A woman phoned to set up an appointment for a Tarot reading. I gave her an early, 10 am slot. Wrote it down.
Next day I am showing up at the door of the Feminist Wicca and a woman is already waiting for me. People were rarely early for appointments.
I greet her, friendly, open up our door, and as I stepped inside, I was assaulted by the unmistakable stench of cat shit. Cat shit!
“What is this?” I cried out, embarrassed. “I don’t even have a cat!” I started apologizing to the woman, who waited; I felt very weird. “I am sorry, I cannot read in this bad smell” I said. “Plus the fact that I don’t have a cat.” My mind was still searching for how in the world did the cat poop get in the store? “I don’t mind!” said the lady. “I help you clean it up.”
“No, no.” I was now looking for the poop. And then, there it was, underneath my reading chair. A nice little pile of cat shit. I felt the hands of the fates. This was a warning. But of what?? After a little bit more struggling to get out of the appointment, I finally decided that I would only get rid of this client if I just did what she wanted. And she wanted a reading, by me.
I cleaned up the poop. I used Van Van in my water, a strong citrus-smelling liquid, which took the paint off the floor if I dropped it.
I settled down, shaken, and full of strange -smell memories. What are my fates warning me about??
The woman’s significator was the DEVIL. A card of bondage, obsessions, bad habits, or doing something, in order to satisfy something else... like a career. So I asked her, “Is your job having something to do with bondage?”
The woman went pale. The expression in her eyes changed. Now she was impressed. “What do you see about my husband?” He was there too, as the King of Swords. “Is he very controlling? Keeping you from what you want to do?” The lady gulped again. She couldn’t believe that I could tell all that.
“You got a daughter?” I asked next. “Yes, she wants to study in Florida. Would you see if that is to pass?” I saw the daughter in motion. Knight of Wands.
“Isn’t she already in Florida? I asked her. “Oh my god! Yes, she is. My mother is going to stay with her. Is that going to happen?”
I replied “Yes she will. Florida will agree with your mom.” And so, on and on. Finally the reading was over. She paid me ten dollars, and then she left.
I exhaled. Thank Goddess this was over. Where did that cat shit come from??
Two youngish men in ski jackets, entered my store. They looked very smug. They walked to the back, to my table, and said “ Z Budapest-- you are under arrest for fortunetelling!” Suddenly I recalled, many months ago somebody mentioned that reading cards was illegal in L.A. But how could that be? The place was crawling with all kinds of Fortunetellers.
Then, they flashed me their handcuffs, and something turned inside my heart. A furious witch flung the doors open and came out flaming, with holy utterances. “Four months worth of nightmares to the first man who touches me!”
The men froze. Not for long, but they had never heard a spontaneous curse. The trouble with nightmares is, if you cannot sleep, you go insane, or you die. Neither of them wanted to risk that. So they put away the handcuffs. Slowly, they escorted me outside to their car. Nobody touched me, as I got into the car. Helen was left alone in the store. Before they shut my door, I shouted to her, “Call Marge Buckley, my lawyer!”
And so, I was shipped to the big house for fortunetelling. I didn’t feel afraid anymore. In fact, I felt relieved.
Marge showed up to spring me from prison. This was a misdemeanor, and she thought it was nothing big. But as we dissected what it all meant, I realized that, for Marge, it was not a terrible defeat to pay the fine of a hundred dollars. I thought, I had the newfound integrity of Female Clergy at stake. I didn’t want to pay a penny. I’d rather go to jail.
Marge then changed her mind. She said, “You need to decide what you want to do. If you go to trial, they can sentence you to jail. If you pay a fine, (which in my case had risen to $500 dollars) you can go home, and continue what you have been doing.” “What?? All this is just a side income to the Police department?” I went home and slept on it, and of course, read my cards.
I got the TOWER. A card of Revolution. Clearing the stage of all old concepts, and beginning something new. The Tower brings fast changes, but it also hurts a lot. Let it be. I talked to an astrologist who'd heard that I was going to fight this municipal law. Her name was Zelda. Zelda was over eighty years old, and had written twenty-three books on astrology. Didn’t matter. They busted her too.
“Don’t you know” she said, “they take us down in alphabetical order.” We shared a laugh about that... both being 'Z's.
She said she was trying to protect me. “The police have been doing arrests every year. We pay a fine, and the next day, we are back doing readings.”
“Don’t you think that’s really disrespectful towards spirituality?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said. “But it avoids wasting time with them. We see the fine as a form of taxation.”
“Hmm.” That was not good enough for me, with my new-found awareness of the dignity of a Pagan Priestess. I decided to go to trial, and defeat this law.
My bust happened at the height of Feminism in L.A. There were women's businesses everywhere. From feminist theater to feminist restaurants: Dolly Dolphin, for example.
We had newsletters that could broadcast my situation to hundreds of women. We organized special sporting events, with fund-raising, for the lawyers. We also had a first year anniversary coming up in Santa Monica, which now, was another fundraiser.
The Tarot Trial date was set for February. Women organized a demonstration in front of the City Hall. They carried Willow branches for the Goddess, since that was the sacred tree of the season.
Everybody was watching the Chinese women who were part of our jury. Are they smiling coming back? How long did they take to deliberate this issue? I had a sinking feeling we were going to lose. Especially after I heard that the Jury was told the English translation of the word witch. It was poisoner. There was much hoopla, and I knew I was going to lose. They would find me guilty of being a witch, regardless of having had nobody complain about my Tarot readings. Nobody accusing me of ripping them off. There were no victims to my crime of reading the Tarot. It was however, advertised... and that, was against the law. The Trial lasted four days. I was found to be a guilty witch at the end of it. Now we could go after the law, and take it down with our tireless appeals.
It took nine years to achieve this. I left Los Angeles in disgust. I'd had enough good times there, and anyway, the feminist scene was gone. Now I had to be gone. So, I moved to Oakland, where the lesbians were. Searching for my tribe.
Copyright © 2018 by Zsuzsanna Budapest