It was in the deep afternoon. The Hollywood sunset lingered in rust colors on the horizon. I was sitting in my closet with a window, on a mattress. I had a palm tree to look at for inspiration; still an exotic sight for an ex-New Yorker. I had a small homemade wood table over my lap, with my electric typewriter on top. My friends, Joan and Janet (my two new best friends) and Marcy, my very first friend in California, sitting in my bachelor flat thinking … imagining, watching the changing sky.
My typewriter hummed expectedly.
“What about fun?” I asked. “We have to imagine something about happiness.
This is what we got.
“We are committed to living life lovingly towards ourselves and our sisters and children. We are committed to joy, self-love and life affirmation.”
These goals, values were all self-evident to me from witchcraft. In the Craft we celebrate life, each turn of the season. The life of the planet, and all on it. The wisdom that we need to love ourselves first before we can really love another proved to be true.
However, our joy quota could have been better. Looking back I remember how effortlessly we congrated in each-others apartments in the same green building on top of Whitley Ave. How easy it was to suddenly erupt in unstoppable laughter; eating, toking and drinking wine. But we thought that was just our Californian life, what we had to do to survive. The concept of joyous existence “on purpose” was something else.
We had stressful low paying jobs. Telephone operator, cab driver, teacher of English, and I was a gardener.
We were harassed on the streets daily because we were females on Hollywood Boulevard. We lived three blocks from it.
In our expanding awareness we have internalized the troubles of the world and our own gender. We educated ourselves to the teeth about our political oppression. Analyzed it to death; it still didn’t make it go away.
But lovingly towards ourselves would mean what? Nobody could think about taking a vacation. A vacation from what? The sizzling historical times that gave us a chance for a meaningful activism? To be at the part of our generation that will plant everything new and important transforming for the future? We were living in the heroic age. Who knew? Longingly I was driving by a bar with dance music seeping out, but I had to go to print a newsletter. Or give a speech, or just have a meeting at the center.
I missed the entire disco era. Yes I heard the music on the radio, but never learned to dance to it. By the time I revisited this part of me, that danced to that music in skirts with a little buzz on, the dance scene has changed. Never quite learned those steps, the new steps, which we didn’t have before.
Free floating movements, “grooving” somehow got tired and retired. This realization hit me at Peanuts, the hot spot in L.A. when I went there for the first time. I had entered a women’s dance and bar. It was a whole other culture parallel with the struggle. Oh my, this is where happiness lived, and danced.
While I was moving the historical times with demonstrations, getting arrested, stay up all night working for the women’s movement; the fun times of my city had passed me by. Never wore a disco outfit.
Looking back it was a small price to pay. Disco is “gone,” but nothing is really gone in my times now. The past had been recorded, and young people can live in any century or decade, dress in any fashion they like.
I remember an accountant was once fired because she would wear a pant suit in the backroom of her company. We fought for her with demonstrations in front of the company (I’ve forgotten what the name was) and made the company take her back. Almost everything was started in those years came to pass. We take those gains for granted today.
Living lovingly towards our sisters was just good feminism. There was a lot of tension between the gay and straight women back then. We saw each other as aliens from another planet, but we had meetings at the Women’s Center; watching each other with mild revulsion … or attraction. The gay women sent to us for meetings were always professional, kind of butch women. We came off as flakes compared with their shorthand taking, and working out of an attaché case .
We sisters passed the wine around, and shared Sara Lee cakes. Listened to Santana. This was the only way I could endure the hours at the Center. It was really work. Hard work. And it didn’t pay. But it paid in spades in herstorical pride. Just to be able to say today, “I was there.”
We also had trouble with self-love. We thought it meant only good masturbation, or having orgasms with a good lover. In witchcraft, the self-love is what leads you to Goddess love. When you perform the Self-Blessing, (Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries) on yourself of course, there is a moment somewhere in the middle of it that your heart begins to expand and include the world. But even more importantly, our heart opens and releases compassion to ourselves. It’s a heady, hot, streaming rush of love. Many women cry, sob even. You touch on a love you have never felt before. It’s like encountering a long lost relative, a heart so brimming with love for yourself; you will be surprised. This is what we had practiced as we grew in the Dianic tradition, slowly experiencing our own power on ourselves. This is the same power you can direct in spell work. This is important to feel how strong you really are.
Life affirmation? There was no shortage of that. We organized fundraisers where there was lots of dancing to records from the Beatles, Stones and Jimmy Hendrix, and Fanny. vWe gathered at lesbian coffee houses every Saturday, our main fundraiser for the Center’s rent, when the women came whom we have never seen before, but they had a full life while at the center. .
They hooked up, they had drama, they had celebrations; birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated with gusto. And always that dancing. I thought as a non-practicing straight women, lesbians have a lot of energy for feelings and sharing feelings; and tears. Straight women were not fawned over like that by men. I was not used to being asked every half an hour how I was feeling. Certainly not wanting to be so weepy, and suddenly, then so happy. It was to me to too much fluctuation of feelings. I needed calmer times. Lesbians wore me down, as I was there because we organized it. But not really. Underneath it all I felt straight women are abandoned by society. If you don’t have a man, you don’t have fun times. As straight women we were not used to just get up and go out on the town by ourselves. Lesbians thought nothing of it. They were freer.
