The Last Weekend in October
Beltane at Mount Franklin, Victoria, 2013
The thirty-second Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering was a magical and memorable experience with old faces and new. Glorious and unpredictable spring weather, guest ritualists and good company made for yet another fantastic Beltane on the Mount.
The rain fell fairly steadily on the Friday afternoon, sizzling out our newly made campfires and turning the verdant crater slightly squelchy underfoot. As we put up the main marquee the drizzle abated, but set in again as soon as we were finished. This prompted a lot of newcomers to the Gathering to ask that common question: “What will happen if it rains during the ritual tomorrow?” To which the answer is always the same: “you will get wet!”.
But the sky cleared that night, and soon the darkened crater was dotted with campfires and echoing with the sounds of people relaxing and having a good time. A friend and I partook in the old Mount Franklin tradition of “camp-hopping” – visiting different camps about the crater, catching up with friends and meeting new faces, and sharing food and chatter. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a fairly even spread of ages, gender and traditions, and lots of people new to the Mount this year.
Saturday was sunny and beautiful, and many people across the crater enjoyed a cup of tea in the sunshine before they started their day. Raffle tickets were sold, torches were made in a torch-making workshop and wood was collected for the balefire. This was followed by a rehearsal of the night’s ritual for key ritualists… As all the while more and more people arrived at the Mount.
The ritual itself took place at dusk, and was run this year by Selene and Hawthorn, who are well-known and respected in Melbourne and beyond for their long-standing contributions to the pagan community.
It started with a procession by torchlight. There was a hush over the crater as the first torches were lit and the procession – which was lead by Selene, Hawthorn and some familiar drummers – began. It slowly ringed the darkening space in flickering yellow light as the chant rang across the crater, calling all pagan folk to the rite:
We are the Pagans, turning hand in hand
We praise the powers and the spirits of the land
Spirit of the Pagans, children of the night
Spirit of the Pagans, join our Beltane rite!
The ritual itself was lovely, with around sixty people participating. Many observers commented on the beauty of the spiral dance from outside, and a few who were fairly new to paganism reported feeling goosebumps or tingles as they watched.
After the ritual proper, a few brave souls even jumped the balefire – quite a feat, given that it was almost six feet across!
This was all followed by a good old dance around the fire for some, and feasting and general merry-making for others, all interspersed with obligatory camp-hopping, of course. Some people opted for camp-fire conversations with good friends while other played music and sang. All in all, it was a very relaxing and celebratory night!
The final day was warm and sunny again, and the maypole dance took place just before noon. The dance took off without any huge errors or resets, and ran smoothly. A few non-pagan male observers even took part and had a wonderful time. As we whirled about one another in a blur of red and green, the sun came out brightly, setting off the bright colours of the ribbons and the beautiful hawthorn flowers against the clear blue sky: a sure sign that summer is on the way.
Before the moot and the official close of the weekend, the raffle was drawn. The raffle was a new addition this year, and was a rousing success. Our lucky winners went home with a variety of high quality prizes, such as jewellery hand-made by Mel; a hand-stitched and hand-embroidered shirt made by Linda M; hand-carved runes made by Des; gorgeous artwork by Kate McCredie; incense; soaps; potted plants; a subscription to the Green Man Quarterly; a Wheel of the Year by Tania Poole; official Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering tees and more.
The moot brought the Gathering to an official close. We thanked and acknowledged the traditional owners of the Mount, the Djadja Wurrung people, and thanked Selene and Hawthorn for their stellar ritual the previous night. Others used this opportunity to thank the organisers, and to express their love of the welcoming community atmosphere of the Gathering.
At the conclusion of the moot, all attendees were invited to the handfasting of two local pagans, which took place in the crater and was also conducted by Selene.
The 2013 Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering continued the long tradition of friendship and fun within a relaxed atmosphere, of enjoying each other’s company amidst the beauty of the Mount, and of good pagan folk joining together to welcome in the coming summer!