Something I have been meaning to do for a while, and which since the publication of me book has been of interest, is to a say a little about where we live – Perth, Western Australia. More particularly, about its esoteric dimensions. On the purely mundane-physical level, Perth is a wonderful place. Now a large city – too large for me – it is still a great place to live. Dubbed the ‘best kept secret’ in the world for many years, the city has been the favourite of many visitors to Australia for all sorts of reasons. When I stay with my beloved in the hills of Perth and drive down, seeing the whole city beneath me, I am always moved by awe and love for this wonderful home of mine.
The land here is magnificent, though still bearing the pain and disruption of colonial advancement and aboriginal massacre. Our seasonal cycle is sixfold, something a small group of us discovered twenty years ago when we realised a reversed ‘Eight Sabbat Cycle’ was not right for the actual land we live in. We spent the better part of 1991 and 1992 attuning to and listening to the Land and eventually came up with the EarthDreaming cycle. Years later, we found the local Noongar recognise six seasons, though ours were out by about a month, mainly I feel ‘cos we get our food from supermarkets these days. (Most Pagan and Wiccan groups in Perth, apart from those in the EarthDreaming tradition, have done little to incorporate the actual Perth seasonal cycle in their rites and still work the imported Sabbat cycle created by Nichols and Gardner in the 40s.)
In 1962 astronaut John Glenn passed over Perth as part of his orbit of the earth and thousands of street and porch lights were left on so the city was clearly visible from space (the rest of Western Australia and the Indian ocean were completely dark). Ever since then Perth has been known as the City of Light. Some New Agers, Wiccans and others have appropriated this tag to refer to the special spiritual qualities of Perth, which I do honestly feel exist, and which are remarked upon continually by esoteric and New Age visitors. Not that Perth does not have its fair share of spiritual dodgyness – it certainly does :)
Back in the 80s the buzz in New Age circles was that the ancient sunken city of Atlantis had moved ‘under’ Perth. Yes, under. No one I spoke to was quite sure how this remarkable feat had occurred, but several were sure it had occurred and were now ‘in contact’ with the ancient Atlantean Priests far below our fair land. Perhaps this is the genesis of such wonderful spiritual rites as this The Full Moon Ritual of Atlantis which comes from a Perth Wiccan source at this time (no, I am not transcribing it). Note how, in true pluralistic Wiccan fashion, the magic circle is a ‘Gypsy’ circle, indeed a royal one – that of The Circle of Queyne Maude of the Gypsies. Nice. (I’m not transcribing this one either).
In any case, despite such unlikely tectonic manoeuvres, Perth does have a nice spiritual rep about it. When I attended a conference on spirituality back in 1989, the Buddhist and Muslim speakers were surprised to discover that each of their international groups sent people to Perth and Western Australia for spiritual retreat, recovery and pilgrimage. And let’s be fair, it is a gorgeous place to live and has produced or attracted more than its fair share of esoteric and depth spiritual folk.
For example, Buddhism – most American Buddhist centres do not have a resident teacher; someone authorized to teach and holding regular lessons. Instead lay teachers may hold meditation meetings with their teacher visiting once or twice a year. Now in Perth, still a small-medium city, we certainly do have centres like this. For example, the Diamond Way centre of the controversial Lama Ole. However, we also have centres with resident Lamas and teachers. Just of the top of my head (please do not take offence if someone does not appear on this list) there are:
- Lama Chime of the Origins Centre and Tig-Le.
- Ven Dondrup of the Hayagriva Centre
- Ven Thubten Lodey of Phendheling
- Geshe Jampel Senge of the Tashi Choeling Centre
- Ajahn Brahm of the Bodhinyana Monastery and the Buddhist Society of Western Australia
All of these teachers are also internationally regarded – they are the ones travelling to other places, giving Dharma talks
However, years before the Tibetan diaspora Buddhism, of a sort, had already been promoted in Perth by the Theosophical Society. The TS and its cousins, Co-Masonry and the Liberal Catholic Church all had major centres in Perth. The leading light of this triumvirate, C.W. Leadbeater, saw Australia as a special land in the forthcoming evolution of humankind and his second major hub in Oz, after Sydney, was Perth. He actually died here and his ashes are a stone’s throw away from where I type. Later the Theosophical Liberal Catholic flame was continued in Perth with several prominent Australian Theosophists and Bishops stemming from our fair city.
Once Perth had caught up to the cultural changes happening in the 1960s, Wicca came along. To be fair there had been (and still are) rumours of more ancient Pagan happenings in the hills of Perth going back to the 1920’s, but little evidence. Wicca though was big thing in the City of Light. The main Australian promoter and initiator of Wicca in Australia, the late Simon Goodman, was from Perth. Therefore, for a long time Perth was the Australian Witchcraft capital, and remained so for some time, even after Simon had moved to a cushy government job in Canberra where he made good use of the photocopier, copying entire books for his network of covens across Australia. He returned here to die, tragically young, on the Vernal Equinox in 1991, leaving his extensive collection of documents to Murdoch University which I catalogued shortly after his death.
Contemporary with Simon, but still going strong in all areas of life, another Perthite, the Rev Dr Gregory Tillett became one of the leading world authorities on the occult, Theosophy and many other matters. He still is :) Still in the 80s and 90s, Perth author, D. Jason Cooper published a number of good books on runes, numerology and other neat things with Llewellyn. At the same time, making good use of the ground broken by Simon Goodman, Perth became home to the first nationally recognised Neo-Pagan Church, The Church of Wicca, pipping the Canberra based Church of All Worlds to the title by a year or two. The CoW (an unfortunate acronym) was and is led by its flamboyant Arch-Priestess, Lady Tamara von Forslun, who it must be said annoyed more conservative and traditional Wiccans intensely. Despite once trying to convince me that a couple of vases (stamped on the bottom ‘made in India’) were from ‘the Temple of Diana’ in Rome and other shenanigans, I still have affection for the ol’ girl :)
So Perth has a fine and full esoteric history, and one that is continued today via the Internet, where a few of us have big shoes to full. Of the top of me head on the magical front alone, there is John McNair, esotericist, magician and musician for many years and producer of great Podcast interviews. Listen to his latest one with Bishop T. Allen Greenfield here.
Then there is the dashing and beautiful Mitzy Gaynor, a lady who is not afraid to tell it like it is, rub salt in self-inflicted wounds and challenge her Pagan community to give a damn and help stop kids starving in Africa. Mitzy also reminds me of the local Pagan charity WA-Pagan-Food-Pantry. And of course, there is the wonderful Fr. MvdV, magician in the esoteric Masonic tradition who has taken a break from Internet activity for a while, but who I hope will be back. All three, I am proud to say, were present at my book launch (Mitzy reverse-dragged up by donning a false beard and a bald-wig). There is also a fine and strong Wiccan and Pagan presence from Perth online – the excellent Chaos Witch Blog – unscrewing the universe one lightbulb at a time (who can resist such a sub-title) and Teachings from the Temple, to name but two.
So, that’s Perth…small in one way, but very present in our online and esoteric world :) Yay for Perth!