Pagans are coming out in Queensland. A once-secretive
national pagan organisation has appointed a public relations
officer to dispel myths that equate paganism to salacious
sex, blood sacrifices and bizarre rituals and worst
of all, satanism.
These days, druids are greenies and 20th century witches
practice a code of ethics.
While many Australians last Thursday were getting ready
to celebrate Labour Day, Australia's pagans celebrated
Samhain (pronounced saa-ween), an ancient Celtic ritual
with strong parallels to America's Halloween.
Formed in 1991, the Pagan Alliance has given many Australian
pagans a unified voice - although it is one of several
representitive groups. There are hundreds of pagans
in Queensland, concentrated in Brisbane, far north Queensland,
Toowoomba and Ipswich.
Some practise alone, but many are found in groups of
about 12 called covens.
They draw together people from different pagan strains,
except in Brisbane where the main teaching coven is
Many call themselves "white" pagans, although groups
such as the Ipswich-based "Coven of the Solar Orb" are
described as "left-hand path" or "black" by other pagans.
Alliance Queensland regional councillor, labourer Andrew
Kettle, 27, said many of the council's 42 members were
high priests and priestesses who ran covens.
Pagans are concerned with nature, healing and meditation.
They believe in reincarnation, and they draw on many
gods and goddesses during their rituals.
There's a variety of strains - nordic and celtic paganism,
druidism, wicca, witchcraft and magick, to name some.
All are practised in Australia.
Pagans don't believe in a single god and in satan.
Most frown when equated to satanists and devil worshippers.
Toowoomba masseuse and social worker, Andrea Carpenter,
describes herself as a qabalistic magician who practises
Her magick was based on ancient Jewish mysticism.
She said most people whould be disappointed to learn
mainstream paganism did not mean wild orgies and drugs.
But all religions, including Christianity, could attract
"Pagans believe sex is a natural thing, a creative
force," she said. But some wiccans will do their circles
naked which causes problems with people who don't understand.
"But the reason they work naked is that it brings everybody
down to the same level. People might put sexual connotations
on that, but there are none."
"As a magician I don't work naked unless I'm doing
a real and proper sex rite,, and then there are only
two people there, the male and female."
She said a sex rite involved "drawing in together a
god and goddess, like tantric sex - physical and spiritual".
"As a magican I don't ever work unrobed because in
magick we believe the robe and all our paraphernalia
are psychological tools."
"It separates us from the everyday". Andrea first became
interested in paganism when a teacher "came into my
life". She was 24.
"In those days you couldn't access books easily, being
pagan wasn't talked about and there was nothing in the
media. Through him I learned about reincarnation, and
the multiplicity of godhood. He taught me that between
us and a god there are others."
She said she had lived about a dozen times before.
"Some of them are very ancient, Atlantis Lemuria (in
the Pacific in the Easter Island region) and I have
memories of forest scenes in England and Europe."
"I get glimpses."
"One past life I do remember was when I was a concubine
for (16th Century) Mongol chieftan Taras Bulba and died
at a young age giving birth." Andrea has a grown daughter
and loves animals.
She rehabilitates birds and has three dogs and four
She has run pagan weddings and once performed pagan
counselling in a Queensland prison. But as a magician
does she cast spells? "The magicians the public know
practise sleight of hand. All they do is play tricks.
My ability is to change my consciousness and brain waves
at will which opens your mind up to larger things."
She said paganism meant being responsible for one's
"We believe what we do is our own responsibility. A
lot of pagans believe sin as defined by Christians is
Andrea joins pagans for the eight celebrations in the
"wheel of the year".
Four are called "sun rites" and coincide with the summer
and winter solstice and the equinoxes.
Because these ceremonies are seasonally based, most
Southern Hemisphere fesitivals occur six months from
their Northern Hemisphere counterparts.
Samhain represents the closing off and the dying as
winter approaches. A Brisbane-wide celebration took
place at Caboolture a week ago.
Pagans say during Samhain "the vale" between life and
death is very thin. They communicate with the souls
to come and those that have been.
To mark this, a traditional circle is consecrated,
and pagans gather around and talk to the souls.
But unlike a seance, the souls don't talk back.
Instead, these souls wander around the earth and play
practical jokes and tricks - akin to the "trick and
treat" fun associated with Halloween.
Pagan children in Australia are known to "trick and
treat" in May.
The next ceremony is Yule, at the winter solstice on
June 22-23. It involves Christmas-like activities such
as tree decorating and gift giving.
This year Australian pagans will gravitate to Merimbula
in New South Wales for this event.
Their Northern Hemisphere counterparts are celebrating
"Beltane", which promotes fertility and the growth of
crops in spring.
It includes the fertility dance of young women holding
streamers while dancing around the maypole, a giant
One pagan who last week celebrated Samhain vigorously
was Morgan, a celtic pagan who is the alliance's new
public relations officer.
Apart from lighting a small bonfire in the park near
her house, Morgan decorated her front window with Samhain
As PR lady, she plans to make the religion more open
"We've learned that secret societies attract unwanted
press," she said.
But she admits the issue of openess was a delicate
one in pagan circles.
"Alot of wiccan like to be secretive. And even in this
age of multicultralism, there are alot of problems with
Morgan admits she is more "politically oriented" than
She said she was the first person to teach children
paganism as a religious elective in a NSW primary school.
Later she was banned from the practice.
Australian pagans include scientists, solicitors, students,
health care professionals, teachers, farmers, soldiers,
engineers, public servants, librarians and psychologists.
Druid witch Ioho works as a nurse at one of Queensland's
largest public hospitals.
She said her "great leap" into paganism was when she
was 22. A friend taught her numerology, then it was
tarot cards, then witchcraft.
As a druid she works with whole magical system based
on trees and their meaning."
She said druids were commonly regarded as male witches,
but both sexes could be druids and witches.
As a witch, she was capable of casting spells and curses.
But natural laws and a witch's "code of ethics" limited
For example, take love spells.
"If I'm asked to put a spell on someone, and it affects
their free will, the witch's law says any harm you create
will come back into your life three fold.
It's inappropriate to force someone to love somebody
because you're possessing or limiting someone's free
But it's OK to cast a spell to attract love into your
So I do that and tell them to go out and bloody socialise
She said witchcraft was more than spells. It was a
complete "self-transformation" and getting in touch
"An ecological view is very important. You can't be
a witch and not be a greenie."
But does witchcraft involve travel on a broom?
"Broomsticks have their place in witchcraft. They are
used for ritually sweeping the circle before a ritual
and also in fertility rites.
"And they're pretty good for sweeping the floor, but
I don't fly around on them."
She said she didn't tell the patients she nursed she
was a witch.
"I think some people would feel uncomfortable regardless
of who I am or what I am."
But her coven's most senior witches, high priest Uther
and high priestess Shavarnni, were happy to oblige for