Folklorist shares the untold story of Australian fortune teller, Mary Barrell

AUSTRALIA – An academic has recently pieced together the story of Mary Barrell, which is among the earliest documented cases of Witchcraft and fortune telling in the country. Historian and folklorist Dr David Waldron made the discovery when conducting research in Victorian-era newspapers. He found letters to the editor spanning over three decades. “I first became aware of Mary Barrell when looking for writing on fortune tellers, phrenologists and mystics in 19th century Ballarat.” Waldron told The Wild Hunt. “Castelmaine, Ballarat and Bendigo were all described as a mecca for spiritualism and attracted the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who engaged in correspondence with Ballarat Spiritualist leader James Curtis.”
The Methodist and the Spiritualist
According to a recent article by the Ballarat Courier, the letters published in newspapers complaining about Barrell and her fortune telling were at least in part caused by and demonstrative of ongoing friction between two notable and influential Ballarat pioneers who had very different sensibilities: Wesleyan Methodist and town council member James Oddie and Freemason and Spiritualist James Curtis.

Australian Pagan Alliance to be dissolved

SOUTH AUSTRALIA – The Pagan Alliance of South Australia recently ceased to operate as an incorporated association, citing a significant drop in membership and financial difficulties as reasons for the decision. With the Tasmanian branch of the Pagan Alliance facing similar issues, an end to this organisation – once a nationwide cornerstone of the Australian Pagan community — is becoming increasingly likely after almost 30 years. History
The Pagan Alliance was founded in 1991 by Wiccan Julia Philips at the height of the “Satanic Panic,” partly as a response to the widespread fearmongering and misinformation about Paganism during that period. According to a 2006 article, Phillips was staying with Wiccan friends in Canberra early in 1991 when the first seeds were planted. “One of these manipulative people appeared on TV, spreading the usual unsubstantiated claims that pagans and witches were conducting black masses, child sacrifice, and so on,” she remembers.

Pagan scholarly journal to focus on art, fashion

MELBOURNE, Australia — Witchcraft, says Caroline Tully, an honorary fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, “has become glamorous – and I’m not talking about its traditional faerie glamour, but fashionista glamour.”

That glamour, as well as “Witches of Instagram,” painters, fiction writers, film, music, and more will be explored in a special issue of The Pomegranate: the International Journal of Pagan Studies focusing on Pagan art and fashion. Tully, a Witch and Pagan priestess, will be the guest editor of the issue, and she has put out the official call for papers for that edition of the peer-reviewed journal; submissions are due June 15, 2019. “Paganism is inherently creative because of its this-worldly, rather than other-worldly, focus,” Tully said in an email interview with The Wild Hunt. “There is a wide spectrum of aesthetic expression that manifests in the materiality[sic] of Paganism, in the ritual objects we use, the way we design rituals, our robes (or lack thereof), direct — bodily — contact with deities, ecstatic expression, sexuality, and the general artistic legacy of all forms of ancient pagan religions that we are able to draw upon in order to create our religion and rituals.”

Tully is well-credentialed for her role as guest editor of the Pagan art and fashion issue. Along with being a Witch and scholar, she’s also an artist and writer.

Researchers document evidence of folk magic in colonial Australia

AUSTRALIA – For many, it has long been thought that there was little or no practice of witchcraft and folk magic during Australia’s colonial period. But a number of researchers across the country are uncovering more and more evidence that convicts and free settlers from Europe brought a number of their superstitions – particularly apotropaic symbols and customs – with them. The Tasmanian Magic Research Project
Launched in January 2018, the Tasmanian Magic Research Project was established to investigate and document physical evidence of “the material state of magic” throughout the state of Tasmania during the 19th century. The project is led by author, publisher, and historian Dr. Ian Evans, who has written numerous books on the history and conservation of old Australian houses. Evans is credited with contributing to the growth of the heritage movement that spread throughout Australia in the 1980s and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2005 for service to the preservation of the country’s architectural heritage.

Australian author Jane Meredith releases sixth book, ‘Aspecting the Goddess’

NEW SOUTH WALES — Australian author and ritualist Jane Meredith launched her sixth book Aspecting the Goddess: Drawing down the divine feminine last month. Sharing the similar format – combined workbook, memoir and anthology- as some of Meredith’s earlier works, Aspecting the Goddess explores twelve different goddess myths including Freyja, Eve, Persephone and Blodeuwedd. “Aspecting the Goddess is a book I have been wanting to write for a long time,” Meredith tells TWH.“I basically waited until I thought I could get a publisher to agree to publish exactly the book I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write it. All of my books explore one of my passions – and this one, working with the Goddess, is very close to my heart.”

Born in the 1960s and now based in New South Wales’ Blue Mountains area, Meredith possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in secondary education with majors in sociology and politics. She has worked a wide variety of jobs including teaching, market research and tarot reading.