Short and sweet – why most Australian pagan traditions fall down

Once more I am back from several days up in the semi-country. Once more I am aware than even a mere 70km distance means the Land has a different story, different beings and even slightly different seasons. I’ve blogged on this before (Working with the Land) and it remains an abiding passion and concern. The modern tendency in most western Pagan traditions is to simply import, with a few modifications, the ‘Eight Sabbat Cycle’ from England. This cycle is itself a modern synthesis of two cycles created in the 1930s by Gardner and Nichols (In the Grove of the Druids, Philip Carr-Gomm, pp16-18).

Now, I have no direct experience of how well this importation goes in the US, Canada and other places where Neo-Paganism has taken root, but in Australia it does not wash. Even ‘reversing’ the seasons so Samhain falls on May 1st and so on does not, in my experience and view, accommodate the living, diverse and wondrous land I call home. The reason is below. Look at this and tell me the same set of Land based rites can (and were according to some) worked in Scandinavia and Greece. It makes the  mind boggle. We need LOCAL myths, seasonal rites, stories, beings and practices. Otherwise we are actually practising a metaphysical Paganism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

OK… rant over 🙂 Thanks.



  1. Níall MacSiúrtáin · August 9, 2011

    Are you kidding me? We don’t even have the perfect match between Gardner and Nickols’ Wheel of the Year and our seasons in Ireland. As research into the past continues we find more and more suggestions that different sections of Ireland held different “personalities” to the people.

    If we take the analogy of using Planetary energies in magic. You can just pluck one string and not affect the rest of the cords. Similarly I don’t think you can call in Orishas and Loas and other entities that are culturally linked to the land and not affect the area you’re in. I don’t mean to infer that genii loci are constantly at war with one another over terrain but the shift in energy can and will be perceived by others.

  2. Peregrin · August 9, 2011

    Thanks, Niall 🙂

    Your response is interesting…I am very heartened by it. I love notion of different ‘personalities’ being held by the Land to different locales.

    I have never deeply worked Celtic or Voudun or Santeria traditions etc, so cannot comment. But maybe you are right. Thanks 🙂

  3. asariah · August 9, 2011

    Dear Frater Peregrin,

    Regarding the Land…

    About a 30 minute drive from my home is a most interesting spot. A central carved stone surrounded by other carved stones. The carvings are very old and contain Native American images but also European and Hebrew images that are not accounted for by settlement or time period, and seem to be carved by the same Native Americans.

    It has such Native Glyphs as Archers, and the Water Panther but also has a menorah, a Rhino type animal, etc.

    The energies are magnificent, Water Panther and all. A very unique place.


  4. Mam Adar · August 9, 2011

    I’ve been slowly moving toward identifying the eight festivals with a) astronomical events and energies and b) what actually happens around that date in my locality. Imbolc = crocuses, birds beginning to choose mates, and a certain configuration of stellar and telluric energies merging. Lughnasad means hotter, shorter days, local apples, a Renaissance festival and the display of local livestock and produce at our state fair.

  5. Satima Flavell · August 10, 2011

    Too right, Peregrin. The Gardnerian scheme just doesn’t translate. In southern Oz, one might even make a case for celebrating Yule in midsummer, since that is our time of sterility and danger, what with droughts and bushfires and all. Our season of growth is late autumn to midspring.

    Yes, local is the way to go, and the more local the better.

  6. Pingback: Spiritual identity revisited – or continuing to rant « Magic of the Ordinary
  7. Baphomet's left nad · August 10, 2011

    “sniping at Christianity ‘cos some fucking nun growled at you in primary school” = Gold. I may plagiarise this

  8. John H Halstead · August 20, 2011

    Amen to that! Compare the US and Europe too:

    Here in the Midwest of the US, the stations on the traditional wheel of the year are all off one spoke: so summer begins at midsummer and winter begins at midwinter, etc.

  9. PombagirasPolly · April 13, 2012

    ok so now i wondering if Gardner and Nicolas when they put the sabbat wheel together if they considered different places in the world, or if they presumed that druids and witchs would figure it out for themselves.. and also wondering why this didn’t seem to happen as such..

    *ponders this*

  10. Pingback: Pagan misunderstandings of Christianity (again) and a new WA Pagan Mag « Magic of the Ordinary
  11. Andrew · January 3, 2013

    I actually had to go out into the landscape where I lived, and write a cycle of sonnets that told the story of the land in various seasons, before I had the slightest understanding of the deeper import of the Wheel of the Year. This is a highly-recommended exercise by the way, and it serves a three-fold purpose: you learn the names of the plants and stars at various times of the year, you become adept at writing one form of poetry (doesn’t have to be sonnets, but they’re useful), and you also internalize the experience of the Land around you in a way that just ‘being outside’ doesn’t really help.

  12. Peregrin · January 3, 2013

    Great advice, Andrew! Been there, done that (though I thought it was just a personal thing) – sans sonnets, though. Sonnets! Ye Gods, makes me weak thinking of it 🙂 THANKS.

  13. Pingback: A few things… | Magic of the Ordinary

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