Telling My Stories

A life lived outside

Posts Tagged ‘autobiography’

The Road from Jaipur

Posted by catkisser on August 6, 2010

There were some advantages of being a girl the world mostly saw as a boy growing up but sometimes the two collided in one of those days that stays with you all your life.

I was sweet sixteen and on an extended hike outside Jaipur, India, the Pink City.  Even that seems ironic today.  I was alone, something that never would have been permitted if my sex/gender was known.  Alone, that was the operative word for this day because everywhere I looked, everything I saw that day was paired and I was not.  I was alone and unpaired and hyper-aware of that.  I suppose that was the day I came to feel alien to the rest of humanity, an observer of the world rather than a participant in it.  It was one of those days I took out from my “so what, deal with it” mental file where I kept the fact I knew I had a female brain in a male body that fact and felt it, let myself feel it.  And it was intensely sad and lonely because along with letting myself feel that was knowing I would never actually be pair bonded because in some weird fashion, I already was with myself.  This turned out to be literally true when I learned much later in life I am combined twins.

I have no idea why that particular day and place hit me that hard and before and afterwards I remained someone who craves “alone time” instead of one of those people who does anything to avoid ever being alone.  Later that very year while visiting the Woodstock School in Mussoorie, up in the mountains and again alone sitting next to a mountain stream I had one of my first “peak” experiences of total connection to the entire universe, the polar opposite of that day in Jaipur.  Perhaps one is not possible without the other.

But both leave you with a feeling of being a stranger in a strange land.

I tried to pair bond many times in my youth, even married to achieve it only to be left feeling utterly alone in that marriage as well.  In retrospect all my attempts at dating were extremely awkward and often forced because I lacked the instincts expected in a male dating a female and it literally never occurred to me to turn that around for a better fit although it sometimes happened naturally for a while with a naturally aggressive girl.  But never lasted because she was still looking for a man and I wasn’t one and I suppose on some level I was looking for a man myself and she wasn’t one.

I have never had any problem with finding emotional intimacy and empathy with others, I do so naturally and easily but I never have had much success at physical intimacy with anyone.  And I often remember that day on the dusty road outside of Jaipur when I reflect on that.

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Memorial Day Memories

Posted by catkisser on June 1, 2010

For most of my adult life, Memorial Day Weekend was the “Rolling Rock Festival” held by Tom Nagel every year from shortly after I left college.  Every year a core group of us who knew each other in college and mostly were active in the Cockroach Coffeehouse off campus during that time got together with our families and newer friends to barbecue, play “jungle crochet”, reconnect and finally, in the evening, pull out the instruments and jam all those old folksongs we performed at the coffeehouse as well as the one’s we’d written since then.

Others from that core group hostessed other yearly get togethers, my family did the Wino Festival around Halloween because it was near the time last year’s wine was ready to drink and that year’s wine had just been put up.  Midsummer Ed and Betsy Burke had an un-named gettogether at their farm near Lake Erie, midwinter Terry and Carol Hartley held the Ham Fest.  At all of them the Folk Music Jam was the central attraction.  But Tom’s Rolling Rock Festival was the longest and most consistent and thus the primary event of the year for my old college friends.

When Tom and Judy divorced, Judy was no longer there even though she was one of our college crowd.  Later she and I ran into each other occasionally, I wish it had been more often.  These get togethers kept us connected and I expended a lot of personal effort to get as many as possible to attend all the events.  It was also where the annual fishing trip was planned.  Some of those trips were incredible adventures, most just camping and fishing and good times.  My function for those trips was organizing, planning, cooking, cleaning up camp etc.  Years later I realized I was functioning as the group wife for them.

Before I transitioned I considered Tom and Glenn my best friends in the world.  Tom and I would often take off for a weekend fishing trip or canoe trip or even both combined.  Every year it was a given that I would be with Tom on opening day of hunting season.  Tom and I shared very similar political points of view, Glenn was our political opposite but that never seemed to matter that much.  Robin, Ed and Betsy were all very very Christian, me a lifelong Pagan.  That didn’t ever seem to matter either.  Often they would joke that if I entered a church it was even money whether the church or I would burst into flames, but I did occasionally support some church activity important to them.  I would have done almost anything for this circle of friends and in fact often dropped whatever I was doing to come help them in some project or emergency.  When I transitioned, I died in their eyes.

I attended exactly one Rolling Rock Festival after I transitioned, then I was no longer welcome, no longer invited while my daughter and my ex continued to go and would tell me I was mourned as if I had died.  They still attend them.

