Dark Mofo paganism Hobart, Tasmania

Why is the Australian Government Funding Paganism?

19 June 2023

11.1 MINS

The streets of Hobart were recently filled with 15,000 people who witnessed the procession of “a sacrificial totem platypus” to celebrate the end of Dark Mofo 2023. All while chanting “Ogoh-ogoh”. It could have easily been a scene from the ancient pagan world (i.e. Acts 19:28-34), but it instead occurred in Tasmania’s capital city. According to The Mercury:platypus totem Dark Mofo

After reaching the final destination of Dark Park, Ogoh-ogoh’s life came to a fiery end as he was lit up in flames and fireworks went off around him.

As onlookers’ eyes were flickering red at the ritual, pieces of ash were flying through the air to mark the end of Dark Mofo.

Ogoh-ogoh artist Ida Bagus Oka said it’s been 10 years since Ogoh-ogoh was brought to the festival.

“It feels so good to bring a traditional Balinese ceremony to Hobart, and it’s now really from here, it’s so special,” he said.

“In Bali, we don’t have the platypus. We find different animals here in Tasmania, so this is a unique collaboration. I think the platypus is like a duck and a fish, and in Bali, the duck is a holy animal, a goddess of knowledge.

“With the Ogoh-ogoh Burning, the fears are purged and the spirit goes back to where it belongs. It’s a thanksgiving to the natural world.”

Dark MofoIt is being reported that an estimated 80,000 people wrote on pieces of paper their ‘Fears for the year ahead” before then depositing them in the belly of the pagan effigy. This year it took the form of a platypus, but each year it takes a different form. But according to Hindu mythology, the oversized statues represent demons or evil spirits or even real people who are well known for greed or acting unjustly. The totems are then burnt as a way of making room for good energy.

The Rise of Neo-Paganism

As the Australian population moves further and further away from Christianity, it’s not that they are worshipping nothing but instead, everything. What we’re seeing in particular though, is the rise of natural religions. Or what is more classically referred to as paganism. According to The Conversation:

Nature religions, commonly described as Paganism (or neo-Paganism), are growing in Australia. In the last Census, 33,148 people claimed affiliation with a nature religion: including AnimismDruidism, and the many traditions of Wicca, the most practised Pagan pathway.

Thirty years earlier, just 4,353 Australians put down Paganism as their religion. Affiliation with Christianity has decreased over that 30-year period.

Australian laws against practising witchcraft have only been repealed as recently as this century in some states and territories. In the Northern Territory, it was just 10 years ago: 2013. The laws were repealed in 2005 in Victoria, 2000 in Queensland and 1991 in South Australia. New South Wales was the first state to repeal them, in 1969.

The British Witchcraft Act of 1735, which Australia’s laws stemmed from, was repealed in 1951; the last conviction of a witch was in 1944.

There’s never been a recorded conviction for witchcraft in Australia. But many Pagans remain cautious about practising their faith openly, due to perceptions of believers as Satan worshippers. So, Australia’s Pagan population may be much higher than the figures show: declaring a religion on the Census is optional.

A number of Christian authors have identified the growing trend of modern-day people reverting back to ancient pre-Christian religions. For those who are interested in reading and understanding more, see Peter Jones, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Kirkdale Press, 2015).

Anti-Christian FestivalsDark Mofo procession

It should be of considerable concern then, that for over ten years now, the anti-Christian arts festival known as Dark Mofo has been both publicly and privately funded to the tune of over $100 million dollars. Just last year, the Tasmanian State Government gave $7.5 million to the festival, with the Australian Federal Government and Hobart City Council chipping in a further $1,000,000 and $500,000 respectively.

All of those figures pale in comparison to the reportedly $41 million lost by David Walsh, the owner of MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) a couple of years ago in running Dark Mofo and associated festivals. And yet, contrary to the comments of the Lord Mayor, Anna Reynolds, it seems difficult to discern whether Winter Fest really has changed the city of Hobart for the better. Just take, for instance, the garish neon-red crosses scattered throughout the city, replete with the billboard at the airport “Welcome to Hell” or the promotion of “family-friendly” pagan celebrations in the Huon Valley:

As if that were not all bad enough, last year some of the crosses were inverted, just in case visitors to Tasmania were in any doubt as to the festival’s subversive goal. Somewhat understandably, many Christians objected to the publicly offensive display. Christopher Brohier, the Tasmanian director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was quoted in a media statement to the ABC:

The ACL calls on all Tasmanians to take a stand against Dark Mofo and their blatant agenda to bring hell to earth and for the Tasmanian government to act swiftly to reverse the growing reputation of Tasmania as the Australian state that welcomes evil.

