Wedderburn Witches Come Out


Witches Jacquie, Jude, Gaye, Irene, Peta, Barbara, Roslyn, Jodie and Lil at the Wedderburn New Age festival. Picture by Emma Schenk for the Bendigo Advertiser.

A coven of Witches in Wedderburn have come out of the broom closet at its controversial New Age festival.

Earlier this month, I wrote about Christian opposition to a New Age festival in Wedderburn, a rural town about 214 kilometres (133 mi) north of Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne.  The event took place over the weekend. Despite my best efforts and a kind offer from some local Pagans to help get me there, I wasn’t able to make it. I’m currently not in Melbourne and the journey would have been too long for me via public transport.

The Bendigo Advertiser reports that more than 200 attended people the festival on Saturday, including a group of Witches who revealed their Wiccan religion for the first time publicly. They called the experience liberating.

“It’s the first time I’ve really come out of the woodwork and told others about my beliefs; it was scary but this festival helped me do it,” white witch Barbara Collie said.

“I didn’t realise how many others in the community were into alternative things too – it’s been amazing really.”

It hasn’t been easy for organizers Gaye Washington and Jacquie Stallinga, but they told the Bendigo Advertiser the experience was well worth it. The festival featured tarot and palm readings, Reiki, workshops, music and art, and even a display from the local Christian community.

Gold Seeker Christian Church Pastor Maxine Tonkin, who initially said she had concerns about the festival, attended the event with fellow church members.

She wore a vest with several Christian slogans printed on it.

“There has been lots of interest and we are here to represent the Christian community influence,” she said. “I think that’s really important.”

It sounds to me like there was a lot of interest in the New Age festival and that’s what people really went out there for. What Tonkin and other Christians like her fail to realize is that there’s a church on every corner and a Bible in every motel room, library, and book shop. Christianity is the dominant and privileged religion in Australia; finding information about it and other Christians is easy. Finding Witches, Wiccans, good resources, and a supportive Pagan or New Age spiritual community is much harder, and made all the more difficult by people like Tonkin who seek to defame alternative religions, and frighten those seeking them while attempting to silence those who practice them.

Congratulations to Washington and Stallinga for putting on what sounds like a successful event and congratulations to the local Witches for coming out of the broom closet.

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