I have been blessed.
I recently returned from a wonderful trip to experience Beltaine with the Druids and other neo-pagans of Australia at the Mount Franklin Festival, Australia’s longest running neo-pagan gathering, now in its 34th year. I was hosted by an amazing group of ADF members and welcomed by witches, Wiccans, Druids, neo-pagans, and nature spirits alike (Hello, Rosie!).
I left the US as preparations for Samhain were under way. It was feeling like Samhain: a change in the air, a change in the trees, a change in the colour of the Sun. The end of one spin around was calling, beckoning, insisting that its time had come. Then, as if some miracle of the collision of worlds, I stepped onto an airplane and into another world, another green world.
I have been wanting to visit Australia for sometime. ADF has members in Australia and I thought it would be nice to visit them AND see Australia at the same time. Through the intersection of desire, days off from work, and most especially an offer of hospitality from one of our members in Melbourne, I was able to put together a trip that not included fellowship, outreach, and rest and relaxation, but also provided me the opportunity to attend one of the premier (if not THE premier) pagan gatherings of the Southern Hemisphere, the Mount Franklin festival, now in its 34th consecutive year.
Coming into Melbourne was such a marked contrast to the Midwest that I had just left. Where trees were losing leaves, the trees here were newly in bloom; where the days were getting shorter back home, the days were getting longer here; where the last harvest was growing close with the approach of Samhain, here, the season of growth was coming up fast.
The Mount Franklin Beltaine festival is held in the bosom of the Earth Mother, in the crater of a dormant volcano about an hour from Melbourne. Upon approach, the non-native pine trees reached high into the sky, setting this sacred space apart from the rest of the rather flat landscape.
I spent five days nestled in this protected space. This land was sacred to the aboriginal people, and after listening to the winds whisper and watching the sun climb over the tree line, I can understand why. I feel that the sacred, often like forgotten Gods, lay dormant until it or they are reawakened by a thought, a prayer, or an offering. And offerings were made: spirits, grains, and prayers were given and given in a delightful plenitude that was proper to the place. The kookaburras, the parrots, the trees, the people, all gathered together to make it a Beltane to remember, especially for myself.
Silver Birch Grove offered a fantastic main rite and it was truly beautiful to see 100+ people gather together to honour the Kindreds and their own spirits. I was blessed to offer the omen and the omen was good: look within to heal, use the old knowledge to help in that healing process, and look at what has been accomplished. Quite a bit has been accomplished, really, whether it be Samhain or Betaine or anything at all. Neopaganism, like the Beltaine season, is on the rise, not only in the Southern Hemisphere, but everywhere. The Reformed Druids of Australia were formed. Magic happened!
I celebrated Beltaine and left that secluded crater and went back into the world. My days continued and I visited the Southern Ocean at the end of the world, where I made offerings to the Earth Mother, to ADF, and important private offerings as well. The wind told stories the old as time and the waves insisted that everything ebbs and flows, like the seasons. Like Beltaine and Samhain.
I returned to these shores and gave thanks in my own Samhain rite to the Earth Mother and to all those that made my journeys possible. I remembered back on seeing the Full Moon, that wondrous orb, looking upside down, but, in reality, it was still the Moon, and it was I who saw things differently. I stretch my hands across the waters to my new friends, my new continent, my new recollections, and to a new season dawning, bright, just over the tree line.