Is it really that serious?inverted cross Dark Mofo Hobart Tasmania

Surprisingly, not all followers of Jesus understand the malevolent spiritual influence which Dark Mofo presents. For example, Mikey Lynch, the director of the University of Tasmania Fellowship of Christians, told the ABC:

Hanging a cross upside down is like a Grade 12 art installation, so just chill out.

Now I can understand why a ministry colleague in the same city as myself might want to call for calm. We live in a day and age of almost perpetual outrage, and the impact of social media only adds fuel to the fire. What’s more, organisations like this thrive on being shocking and provocative and so becoming upset simply gives them even more publicity.

But is that really all that Dark Mofo is? As always, context is the key here. The presence of an inverted cross is perhaps on its own somewhat innocuous. That is until you realise that Dark Mofo has included over the years everything from a ritualistic nude swim, the slaughter of a bull in a “bloody sacrificial ritual”, and a bevy of pornographic performances. All of a sudden one realises that no high school on earth would consider any of these subjects as appropriate for artistic display.

When Radicals are Not Radical Enough

One of the problems I have regarding the “art” associated with Dark Mofo is that it’s just not edgy enough. As far back as 2018, I posed the question in an article for The Spectator Australia, “Has Dark Mofo lost its mojo?” Because beating up on Christianity is just so banal and first-century. If you really want to provoke a public discussion then what about erecting the ancient religious symbol of the swastika, especially in the light (pun intended) of an ever-increasing statism.

There is a deeper theological problem though, and that is the Scriptural truth that Satan’s influence in the world is both real and destructive. The Bible is not only clear about this, but it is crucial that Christian leaders such as Lynch—who also happens to be the editor of the Gospel Coalition Australia—should publicly warn everyone about the spiritual dangers which anti-Christian festivals such as Dark Mofo pose.

What the Bible says about Satan

As will be seen below, a quick overview of the Bible’s teaching reveals that the Devil is described in a multiplicity of ways:

  • The serpent in the Garden of Eden, who led the first man and woman into sinful rebellion (Gen. 3)
  • An explicit condemnation of witchcraft, divination etc (Deut. 18:9-13)
  • A real spiritual being who can cause tremendous tragedy and personal harm (Job 1-2)
  • An accuser of the people of God who seeks their condemnation (Zech. 3:1)
  • To torment and destroy those who have been made in God’s image (Mk. 5:1-20)
  • To cause physical harm and death (Mk. 9:22)
  • The “father of lies” and a “murderer” (Jn 8:44)
  • The ruler of the kingdom of the air who enslaves unbelievers in their sin (Eph. 2:1-3)
  • A “schemer” who seeks to divide the body of Christ (2 Cor. 2:5-11)
  • The “god of this world who has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4)
  • The heavenly principalities and powers at work through human agents on earth now (Eph. 6:10-11)
  • The prince of this world (John 12:31)
  • The one who tempts people into disobeying God’s law (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Cor. 7:5)
  • The ministry of false teachers (2 Cor. 12:13-15; Gal. 3:1)
  • A powerful false teacher who can perform all kinds of counterfeit signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:1-12)
  • An adversary who continues to try and make Christians stumble (Jam. 4:7)
  • A roaring lion who roams throughout the earth seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8)
  • The figure of the anti-Christ and associated minions (1 Jn 2:18; 2 Jn 7-11)
  • To cause hatred and harm (1 Jn 3:11-15)
  • A dragon who will one day be defeated once and for all (Rev. 12:9-12)

Once all of these truths are taken into consideration, the statement by Lynch is not only pastorally negligent but also spiritually naïve. For the Holy Spirit has revealed in His Word that an inverted cross is a sign of something much more sinister.

