“In ancient times, Winter Solstice festivals were the last celebrations held before the deep, hard winter began. There was plenty of food and wine, for now, – and hopes that all would survive the coming famine months until spring arrived again.”
On May 1 it is Sahmain in the Southern Hemisphere. It is not Winter Solstice but ‘Winter is Coming’. As the days shorten our thoughts turn to life and death, to the past and the future, to what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained and what we are yet to do with our one wild and beautiful life. It felt like the right time to spend a few moments in quiet reflection in a cemetery.
Take the time to pick up the energy of the Cemetery you choose to visit. Find the grave that calls to you. Shuffle and lay out some cards and then spend quiet reflective time journaling.
Some 200 children were buried at Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery between 1852 and 1857, during the height of the Australian gold rush, and not much has happened here since. There have been no more burials. There’s no garden to tend to. No fresh flowers. But you will find small offerings from children who leave toys on the graves.
In a post Tania Braukamper notes that “Aside from those few with markings, the babies and children buried here are voiceless, nameless; nothing but soft bones and dust crushed beneath anonymity and piles of arid earth. The tiny mounds are even sadder because they are mute: the dead are always silent, but the unmarked dead are the quietest of all.”
Skeleton Stan and I doubted that these children remain voiceless, agreeing that it is just a matter of listening.
Stan, being a dead dude, is the perfect conduit to communicate with the tiny residents of this place so he and I agreed to go and try listening.
We took some Inner Child Cards out with us and visited an unmarked grave. We waited quietly to see if the resident had any message for us.
It was very moving when the card that emerged told the story of Peter Pan.
The story of Peter Pan begins in the nursery of the Darling household in London, where Wendy, John, and Michael are going to bed when they are surprised by the arrival of Peter Pan and the fairy Tinker Bell. Peter is a little boy who lives in the faraway world of Never Never Land who has come to retrieve his shadow, which he had previously lost there. Peter reveals that he lives in the Never Land as captain of the Lost Boys, children who fell out of their baby carriages when their nurses were looking the other way.
As a young mischievous boy with the power to fly, Peter Pan sweeps Wendy into his world and takes her to the promised Never Land. It is there that the pair encounters friends and foes alike, ranging from the loyal Tinker Bell to the antagonistic Captain Hook.
Neither Stan or I felt a shadow emerge from the grave but we both heard voices calling us to come again but we agreed that if these children are residing in a place like Never Never Land, telling stories, having adventures and living in a big hollow tree, this is a comforting thought.
Hepburn Graves is the historical private cemetery of the Hepburn family of Smeaton Hill Run. Located near the original homestead, Smeaton House, the cemetery has been excised from the surrounding private land and is now managed by the National Trust of Australia.
The grave site has been used for burials by the Hepburn family since 1859. When the family sold the property in 1904 they excised the grave site and access road from the main title. After the death of the last family trustee the land with the graves was acquired by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria). The site is cared for by the Ballarat Branch of the National Trust and the owners of Smeaton House.
The headstones commemorate:
John Stuart Hepburn, Eliza Hepburn, Thomas Hepburn, Alice May Butterworth.
Alice Hepburn Murray, her husband Charles J.B. Murray and daughter Eliza Marion Murton.
Harriet Frances Hepburn, Alice Ella Purey-Cust, George Stuart Hepburn, John Stuart Hepburn, George Stanley Hepburn, Elaine May Hepburn, May Ina Hepburn MacGeorge.
Henry Hepburn 1842 – 1874 (died at sea).
John Stevens – long time gardener at Smeaton House. No headstone – his grave is marked by white stones.
Statement of Significance
Hepburn Graves is the private family cemetery established by pastoralist, Captain William Hepburn near his homestead, ‘Smeaton House’. Hepburn (died 1860), his wife, family and relatives are buried in the cemetery withone retainer. The cemetery is fenced and plantings enhance the graves. Hepburn Graves are important as an intact private cemetery, representative of a number of such cemeteries associated with Pastoral Holdings. The graves have historical associations with the Hepburn family and are an excellent example of the arrangement, elements and plantings of a small nineteenth century cemetery. Captain Hepburn’s grave is a notable example of a tombstone of the period. Classified: 21/05/1964. File Note: See B1114, Smeaton House
The still beauty of this resting place took my breath away. As I sat on a bench, taking in this private cemetery I drew cards from the Macabre Tarot and the Ghosts and Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt. I figured that the place might have a ghostly story that they wanted to share with me.
I cannot say that I was surprised when the Magician appeared again. The Macabre Tarot is leaving me in no doubt that it is excited about this whole project.
The Ghostly story that emerged told of a dyke builder named Hauke Haien who built his masterwork, but refused to follow the time honoured tradition of sacrificing a living creature by burying it alive in the dyke. The villagers were very unhappy about this and it all ended in tears when the dyke broke and Haien’s family were washed away and he came to grief.
