A Blog by and about the Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater

The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater is a neo-pagan, goddess oriented congregation and religious charity headquartered in Palenville, New York. Our home is a 150 year-old inn called Central House. The photo above is a vintage postcard which was mailed in 1917. This blog is all about our current events and what is going on at Central House.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20th, 2009

A Blessed Yule and Saturnalia to you all! Here’s an update on our legal situation. Thanks to our October missive to the larger pagan community, we now have a lawyer and the means to continue our legal battle. Once again, I would like to offer thanks to Jason Pitzl-Waters, author of the Wild Hunt Blog for helping to spread awareness of our plight. I would also like to offer thanks to my old friend, Ed Hubbard of Witchschool and the Pagan Newswire Collective for allowing Cathy and I to call in to the internet radio show Pagans Tonight to tell the whole story to the community. We would also very much like to thank the mother and daughter who each gave us an incredibly generous donation that made it all possible! Our situation as it stands is this: right now the judge is reviewing our case and deciding whether or not to issue a summary judgment restoring our exemption, or whether the town has a strong enough case to take it to trial. As of now, it's all in the judge's hands and we are playing the Waiting Game - and hoping that this all ends soon.

We also have a special request to anyone and everyone who ever participated in an event at the Maetreum. Our lawyer has requested that we obtain as many affidavits from people who have attended events here as possible. Yes, I know, it's kind of ridiculous and insulting that we should have to do this, but just remember, we have been placed in a ridiculous sitiuation of having to actually prove that we are a religion, and that means proving that we have engaged in religious activities here that people have actually participated in.



As for the more mundane goings-on at the Phrygianum, this past fall we re-decked half of the front porch and will continue with the other half in the spring. We also reinforced the underdecking, because a lot of it came loose over the years, although the only real rot that we found was at the edge, where rain and snow came into contact with it. We used Southern Yellow Pine wood for the new decking and with weather treatment it has the look of amber shellac over pine. Not only is it harder than regular pine, it's also much more rot resistant. This new porch should last another hundred years!



We have also finally completed the kiln room, which has consisted of rebuilding the floor in that shed (the old floor was rotted and had termite damage) as well as putting on a new roof using salvaged timbers from the porch. We fire-proofed the inside of the room with corrugated metal and put the kiln into place. All that’s left is to hook up the kiln at its ready to go!

Thanksgiving was lovely, with Caillean and her daughter Chessie attending as well as Marina and Laura. It had been Laura's first time up here in many years and it was good to see her at last. She took a lot of wonderful pictures, including my cat, Shadow, helping himself to leftover turkey. Unforunately, even though she submitted it to icanhascheezburger.com, Shadow did not get enough votes to become an LOL cat. :(

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20th, 2009, continued.

Once again, so much has been going on around here, I’ve barely had the time to update this blog.

First, the most recent and one of the most important things that has happened to us recently is that we sent out a missive to the larger pagan community which I reprinted in the post prior to this one. To our great and happy surprise, we sent a copy to Jason Pitzl-Waters, the author of the Wild Hunt Blog – one of the largest and most widely-read of the pagan blogs – and he immediately published it! Many, many thanks to you, Jason for getting the word out to the community about us and our legal situation. We’ve been ignored and shoved aside for so long, and you can’t possibly know how much this means to us. Mother’s Blessings to you and yours!

To anyone who may be looking at us for the first time, thank you for taking the time to read our post and for taking a closer look at us and our situation. This blog is for updates on what we’ve been doing at the Maetreum, and as such it covers various things, both major and minor. I made a few mentions of the ongoing issues with the denial of our property tax exemption here and there, but until now have remained largely silent on the issue. This is because not only was I trying to keep a more upbeat focus for this blog, we had figured that it was best to keep quiet about it. We are now in a situation where not only have we been ordered by the judge to use every option at our disposal to find a lawyer and we feel that it is long past time to get the word out to the larger pagan community about what has been going on here.

In some ways, our situation is not an uncommon one, in that you frequently do see minority religions having to deal with municipalities illegally denying their property tax exemption using whatever excuse as a way to obtain more revenue. In the case of the Catskill Mountains, as you may or may not be aware, they were a very popular vacation destination from the mid 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. Many resorts that catered to specific immigrant groups flourished until the 1960’s-1970’s. The trend since then was for the old resorts to be either demolished (like the Catskill Mountain House, The Laurel House, etc) or abandoned and left to rot (like Grossinger’s). Of the ones left, some still survive in their intended function and others, like ours, have been purchased by largely minority religious groups who enjoy tax exemption. This has caused a loss of revenue to the municipalities that they try to stem by engaging in this sort of thing. Invariably, when the case finally makes it before a judge, the denial is thrown out and the property tax exemption restored, but it’s such a waste in the long run. It’s a waste for the municipality to fight a legal battle they can’t possibly win and it’s a waste of time, energy and resources for the religious group to fight it, especially if they can’t find an attorney to represent them in court pro bono. In our case, however, we feel that there IS actual, bona fide religious discrimination going on that goes beyond a simple attempt to regain lost revenue. As I described in the June 3rd entry (We Harbor Kittens), we have reason to believe that the driving force behind all of this is one or more local businessmen who want our property and have been trying to acquire it since before we purchased it in 2002.