Learning from the Puritan Past

One of the best and most thorough examinations of this particular topic ever to be produced was by the Puritan William Perkins (1558-1602). Thankfully, Perkin’s complete works are now available through Reformation Heritage. Volume Nine contains a hundred-plus page examination on the subject with the ominous title, “A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft”.

The whole treatise is worth a read, but the first section “The Nature of Witchcraft” is especially valuable and pertinent when considering whether the presence of an inverted cross is innocuous or insidious. Perkins makes the following eight points:

First, witchcraft is an ‘art’. Not in the artistic sense that it is meant to portray meaning or beauty, but Perkins rightly understands that witchcraft follows certain superstitious grounds and principles. These rules are authored by Satan himself and transmitted to various wicked men and women who seek to learn them, but in so doing are led astray (Rev. 2:24).

Second, witchcraft is a wicked act which will incur the judgment of Almighty God. To practice witchcraft is an act of spiritual rebellion (1 Sam. 15:23) and is an expressing of following the lusts of the sinful flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). As such, no one who practices these things will inherit eternal life.

Third, witchcraft produces genuine, but false, signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:1-12). Perkins poses the question, “Why are we included to desire to follow Satan?” And the answer he provides is, because ever since the Garden we have wanted to usurp God and take His place for ourselves. This is manifested in two ways:

  1. When we seek material riches by the Devil’s means, short-circuiting God’s providence (Matt. 4:8-9). Interestingly, Perkins notes that “Certain popes attained the papacy by this means, hazarding their conscience as well as losing their souls.”
  2. When we become overly curious, searching out truths that God would have kept secret. Hence, one receives ‘knowledge’ or ‘fame’ which one wouldn’t have normally received through natural means.

Fourth, witchcraft is practiced with the assistance of the Devil. The spiritual power or efficacy of witchcraft is through a “mutual confederacy” with Satan. Thus, Perkins says, “The power effecting such strange works is not in the art of witchcraft itself, nor does it flow from the skill of the sorcerer—be they either a man or a woman—but is derived wholly from Satan.”

Fifth, all true wonders are from God alone. Anything which is truly a ‘miracle’, that is, something which is created and did not occur before, can only be done by the sovereign power of Almighty God.

Sixth, false wonders are a perversion of God’s creation. In direct contrast to the previous point, Satan can only twist, distort and pervert the ways of God rather than create anything new. For example, in Exodus 7-8 we read how the Egyptian magicians can only magnify the plagues (more blood and frogs) rather than stop or alleviate them. As Perkins says while “they can alter the ordinary course of nature” they cannot create, abolish or change what is. What’s more, the Devil is able to perform these “strange works” in four ways:

  1. Since Satan is a spirit and not bound by flesh and boundaries, he can “search more deeply and narrowly into the grounds of things than all corporal creatures”. As such, the Devil is a creature “of great understanding, knowledge and capacity”.
  2. The Devil is an ancient spirit. For at least 6,000 years he has had the opportunity to observe the nature and property of things, even truths which have long been forgotten. This has given him the opportunity to observe and learn a great deal.
  3. The Devil is a spirit “of wonderful power and might”. As such, he can shake the earth and confound creatures inferior to him in nature and condition.
  4. Due to his spiritual nature, the Devil has an ability to convey himself (and even other creatures) to far-distant places. He also has the ability to eventer into the substance of another creature “without penetration of dimensions”. Whenever he does, he can take over their faculties.

Seventh, the nature of the Devil’s wonders are both illusory and real. Perkin’s observations here are intriguing and he makes two major distinctions.

  1. On the one hand, there are ‘illusory’ deceptions. This is a work of Satan whereby someone is deluded or deceived. Outwardly, this can happen through a corruption of the senses (e.g. the eyes, brain) or by altering the air (e.g. fog, smoke, drug-induced hallucinogen). Note the specific use of “bewitched” by Paul in Gal. 3:1. Or another example is that of the “appearance” of Samuel to Saul by the summons of the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28) which Perkins says was not really Samuel by a counterfeit copy.
  2. On the other hand, there are ‘real’ delusions that the LORD permits the Devil to perform while not being above or beyond the power of nature. For instance, in the opening chapters of the book of Job, Satan is responsible for calamities as varied as fire from heaven, a mighty wind, murderous thieves and horrible sickness. As Perkins explains, “Satan understands how the physical properties of God’s creation work, such that he can apply “creature to creature” in achieving his destructive and devilish will”.