Most transsexuals try to erase the lives they had prior to transition because of a mental disconnect between seeing themselves as male and then female.  I was different.  I always saw myself as female, did male as an act but among my friends, I was myself so I was hurt more deeply than words can express that my entire circle of friends cast me out just because the exterior changed.  Nothing else drove home the nature of the differences in social interactions between the sexes more than that did.

There is no happy ending to this story.  Fourteen years later I am still estranged from the circle of friends I maintained for over thirty years and even acted as “social secretary” for.  Glenn died a number of years ago.  Apparently without me pushing him to stay in contact, he had dropped out of the events shortly after I “died”.  Terry and Carol, whom I’d introduced to each other in college and intervened many times to keep their marriage together, just divorced recently after more than thirty five years of marriage.  Of all the get togethers, the Rolling Rock Festival was the first and now the last.  I try to stay very busy on Memorial Day weekends but still those memories at some point come back.  And it still hurts.

When someone asks me what the hardest thing about transitioning one’s life from “male” to female my answer is learning the true nature of the relationships you are in.  Most live an entire life without having to do that and that is a blessing.

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The Rise and Fall of the Illiterati

Posted by catkisser on May 4, 2010

Part 1, Global Viewpoints and How I Arrived There

I have to begin this with some personal history.  The phrase “stranger in a strange land” has special significance for me because it sort of sums up much of my early life experiences.  There was a time when I believed that those with similar unusual life experience would be freed by them as I was.  The increasing fullness of years taught me yet another lesson, it’s not the experiences as much as it is whether or not you learn from them and the sad conclusion that most simply don’t learn.

My father, with whom I have many never to be resolved issues long after his passing, was an educator of the humanities who went to Dartmouth and Yale and studied both psychology and history.  I grew up surrounded with all the classics of literature, history and psychology as well as a pretty good collection of the golden age science fiction novels.  The psych eval done on me in first grade indicated I was reading on a seventh grade level then.  I remember in seventh grade having to fight the local Liberian for the right to check out Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” because it was a commie book only an adult could handle.  She lost that argument and I got to expand my understanding of the Soviet people.  Not to mention learning quickly that her understanding of a “commie” book was totally divorced from reality.

I grew up at the very tail end of what is sometimes called a “liberal” education that included an expectation of exposure to Enlightenment literature and the classics.  I was part of the last generation that was taught the difference between democracy and a representative republic, something the average American today has no apparent understanding about.

In short, I grew up feeling I was a stranger in a strange land but schooled in the ideas that knowledge and it’s pursuit were desirable and valuable in it’s own right and no field of inquiry was off limits as a result.  For example, my seventh grade science project was unique.  Already having delved deeply into so called occult subjects and so called fringe science I decided to explore whether or not psychic ability measured by the Rhine cards being used at Duke University would be influenced one way or the other by hypnotism.  The answer was yes by small but statistically significant amount.  I got an F on that project because it wasn’t “real” science given by the very asshole who approved my doing it in the first place thus learning a much greater lesson than the work itself but far different than the one he thought he was teaching me.

A year later we move to New Delhi India.  We traveled slowly throughout Europe and the Middle East to get there using a very out of date version of “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” which meant we were always well off the beaten track the tourists took.  And I got to see a world that doesn’t exist today, one prior to the homogenization of Western/American culture.  And we lived in an India that still was much more similar to Kipling’s India than the India of today.  I explored that India outside the Western enclaves where most stayed and did so with relative freedom.

I attended school with kids from all around the world, not just Europe and America and I met some of the great minds of the time like Joesph Heller of Catch 22 fame, future Ohio governor and first lady Richard and Dagmar Celeste, future Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi to mention a few.

So, due to a perfect storm of a unique neurology and a unique childhood I view the world much differently than most people do.  I learned to see the world though the eyes of an interested, even fascinated alien observing the wider human condition.  I see the world globally and work down to specifics, understand human nature in wide concepts.  The ancients called this “as above, so below” and today it is expressed in fractal mathematics and demonstrated by breaking a hologram which then has each piece a smaller but complete version of the original.

I put this first part here because of the autobiographical content.  the following parts will be at http://radicalbitch.wordpress.com

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Where I am today……..

Posted by catkisser on April 30, 2010

I started this blog, not to be yet another diary, but to share the stories of a fairly weird life.  Today I am sixty years old, not well off moneywise, but quite comfortable in my situation.  And in terms of what most people would consider normal, my life is still pretty weird.

