Nature, and revere the Ancestors and Deities. Any Druidic ritual has as a primary intention the re-weaving of the links between human-kind, the natural world, and the God/desses and Spirits who support both. For thousands of years human culture lived in more or less intimate communion with the unseen worlds. Over the centuries of European culture these ties have been weakened, until our modern materialism is endangering the very air and water that sustains our life. We work to reconnect with the powers of Land, Sea and Sky, honouring the spirit that is in them as well as their physical realities. As with any religious path we also seek blessings for ourselves, our families and communities. We open our hearts to the flow of divine blessing that comes from our God/desses. We seek also to awaken that same divine spark in our own souls, so that we can bless the world in return.
At Beltaine 2015, the folk of Silver Birch Grove and the Warrior women and friends gathered to celebrate in a public setting. We were excited to be given the opportunity to run our ritual at Mt Franklin. We were also delighted to have our Vice Arch Druid in attendance and all the way from America.
We offered a ritual that follows our core order. The ritual that we offered is similar to what we would have held at our home nemeton in inner Melbourne, just with more people! Our ritual began with a spiral danced led by Linda and then Dale talked about the lands and the people of the land. We Began with the purpose of the ritual by Ang, then Shaz announced our intent to honour gods, goddesses, ancestors and spirits of place. Maree honoured the earth Mother, Callum made our offering to the out dwellers and Andrea honoured our Bardic deities, Julie honoured the nature spirits, Curtis the ancestors, Dean the gods and goddesses and Ang the deity of the occasion, Danu. Shaz then proceeded to the praise offering and Drum took the omen for the blessing using Ogham, which was: ur- Heather/ Mistletoe, healing by looking inside. Phagos- Beech, old knowledge and old writing, oir- spindle, sudden de-light after a long process. So the story tells us that through the old knowledge and writ-ings we will be able to look inside ourselves to gain healing. Shaz then received the blessing of the gods and spirits through the waters of life. Deb and Rowan asperged all in the circle and at the close of the ritual we asked all to join us for a shared meal. What a great weekend. Thanks to all those who participated, organised and came from far away.
So, now with our sights firmly fixed on the summer days to come, the earth is again green as we have been promised. Warmed by the power of the Sun and the Waters’ cool strength, shoot has become bud and the promise of abundance to come is visible all over the land. It is now that the Nature Spirits truly come alive, and as we honour them, we also give thanks to the Kindreds that guide us, and to our Ancestors who walk with us. Now we rejoice in the warmth after the cold winter and welcome the spring.
If you would like to know more about ADF please visit ADF.org
For more information about Silver Birch Grove ADF visit our Facebook group.
(Some material from ADF.org)
This article originally appeared in our old newsletter, Spokes of the Wheel (volume 2 issue 7, Spring 2015). Photo: ADF Archdruid Drum at the 2015 Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering. Supplied by Kylie Moroney Photography.