Eighth, witchcraft exists under the sovereign justice of God. All of this occurs under the Sovereign Hand of God for both the “trial of his children or for the punishment of the wicked” (Deut. 13:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:10-11). Perkins says it is crucial to understand that the Devil doesn’t have free reign but can only do what the LORD allows (i.e. 1 Kgs 22:22; Mk 5:12-13; 1 Sam. 16:23; Job 1:12; 2:6).

The Real and Present Danger

When seen in the light (pun intended) of everything else Dark Mofo celebrates, the choice to erect inverted crosses throughout the city of Hobart is seeking to make a nefarious point. David Walsh and his artistic director Leigh Carmichael are artistically expressing the spirit of ‘Anti-Christ’. And as such, this is something definitely not to “chill out” about but to be deeply concerned by.

This is even more so the case this year as Dark Mofo has promoted a pornographic program involving the figure of Christ. As the image below demonstrates, this is not simply ‘bad art’ but ‘dark art’. And even more alarmingly, as the website itself explains. “Explore the territory of female archetypes inside this demented dollhouse. You can’t just be a voyeur. You must participate.”

Dark Mofo sacrilege

This is why we must warn people of the real and present danger they are in. For, while these kinds of festivals might be financially lucrative—it is estimated that Dark Mofo alone generates $50 million in tourist revenue each year—they are spiritually destructive and damaging to one’s soul. As the apostle John writes:

Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. And such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (2 Jn. 7-11)

But the Lord Jesus Christ was even more direct when He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. The reason why Christians are opposed to pagan festivals is not because they are personally offended, but rather, the immense spiritual threat they pose to people’s souls. And as such, the Australian government should not be funding or supporting it.

___

Photos: Pulse Hobart

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10 Comments

  1. jim 19 June 2023 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Probably for the same reason they don’t make Christian churches pay taxes. Good for the goose is good for the gander.

  2. Stephen 20 June 2023 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Ogoh-ogoh artist Ida Bagus Oka – bagus is Bahasa for ‘good’..

    One suspects that in this case, a different sense of ‘good’ to that used in Genesis 1.

  3. Kaylene Emery 20 June 2023 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    A duck as “ a goddess” now there’s a thought.
    I will return again to read this article, for the sake of my education. Given that I was born n raised (kinda) in Tasmania, nothing that happens there surprises me.

  4. Rae Bewsher 20 June 2023 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    Same Kaylene…. Saddens me when I go back though.

  5. Kaylene Emery 21 June 2023 at 7:52 am - Reply

    My question is to the Australian people , why are we tolerating the worship of Satan in our Nation?

  6. Jim Twelves 21 June 2023 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Mark, an excellent piece and thank you for putting all the work in on it. Your last sentence is brilliant!
    ‘The reason why Christians are opposed to pagan festivals is not because they are personally offended, but rather, the immense spiritual threat they pose to people’s souls. And as such, the Australian government should not be funding or supporting it’.
    I think that, sadly, the majority of Christians, underestimate the spiritual battle we are in right now, and don’t join the dots to the deception you are writing about. Lets keep playing in the Spirit!

    • Mark Powell 21 June 2023 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jim that’s very kind of you and yes, praying is key (Ephesians 6:18) 😇

    • Ruth Burgess 21 June 2023 at 1:28 pm - Reply

      Yes Jim. I think you are absolutely right. Many Christians are underestimating the spiritual battle we are in; while year in and year out we have the Dark Mofo event imposed on us – an event which is normalizing ‘the dark’. God is light and He dwells within light (1 Timothy 6:16). First John 1:5 says: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Symbolically, light represents what is good and darkness represents what is evil (e.g., John 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:4).

  7. Ruth Burgess 21 June 2023 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your thorough article Mark. You are putting pen to paper on behalf of many Christians I am sure. Having been saved from yoga, eastern mysticism and other pagan practices, I can only say that I support and am grateful for your boldness.

    • Kaylene Emery 21 June 2023 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      Hashtag me too Ruth. Not everyone makes it out. We are blessed.

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