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Byron Shire
October 5, 2022

Cute cults and odd isms

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A scene from Pagan Love Cult’s music video ‘Funeral March’.

Cults are almost as common as potholes, flowing among the Northern Rivers of NSW. They range from the benign to the malignant to the downright silly.

I remember one self-proclaimed mystic who came with his followers to a Byron Council meeting to spruik the importance of a proposed commune. He was good on god-consciousness but not so much on planning detail.

In the early days of The Echo the Rat People came to town. Or so they were proclaimed by wary burghers, solely for their fondness for pet rats. It was a back-to-nature crew in various subdued hues of mud brown and tree green derived from a youthful taste for ‘anarchy’. Perhaps some of them live among you now, serving you coffee or selling you rather damp real estate.

Of the more enduring kind of cult, held together by music, is the Pagan Love Cult (PLC) out Nimbin way. It describes itself as ‘the only cult in the world that brainwashes its members to think for themselves’.

I was a card-carrying member of the PLC for a while in the nineties, following my interview with its founder Neil Pike. Membership involved me doing sweet freak-all, which was handy as I was never much good at paganism, love, or music.

Music is definitely the PLC’s strong point. Search YouTube for their song Funeral March, from their album The Last Of The Long Lost Hippies, a beautiful lament to the downfall of the natural world, including the human species.

Said downfall is being brought about by the weirdest cult of all, rampant capitalism. Its temple is an airless room full of screens showing graphs and figures, and upset men in suits yelling at each other.

Unfortunately this cult has become a religion through government support. Someone once defined a religion as a cult with an army behind it. By the way, if you seek on the web to learn the difference you will disappear down a very strange rabbit-hole.

One cult that was set up to oppose the forced teaching of Christianity in American schools is The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, bless his noodly appendages, R’amen. The Australian offshoot can be found at pastafarians.org.au, where its adherents extol the virtues of the FSM, which ‘created the universe while very drunk, the effects of which can be seen in the resulting imperfections and contradictions’. In some overseas jurisdictions devotees are allowed to wear a colander on their heads while having the photo taken for their driver’s licence.

The cult best suited to an old man on the perennial government arts grant, known to some as the age pension, is Dudeism (dudeism.com). This cult arose from Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, itself regarded as a cult movie.

Dudeism suggests ‘just take it easy’ and describes itself as ‘an ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness, practises as little as possible, and above all, uh… lost my train of thought there’.

It has a Northern Rivers ring to it, dude. And in this cult’s case, ‘dude’ applies to all manner of genders.

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