Autobiography

Chapter 4

The Feminist Wicca

The inspiration for creating a new world, was fueled by the deep disgust people felt for the wars which the USA conducted. We started seeing Nam Vets coming home injured, in mind and body. Some Vets were begging on the streets. Others committed suicide, or became murderers of their own families. Some, became dealers of the most potent pot: the Thai stick, or heroin.

Times were turbulent; there was a lot of energy in the air. It was time for introspection and change, which led us to the question, “What do women want?” We needed everything as women. Equal pay for equal work, which is a clear and monthly reminder that humanity, which we have birthed, values us far less than they do our sons.

Males value violence, because they ran out of mammoths to hunt thousands of years ago. Now, they hunt humanity. We have never- ending wars when male values are allowed to remain. Too many males have created a rich income and prestige from wars.

Not our sons of course. No mother would admit that our sons supported these never-ending wars. Our sons were used as canon fodder. Their young bodies came back in plastic body-bags... their names written on a wooden cross which fades with each season. Let's face it, there are holidays to remember the dead, to honor the dead and the anniversaries of wars. What do the living do actually? Have a day off. Go shopping.

In the 70‘s, women entered the workforce in great numbers. We became the majority of the workforce, still making less money than our boys. Of course, if you were a mother and alone, with the responsibilities for family, male rule made it difficult, and expensive, to leave your child safely somewhere while you worked.

For the cost of one fighter jet, $38 million dollars, we could have provided coast-to-coast childcare. Money has always been used as stingily as possible to pay for women and children. There's always been more money for more wars and weapons. Humanity was not seen as something to preserve. Rather to experiment with poison, exploit for wars, kill, and doom to poverty.

Sexism and racism were rampant in the '70s. Feminists were despised as unnatural women. Peace demonstrators were regularly jailed.

On the other hand, we were young, most of us in good health. We had a rising feminist awareness, and with it, plans to create what was most needed for women and children. Every day we met more and more of us, who were coming into awareness together as women. Women asked for information. We gave referrals and helped them see the world from a woman’s point of view. Women matter. Women are people. We create humanity.

But what I didn’t know back then, when I was still with men, was that women were severed from their sons as a prerequisite to manhood. They were taunted, over and over again, not to be a pussy. Not to wuss out. Wars were for men. Women were there for support, and to hold the home together. It was another big struggle to have the women who wanted to be soldiers, be allowed to. This threatened the status quo. Would soldiering create men out of women? Mothers could not really be trusted with this judgment. Who were rapists? Not my boy of course, we said. Not my two sweet boys... other women’s boys. But the thought that I was looking for mates from a group that had an unspoken policy to close ranks with each other, as men, when it came to women’s issues, made me want to puke. This made me feel that maybe it was time to stop the sexual connection with men altogether. I called myself a non-practicing heterosexual.

The Women’s Center on Crenshaw Ave., and later, the second one in Santa Monica, reflected much of what had been developed in our humble Women’s Center. In the back of the small center, we started accumulating pamphlets about all kinds of topics: feminist philosophers, suffragists, women’s news from all the continents.

Sexual Politics by Kate Millett was our very first feminist best seller. And we had Schulamith Firestone's, The Dynamics of Sex, and newsletters such as Lavender Jane, and Daughters of Bilitis. Each day we added more to it after the mail had been sorted. I was reading everything that came to our center, every day. I was amazed to belong to this group, and feel the great valor of being a woman.

Few characters impressed me more than the handsome, small-built Harriet, for example. Her mission was teaching women about car maintenance. Besides being a very attractive lesbian woman, she saw the issue of car maintenance as crucial for women in California.

In California, we needed cars in order to exist. The high cost of repairs had oppressed women. Harriet talked about women getting ripped off at the car service centers. We were overcharged because we didn’t know enough about the mysteries of cars. And Harriet began changing that. She taught classes about oil change, and general understanding of the combustion engine. Practical skills. She made us climb under our cars. She required that we get rid of our inherent disgust at all the grime and dark greasy filth in that great below. She made us look at the dirty mystery of our cars.