I’m a Pagan Priestess, I revived an ancient religious tradition and I live a life consistent with all that.  While I lived a large part of my life alienated from my body, I was never alienated from my essential self, my philosopy of life has always been, I want to like the person that looks back at me from the mirror.  I still do.  While living on poverty level SSI payments from being physically disabled, I live a nice, comfortable lifestyle anyway.  The Goddess has always provided what I needed when I needed it and my wants are fairly simple. I like to joke that I wanted to be the strange old lady who lived in the strange old house with all the cats. We have seven cats and an 18 bedroom former Inn…..dreams can come true.

Our 130+ year old home will provide more than enough “to do” until the day I can no longer hold tools so I do not lack for things to do.  We are restoring it to it’s 1890’s glory and that is very satisfying.  Our Path requires us to do charitable works so being outwardly focused is our reality.  As a woman’s spirituality centre, we have a steady stream of women and men visiting to renew their spiritual batteries or just heal up from the outside world.  It is a good life with many rewards.  It is not without challenges.  One of the primary challenges is a three and a half year quest for legal equal treatment of our religion by our town.  Another is occasionally a sociopathic tranny will decide to focus on me because of my history.

One is doing so right now.

When I got involved in transsexual civil rights many many years ago, my primary goal was making it easier for people born transsexual to get information, get through transition and go on with their lives on a more or less equal basis with the rest of the world.  That battle pretty much has been won.  I still “mentor” the occasional woman directly.  I did a lot of “changing the dialogue” behind the scenes in the psych professions that has paid off and about to become official.  I did this for over a decade while several sociopaths targeted me, sometimes doing serious damage to my life in the short term.

This particular sociopath has demanded I apologize for and renounce all I have learned and share about both the birth condition transsexuality and about “transgenders”  My reply to that is one of my old signature lines:

In the larger scheme of things, it might not be smart to piss off a witch.

if you came here from the WaterShed News article, please read this as well

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The Last Time I Wore Camo’s

Posted by catkisser on January 12, 2010

Life is full of weird little ironies, one of them was the circle of “guys” I hung out with, mostly dating back to my college days, was a mixture of Yuppies and those from rural backgrounds.  In college, I actually taught most of them how to shoot and later, how to track and hunt.  True confessions time, one of the ways I coped with my “issues” was to hide behind a beard much of my adult life.  This was actually quite liberating in an unexpected way, you see it allowed me to be reasonably true to myself, a woman, while bearing that unmistakable male marker that deflected attention to the fact.  Ask any female to male transsexual about that because the very first thing they typically do is grow a beard when the testosterone lets them for that very reason.

The summer of 93 I shaved it off….and a funny thing happened as a result, to everyone who knew me, I was still male but those I met for the first time, I either confused the hell out of them or they simply saw me as a butch woman.  And it scared the hell out of me because here was my big, dark, forbidden secret and people were seeing it without trying!  The next couple of years I got a crash course in how people gender other people and the ability of most to absolutely not see things happening right in front of them they didn’t want to see.  I would go with one of my male friends to do something either gender neutral or downright macho and I would immediately be taken by all we met as the wife…..and the male friend absolutely would not acknowledge it was happening at all.  Trips to the flea markets and farm auctions with Terry this happened but most surprising to me was hunting, fishing and canoing with my friend Tom.  Tom’s wife, Nancy had inherited a cabin at Lakeside, Ohio.  Lakeside was a gated Methodist resort area on Lake Erie and Nancy’s family mostly just rented it out during the summer but every spring and fall Tom and I would go up to open and the close the cabin for the season and make an extended weekend of it so as to get in some fishing.  Without a beard, and especially when we brought his young son, Andrew, with us…..I was the wife…to everyone…and Tom never once allowed himself to see this even when older couples would come up to us fishing on the dock and ask him “who catches more fish, you or your wife?” and point to me.  Or when some other kid Andrew was playing with would say something like “ask your mom if you can join us for dinner.”

But it was the last time I went deer hunting with Tom that it got really really strange.  I was a master cabinetmaker with my own business and it was very hard to take time off if someone had a job in process.  But deer hunting was one excuse everyone in Ohio understood.  Opening day was pretty much considered a holiday and high schools even were frequently shut down for it.  For me not to go hunting on opening day of deer season with Tom was literally unthinkable.  So that year, even though I’d gotten a puncture wound on my hand that was getting infected and not responding to my home remedies, I went.  Even though I was running a fever of over a hundred.  I really didn’t want to go so I made sure I picked a spot for Tom where he’d be assured of getting a deer right away and sure enough, around 11 am he did and after helping him dress it out, I was free to go home and did.

