Inga Leonora is a Witch, her Scandinavian ancestors might have called her a Völva. She can often be spotted wandering the northern foothills of kunanyi, the Mountain that cradles Hobart, in Tasmania at the bottom of the World, following Wallaby and Pademelon tracks with her stav and basket, and chit-chatting to Black Cockatooes. As an animist, the community of spirits she calls her own walk amongst Gum Trees, live in the sweet smell of the Wattles in Spring, and settle in the distinct blue haze over the bush on the foot hills.
“Firstly, it’s The Dreaming. Present tense. Our stories are not static, they’re not locked in the past, bound, just as Hairypeople are not bound by what is,” says Waruu West (Rob Collins) in ABC’s latest original Australian drama Cleverman. Found in the second instalment ‘Containment,’ this moment stood out. Collins, playing an Indigenous spokesperson on a TV news panel discussion, delivers the line with acid on his tongue, shifting in his seat and barely able to maintain his countenance to suit the panel’s format, which is supposed to represent the epitome of polite society in serious discussion. In the world of Cleverman, the Dreaming is mentioned here with the same condescension it might be on an actual TV weekly news and current affairs panel. I’ve seen enough Aboriginal Elders and commentators on such shows to know that Collins did not have to look very far to inspire his character’s reaction in this moment.
Paganisms and Witchcraft traditions in Australia are no less subject to the times as they are anywhere else in the world. While we draw vast inspiration from the past of Europe, Christian and pre-Christian, we are subject to the influences of contemporary pop-culture, public discourse, prevailing political paradigms and social trends as they are manifest in post-colonial Australia. This influence can go one of two ways in terms of our practices. First, as a minority spiritual school(s) of thought, as a sub-culture, or indeed, a counter-culture, standing outside the square and looking in on society writ large, modern Pagans and contemporary Witches can be deeply progressive, revolutionary, subversive and flat out contrarian. Or, our practices change according to the influences of the over-culture.
[Today we welcome columnist Inga Leonora Westerberg. In January, The Wild Hunt said goodbye to Cosette Paneque as she ventured off to engage in new and exciting personal projects. However, while it is sad to see someone leave, it is also nice to welcome a new voice. Westerberg will become our new Australian writer within our monthly Around the World column. Today she introduces herself.]