Our young Women’s Center also had Herstory classes, which looked at women’s past, only to discover how it was left out on purpose as not important. Be honest, can you name a woman composer? How many statues do women have in a big city? I was grateful when one night, I found an Amelia Earhart statue in Van Nuys. When you can take away the history of a people, you have taken away their future. And the biggest threat of all, was that women can bring INFORMATION to each other. Information about our bodies, about Amazons, about the lost Goddesses, and successful Queens of antiquity. Women such as Aphra Behn of the UK, who invented the novel in the late 1600s. She was the first sister writer who supported herself with money earned by writing. What? One of us invented the novel? I had never heard this before.

I loved this feminist movement. Each day I learned new things about my gender. I grew from being an isolated young woman, into a well informed, feminist sister. But this learning curve was to never stop. There will always be more to discover. Who knew that being a woman was such a marvelous, creative manifestation of the Great Mother?

SISTER newsletter was our outreach, our phone number, and our measure of what needed to be done. SISTER elevated me from a political feminist to a writing feminist. It was like taking a breath for the first time since my teen years, when I had won an auspicious award, after entering the National Youth Literary Contest. (I knew then that I was a writer. What I didn’t know, was what to write about.) I was reading everything I could find by Karl Jung, the psychologist. I read Bachofen’s Mother Right. Every day felt like another adventure. Time flew. New York, where I had lived for 11 years, was hardly ever on my mind.

There was a gas shortage in L.A. We had to queue up for getting gas for our cars. Occult supplies came from Watts, the east side of Los Angeles. We were on the west side. In Watts, the only building that had a new coat of paint, was the House of Bombay. Here, we stood in line and filled up our cars with occult supplies, such as frankincense and myrrh candles. They came in shapes of a man or a woman, but they also came in genital shapes. Candles that looked like male genitals were used for love spells on a man. For women, we had requested a vagina candle. It was the first such shape in candles ever created. It became very popular, very fast.

Survival was our focus: ministering to a newly minted witch's community, and to the black community, who followed a similar road, but were still not interchangeable.

From the pamphlet collection in the back room, Sisterhood Bookstore was born. There was now enough culture to draw from to fill a bookstore. Bookstores were cultural centers. In Venice, we had Everywoman bookstore. More and more woman-owned businesses sprang to life. We had Women’s Coffee House, which had books as well.

I felt I should also have a business. I wasn't particularly savvy at business, but I thought, how hard could it be? Let's start something. But what? At this time, a woman named Annu was also looking for a business, and she wasn’t sure what that should be either. Somebody introduced us. In one afternoon we decided to start the first feminist, Dianic occult supply store... with books of course. We named it The Feminist Wicca.

We each put out $250 dollars, and so the three of us rented a storefront on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice, near the beach. It was amazing to see myself in this new light. Businesswoman. Our shelves were still empty, with nothing yet to sell. But the concept had been formed. The rest followed.

We discovered that we could actually get a loan from (yes!) Woman's Bank in Westwood. Be still my beating heart. We had a bank! This was a tremendous achievement. We could buy a house without a husband. We could own credit cards! We could write checks. Liberation!

But first, we had to make money.

A couple of women came in wanting a reading. Oh Goddess, not the Tarot again. Yes. It was Tarot. I thought I'd better ask around; somebody must know how to read Tarot. But, as I got nowhere with my search, on my way home (driving in my little, faded-blue VW) to the beach, it occurred to me: wait a minute, I can read Tarot. I had experience, it had just worked against me that last time. But now, it was needed. So I got out my Tarot deck, with the ankh signs on the back, and started looking at them one by one.

It was still in my head: the interpretations of the line of the cards, and the meanings as they varied depending on what position the cards were coming up in. Slowly, the cards started talking to me. Ask a question! OK, question: will this business take off? I got the Ace of Pentagrams, I had the World card, and finally, the Empress, The Goddess in her plenty.

Wow! She didn’t diverge from the question, didn’t hide it, it's looking at me. New money beginning, Global Consciousness, and finally, the Goddess as Empress, pregnant with possibilities. This business is Goddess business. A peace filled up my heart. I relaxed. Let's just do this; we worry later. Or not.

The hours were hard to keep. The three of us had to dance around our lives in order to staff the Wicca. After a few months, our shelves were filled with colored candles, candles shaped as women or men. Candles shaped as a penis or vagina. The vagina candle I'd had made especially for us. It was for lesbian love spells.

