This year I celebrated the Summer Solstice with Melbourne’s vibrant pagan community at the beautiful CERES Community Environmental Park in suburban Brunswick. The park is a surprising oasis of nature in the concrete and bitumen desert populated by high density concrete block flats that have proliferated in Melbourne’s inner suburbs as they have been renovated over the past twenty years. The rambling park is set in a large valley and we had to wind our way along the twisting paths that take you through the gardens to the aptly named Energy Park where there were already thirty or forty people gathering in the warm early evening.
I had been chatting with many of the local Eclectic Witches and while we waited for the evening’s celebration to begin I met a delightful group of witches who I had only ever met on facebook which set the tone for an enjoyable night. The theme of the evening was a celebration of the fairie folk who abound at the midsummer and there were several sets of fairy wings being sported by the younger members of the gathering. The ritual, as the witches call these celebrations, was set back by half an hour as Melbourne had had a rather hot day so dusk was about to fall as the procession was led around the park in a long snake to climb the hill and awaken the Queen of the Fairies and our High Priestess for the celebration.
Lady Elizabeth Rose certainly looked the part of the goddess of the midsummer festival as she danced us back to the circle where she deftly had the gathered assemblage form themselves into an evenly spaced circle around a central altar before warmly welcoming us all to her magick circle to celebrate the Sabbat of Litha with her. Because of the public nature of the ritual Lady Elizabeth took some time to explain what she was going to do and what our part was to be for the benefit of those, like myself that were as of yet unacquainted with her style of ritual. My experience of Pagan or Wiccan rituals is confined to the annual Mount Franklin Gathering and a few occasional attendances at private coven’s celebrations of the Sabbats so I looked forward to a new kind of magick and I wasn’t disappointed.
Lady Elizabeth began by purifying the circle, with one of her fairy assistants carrying a conch shell of water around the circle followed by the formal consecration of the space as the same fairy circumambulated with a smoking censer filled with incense composed of rose, jasmine and frankincense. When the circle had been prepared Lady Elizabeth proceeded to invoke the watchtowers of the elements in a very traditional pattern, using the Southern Hemisphere correspondences that place Fire in the north and Earth in the south.
When the magick circle was cast Lady Elizabeth next drew us into her sacred space, inviting us to share our energy and to step between the worlds, and to join her in a place that was beyond time and space. Considering the disparate nature of the assembly, Lady Elizabeth did this very deftly and with such good humor that soon we were ready to start the ceremony proper. For this, Lady Elizabeth produced a resonant tone on a large cauldron shaped ceramic bell which she tapped with the felt tipped hammer to start it vibrating and then kept going by skillfully running the hammer around the rim. With this aid she managed to get the entire gathering chanting on a single tone which gave the atmosphere in our secluded little valley a genuine otherworldliness and drew us further into the sacred space.
The focus of the ceremony was healing and there were several people present who Lady Elizabeth asked us to direct healing energy towards, although she stressed that if we chose not to, or chose to focus on ourselves that was fine too. This aspect of the ceremony was completely unexpected by myself as it is the first time that I have seen that kind of thing at a Pagan gathering but given the eclectic nature of the witchcraft movement and its focus on healing ourselves and the earth it is not really surprising. After this short interlude, Lady Elizabeth led the still humming gathering as we raised the energy into a cone and then grounded it in a very traditional wiccan fashion.
Next, Lady Elizabeth, in her role of High Priestess blessed the wine and cakes and had her assistants distribute them around the circle while she told us the myth of the Fairy Queen. With our sacred repast done, our High Priestess dismissed the watchtowers of the elements in reverse order to that in which she had called them and ended the rite with a chorus of “merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again” before the circle broke up and we were treated to the entertainment of belly dancing and fire twirling to accompany the communal feast that was brought by the attendees.
Considering that the crowd was mostly unknown to each other the genuine feeling of community spirit among Melbourne’s witches, eclectic and traditional, made the evening a comfortably enjoyable one. Lady Elizabeth Rose handled the public ceremony very well and kept the enjoyment and the focus up for the duration which is something of a magick in itself. I attended not knowing what to expect and I wasn’t disappointed and find myself developing a new respect and interest in the eclectic movement in modern witchcraft. I have certainly become a fan of Lady Elizabeth Rose.
At all my meetings with you shall the priestess say-and her eyes shall burn with desire as she stands bare and rejoicing in my secret temple-To me! To me! calling forth the flame of the hearts of all in her love-chant.
Sing the rapturous love-song unto me! Burn to me perfumes! Wear to me jewels! Drink to me, for I love you! I love you!
The Book of the Law, First Chapter