My business had been slowing down all that year and the only health insurance I had covered emergency room visits only.  I was three counties away from home and was driving past a county hospital so I stopped in to have my hand lanced and get a prescription for anti-biotics or so I thought.  Ok, let me paint a mental picture for you.  I was driving a pickup truck with an easy rider rifle rack with a shotgun and black powder rifle.  I was in hunting camos from head to toe with the hunter orange vest.  Heavy camo hunting boots.  This was literally the most butch you could go without pissing in public.  I was told they had to admit me for treatment and was given no choice in the matter even though I kept telling them, I’d drive to the hospital near my home and get admitted and that I absolutely wasn’t covered by insurance and would not be able to pay for this.

I was there for three days, put in a private room which made no sense to me at the time and in retrospect absolutely no one on staff checked out any part of me other than my hand.  Working several years later as a nursing assistance, and ironically sometimes in that same hospital I can tell you this was not standard treatment.

Cut to several years later when I had just transitioned.  The hospital sued me for the fees, no surprise.  Tom, who was an attorney, represented me but refused to see me in person after I’d come out to him.  One day he called pretty upset and said he had just received the admittance form from that visit and couldn’t talk about it so he was emailing it to me.  These forms are a checklist of the exams done by the admitting physician.  It all looked pretty standard until you got to urinary/genitals exam.  Handwritten in (instead of checked) was “exam deferred, normal female”.  At least that last time, Tom saw it.

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Standing In Balance

Posted by catkisser on September 25, 2009

This is the interview I gave Raven Kaldera for the second edition of Hermaphrodities Raven’s works are utterly fascinating and well worth a read. Crossposted at Riding the Second Wave

1) Tell us about your gender identity.

My gender identity is woman/female. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It is far from so. I’ve been told by both intersexed people and trans people I don’t exist, that the conditions of my birth are impossible or at least impossibly rare enough I could not possibly be who I am…..and yet I am. Up to now I have mostly kept these things private to myself and those who came to study with me for this reason. I was born a tetragametic chimera which means in simpler terms, born during the sign of Gemini, I am, literally, twins in a single person with two different sets of genetics in one body, in my case fraternal twins, one male, one female that combined around the second or third cellular split. At my birth I embodied Agdistis. I was born at a “cottage” hospital in 1949 and presented with both an apparent penis and labia, the doctor sewed up my labia and declared me male. From the time I was first able to grasp the concept of male and female, I knew I was female and the circumstances of my birth having been kept from me, when I ran across the concept of “transsexual”, I thus assumed that was what I was and “transitioned” as an adult within that context. It was only after I first transitioned that I learned of my own nature although I had suspected so my entire life. Today my body reflects the Divine Feminine.

2) Tell us about your spiritual path. How did you get to where you are now?

Again, simply put, I was called from my earliest memories. Once again that sounds simpler than the reality. Around the same time, age three to four, I became aware I was not the boy everyone said I was, I was also having very vivid dreams, many of which I remember to this day as if I had them last night instead of some 56 odd years ago. I had a lot of nightmares and quickly learned the technique of lucid dreaming to turn them around and make the “monsters” into allies instead of enemies. But the most vivid dreams that reoccurred over and over were of an enormous, much larger than life beautiful woman dressed mostly in white robes. In those dreams She comforted me, told me things I could never quite remember upon waking but those dreams were incredibly peaceful and soothing and had a profound effect on me. Today I know that is the traditional way She called Her daughters.

Up until I first was enrolled in kindergarten, my childhood was relatively free of gender policing and playing dressup with the girl from across the creek was allowed and not discouraged. By the age then that children were allowed relative freedom from constant parental oversight I was spending almost all my time in whatever wild area was nearby and thus spent most of my early childhood forests and woods. The adults I sought out to learn from were the women that today I would call crones in the best sense. My family tree on both sides is mostly old New England, my father’s side the pragmatic down to earth, my mother’s side eccentric free thinkers, spiritualists and proud as punch of our ancestors such as Susanna Martin, a Salem witch trial victim from Amesbury, Mass. and William Wood who wrote the book “New England Prospects” that launched much of the immigration to that area in the 1600’s but had his own property taken away for going too native. I grew up with spirits, ghosts, tales of witchcraft and devoured any books I could find on those subjects. I grew up a Pagan in other words hidden in plain sight for my fathers side of the family mostly rejected me and my mother’s embraced me. I had a personal feminist awaking around 1958 just as second wave feminism was in it’s birth as a reaction to my own father’s patriarchal treatment of my mother. While the world saw me as male, I was within my own head female always and made as much peace as possible with that.

