For the past month or so I have been acting as the administrator of a blog on behalf of a group that organizes a well established festival to mark the southern Beltane. Twenty-six years ago I became involved with the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering and although I have not been able to be as active as I would have like to be for many years, this year I have been able to once again offer my time and services to help the organizers prepare for what has become a sizeable gathering.
The origins of the Beltane celebrations at Mt. Franklin, in beautiful Central Victoria here in Australia, were in 1981 when members of the Celtic Heritage Society first met at the mountain to celebrate the coming summer with a Pagan Sabbat Ceremony. Mt. Franklin is a breached conical scoria volcano some 2000ft tall at the highest point on the rim of its deep central crater where Parks Victoria has established an arboretum of exotic trees such as beech, ash and Californian Redwoods. Called Lalgambook by the indigenous people, the mountain formed an important figure in the culture of the local aborigines and the mountain is said to be located at a place where ley lines cross. The visual aspect of the mountain is certainly impressive as it dominates the surrounding planes and is an obvious focal point of the local landscape.
My memories of Beltane at Mt. Franklin in those early years was one of simple folk celebrating the coming summer season in the spirit of good will and camaraderie and I looked forward to seeing all of my old friends at the festivities as well as making new ones. I arranged to meet with the organizers to volunteer and as I drove up the long, winding dirt track through the forest of eucalyptus and golden wattles to their farm I mused on years past, of clearing the site for campers, collecting firewood for the cooking fires, putting up tents and of building the bonfire that is central to the Beltane Sabbat. But, much to my amazement and chagrin, when I asked what I could do to help, my friends replied that in recent years a new group had come to the mountain at Beltane intent on claiming it for themselves or, failing that, disrupting it for everyone else. This group, calling themselves the “Mt. Franklin Eclectic Witches Association” had brought with them bad publicity in the newspapers that reflected poorly on the old festival and were threatening to do so again. Mostly young people, they organize themselves on the web, mostly through social networking sites, and the organizers of the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering, being older, rural folk, were out of their depth. They told me that they needed me to be their IT guy!
I researched the invaders, read all of the press clippings, gathered data on the mountain and then established a weblog for the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering at (http://mountfranklinannualpagangathering.blogspot.com/ ). As site administrator the onus fell on me to write many of the articles posted on the site and I began with (http://ankhafnakhonsu.blogspot.com/2010/10/quashing-perpetual-rumors-of-schism-at.html ) and then continued on writing pieces for the blog that I hoped were both interesting and informative. I also had to reply to comments left on the page by others as well as the e-mails that came in requesting information on the festival. Through all of this I had to wear my ‘administrator’s hat’ and write in a manner that fit the brief that was set for me by the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering. This style of writing was a departure from my usual mode and an enjoyable exercise in composition and style. The experience that I have gained has broadened my writer’s palette and opened up opportunities to work on new projects (such as a history of Beltane at Mt. Franklin- it is the oldest Neo-Pagan festival in the world), re-invigorating my enthusiasm for writing and given me a new perspective on what it is to be a writer. Being forced to write in another’s voice has been a challenge and I have gained so much from this volunteered writing, more than the effort that I put into the site, and as I signed off as administrator in my last official blog on the weblog, I looked back at my work with a certain pride and satisfaction that has inspired me to take on more new projects and to step outside of my comfort zone more often.
The result has been a site that has been the focal point for the pagan folk that really have loved Beltane over its time at the mountain with over 1200 hits on the page in just a month. Many people contributed with stories and photographs and the page has grown into a vibrant community notice board for the Pagans and Witches of Australia. The threat of the troll people is still there but much diminished and, on the eve of the celebrations the festival is shaping up to be the best Beltane in years. In the end, I found that the old adage is true- the pen is mightier than the Magick Sword.