Paganism – Paganism, in the broadest sense includes all religions other than the true one revealed by God, and, in a narrower sense, all except Christianity, Judaism, and Mohammedanism. The term is also used as the equivalent of Polytheism (q.v.). It is derived from the Latin pagus, whence pagani (i. e. those who live in the country), a name given to the country folk who remained heathen after the cities had become Christian. 

I found this article in our City Weekly magazine, dated May 15, 2008; a free Fairfax community network magazine.

I must say it follows on from my last post quite well in illustrating the emergence of the Aquarian Age and will also add there’s an influence of Saturn in Virgo too, with the re-surfacing of the earth goddess (virgo).

“According to Gavin Andrew of the Pagan Awareness Network (PAN), Melbourne is the witch capital of Australia. The number of Australians turning to ‘alternative’ religions continues to increase. The 2006 census figures show a 13% rise since 2001. The movement is also experienced a boom in the 1990s thanks for the internet and films like The Craft. Television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer also played their part in making witchcraft cool, especially among young women.

According to census figures, there are more than 30,000 pagans in Australia and about 5000 of those live in metropolitan Melbourne. Paganism covers numerous traditions, most with their roots in the ancient world. They include druids, animists, witches, shamanists and wiccans.

Andrew says the real figure is probably closer to 40,000. “Lots of people don’t want to come out of the broom closet,” he quips. He estimates there are about 17,000 pagans in Melbourne with another 1000 scattered through regional Victoria. PAN, an educational and advocacy group, organises social events like Pagans in the Pub, to bring like-minded individuals together for meet-ups in regional and city areas. Larger festivals are held to celebrate important dates on the pagan calendar like Samhain (Halloween) and Beltane (Mayday).

Andrew says the rise of paganism is partly due to dissatisfaction with mainstream religions. “God is this strict parent figure who punishes or redeems depending on the situation. Pagans look for different types of relationships with the sacred, such as seeing the inherent beauty and complexity of nature.”

Bendigo-born, 24yr-year-old Monica McHugh, became interested when a classmate gave her a book on witchcraft. “It enabled more free thinking, a lot more initiative and responsibility on the individual’s part,” she says. “It just fitted with me so well.

One day we’re hoping the image of a witch will not conjure someone who’s mean with green skin and a pointy hat,” she laughs.

Like many witches, McHugh doesn’t approve of putting spells on people. “What you’re sending out you will get back eventually. We’re also very concerned about placing influence on other people.”

She admits to trying out love spells and “please, let me pass my exam” charms as a teenager. However, she found that “it worked in the opposite way. The person you were chasing would ignore you or find someone else, or you would get a D on your test.”

“Up until recently I’ve been quiet about my beliefs, purely because of fear of persecution. I might be socially excluded and people might think I’m going to put curses on them but I’ve become more self-confident. I figure that if people want to be a part of my life, they’ll accept me whoever I am.”

Carlton artist Caroline Tully says her parents were “unimpressed” when the former Catholic schoolgirl turned to witchcraft at the age of 19. “They used to be embarrassed about it,” she says.

Tully, a witch since the 1980s, has been studying ancient magic and pagan religions at Melbourne University for four years and writes extensively for anthologies and publications like Spellcraft and The Pagan Times. In the early days, curiosity played its part.

“I was interested in the promise that these ritual performances would provide you with empowerment,” she says. “You’re taking on a priestly role yourself and you don’t have an intermediary. It’s a little bit nefarious, so that always makes you feel a bit edgy and cool.”

The census figures also reveal female pagans and witches outnumber men by about two to one. Tully says women are attracted to witchcraft because they can play a prominent role. “What womanhood represent in modern witchcraft is valuable. Ancient pagan goddesses are much more realistic, they’re not expected to be a virgin. Look at Aphrodite – she’s sexy.”

Tully says some of the mainstream churches have the wrong idea about pagans and witches and she scoffs at priests who perform exorcisms. “They’ve made out that they are the only religion and other religions are bad. They don’t do any research.

If you look at the theology curriculum at Melbourne University, it teaches Christian theology with a look at Buddhism, Islam and maybe Judaism but there are millions of other religions.”

Gavin Andrew says pagans and witches tend to be ‘independent thinkers’ who are not interested in following the herd. “It’s a very central part on paganism, the idea that it is a personal journey and along with that comes an ethic of personal responsibility. You can’t put off your problems onto a guru figure or a symbol or an icon. You have to deal with things yourself.”

The church of Satan won’t reveal its number in case of “Satanic panic”, but census figures indicate there are nearly 500 Satanist in Melbourne. This figure is likely to be accurate, however, because some people declare a Satanic affiliation for shock value, while others are afraid to admit to one.

Adelaide-born Satanist Drew Sinton says being an “individual” is a positive thing in the Satanic bible, which makes it popular with “disaffected youth, Goths and emos.” He says Satanists live up to their adversarial image. “If anyone crosses me, forget about turning the other cheek. Don’t cross us. We’re vindictive and vengeful.”

But for witches like McHugh, witchcraft and paganism are more “touchy-feely”, with a focus on positive thinking and have a conscience.

“It’s a nature religion. If you ignore the impact humans are having on the environment, I think you’re not getting the point of the religion,” she says. “It’s about working in harmony with the world.”