By Michel, 2007
Last year’s 25th Mt Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering finished on a high note, Pagans making a special effort to celebrate our annual get together. Friday night’s meet and greet was a real buzz, with music and song. Saturday’s ritual and bonfire, with traditional spiral dance came together very smoothly.
Sunday’s market was fun and colourful and our “may” pole dancing just beautiful.
Our yearly Moot recalled the beginning of our Gathering and later that day I was reminded of this when the car I was travelling home in suddenly stopped outside the mountain. I realized it had stopped in exactly the same place I had had a breakdown in 1978. At that time I was travelling with a friend who was also a keen enthusiast of the spiritual landscape, and we enjoyed exploring special places. When he came to visit me the first place I took him to see was Mt Franklin. Our car stopped at the beginning of the crater, and we spent quite a few hours fixing it and we got some very strong impressions from this obviously sacred volcano. It felt like a doorway and we opened ourselves to the vibe of this place. We stood in the middle of the crater, being surrounded by a ring of stone and earth and I thought what a perfect place for a spiritual circle of people this would make.
That year open house for Yule was at Bev Lane’s in Melbourne – it was a great annual get together. With the pagan scene just starting in Australia it was exciting to meet other pagans. A publication was in the wings, the “Wazoo Weakly” out of south Australia, but a gathering where we could meet each other in person was what I felt was really needed.
I asked my partner Linda and our teacher Simon Goodman if they wanted to help me with organizing such an event but Linda felt more senior people in the pagan scene should do it. So I asked five suitable pagan seniors if they would like to, but they declined, although many said they would attend such a gathering if I’d organize it.
So, when Simon came up for a visit I told him about this plan I’d been pursuing and asked would he be interested in giving me a hand to make it happen. He still wasn’t sure but he agreed to have a look at Mt Franklin the next day. So next morning Linda and the kids and Simon and myself all drove up to the Mountain which is about fifteen miles from our house. We got out of our car, took in the views and Simon said it was a wonderful place, especially for a Sabbat.
So he and Linda agreed it was a good idea to try to organize something for the whole pagan community to come together. Linda offered to do the secretarial work (which she is still doing 29 years later) and Simon was to do a lot of the networking, photocopying and mailouts. He still wasn’t completely convinced it would be successful, so we agreed to contact every pagan and western tradition magician we could find in Australia, and ask them if they agreed with this proposal or if they had an alternative suggestion.
We drafted a circular letter and posted it to all the witches, neo pagans and magicians that we personally knew of or could contact by friends of friends. Fifty eight agreed to come.
So on the last weekend in October 1981, we all gathered in the crater of Mt Franklin and celebrated Beltane together. All agreed that it had been a wonderful occasion and it should continue every year from then on. The rest, as they say, is history.
After I read Michel’s story a whole cascade of memories came flooding back. My memory tends to present me with images and feelings, rather than time lines, so I’ll just give you an overview of people and happenings, in no real order.
People, how many faces and feelings! Our friend Stuart Bruce, with his wry sense of humour, who helped us sort the first couple of gatherings. Of course our teacher and initiator Simon Goodman, whose early and tragic death deprived him of the satisfaction of seeing our gathering be such a long time success. David O’Connor, mischievous, wickedly funny and the “Queen of the May”, who far from bearing fools gladly, didn’t bear them at all. His death was the first that really hit home to us, and part of his ashes were spread at Mt Franklin in a moving memorial ritual.
Anatha Wolfkeepe, our old and dear friend, a singer and Witch of great talent and enthusiasm is greatly missed since she moved north, but some of the old time participators are returning. It’s been amazing to greet old friends and realize they were just out there waiting to help us when we needed it. The organizing of the Gathering has always been an organic and friendship based activity. Somehow everything we need is obtained and transported to the mountain with a minimum of fuss. Over the years we have all been content to remain “The Organizers”, feeling no need for names or egos to be paraded.
