THE LAND OF OZ - Julia Phillips
thought for this issue of Shadowplay (#25), I would write about
the concepts and practices of Pagans in Oz, rather than a summary
of "what@#146;s on" the public scene. I know from my own
mail bag that many people in the northern hemisphere are curious
about the way Ozzie Pagans practise their Craft, and how we relate
to the different seasonal cycle here.
the seasonal cycle is really no different to anywhere else in the
world. Depending upon where you live in Australia, you may have
very short Springs, or very long hot summers, or warm wet winters,
but essentially, the seasonal cycle is still determined by the effect
of the sun upon the earth, and it is still a continuous cycle of
life, death and rebirth.
going any further, I would like to emphasise that I am talking about
the practices of (essentially) European Pagans; not those of the
native people who live here. As a non-Aboriginal immigrant to this
land, it would not be appropriate for me to write about native customs
and practices. I would also like to make it clear that I have a
non-Australian background, and that unlike most other Pagans in
Australia, I was initiated and trained as a Wiccan and magician
in Britain, and spent a number of years practising there, before
moving to Australia in 1988. This gives me a slightly different
perspective upon the practice of Paganism in Australia.
live on the eastern seabord, in Sydney, where the climate is typically
"mediterranean", and there are four fairly distinct seasons.
Canberra, further inland, has a more northern European type of climate;
Melbourne is noted for its worship of the rain gods (!), and all
the other cities have their own characteristic weather patterns.
So far, we could be talking about any large country anywhere in
the world. Where Australia does differ is in its vast interior,
which is mainly arid desert, and in its sparse population, which
is widely dispersed.
of the inhospitable nature of the interior, most of the population
live in towns or cities clustered around the natural bays around
the coast. When you consider that the entire of Australia has a
population not much larger than London, and that its land mass is
roughly the same size as the USA, it brings the sparsity into perspective.
This means that although in size Sydney is one of the largest cities
in the world, its population is relatively small, and people may
have to travel some distance to find a coven or group with whom
to practise. In one of our covens, members live up to 70 Kms away,
and we have been contacted by others who live anything up to 150
Kms away from us.
terms of traditions here, there are groups which practise Runic,
Wiccan, Druidic, Celtic, Shamanic, and generic "Pagan"
paths, and the whole spectrum of the New Age movement, which has
as many followers in Australia as anywhere else in the western world.
Most of the practitioners have learnt their skills and techniques
from books, published by northern hemisphere writers, and this leads
us nicely to one of the biggest problems encountered by Australian
Pagans and Occultists.
seasonal cycle may be no "different" here in its essentials,
but it is six months@#146; adrift from the northern hemisphere.
That means that Midsummer in Europe is Midwinter here, and so on.
Having a sound practical grasp of the Wheel of the Year before I
ever moved here, this didn@#146;t really present me with any problems.
Well, actually that@#146;s not quite true. I do have problems, but
they are related to the name of the month. I have no problem at
all celebrating Beltane between spring and summer; where I have
a problem is in calling that month October! Similarly with birthdays;
I can never remember birthdays anymore (including my own!) because
they fall at the "wrong" time of the year according to
my inner calendar. Imagine, for over thirty years my birthday fell
at Lammas; then all of a sudden, it started falling at Candlemas!
Bizarre, to say the least.
the major problems occur are with those people who have never really
had the Wheel of the Year explained to them, or who learnt about
it from a book, written by a northern hemisphere author. They were
told, right from the word go, that "Beltane is celebrated on
30 April", or "Samhain is celebrated on October 31",
without any explanation of why, or the context in which those festivals
should be seen. No wonder that some Australian Wiccans celebrate
Samhain at the beginning of summer! Some even celebrate the Solstices
and Equinoxes on their northern hemisphere dates; now there@#146;s
an example of concentration; to imagine that it is Midwinter, when
you are sweltering in 35 degrees of heat! But the vast majority
have made the necessary adjustment to "what the book says",
and have switched the festival dates around to the time of year
in which they fall (ignoring the "dates"). However, the
Sabbat timings, which most northern hemisphere practitioners take
for granted, can still be major stumbling blocks for many Wiccans
way to cast a circle, is another hotly debated subject here. Most
of you will be aware that instead of a clockwise motion, the Sun
in the southern hemisphere appears to move anti-clockwise. It still
rises in the east, but then passes through north to west, where
it sinks below the horizon. South here is the dark quarter where
the Sun never shines. Those who live in Australia@#146;s northern
latitudes (eg, Darwin) see a far less obvious solar path than those
who live in say, Tasmania, but it is still a noticeable arc.