At age fifteen, our family moved to India traveling leisurely throughout Rome, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, the Middle East both on the way to India and the way back. I “knew” all these ancient places we visited. My father leading the way with an outdated “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” book, we found ourselves over and over off the beaten path of the tourists. We vacationed in Kashmir, I was allowed to travel alone to places like Dehra Dun, Agra and Jaipur. I explored wild places infinitely wilder than I had before and an India which at the time was closer to the India of the British Raj era than the India of today. I met and spent long hours with “gurus” and Muslims and Hindus of all social classes. I was aware I would not have been allowed to have any of these experiences had the world seen me as female while knowing I was and the inequality of that. Strangely enough my actual gender seemed to be clear to many of the Indian people I encountered who reminded me that my auburn hair would get me in trouble in many remote villages I visited if I were seen as female as it was considered the mark of a witch woman for example. Our cook, a live-in position, never called me by my birth name but only “Jackie” after Jackie Kennedy who occupied a place in world culture then immediately after JFK’s assassination similar to the one Princess Diana later had. It was his way of telling me he knew who I was and that was fine with him. I most likely met some hijra during that time, but was unaware of who they were. Had I been aware there is little doubt in my own mind I would have gone native and joined them.

My college years were at the height of the counter culture movement of the late sixties. Paganism was coming of age at this time as well and more and more material was coming into my hands. So much so that by the mid-seventies I found myself teaching a course at the Free University at Ohio State for several years on the history of Paganism and the Occult. It was around this time I discovered a sporadic wealth of material on the Mother Goddess traditions but it was years later before the specifics about Cybele Herself came to hand due to my eventual path being the most ruthlessly suppressed of all the Pagan traditions by the early church.

Throughout my lifelong studies I was far more interested in the essence of Pagan theology than I was in the trappings and abandoned ceremonial magick as a personal dead end in favour of a gnostic approach. In 1989 I ran across a copy of Merlin Stone’s “When God was a Woman” in a flea market and suddenly things clicked into place. I started going back and re-reading the occult “classics” with new eyes. I suddenly kept seeing the name “Cybele” literally leaping from the pages for me in one semi-vague reference after another. The thing that struck me more than anything else was all the Mother Goddess traditions, presented as totally different religions, weren’t. They all shared the same symbols, the same essence and many of the exact same trappings of practice for literally thousands of years.

At the same time, my final bout with the dysphoric imperative (need to transition) was also coming to a head. Several times in my life I had managed to come to an accommodation with it short of out and out transition. I had learned I could “be” a woman and have others see me as male. At this time, that stopped working entirely and those I met were seeing me as a woman regardless of how aggressively male I tried to appear. Further, it was becoming very distasteful personally to be seen as male.

I transitioned and the Mother Goddess started knocking me around whenever I varied from Her path. I was directed to first establish a reclaiming of Her worship in the form of Cybele and then after literally throwing the missing pieces of the various puzzles in my face, move to the Catskills of upstate New York and establish a centre for that tradition. When I balked somewhat at that last, She took away my ability to not do so by handicapping me physically. When the Goddess directs you, She will prevail.

The Cybeline revival began with what Roman and Greek materials we had easy access to. Since then we have expanded that further back to the essence of all Mother Goddess traditions and then advanced our theology to reflect what we would have been today without the 1500 year interruption resulting from our wholesale murder by the early church. We are not a reconstructionist path in sticking only to Roman or Greek practice but a living extension of our own traditions throughout the world and history. As our knowledge of pre-history expands, we absorb and embrace that.

3) What’s the most important thing for trans people to know about spirituality?

Balance, the single most important thing for anyone, but especially trans/intersexed people spiritually is the concept of walking between the worlds and standing in balance. That is the position the Mother Goddess occupies and She is within all of us. “Walking between the Worlds” is so much more than just gender/sex. It is the intersection of science and magick, the living and the dead, the seen and unseen worlds, the darkness and the light. The gift of being different, and I do see it as a Divine gift and obligation, is the ability, if we only open our eyes widely and actually see that cultural impositions are not the laws of the universe, a “leg up” as it were, on understanding what it means to actually put yourself in the place of another and see through their eyes by virtue of having to see the world from a different perspective altogether ourselves.

I teach from within the concept of the Mother Goddess but often those very words are misunderstood today. “Mother” brings visions to the modern mind of stay at home moms all nurturing and devoted to children. Goddess implies a larger than life version of the christian God somewhere out of reach perhaps sitting on a cloud watching our every move. Both fail if you do this. The image of the Mother Goddess in every tradition I have studied is the Divine Feminine principle. The image is one we can grasp but She is also the Mother who never gives birth, the Goddess of wild places and of lions and birds of prey. Her essence is present in the now know fact that all higher level life starts off first as female as the default setting in fetal development. She is that within ourselves, male, female, other, that is the spark of Divine and if you do not find what you seek within, you shall never find it without because She is with us from the beginning. The word Nameste is a Hindu word now seeing wider use in the West. Literally it means “the Divine in me acknowledges the Divine in you.” Most fascinating of all to me has been the discovery that at the root of all Mother Goddess traditions you find hints She was, in the beginning, a female identified hermaphrodite and the maleness then cloned off to a “consort” later on.

