AWC HISTORY AND TRADITIONS
The Australian Wiccan Conference (AWC) was established in 1984 by Dian McClellan, and she nurtured it for its first two years in South Australia. The Conference is traditionally held on the weekend closest to the Spring Equinox.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Australia was undergoing a boom in interest regarding all things witchcraft and the occult. There was an active Wiccan and occult community in Australia, and there were many private and open-invitation Sabbat gatherings across the country, but there was no national event that had any significant role in the Australian ‘Wiccan’ community. Dian’s conference focused on Wiccan practices rather than the open paganism of other annual events such as the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering (itself now one of the longest-running neo-pagan events in the world).
In the early years, a prerequisite of AWC attendance required guests to provide proof of Wiccan initiation; however this soon changed, and the AWC became open to the entire magical community, with the organisers remaining either Wiccans or a community organisation supported by a local coven. This allowed people to witness a true Wiccan sabbat ritual rarely seen by non-Wiccan initiates.
In 1985 it was decided by the Australian Wiccan community, that to ensure the future of the conference it should become a traveling gathering, hosted by different groups in different states each year, with the baton passed by the High Priestess or Spring Maiden. Over the years this, too, has changed, and now the future conference hosts are supported by the AWCinc organisation, which includes members of the Wiccan community from several states.
At the 1988 AWC there was a meeting of Wiccan and Pagan elders who discussed the future direction of the conference’s traditions and practices; their decisions were published in Shadowplay Magazine #17 and the text was confirmed to be correct by 11 people who attended the meeting. Over the years some of these decisions and traditions have evolved and changed, but they helped set the groundwork and made the Australian Wiccan Conference what it is today.
The Spring Equinox Ritual
The highlight of the weekend is the Spring Equinox ritual; with the conference’s attendance normally over a hundred or more these rituals are the largest group rituals most attendees ever experience.
In the early years of the AWC, there was a common format for the Spring Ritual, including a dual casting of the circle both widdershins and deosil, and generic direction/quarter calls without mention of specific elements. This has evolved, and it is now up to the Coven or hosting group to decide on how they cast circle and call quarters as appropriate to their tradition.
The Ritual is a celebration of Spring rather than a magical working. Part of the Ritual is an enactment of the mystery of Spring with the Spring Queen and King. This changes from year to year as it reflects the regional aspect of the season and the ritual design of the host group.
There are no specific God/dess names that are used for invocation in the in the ritual. Titles such as Lady/Lord, Old Ones, Ancient Ones, God/dess are to be used in place of names, as within British Traditional Wicca the names of the Gods are secret.
Spring Queen & King
As the AWC is held over the Spring Equinox, and in keeping with the story of the God and Goddess through the Wheel of the year, the Spring Queen and Spring King are chosen from amongst conference attendees. Nominations may be made by anyone present, and the candidate must agree to the nomination, their role and participation in the Spring Ritual, and to follow the guidelines for their role.
It is now common practice at the AWC that we choose a Spring Queen rather than Spring King; this is most often done by lot, and the new Spring Queen then selects her consort. Both of these roles are important for the weekend, and are a focus of the Spring Ritual. The Spring Queen and King receive a symbol of office, most often a crown. The Spring Queen and King should be youthful in keeping with the season.
Please note: The Spring Queen is a trans and gender diverse inclusive role that is open to anyone who identifies with feminine energy.
Generally a symbol reflective of the Conference theme, the Gathering token is given to all participants as a reminder of the AWC. Sometimes the token has been used in the ritual, other times are given at the start of the weekend as a gift.
The collection of the ashes is a tradition started in 2008 at the AWC in Queensland. The Ashes from the fire at the gathering are passed on to the next AWC. How they incorporate those ashes is up to the gathering organizer, but the ashes are expected to be added to the fire, so that there is an unbroken link to the gathering fires of past AWCs.
As Australia’s only national gathering, it is fitting that a record is kept for those Australian Pagans that have passed away. This way they may be remembered by the community.
Started as a tradition in 2008, the Gathering Book is used as an ongoing memento of the gathering, along with messages about the gathering. It is then passed on from AWC to AWC. Many attendees enjoy finding their marks and comments about conferences they have attended previously.
Each year there is a raffle to raise funds for the next AWC. The prizes are normally supplied by market stall holders as well as local merchants who wish to support the AWC. All monies raised from the raffle are handed to the Next AWC organizer along with the Ashes, Requiem and Gathering Books.
The Moot allows attendees to raise issues, offer feedback and discuss the potential nominees for the AWC to be held in 2 years time.