As Halloween comes around again, becoming evermore popular in Australia, Maria Zarro talks to Newtown Witch Tim Ozpagan about why Witchcraft is something we should all embrace.
Over wine and cheese at The Alchemy Space on King Street, Tim Ozpagan proves to be a refreshingly easy and unassuming host, brimming with experiences of realities way beyond our comprehension. Tim dispels a few myths about our understanding of Witchcraft, explaining that it is a spiritual practice that doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but it certainly challenges him to ask ‘why’. “Underneath it all, most of us are Witches”, Tim says, “because a Witch is someone who functions in the psychic reality. This includes a lot of us.”
This boy from Bondi has practised Witchcraft since his early teens. Tim became involved in coven-based Witchcraft while living in Adelaide in the early 1970s, and ran a radio program called Broomstick Corner where he interviewed spiritual practitioners about their craft. After moving back to Sydney and relocating to Newtown in the mid-1980s, Tim published a variety of esoteric magazines and newsletters, and re-established the coven he founded in Adelaide, Nuit’s Veil, in the Inner West. Recently, the coven secured a permanent home at 199 King Street, Newtown. Offering a variety of workshops and classes in the fields of meditation, tarot, psychic and sound healing, the space’s principal activity is the regular coven training circle led by Tim.
You’ve practised Witchcraft since age fourteen. Tell us about your journey.
I was in my first year of high school when I experienced an inexplicable feeling of ‘being haunted’; an event that triggered a major turning point. My first reaction was to approach my science teacher for a logical explanation. Disappointed by his trite remark of, “Well my son, there are some things in this world we just can’t explain”, I began to read, accumulating books and knowledge in tandem with my own psychic development. Reading brought a hidden world gradually into the light; however, my biggest education was using my own psychic ability, especially through dream work. In those days, you had to rely on your own instinctual energy because information wasn’t readily available in the way it is now. When you depend on your inner resources, psychic experiences where you remember things from previous lives occur.
I had plans to become a farmer so I moved to Adelaide from Sydney in the early 1970s to live and work on my uncle’s farm, but I didn’t agree with the cruel methods used to keep farm animals alive and profitable. My connection to farming was a return to my roots in a past life experience where I was a farmer in South America. Being an Earth sign (Sun in Taurus with Capricorn Rising), I fundamentally align with nature. While farming wasn’t for me, I do have a connection to the land, so South Australia appealed to me on a spiritual level because most of it is dry, open desert, where union with the Earth is more direct than it is in Sydney, for example. The pace of life is obviously slower and calmer than it is in the cities, so it was easy for me to bond with nature and spirit.
It was while I was living in Adelaide that I began to practise the Wiccan traditions of Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders. I founded the coven that is in operation in Newtown today, Nuit’s Veil, in 1973 after casting a spell to attract like-minded people. The coven’s early encounters with psychic reality began to trigger events in our everyday lives, frequently resulting in significant life changes. I gradually began to understand my relationship with Witchcraft in terms of an inner initiation and an outer connection with coven members. After almost a decade of practising coven-based Witchcraft and mastering most aspects of contemporary Witchcraft, I returned to Sydney with this knowledge and continued my work with the coven in its new incarnation in the Inner West.
Alternative spiritual practices tend to receive negative press. Can you dispel the myths and fears surrounding this often-misunderstood area of life?
At a deep level, people’s prejudices stem from a fear of death and dying. The mainstream’s perception of Witches is that they employ magick to influence the outcome of something, and that is true, but Witchcraft has a higher quality — a spiritual element. This is where we align with our destiny. You have to experience Witchcraft yourself in order to ‘get’ the mystery; nobody can give it to you or intellectualise it.
I often say that Witchcraft exists to keep us sane in the material world. It exists to keep us connected to nature. People feel lost and disconnected. We no longer have rites of passage for our young men and women. Witches use initiation rites, such as Full Moon rituals, to reconnect with these rites of passage.
You run the coven Nuit’s Veil at The Alchemy Space in Newtown. What happens here?
I took over the current space about three months ago and revamped it. I teach and conduct workshops that explore the wide variety of ritual techniques I’ve acquired over the years, but my time is mostly taken up with coven-based activities.
Nuit’s Veil comprises of sixteen people who meet weekly to celebrate significant points in the natural world, especially the worship of the Full Moon. Having been born on a Full Moon, I have a special connection with that particular phase of the lunar cycle. The moon is the place of our soul and at Full Moon it turns toward our spirit (the sun). In psychological terms, it’s likened to the direct flow between the conscious and unconscious.
Coven members come from everywhere – from the Inner West itself, to places outside of Sydney like Blackheath in the Blue Mountains and Wollongong. There isn’t a ‘type’ that is attracted to Witchcraft. Nuit’s Veil represents a diverse range of people who all connect to the spirit of the ritual.
Do you or your coven celebrate Halloween?
There are eight major festivals in the Pagan calendar, one of which is Samhain (Halloween). In the southern hemisphere, the festival for this date (31 October) is Beltane, the celebration of union. I don’t put much emphasis on the major festivals. Our rituals concern the Full Moon.
The Inner West, and Newtown in particular, is a magnet for occult and spiritual activity. Why do you think this is?
Simple. Witches gravitate to places of great culture and Newtown is the cultural centre of the universe! There are more bookshops ahead of population in the Newtown precinct than anywhere in Australia. The Inner West has an abundance of great cafes and restaurants, lively music venues and performance spaces, and is a haven for interesting people. Why wouldn’t Witches want to live here?
What are your favourite Inner West haunts? Sorry, but I had to throw in the pun.
I love Deep Groove on King Street, a few doors down from The Alchemy Space. It’s a vinyl record bar where you can grab a drink and play your favourite tunes from their extensive record collection. Going in the other direction, Lentil As Anything provides healthy, tasty vegetarian and vegan meals on a pay-as-you-feel basis. Mary’s Place on Mary Street in Newtown is another favourite, as is Faheem Fast Food on Enmore Road, which offers delicious, authentic Pakistani food. I highly recommended it.
The Alchemy Space
Level 1, 199 King Street Newtown
Witches Workshop online:
Provides networking contacts, training, workshops and ritual in contemporary Australian Witchcraft and the Western Mystery Traditions.
Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism – what’s the difference?
Below is a glossary used by Tim Ozpagan to clarify the meaning of words often misused by us mere mortals. Here’s Tim’s list for the terminally bewildered:
Coven is a gathering or community of Witches
Paganism is the umbrella term under which words like Witchcraft and Wicca are contained
Warlock is a word used in Scotland and Iceland to describe a male Witch
Wicca (pronounced Wi-cha) is the generic name for anyone practising a cunning art
Witch is someone who functions in the psychic reality
Witchcraft is taken from the word Wicca. It’s a practical system of mysticism whose method is known as magick. Witchcraft is used to explore a mystical state beyond the material world and is the tool for developing psychic ability
“There are many terminologies that I could use to describe myself, such as Warlock for example, but I prefer the term Witch. It’s the more commonly used expression for both men and women” – Tim Ozpagan