We made it to the Conference Center in time for me to Chair / facilitate a 9:30am panel of Australian Pagans called “Australian Pagans Speak: A Community Forum”. Several Australians who had proposed their own programs had been lumped together by the Parliament into a single panel. This made for a complex situation, since folks who had talks planned for 90 minutes now found themselves squeezing their material into 12 minutes. (They commented that it seemed weird to them that the Pagan programming was so full of Americans.) I was asked to facilitate to keep things moving and on time. The Australians had spoken with me and said that they welcomed my assistance.
I was a bit concerned when I arrived to find the first speaker – She’ D’Montford - setting up a PowerPoint presentation. She also informed me that she was going to come in wearing stereotyped witch garb and take off her clothes! As it happened, this worked out fine. When I introduced program and the first speaker, She’ came in from the back cackling, wearing a black dress and witch hat, carrying a broom, and wearing a green-faced witch mask. She asked if this is what most people thought when they heard the word “witch”. She then said that we had to shed these old ideas – stripping out of her costume to reveal an attractive, lithe blonde in an off-the-shoulder silk sheath dress. She made her point. She’’s presentation addressed common misconceptions and basic beliefs of Wicca. She’ has a website at www.shambhallah.org/
(BTW, the Pagan / Wiccan press materials prepared for this Parliament by the Pagan Trustees – Angie Buchanan, Andras Corban Arthen, Phyllis Curott – did not mention the words “Witch” or “Witchcraft”. The conventions they adopted for use at this Parliament use “Pagan” to refer specifically to European revived and surviving Pagan traditions and “Wiccan” to refer to Neopagan Witchcraft in its entirety.)
She was followed by Glenys Livingstone. She spoke about the problems of living in Australia and reading Pagan books all set in Europe. The symbols, directions, Quarters, circle direction, deities, etc. all seemed out-of-place in Australia. She and her partner Taffy developed their own approach to relating to the Sacred Earth in Australia, a tradition called “Pagaian”.
Gede Parma is a young man who is himself amazed that he is already an Elder, having founded an eclectic coven, spawned a few daughter covens, and written a few books, all while still in his twenties. He reflected the youthful vitality that one experiences all over this country. His material can be found online at www.gedeparma.com/
Fabienne Morganna is from Melbourne and is a Justice of the Peace! She spoke about Australia as a land of “hybrids” of creatures familiar to Europeans: the platypus, the kangaroo, the echidna, etc. She wove a clever and humorous story explaining why it should come as no surprise that Australia would be a land of Solitaries and Eclectics.
The last speaker was Linda Ward, the Interfaith Representative for the Pagan Awareness Network. PAN is a national organization, mainly centered in Sydney, that has been doing national interfaith work in Australia for some time. They had a lot of folks at this Parliament, and it was their first international interfaith event. Linda spoke about doing interfaith work in Australian as a Pagan. PAN’s website is www.paganawareness.net.au/PAN/
All in all, the panel did a great job of representing the unity and diversity of Australian Paganism. Each addressed different aspects of the Pagan experience in Australia.
The Question & Answer period was lively. I had promised to stay out of it all, since it was “Australian Pagans Speak” after all, but I spoke up at one point. Someone asked about LGBT participation in Australian Paganism. One if the panelists said that some folks – “like the Gardnerians” – would be resistant to LGBT inclusion, but that otherwise things were pretty cool in Australia. I apologized for interjecting my own comment, but I pointed out that I am a Gardnerian priest with LGBT initiates, so even the conservatives are not always as conservative as you might think. ;-)
More to come...
National Interfaith Representative