So we broke a personal record at the last meet – 27 people came along, we ended up co-opting three more tables in addition to our regular long table, there was a lot of fun had, and more good conversation than I could keep up with. Effusive thanks to everyone who helped make the day so utterly marvellous – we’re already excited for the next one! Come along!
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?
This month we thought we’d share some of our finds from the 2017 Clunes Booktown Festival and elsewhere. There will probably be more detailed reviews of some of these in coming editions of Committee Reads, but for now take a peek at the most recent editions to our reading piles…
Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy, edited by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow – This is a recent release, and in the light of the recent discussions on community safety and consent in occult and pagan practice, it seems like a very interesting read, exploring different traditions’ philosophies of consent, as well as sexual initiation, community responses to abuse, education of children, mental health issues, and much more. It clocks in at over 500 pages and was very reasonably priced for all that. I’ve enjoyed co-editor Aburrow’s previous books, so this seemed like a must-read.
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction, to give you an overview of the contents:
“We have divided this anthology into three parts. In ‘Developing Pagan Philosophies of Consent’, the reader will find both tradition-specific and personal approaches to consent-based ethics. These essays show how Pagan lore and liturgy shape our writers’ understandings of consent, as well as how their ideals translate into real-world practice. Writers also tackle complex issues such as consent in a power differential, the ethics of sexual initiation, negotiating rape culture in traditional myths, and understanding sexual relationships with the gods.
Section Two, ‘Responding to Abuse and Assault’, focuses on the narratives and needs of survivors. In addition to personal narratives of abuse and healing, writers examine the kinds of situations that can hide abuse, as well as the circumstances under which whistleblowers may be disbelieved or ignored. These essays outline policies to help prevent sexual abuse and assault and to effectively respond to it when it occurs, as well as considering how abuse survivors might be better accommodated in community.
Finally, in ‘Building Communities of Autonomy and Empathy’, our writers provide resources for teaching and practicing consent culture. These essays include reflections on consent culture parenting, curricula and exercises for children and adults, practices for sacralising pleasurable touch in both groups and on an everyday basis, ethical approaches to teaching sacred sexuality and sex magick, and more.” – Sarah
The Kabbalah Tree by Rachel Pollack – An introduction to the Tree of Life and the Sephiroth, by the author of ‘Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom’, and featuring art by Hermann Haindl. I’m not a serious student of Kabbalistic philosophy, but it is fascinating and profound, and this seems to be a decent exploration for someone with no background in the culture or philosophy. – Sarah
Walking a Sacred Path by Dr Lauren Artress – This was a second-hand cheapie, and I’m wondering if it’s going to be a bit naff, but it has decent reviews from respectable publications, and I thought it might be worth a go, because labyrinths are interesting, ey. – Sarah
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin – This was another $1 Booktown bargain find. I bought it for my friend Kylie, who has been wanting to read the series for a while. I just love the eighties cover art. – Josie
Palimpsest and Deathless by Catherynne Valente – I bowed to peer pressure after a brilliant blog post by a friend, the constant rave reviews by people whose tastes I trust, and a song by SJ Tucker that made me cry. I’m almost scared to actually read them in case I can’t leave the house for days and can’t work because I’m lost in Valente’s worlds, but hey, I can always get another job, right? – Sarah
Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eagar – I normally couldn’t give a toss about vampire fiction, being of the firmly-held belief that it reached its peak with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But with tales of vampires born from the wreck of the Batavia crashing a modern-day Australian music festival, I found it hard to turn this one down. – Josie
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro – The author of the marvellous ‘Remains of the Day’ has set a novel in just-post-Arthurian Britain, featuring at least one knight of the Round Table. What’s not to love?
The Chosen by J R Ward – I bought this because I’m obsessed with the Black Dagger Brotherhood and this is the latest book in the series. BDB are one of my guilty pleasures. 😉 – Nickole
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.
2016 Yule Log (ash). Photo by Dean
Thor statue at Yule 2016. Photo by Dean.
Photo by Dean.
Yule 2016 altar. Photo by Dean.
Omen, Yule 2016. Photo by Dean.
Photo by Dean.
Silver Birch Grove’s new banner, Yule 2016. Photo by Dean.
It’s a strange experience discovering a God or Goddess that is unfamiliar to you for the first time.
You may have come across them in a classical painting, a reference in a poem or a book on mythology it catches your imagination or has a spark of recognition. It encourage to find out more and search through obscure references books looking for the earliest of references and may even push you further explore the culture or history of the people that originally worshipped your new God. And that’s why it’s been such a pleasure to review Daughter of the Sun – A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Sekhmet.
