VOODOO ceremonies, Melanesian pig rites and pagan initiations
are professional everyday fare for Brisbane anthropologist
Yesterday Dr Hume revealed how pure intellectual curiosity,
coupled with a thirst for cults and customs, led the
inquisitive religious studies academic into an affair
Her fieldwork in Australia, the South Pacific, and
Canada culminates this week with the release of her
book Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia.
"The exotic, the primitive, the occult, the esoteric
has always interested me much more than say fundamentalism,"
Dr Hume completed her PhD on Aboriginal Christianity
and her masters topic was a Melanesian women's pig killing
ritual in Vanuatu.
Her interest in paganism began in Calgary, Canada,
while she was studying the Unitarian Church.
"They brought in a group of witches who cast a circle
in the church. I became interested and joined two covens.
"One was an all-women's coven, the other a loosely
organised group who got together to celebrate the seasons."
After 15 years in Canada she returned to Australia
five years ago where she teaches "Witches, Pagans, and
the New Age" in the University of Queensland's Department
of Studies in Religion.
"I still go to a lot of rituals, even though my research
studies are almost complete.
"I like the pagan cornmunity, I like the people I've
met, it's a fun religion, and it's liberal values."
She said she had done "almost everything" pagans do,
with the exception of some sexual "aspects", and publicly
going "skyclad" - the Pagan term for naked.
"I'm a bit shy about that."
She couldn't discuss the female initiation rites "which
were a private women's thing".
Dr Hume's book is a dossier of paganism in Australia
and its history, Organisation and rites.
It examines modern magic, spells, and energies, out-of-body
and otherworldly experiences, and more controversial
issues such as nudity and sex roles in Wiccan practices.
Sunday Mail, 19/10/97