Interestingly enough, when, despite protestations Captain Hepburn allowed a loyal faithful Chinese employee to be buried in the Hepburn family cemetery, he became the first white Victorian settler to allow a ‘non-European’ person to be buried with other members of his family, as an equal.
Sometimes we simply need to break away from tradition no matter the outcome.
DEATH OF Capt. JOHN HEPBURN, ESQ., J.P.
In our last report we announced the serious illness of Captain Hepburn, and expressed a hope that he might be soon restored to health, but that hope was doomed to disappointment, for after several alternations of the disease, and in spite of the utmost medical skill, the silver chord was loosed and the scythe of death laid low one whose very name has become almost a household word from Creswick to Castlemaine. (Creswick Advertiser, August 10th 1860)
Life on the goldfields was particularly harsh on children. They were often used as a source of labour and could earn small amounts of money for errands. Their young immune systems were still developing and children were highly susceptible to diseases that sometimes ran through mining communities. However, even the young were drawn to the lure of gold and could also be found panning along the rivers.
In 1852, on a barren piece of land that was of no use to gold miners or fossickers, a cemetery for the deceased children of the Castlemaine goldfields was set aside. Located within the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery. A pennyweight is a very small measure of gold.
The graveyard is little more than a bee-stung patch of ground, small swellings rising up here and there where the earth’s surface was long ago prickled by rough shovels. Some of the mounds have their perimeters acknowledged by rows of stones, no more sophisticated than those you might set up around a campfire; others are marked only by a single jutting rock, or nothing at all. Looking out from Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery, the Australian scenery is beautiful.
Surrounded by grey box gums in a tranquil setting, the Children’s Cemetery tells a silent story about some realities of the goldfields during the 1850s. Many families travelled to the Castlemaine diggings in the early 1850s as word spread about alluvial (surface) gold to be found.
The Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery in Moonlight Flat is a heartbreaking result of the awful living conditions in the diggings during the gold rush of the 1850s. Around 200 shallow graves, mostly children and babies, are scattered amongst the trees.
Aside from the associated danger of children wandering off and getting lost, the poor and inadequate drainage of the early settlements caused much discomfort not only for everyone’s olfactory nerves but on the community’s health problems. A lack of clean drinking water along with accidents and diseases were the main causes of death for children living on the goldfields. The first recorded deaths on the Mount Alexander Diggings were of two small children, who perished of dysentery in November 1851.
Many graves are simply marked by stone arrangements, but there are a few which have headstones with readable engravings. There have also been memorial plaques added to some graves in recent years.
Pennyweight is one of my favorite places to visit with my dogs. For me it is the equivalent of going to church and spending time with the divine. It is also a popular destination for families. No doubt inspired by stories such as the one about Nannie, children leave small toys on many of the graves. I have considered taking children’s books out to this beautifully tranquil place, sitting and reading to the children. Meanwhile I am sure they have enjoyed the visits of my dogs.
Today I took my Macabre Tarot with me and was delighted when the Magician fell out of the pack, demanding to be featured.
Wondering what Tarot Tombstone Tourism is all about? Quite simply it is visiting a cemetery with a Tarot Deck and gleaning messages from those who lie there.
The Battle of Lone Pine was one of a series of actions fought by the Australian and New Zealand forces during the Gallipoli campaign. The fighting there lasted four days and resulted in over 2,000 Australian casualties, and an estimated 7,000 Turkish casualties. Of the nine Victoria Crosses awarded to Australian troops during the Gallipoli campaign, seven were for actions during the August Offensive, which included the Battle of Lone Pine.
It is called the Battle of Lone Pine because the ridges, once covered with the Aleppo pine, had been cleared by Turkish troops and placed over the top of their trenches to provide cover, leaving just one, solitary pine standing. The area became known as Lone Pine ridge.
The meaning of the Six of Swords is that you are experiencing a transition of some kind, but one that is not happy and filled with regret. This transition will most likely be the result of decisions you made in the past, and now they are forcing you to leave something behind in order to move forward. Despite your sadness, you need to remember that moving on is the ideal option for your future.
When the Six of Swords appeared from the Macabre Tarot in this setting I couldn’t help thinking how appropriate the message was. Quick to volunteer, believing that they would have the opportunity to “see the world”, thousands of young men boarded the ships that took them overseas, leaving everything that was familiar behind. They were heading into the unknown and unbeknown to them, their fate was sealed.
I found myself meditating on the futility of war. Australian towns lost so many young men in this senseless, ill conceived battle. Visit rural towns today and you will find monuments with lists of the fallen. The numbers are staggering! The heart was ripped away from so many places.