consider how many books about Wicca and magic say, "the circle
is cast deosil, i.e. clockwise". Of course that statement is
factually incorrect, for "deosil" actually means "with
the sun", NOT "clockwise". This is immaterial in
the northern hemisphere, where those motions are of course the same,
but imagine a would-be Wiccan in Sydney, who picks up a book about
Wicca, and follows the instructions: and casts his or her circle
clockwise, not realising that this is actually the opposite of what
the book intends to describe. In fact, they have probably taken
to heart the dire warnings about working widdershins, and are carefully
making sure that every motion is clockwise - which is widdershins!
other major difficulty to resolve is the orientation of the Quarters.
This is not only an issue in the southern hemisphere. I have seen
a debate recently in the USA (on PODSnet) where some writers have
described placing "Water" in the east, as they live on
the eastern seabord, thus placing Air in the West. The theory they
support is that the quarters of the magic circle are related to
the nearest physical representation of that element on the Earth.
can of course be the case for a circle working which is set, and
operated, in the terrestrial sphere. But many magical operations
within Wicca take place in the celestial ("astral") sphere,
and are then brought through to manifestation on the Earth plane
rituals in the northern hemisphere attribute the elements to the
quarters as Air/East; Fire/South; Water/West and Earth/North. These
attributions were established in ritual practice over many hundreds
of years - not Wiccan practice, of course, but in the classical
traditions of magic. Much of the technique used today derives either
directly, or indirectly, from the practices which were used in the
Middle East and Egypt, and is generally focused upon either solar,
lunar, or stellar, cycles.
consciously or not, most people who practise Wicca have an association
of the Quarters and their respective elements with the passage of
the Sun. In the Gardnerian tradition, "The Initiate@#146;s
Ceremony of Illumination", which follows the 1st degree rite,
makes this association quite explicit. In symbolic terms, we are
in darkness; our mind functioning in its basic, instinctive, mode.
Then with the rising of the Sun in the East, we have the awakening
of the rational mind, symbolised by the dawning of light, and attributed
to Air. From East, the Sun makes its way to the North, where it
reaches its zenith, and pours its fiery energy upon the land. This
Quarter is attributed to Fire.
Sun now begins to fall, and eventually passes from our view in the
West. This slow sinking back towards darkness allows intuition and
emotion once more to eclipse the rational, intellectual mind. And
finally, South; the place of mystery and darkness, where the Sun
never shines. Here lies the unknowable, and unfathomable; the Mystery
which cannot be explained. Even with our instincts and intuition,
we cannot fully apprehend this mystery. Our rational minds cannot
even approach it, and if we try to force our way through in a blaze
of fiery light, we see nothing but shadows.
is the Quarter where we learn the lessons of Earth; silence, patience
and fortitude. And it is the place where in some traditions, a gateway
is cut in the circle, "wherein may enter our beloved God and
Goddess". For of course the place of Mystery is the Domain
of the gods.
moving here, orientation, circle casting, festivals, were all things
I took utterly for granted. But if my Craft was to be relevant to
this land, they had to be re-considered, re-evaluated, and re-arranged,
to suit the conditions in which I found myself. My husband, a sixth-generation
Australian, was of considerable help in my quest to understand this
land, and its energies. His purely instinctive knowledge and empathy
with the land energy made him the ideal guide for me. It was also
a very useful learning experience, for it put to the test all those
principles which I had simply accepted in the northern hemipshere.
And most importantly, it made me realise how very profound is the
mystery upon which Wicca is founded.
