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A Pagan Gathering for Australia and the world

Thursday, November 11, 2010

People Past......

Hello all I thought I’d write a series of articles about people past.

Over 30 years has passed, since the idea was first passed around that the “Castlemaine Experiment” was thinking about joint public rites. At the time I was part of the newly formed the New Varangian Guard ,also learning Celtic magic’s. I arrived at a property in the middle of nowhere for a Mid Winter gathering and was told to beware because there was a gay witch and a ballet dancer about. Intrigued I set off to find these gentlemen.

I found two gents over by the goat house that they had taken over for the weekend. One was lewd and flamboyant the other quiet and unassuming. I mistakenly sidled up to the quiet gent and said “how did you meet this “Gay witch.” In a flurry of laughter he replied” I’m the gay one he’s just a pounce.” And so began a long friendship with David O’Connor.

David’s particular talent was creating decorative altars and putting himself in the centre of attention. After that weekend and within 6 weeks we had been invited to Mount Franklin 1984. Thinking back we were fairly unprepared for how things would grow over the years.

Year two the gathering was even bigger as we’d prevailed upon the full guard to attend. David according to his nature had organised the altar and placed himself in the middle of the rite to act as magister. The magister orchestrates people’s actions within a circle ensuring everyone does the right thing at the right time. It is a very useful role when dealing with large groups and participants new to doing a ritual. David used to say the best people in a circle were always the ex-altar boys.

Most notably that year with the Christians sitting in their bus staring at the Varangian’s practicing with sword and spear and the sound of singers and musicians playing old folk tunes. David headed to the toilet on the other side of the crater with a flourish of his cloak and mince in his step. When one of our number started up a chain saw David jumped and started to run because the wielder, a man way over six foot, of the saw had decided to give him a bit of a scare by chasing him with a running chainsaw. So the scene was this flamboyant man running from a man wielding a chainsaw being chased by another member of the group a blonde woman crying out, “Darling don’t do it. It wasn’t him. He’s gay”. The Christians soon left.

Over the years David introduced the gay community to paganism, and made the pagan community more accepting of the gay community. These were early days and through his work gay pagans were accepted within the community well before main stream society. On the other side of the coin he was responsible for making many pagans respectable in the Melbourne Gay scene.

Sadly this dynamo succumbed to Aids in the mid nineties and we all lost a very good friend. David was one of the Mount Franklin pioneers and we, as a community honoured him by scattering a handfull of his ashes around the ritual space we use today. So if anyone asks why are the old time people so sensitive of the ritual space, not only have we been using it for nie on 30 years, one of our greatest friends and member of the community, guards that space.

Ave David O’Connor.

PM 2010


  1. Thats a really lovely memory - thanks for sharing that. Very much missed.

  2. I wish I could have met David. And Simon for that matter! I always hear the organisers speak of him fondly, they always mention him, as if he is still here. I have a lot of respect for those of us who are past. BB, David..

  3. You really are the most faithful of friends. David was lucky to have a friend like you, PM. !!!

  4. Beltane most certainly isn't the same without David O'Conner- that's for sure, or without you either Cazz.

  5. I truly admire those who originally aspired to bring this ritual to a broader community. It was more than just the ritual if I remember right from Linda's talk at the 2007 AWC the making of a sacred space (Mount Franklin) and do correct me if I get this wrong, but was it also David who was instrumental (pardon the pun) who got the importation of the Boron Drums from Ireland to Australia. Thank you for this very informative post and good luck for the future. Blessings

  6. Thanks for the comments all. Truly it has quite a place in many people's memories, either for the magic of the mountain, the people that gather there, the rituals or the friends that are made. Quietly the old timers (!) always greet and farewell those, like David that forever inhabit the spirit of the place. He meant a great deal to a great many and that remains true to this day.

  7. David was a larger than life figure at the Mount, and in all he did, and a deeply missed friend. I think it is indeed fitting to have a tribute to him here, as he had such an impact on the Beltaine festival over the years...

    Blessed be David.