Trans and intersexed people have a rich and ancient connection with the Divine as teachers throughout almost all cultures of the world. You can even find references to it in the Christian Bible in Isaiah 56 3-5. Several years ago I wrote a series of essays on the transsexual priestesses of the ancient world, I did so as a gift to those who followed me of their heritage. Today, I would write a different version given additional information, gained insight and having witnessed attempts to turn my own hard won path into a “tranny” religion when it never was any such thing. Balance is the key.

4) What do we have to teach the rest of the world, spiritually?

We have the power to challenge gender roles merely by being. This is vastly different from destroying the essences of male and female by rendering asunder all good about maleness and femaleness but rather teaching others it is possible to become fully human whatever that means to any particular individual. As a dyed in the wool feminist, my opposition the the patriarchy is a given but my beef with the Dianic movement born of Pagan radical feminism has been the desire to replace the patriarchy with a matriarchy and a rewriting of history, particularly of the Goddess cultures, to reflect that. Two thousand plus years of a totally patriarchal ascendancy over the world can make equality of men and women appear matriarchal, but my own lifelong journey into ancient history and spirituality teaches me that it was equality, not female dominance that was the hallmark of those cultures. And thus we return to the concept of balance and standing between worlds and embracing our personal Goddess natures. Once you truly accept that everyone and everything around you is also a part of yourself linked by your own Divine nature, you do not need rules to tell you harming others and all around you is harming yourself.

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“She’s a Witch!!”

Posted by catkisser on September 24, 2009

I come from two old New England families, on both sides of my family tree is a Salem Witchcraft victim, Susanna Martin on my mother’s side, Sarah Good on my father’s. I have identified myself as Pagan most of my life, began actively practicing as one early in my teenage years when only the most obscure works from the prior turn of the century were available and then only with great difficulty.
I’ve been alternately open and low key about this most of my life. During the sixties, it was considered ‘cool’, by the mid seventies I was a very out Pagan contact person. I was targeted by the first wave fundies back then. This was a time when many mid-west police departments still had “occult squads”. What happened back then I may or may not write about at some future time, but it was horrific and life changing and put me back in the broom closet for almost twenty years.

Today I am quite quite out there as the head of a reclamation of the ancient Goddess traditions, the Maetreum of Cybele. Some now claim I made it all up but in reality what we do is a culmination of a lifetime of gathering information, historical research, Divine inspiration. It is a faith with the simplest of theologies but that have an impact on every aspect of my own life, that each of us, all that we encounter, the world, the rocks, the trees and all the animals are part of the Divine which I understand as feminine in nature. Rather than blindly reclaim ancient rituals, we have sought to go to the essence and use that to understand our rituals with a rejection of dogma. We understand each element we use in ritual and our rituals are aimed at a specific goal, a connection with at least part of the whole. This is gnosticism, which loosely translates as “knowing”. Once you have experienced something, you know it and don’t have to use faith.

I’ve gladly used the term “witch” to refer to myself, proud of our family history. Occasionally I find myself in an odd position as a result. Back when the Phrygianum was first established we had an intent of helping transsexual women find a place to pull themselves back up by their bootstraps by providing a safe place, a sanctuary. One of the young women we took in was a street prostitute. She started to turn her life around while living with us, cleaned up off the drugs, got work of the day labour type with locals, had many long discussions with me about the morality issues in magickal practice. She was Santerian and into dark practises.

All that changed abruptly when another person we took in, a human disaster I’ll call D/D, started making shots at Jasmine’s womanhood, which was the height of irony because Jasmine was 100% female and this other individual embodied all the worst of a fetishistic transgender. But it came to threats of violence involving a weapon and both were told to leave. Jasmine left, D/D we had to start eviction proceedures against. While I don’t use it often, I am well versed in magick myself and I cast a simple banishing spell on D/D, within 24 hours (s)he left. I began lobbying for Jasmine’s return because she had shown such promise.

About a month later the others agreed providing Jasmine did not live in the main house with us. We had a smaller caretakers house on the property so we agreed to rent it to her. Unfortunately Jasmine immediately backslid, found local drug connections, started using again and hooked on to an older local man and used him skillfully to provide for her every need. We finally had to ask her to leave and this time, under the directions of D/D strangely enough, she decided to fight us through an eviction proceedure. Unlike D/D it went to court.