IN THE EMERALD CITY- Rhea Shemazi
comments (sent to me - (I admit it) - half a Wheel ago) prompt me
to also put fingers to keyboard as I approach Beltane. I, too have
experienced a kind of seasonal jet-lag in moving from the Southern
Hemisphere to the North, prompting me to re-examine the assumptions
I make about the Wicca and my magick. I concur that the birthdays
are the hardest to remember - mine now falls at Samhain instead
of Beltane, still in November, but the energies of Samhain give
an entirely different perspective to the time of year; moving into
winter now, rather than into summer.
time I speak about making a circle, my hands move in a motion that
describes an anticlockwise movement; when I go to draw the Wheel
of the year in a rough diagram to explain it to someone, I must
stop and re-orient myself for a moment to place the sabbats in their
Northern order, rather than six-month shifted from here, as I have
done all the rest of my magickal life. This gets easier as time
passes, though it does shift my perspective of the world. If ever
I doubted the influence of homeplace, this would convince me of
its power. I'm sixth (or seventh - have lost count) generation Australian,
and lived my life on the South East Coast of the continent (Sydney),
making and shaping my understanding of the Wicca in a place where
the land meets the seashore, in the littoral places where the bush
meets the urban landscape, and in the land of the heart, where I
feel the thread that ties me to my Craft.
my relationship with the spirit of the place, Terra Australis, it
seemed to demand that I question every "absolute" I was
taught about the Wicca, whether from oral lore or from books. And
this suited me just fine, as I'd always questioned absolutes and
(as those of you who know me will attest) very rarely do what I
"should" or "ought" just because someone else
says so. This stood me in good stead as I journeyed around America,
meeting some people with even stranger ways of doing things than
I'd ever imagined back home (and don't tell me none of you have
ever feel that way, too!). So, when I met and came to love, people
with connections with the land here in America, and especially in
Seattle, I asked them LOTS of questions about why they did what
it was they did.
while many things continued to feel strange, like the land current
and apparent motion of the sun moving clockwise, I began to notice
some balances and connections.
seemed to me that a helix runs through each sabbat, linking it with
its opposite on the other side of the world, linking the two as
if they are worlds on each side of a mirror, or a rainbow bridge
stretching from dawn to twilight; that each sabbat is touched by
the shadow of its opposite, and that each celebration is balanced
by its shadow self. In summer, the shade of winter; at Candlemass,
the shade of Lammas; at Samhain, the bright promise of Beltane to
world tidal patterns show the distinct terracentric sworls of clockwise
and anticlockwise motion, flowing mostly clockwise in the North
and anticlockwise in the South as influenced by coriolis force.
the Pacific Ocean shows me a new mood as she rushes to meet the
North-west coast, in a wild place scoured by wind and sea-wrack
and storm. In the place where the land meets the sea, at a place
between waves, a Pict could anchor herself and her relationship
with the Land. In a sense, Pacifica (as I call my oldest friend),
introduced me to the place where she meets the shore, and there,
at Twilight on the Western Sea, I began to make another indwelling
place, an ongoing dream for as long as I live in the Pacific Northwest.
that beginning, there have been as many researches and personal
searches into the reasons for different Ways of magick as there
were in Australia. The relationship between Northern and Southern
hemispheres, the balance of energies, the links which sustain the
Wheel, the origins of our understanding of the Elements, the nature
of the Divine, ways of journeying between worlds and into Faerie,
have all demanded re-evaluation. And, while ever respectful of other
folks ways, am still the Madly Corrupt Pict, asking questions about
assumptions and learning more about the world.
principles I learned in the Southern Hemisphere are being re-interpreted
in light of "Traditional" time-tried understandings from
the North, greatly assisted by my lover, who has his own deep ties
to this place, this time, this region of the North-American continent.
For a while I borrowed from his understandings and earth-connection,
waiting until I'd lived through a couple of complete cycles of the
Wheel, until I could feel it making its patterns on my inner senses.
Same Earth, different place on Her surface; same deep connection
with the terracentric patterns, balanced by temple work with cosmic
and "other" energies.
I do notice that I'm more willing to explore ALL the magicks that
have arisen in the Northern Hemisphere - from Babylon to the Corpus
Hermeticum; from Yezidi to Thelema; from Alchemy to Chaos (with
a core personal interest in Visionary Art); from the Wicca to the
Old Feri Tradition - all have their place, their values, their Mysteries
both profound and profane.