Sekhmet is a Goddess I really knew very little about. The joy of this anthology is the diverse views and perspectives on the Goddess that that paints a such a vivid picture. Tina Georgitsis has done a stellar effort here as editor of this anthology consisting of such a diverse range of material this book is full of exciting stories, beautiful poetry and wonderful art. We are introduced to Sekhmet; A Goddess of the ancient Egypt pantheon. Sekhmet is a Goddess of many facets: Avatar of justice, warrior, healer, hunter and mother. You’ll will learn so much about the character of this Goddess throughout this anthology.
This book is filled with poetic inspiration and vividly paints a picture of Sekmet very much alive and radiating with power thousands of years later after the fall of Ancient Egypt. I thoroughly recommend you get copy Daughter of the Sun if you are familiar with Sekhmet you will find it an invaluable resource. If you are just learning about this Goddess for the first time like I am, it is a wonderful introduction.
This review first appeared in Volume 3, Issue 5 (Imbolc 2016) of our old newsletter, Spokes of the Wheel.
This is the no-nonsense recipe I use every year when we’re inundated with tomatoes in our garden. The trick to it lasting for seasons to come seems to be to sterilise your jars really well beforehand.
2kg ripe tomatoes
4 brown onions
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tbsp. mustard
Dried Chilli and cayenne pepper to taste
Cut tomatoes and onions to thumbsized
pieces. Sprinkle with salt
and stand overnight in a covered
glass or ceramic bowl. The next day,
drain off the liquid and tip the
chopped onion/tomato into a pot.
Add sugar and enough vinegar to
cover. Boil for 5 minutes, then add
other ingredients and boil for 1
hour. Bottle when cool (seal in jars
that are sterilised!).
In my mind I’m doing my best Nigella Lawson impression as I sit here and write out the recipe to use cherry plums to make jam that I used to make with my mother and grandmother. A note on playing out this impersonating Nigella – don’t stick your finger in the hot jam, there is nothing sensual or fun about scalding oneself fiercely on molten fruit and sugar.
So if you have a cherry plum in your backyard you will know they produce a tart fruit that isn’t much chop to eat as is. However, there are options available to using them, my favourite being to make jam. For the new jam makers, there are some notes at the end of the recipe you should read before making the jam, although if you are experienced at jam making you probably know these notes already.
Cooking time for this should be about 20 – 30 minutes.
For this recipe you will need:
550g of Ripe Cherry Plums (not overripe/rotting because they will make your jam go off too quickly)
450g of Sugar
Up to 4 Tablespoons of Water
1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
Sterilized Jars for Storage
A Large Pot or Saucepan
To start, gently wash and drain your cherry plums, discarding any that are turning/going to rot or have any damage from birds or insects.
Put the cherry plums in the pot on the stove and add the water, if your fruit is really firm you may need to add a 5th tablespoon of water. Then bring the water and fruit to a gentle simmer, cooking until the fruit goes to a pulp and the skins separate.
With the masher, gently squish the fruit to help loosen the stones. Then making sure the jam doesn’t run dry (it is ok to add another tablespoon of water at this point if it looks too dry) simmer the mixture and with the slotted spoon fetch out the stones as they float to the surface. Gently agitating the mixture during this process helps them come to the surface.
Once all the stones are removed add the sugar and lemon juice to the pot and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Keep it at this heat until it reaches the setting point (thickens nicely and passes the wrinkle test).
Wrinkle Test (Testing if the jam is ready to set)
Once you think the jam has gotten to setting point spoon a little on a cold saucer or plate, allowing to cool (you can cheat by putting it in the freezer for a few minutes to bring the temperature down). Then gently push the edge of the jam and see if the surface wrinkles when you push it into itself.
If it doesn’t wrinkle or only sort of wrinkles heat the jam further and repeat this process until it wrinkles. Often it will only take another minute or two of boiling to achieve the desired result.
Sterilising the Jam Jars
Any good cookbook that deals with jam or a Google search should show you a number of options for sterilising your jars.
I used a microwave method, after washing the glass jars I intended to use in hot soapy water and rinsing all traces of soap off I put them in the microwave (still wet and without the lids which were metal) and baked them on high for three minutes. They were then ready to use (but very hot! make sure to use an oven mitt, tea towel or something else to protect your hands from burns).