While both of us were in front of the Judge, she suddenly pointed a finger at me and yelled “she’s a witch!” I had an interesting flashback to my ancestors at Salem. The Judge asked her why she thought I was a witch and told how I used banishing oil to remove D/D from our home. The Judge looked at me and asked “is this true?” I replied “yes your Honour, it is”. Then he asked “did it work?” and I replied “yes your Honour it did, (s)he left within 24 hours without any further contact.”

You could see the wheels in motion in the Judge’s eyes “hmmmmm, stubborn tenant refuses to leave, Cathryn throws simple spell, they leave….note to self, call Cathryn the next time one of these things presents itself.”

But I still had a Salem moment of accusation of being a witch in an open court.

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Old Wives Tales vs. Crone Wisdom

Posted by catkisser on August 12, 2009

One of the least noticed but most “in your face” symptoms of overall patriarchal mysogyny is the expression “old wives tale” to dismiss any wisdom that fails the male logic test.  How much do we lose as a society by dismissing in this fashion what, thousands of years ago, was considered one of the best sources of interpersonal wisdom, that of post menopausal women or Crones.

My first experience of feminist awakening I’ve already written about here, but it was my older aunt, Hope, who explained it to me clearly long before second wave feminism reached it’s zenith.  Thinking back, it’s remarkable in itself that she would do so at all, but then I was not shy at all asking about the world from my older female relations and I listened to what they told me.  She was totally honest in telling me her assessment of the nature of my parents relationship and she was dead on accurate as well without being nasty, mean or demeaning about it.

My mother’s side of the family was the old New England down to earth type.  I learned a different set of morals and “correct” behaviour from them that had little to do with traditional “right and wrong” and very strong on treating others with respect sans “moral judgment” on things that actually should be no one else’s concern.  Hope and Vinny didn’t bother to get married until the twins were on their way….almost two years after my cousin, little Hope, was born.  This wasn’t a family scandal, it was barely considered worth noting.  In fact, the joke among my many aunts and uncles on my mothers side of the family was I was the first eldest child actually conceived within marriage.

My female role models among my family were all strong, outspoken women, the men, equally strong and unthreatened by this, with the possible exception of only my own father.

Which brings me to the friendship I shared with my neighbor’s mother, Mrs. Weathersby.  The summer we returned from India my own mother and Diana, who lived across the street on Plum Island became good friends despite the fact Diana was closer to my own age, in her mid twenties, than my mother’s.  All of us got involved in holding seances, playing with the ouija board and assorted craziness which will be the topic of another entry sometime in the future, but through Diana, I got to know Mrs. Weathersby, her mother.  And from her I learned to truly appreciate Crone wisdom.  I was seventeen years old and had I been “normal” I probably never would have paid her much attention but there is something compelling in long conversations with someone who feels free to tell you precisely how she sees the world around her from both long experience and with no “gender” considerations added.  I learned more from her about art appreciation, local politics, relations between the sexes and seeing the world as it is rather than what we want to see than anyone else in my life.  Diana and my own mother joked about our friendship, but in no small part my own transition later in life was to Crone with an appreciation of exactly how wonderful a state of life that can be.

Thank you Mrs. Weathersby for that wondrous gift.

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“They Could Smell the Girl On Me”

Posted by catkisser on August 12, 2009

One of the ways women like me are dismissed is “socialization” as males rather than females. The response to this is often to deny any participation in male privilege as a child. That’s nonsense but the truth is a little harder to put your finger on.

My childhood was during the fifties and sixties, a time long before a kid unaccounted for more than 24 hours found their picture on a milk carton…..if you were male, or considered male. I’ve addressed elsewhere exactly how rigid the gender roles were during this time, if you didn’t grow up during this period of history, you’d be shocked. But while I would not deny I benefited from the greater freedom granted males during my childhood, it’s far from a complete picture on the other hand. With that greater freedom came all the problems of not fitting in with boys and the costs of that.

I never “got” the male dominance games that seem to be hardwired in to the male psyche. Let me explain. Among mammalian males this need to organize in hierarchies with established pecking orders seems to be an essential part of maleness. Among human males this means establishing who is the alpha and so forth. Boys will fight each other (or sometimes use sports instead) to establish who the alpha is. Once established, everyone is supposed to resume friendships as if it never happened. I “get” this intellectually, I never “got” it emotionally. And it got me in a lot of hot water as a child and left me a perpetual outsider in childhood. To me, someone trying to beat the crap out of me for no apparent reason was an enemy….period. Friendship was out of the question, especially if they had fifty pounds on me, towered over me or in some other fashion physically imposing. Allied with this hard wired male instinct seems to be the concept of a “fair fight” meaning if you were smaller, you weren’t supposed to equalize that. Opps, another concept I didn’t “get” and the source of my getting in a lot of hot water.