My joy, and great schooling, came from the House of Bombay, in Watts. They carried all kinds of herbs and roots and beads. Black communities hired caseworkers, who stood in line early, and they carried off a whole shopping cart full of occult supplies. I didn’t know this, but the women hired the caseworkers to cast the spells for them, because the women had little privacy. Some of them burned candles in their bathtubs.

I bought a lot of herbs... studied their use and meaning. They had one incense which was special, called Most Powerful Love Incense. It had everything, wrapped in a sweet vanilla scent. It called in the angels to help the humans in finding love. Women swore it got them the lovers, and it helped them with pregnancy (or the lack of it). Ultimately, the Most Powerful Love Incense was a cure-all. We could not keep enough of it in the store. This was an item that both straight and lesbian women used. The power of witchcraft has lifted up many a heart. These combinations of herbs created a well-being feeling, that banished all depression. My respect for the Craft grew every month, as I observed the positive changes in women’s lives.

One day, I got a phone call from Madeline, a sister who was driving by The Feminist Wicca on Lincoln.

“Hey Z,” she said, “I see somebody crawling through the window above the store door.” “What? We get ripped off already?” I responded. “Oops, he got in. I just saw him slipping down on the other side, into the store.” she continued.

I cussed a little, then hurriedly got into my car and drove the short distance to The Feminist Wicca shop. I looked in, and there was this young guy, just packing in all of our merchandise from the jewelry case: the necklaces, the gems stones, the rings, “oh no, not the rings!”

He saw me too. He didn’t have a good exit plan, I could tell. But he had huge hopes to escape us. He was nimble, so then he went to the back, where we kept most of our supplies, incenses mostly. I knew there was nothing that he could use as a step up to the window. But he was nimble, and he figured out something. Next thing we knew he was getting down on the other side, still holding the paper bag with our goods in it.

But, just at this very strategic moment, when the thief felt almost home, two Great Danes appeared, from nowhere. They growled at him, and made him stay put, until we got there.

“Call off your dogs!” the youth begged. He looked all of 12 years old.
“Drop your bags!” I cried out, “how dare you to steal from women!”
“The dogs. Please... “ he was mortified.

We took our time getting our merchandise back from him. I, of course, had to cuss him out; it was the first time I had been robbed. Then we let him go. I think he did learn a lesson.

After the big excitement, I looked at the dogs. They were perfectly matched, light-colored dogs. “Whose dogs are these?” I asked. The Great Danes looked very pleased with themselves, tails wagging, and licking my hands.

This mystery was never cleared up. The Goddess had sent her big dogs to defend our fledgling store. The only time I could recall seeing a Great Dane before was an instance when one summer I was sitting on my towel, on Venice Beach. I remember that a big Great Dane came over and sat down on my blue beach towel.

I looked at him; he was the same height as me sitting down.

“So,” I said, “where do you come from?”

He just sat there, beholding the blue sea, lost in thought. So I did as well. It was getting late, about time to go. But first, we had one of those amber sunsets. Me, and the Great Dane, sitting together as old friends, in the gloaming. Then, the dog casually got up, and peed on my towel, and me. I could feel the warmth of his urine. A Great Dane has a very direct stream, and a lot of it. A woman walked by on the sand, and saw it. “Its good luck!” she called over. “What? Getting marinated in dog pee? “Yes” she said. “He marked you.”

I guess he had brought his friend along, for capturing the jewelry bandit. But how did they get there right on time? The goddess Diana loved dogs.

Our store had now started to be noticed by passers-by, and of course, the police. We had a yellow flag waving in the wind, proclaiming that this was The Feminist Wicca. Starhawk found us like that. She said she almost derailed her car; she'd just then put together Feminism with Witchcraft... when she saw our flag. We were already doin' it for five years. She came inside to meet us. Her name back then was Miriam.

We gathered at the Feminist Wicca at Sabbat times, getting our candle jars, and supplies. Soon, we were to celebrate our first year of existence.

We were planning a big celebration, renting a nearby church in Santa Monica. The notices went out, and the women were all talking about it.

There was no social media then, but telephones served us well.

Copyright © 2018 by Zsuzsanna Budapest

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