And how many wonderful, moving and profound rituals we have all shared. So many different groups have presented their version of a Beltane ritual, (for example the Asatru folk call it “Finding Summer”), the only proviso being that the ritual always begins with the spiral dance, and there is a bonfire, to provide a feeling of continuity between the rituals. So many people have seen their first pagan ritual at Mt Franklin, and have thanked the celebrants with tears in their eyes. Something about the very atmosphere and culture of the mountain seems to bring out the best in ritual.
Now I am remembering the first maypole dance. If you prefer slapstick comedy, this would have been a side splitter. For a start, we had sixteen red and sixteen green ribbons. We wanted to let everyone have a go! To say that this was too many hardly begins to describe it. Add to this that none of us had ever actually danced a maypole before and you have a recipe for a world class tangle. I thought David O’Connor was going to split a gusset before we finally got it sorted, reduced the number of ribbons to eight of each colour, and by golly we did get it. By the end of the afternoon we were all swinging in and out, over and under as to the manner born. What satisfaction! As the years passed and a good number of regular participants got more experienced at dancing we began to notice the strange sense of detachment and shiver of power you get from a well danced maypole. Our forbears were really onto something here, it produces a strong and immediate sense of connection with your fellow dancers. Curious.
I’ve lost track of how many different groups have come together on the mountain to celebrate Beltane, including Witches, pagans of a dozen different flavours, Asatru, and unnamed groups who just follow their hearts in the Western path. Even ceremonial magicians have participated, bringing their solemn discipline to the rites. Mt Franklin has always welcomed anyone with “a sense of fun, and a Love of the Old Gods”, to quote our oldest flyer. And doesn’t it just sum up what the Gathering is all about! We wanted to bring back the public worship of the Old Gods of our peoples, a worship that had been suppressed for goodness knows how long. To do this we needed a public space, not a private one, and Mt Franklin was our inspiration. Some of the more memorable gatherings have been a whirlwind of joyous ritual, singing, dancing, feasting and fellowship, in the full tradition of the sacred celebration of Beltane.
We anticipate many more such wondrous times. As anyone who has ever joined us on the Mountain will agree, it is indeed a special place, but for love and joy and friendship to flourish, we must all make an effort. Negativity is always waiting to pounce if we don’t take care. As the old saying has it: “for evil to flourish good men must just do nothing” The road to Mt Franklin is all uphill, we carry our hearts and dreams up to the high hill, as did our ancestors, to be closer to the Gods. Be welcome at the mountain an you come with joy in your heart, for surely you get back what you bring, be it good or ill.
Mount Franklin has been a big part of my life for the best part of thirty years. Together with my husband, Michel, whose original inspiration it was, and our loving friends and fellow initiates who have worked so hard, we feel we have created something really worth sharing with the greater pagan community, so that by their participation they become part of it as well.
Blessed Be to you all, from Linda.
Songs and Harmonies
Linda’s note brought back brought back many pleasant thoughts many lost in the fumes of red wine and cider. Early on it was a unspoken rule not to play recorded music during the weekend.
This unspoken rule lead to some of the greatest singing sessions I’ve ever been involved with. Anna was amazing when she would play “match Maddy”. A game in which you would start a Maddy prior song and she would sing the Maddy Prior harmonies. Fantastic! And these would then lead to match Steeleye Span. A series of traditional songs would follow. the twa magicians to the twa corbies, and if Bev L and her kin were in the circle the sound of warbling would be heard until past 3 or 4am. Wolf with his Scottish bent and guitar always balanced the Early English and Irish bent of the others. The call would be do you know this one or Fred can you sing this one. And of course the sound of the Appalachian dulcimer is some thing never to far away.
Gary T with his bongos was the go on a Sunday in the early days with Leon and his little dogs close by.
Leon was generous to a fault, offering his beer to all who share it with him. Leon would always say “a beer not shared was a beer wasted.” Leon was not your average pagan he was a congregation. He told me once “you’ve got your parish priestess and then there’s me, the congregation.” Leon was always first to grab a truck and trailer and with in half an hour would have a load of wood for the bon fire cut stacked and ready for use. In build Leon was small wiry man about 5ft 4in, a bush accent you could cut with a knife but he had the spirit of a giant and was a worth while mate.
Rain is not the best conduit for singing, so learn a traditional song and sing it at our 30th year.