My opinion started to change when I met my first lesbian friend. There was a great looking blond curly haired lesbian who was a nurse, and she started to bring out all those non-practicing heterosexual women working at the Center. It wasn’t long that I moved her into our Whitley women’s apartment house that I was now managing.
She was very soft spoken. She cooked us meals. We were told we cannot live on wine, Sara Lee cakes and burritos for long. Nurse Nancy had dimples, perfect teeth, and rosy breath. She said, “Cats. If you love cats, you love women.”
This was just the beginning of everything that followed later.
But back to the Manifesto.
“We are committed to winning, to surviving, to struggling against the patriarchal oppression.”
This was a heady wine, once you felt empowered; you wanted to change your world, why not? Everything else had already been done.
Were there any wins? Did we live to see big strides forward?
The long ban on abortions that costs thousands of mothers’ lives was repealed. That was big! You think this is nothing, because you had it available all your life. You could escape from the lifelong torture of giving birth too soon, rape victims, incest victims, or you just didn’t want to be a mother. You mean we started with owning our own ass and womb? Yes. That had to be done before all else.
This need, unfinished business came down to us from way back, from the early suffragists. From Elisabeth Cady Stanton, from Margaret Sanger who went to jail for distributing information about contraceptives.
This struggle to take back our bodies had battle scars, and long lists of the dead, the maimed and the desperate. Modern women just realized, like myself that abortion was decided by men, the power, they claimed, was from god, straight from the bible. Celibate men of the cloth, unmarried priest’s had the power over our wombs. As a song said:
“Somebody own the ass we’re sitting on
Everything else belongs to someone else.
Private property when you think living is free.
Private property, listen to me.”
The Vietnam War was ten years old already when I woke up to it. We are at war? I cared about peace, but a war so far away hardly entered my life. Yes it was on TV, but we didn’t watch too much TV then; there were only three channels and it was black and white. We had to fight that too, oh hard grief, war was not healthy for children. Unarmed women got killed in the cross fire; there is no “war theater” anywhere where the men can go and duke it out. The entire war concept is against the civilians, (read women and kids) It’s all about destroying the homes of the soldiers, rape their women, steal their resources, and occupy their gene pool,
So struggling against the patriarchal oppression took every breath we had. It was so bad, the injustices so numerous, we knew it would take generations of women to accomplish all this life affirmation acts; maybe for a hundred years. A pledge to struggle, put a stamp on our souls. We ended up with too much struggle and not enough boogie. The balance was hard to establish, we had no role models, the suffragists were all dead.
But there was the sweet taste of victory every so often which was sweeter than Sara Lee cake. We also learned that these dreams of Manifesto are followed by sisters we didn’t even know. The heady realization that we are ALL connected, without knowing each other. The struggle is the same; we are a huge self-directed female army, who work on a shoestring. The struggle was across class lines, across educational lines, race lines. As the female principle of the universe, we have shaken off many shackles.
Smaller, but equally important discriminations against women’s survival had been defeated. For example, women didn’t have credit cards, (unless a man co-signed) nor bank accounts, women couldn’t take out loans. Men used money to get ahead in life; women had trouble getting equal treatment. This kept up our poverty and depressed our souls.
So some of us opened our own bank in Westwood. Women’s Bank. It wasn’t “us”, like my friends, we were not savvy like that. It was the Female Principle, expressed in other women who understood money, and used their knowledge for the good of all. I started exhaling when I saw the missing links to our survival manifesting.
Women’s bookstores, very important. Regular bookstores didn’t carry the female writers unless they were a hundred years dead. You couldn’t find out about the women before your time or in the now times. Where is women’s history? What? We don’t have any? That can’t be right.
Whose shoulders are we standing on? Where are the others? There must have been a lot more women other then Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who fought for the vote for women. It turned out there were many, many great women before us. Victoria Woodhull, the first women running for the presidency even before women had the vote! Now that’s cheeky. And the spiritualist, Matilda Josllyn Gage, who was banned by the Pope, wrote “Women, Church and State.” I always wanted to be banned by the Pope! They don’t do that anymore because the sales of such books will just shoot through the roof!
One day I remember a huge sit-in at UCLA demanding that Women’s Studies be added to the curriculum. History excluded women; it’s all about wars. Women’s her-story is not treasured as it should be. We wanted this knowledge to be in the heads of the new generation. You are the spiritual decedents of great women, whose entire life was devoted to the struggle, a single issue, the Vote. It still took 75 years to get. Black men got the vote a full fifty years before women. What does this say?
Gender out ranked race, and gender still counts. There is a lot of struggle left for the new generation Z.
How does all this relate to witchcraft?
Changing/bending reality is witchcraft. Some mass together and chant until it’s heard. Some create civil disobedience. I chose to create a Women’s Spirituality Movement, which will continue after me. I based it on the ancient Dianic tradition, (Women’s Mysteries) practiced in central Europe, where I come from.
The essence of this Women’s Mysteries had to be “common sense.” Its popularizing had to be fun. Its pay off had to be a soul’s joy. And the shiniest jewel a woman could ever have; the end of isolation and beginning of full-frontal sisterhood. Well maybe this has come, and splintered and come again. Yet the cohesiveness remained. The Goddess movement has gone global within our lifetimes.
Copyright © 2018 by Zsuzsanna Budapest