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Australian Media on Paganism

Forget sex and Satan, it's Xmas time for pagans

by Chris Griffith - The Sunday Telegraph, 18/5/1997

Pagans from around Australia will gather in the South Coast town of Merimbula this month to practise bizarre rites and celebrate the dark side of life.

The ceremony of Yule - at the winter solstice on June 22-23 - will involve tree decorating and gift giving just like Christmas celebrations.

The major pagan organisation, the Pagan Alliance, was formed in 1991, giving many Australian pagans a voice for the first time.

Once a secretive group, pagans have even appointed a public relations officer to dispel myths equating paganism with salacious sex, blood sacrifices and Satanism.

Members are keen to set the record straight on their beliefs.

Masseuse amd social worker Andrea Carpenter, 52, describes herself as a cabalistic magician who practices wicca.

She says most people would be disappointed to learn that mainstream paganism does not mean wild orgies and drugs.

"Pagans believe sex is a natural thing, a creative force," she says.

Ms Carpenter, who became interested in paganism when she was 24, claims to have lived about a dozen times before.

"One past life I do remember was when I was a concubine for (16th century) Mongol chieftain, Taras Bulba and died at a young age giving birth," she says.

Ms Carpenter has run pagan weddings and performed pagan counselling in a Queensland prison.

But as a magician, does she cast spells?

"The magician the public knows practise sleight of hand," she says. "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."

Pagans do not believe in a single god, nor in Satan, and dislike being equated with satanists and devil-worshippers.

Their rituals include Samhain (pronounced "saaween"), an ancient Celtic rite with strong parallels to Halloween. Pagan children in Australia go trick or treating in May.

Ms Carpenter joins other pagans for eight celebrations in the "wheel of the year". Four are called "sun rites" and coincide with the summer and winter solstice and the equinoxes.

Druid witch Ioho works as a nurse in one of Queensland's largest public hospitals and is a member of Brisbane's Coven of the Enchanted Cauldron.

Ioho says she is able to cast spells and curses, but is limited by natural law and a witch's "code of ethics".

Witchcraft is more than spells, she says. It involves complete "self transformation" and getting in touch with nature.

But does witchcraft involve travel on a broomstick?

"Broomsticks have their place in witchcraft," Ioho says.

"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."

The Sunday Telegraph, 18/5/1997

Updated 18th November, 1997.

Page Updated 2nd April, 2000
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