I was named after my father’s favorite uncle. This was a man who almost certainly was a repressed homosexual, hated women far beyond simple mysogyny and ran a boy scout “camp” on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. My paternal aunts and uncles convinced my parents this camp was just the thing to make a man out of me. For three summers in a row, between the ages of seven to ten, I was shipped off for several weeks to be, let’s be completely honest here, tortured by a sadist who hated me because I was named after him, very girly when he hated anything feminine, and probably worst of all in his mind, better than him at some areas of “woodcraft” which he held in highest esteem because I spent most of my free time in the woods. There is the distinct possibility he also sexually assaulted me as well, but if so, I totally repressed those memories. I was constantly beaten on by older, larger boys. I was punished for not “fighting fair” by using whatever was at hand to defend myself, I felt my life was in danger the entire time. “Uncle Foster” believed that taking us to the country store to buy the fixing for our next day’s meals taught us to learn how to manage money. I had to walk the three miles each way while the others rode in the truck as part of my punishment….almost every single night. Even when I had a large cut on the bottom of my foot that should have required stitches, but I was denied medical treatment for I literally had to walk six miles round trip in order to be able to eat the next day.

For three weeks a summer for three summers in a row I was tortured almost 24/7. The only relief was when I snuck out in the middle of the night and did incredibly dangerous things like trying to swim to an island 1/2 mile out from the camp and back not really caring if I made it or not. The third summer my little brother was also sent to the camp and told my parents that everything I had told them was true about what was happening to me. I stood up to “Uncle Foster”, told him to his face I would piss on his grave. Family members will not tell me where he is buried knowing, to this day, I’d do it and exactly how satisfying it would be now as a woman.

So, was I socialized as a male? I had a large measure of the relative freedom granted males over females, but little of the other advantages, almost none of the “male bonding” experiences and a large measure of similar self esteem destructive abuse heaped on girls. You tell me.

I explained all this in my own mind as “they somehow could smell the girl on me”.

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Practical Magick

Posted by catkisser on August 8, 2009

I come from two very old New England families, one dirt poor “swamp yankees” the other with a linage that includes John and John Quincy Adams, the composer Stephen Foster and other semi famous personages mixed with a Swedish grandfather.

My mother’s side of the family always felt like my “true” family.  On that side was William Wood, who wrote the book “New England Prospects” that triggered the immigration to New England and Susanna Martin, the witch of Amesbury called by Newsweek the first American Feminist.  She was hung for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials, but only at the end of a long life that saw her raise nine children mostly by herself while managing her farm.  My mother’s side of the family practiced magick, accepted the realities of ghosts and spirits and were quite open about family stories of the supernatural.  We played with Ouija boards, did seances and communed with the spirits in those marvelous pre-revolutionary homes in the family.

One family story was about the closet in my Grandmother’s bedroom.  Apparently all my aunts and uncles had had the same dream about it growing up.  My grandparent’s home was in a small town called Groveland just east of Haverhill.  Our family was connected to Plum Island, off Newbury and Newburyport back as far as Susanna Martin.  Every one of my aunts and uncles and my mother had dreamed as children that there was a portal to Plum Island in my Grandmother’s closet.  As a young child, I had the same dream and was told about theirs after revealing mine.  So you see, my childhood was filled with magick, it was second nature to me.  I also was drawn from the earliest memories to any wild space accessible to me and back then even New England had no shortage of them.

When we lived in Framingham, Mass. one such place was along the river a  few blocks from our home.  A “woods” as we called it then about 30 or so acres with encroaching suburban tract homes pressing on two sides.  I practically lived in those woods.  On one visit from my paternal Grandmother, who never approved of me at all and made little secret of that, she deliberately let my parakeet, Petey, out the window.  Petey was allowed to fly around the house most of the time and never before had flown out of the house.  I was devastated and obsessed over his survival in the coming winter.  I searched for him in the woods for months.  Paying particular attention to the treetops as a result, one day the idea occurred to me to “invent” a new animal that was part bird, part mammal that had both feathers and fur.  I was quite skilled at visualization even then and had no problem at all “seeing” this animal at will while aware it was something I had made up.  To my amazement, I had no trouble at all getting others to see it too!  In just a few weeks kids I didn’t even know were reporting sightings of my animal/bird.  Call it the power of suggestion, mass hypnosis or magick, it taught me an early lesson in perceptions of reality and how they could be malleable.  It was my first experience with practical magick, it would be far from my last.

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