Here’s some more positive news. We held Palenville Pagan Pride Day on October 3rd, and it was a success. A modest one, but that’s okay with us. Since this was our first one, we wanted to keep things small and manageable until we got more of a feel for the intricacies of putting on Pagan Pride. We had seven vendors, held five workshops plus a Harry Potter ritual, put on by our good friends of the Order of the Phoenix Rising. Our friend Gretchen, the Senior Druid for the Tear of the Cloud druid Grove, held workshops on navigating the mainstream for pagans as well as an introduction to her tradition, the ADF. We had the opportunity to educate some open-minded Christians who were in attendance and we raised food donations for Greene County Community Action. We certainly hope to work more with them in the future, since Greene County is a poor, rural county to begin with and things have only gotten worse with the economic downturn. Frankly, we would like to be able to offer housing to women in need (which was our original purpose and reason for purchasing Central House) or form a food pantry.
To all the Pagan Community:

We are a Pagan congregation that is encountering entrenched
discrimination in upstate New York and currently in court fighting for
our rights as a minority religion. The Maetreum of Cybele is a
Goddess-centred, reconstructionist religion. Although we are not
Wiccan, many of us come from Wiccan backgrounds and still practice as
such. We have been noted in Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon, Pat
Telesco's "Which Witch is Which" and Raven Kaldera's "Hermaphrodeities".
Our founder has been active in the Pagan Community since the 60's.

We own real property and run a brick-and-mortar establishment in the
Town of Catskill in Greene County, New York. Our property consists of a
historic former Catskill Inn called Central House and approximately 3+
acres of land with an outdoor Temple/Grove in the hamlet of Palenville.
We purchased the property 2002 and turned it into a Pagan Temple and
Convent. A Pagan Convent you ask? No, it's not a contradiction in
terms. What we do is provide both temporary and permanent housing for
Pagan priestess who wish to dedicate themselves more fully to serving
their community as well as for purposes of spiritual retreat, safety and
growth.

Not long after we purchased the property a local slumlord addressed a
town meeting calling for us to be run out of town by way of zoning and
building inspection harassment. While most of the people in town
rejected his call and welcomed us, nevertheless over the course of the
next several years we weathered continued harassment, vandalism, threats
to "burn us out" followed by harassing and illegal inspections.

We incorporated in 2005, put the property in the name of the religious
corporation and applied for property tax exemption which was granted in
2006. The following year the renewal of the exemption was denied
without given reason ironically enough within weeks of our Federal 501
(C)3 status being approved. The Town of Catskill has continued to deny
our exemption to this day in open violation of New York tax law which
mandates the property tax exemption for religious and charitable
organizations.

Today our situation is that we are considered behind on these illegal
taxes and thus in potential danger of having our property taken away
which is probably the motive here. Our case is currently in court
however we were forced at the last minute to go "pro se" (represent
ourselves) because the attorney we were working with would not represent
us in court. Under New York law we must have a lawyer represent us
because we are incorporated and we have been ordered by the court to
hire a lawyer. We were actually ordered to use all our connections and
networking so this letter is actually by court order
- believe it or not.

We have also contacted the Department of Justice. Because, after three
years of refusing to give a reason for the denial, we were told this
year it was because of a zoning violation which is actually prohibited
by Federal law under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act of 2000. We are hoping, as provided by the law, that the
DOJ will pursue criminal charges.

What we need from the Pagan Community is this:

We need a lawyer, NOW! We've been turned away by over 30 lawyers at
this point even though we feel we have an ironclad case with a Judge
predisposed in our favour. We've done all the heavy lifting already,
researched relevant law and prepared all the arguments.

If you or someone you has had a similar problem with the Town of
Catkill, New York, we would very much like to hear from you.

We need you to help spread the word about this. Please forward this
letter widely. This issue is one that potentially effects all minority
religions, especially Pagans.

We would like you to come and visit if you are in the area. We open our
property to all compatible Pagan groups for rituals and other events as
well.

We can always use monetary help. We are a poor order and maintain our
property and do our charitable outreach on a shoestring budget that is
being pushed to the limit fighting this battle. You can paypal a
donation from the button at gallae.com

We are also requesting that you send us some positive energy, even if
you can do nothing else. We really need it to prevail, we need all we
can get right now.

You can learn more about us at our websites at http://gallae.com ,
http://centralhouse.gallae.com and updates are at
http://gallaecentralhouse.blogspot.com To contact us email
firstchurch@gallae.com

We feel we have much to offer the Pagan community and suspect that our
case can potentially have far-reaching effects for Pagans as a whole,
especially those who hope to one day own real property and operate their
own temples, monasteries and convents. We ask that you please help us
in whatever way you can. Thank you for your time and attention.

Mother's Blessings,

Rev. Cathryn Platine, First Battakes

Rev. Viktoria Whittaker, Battakes-in-Waiting

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 22nd, 2009

I have big news to report! I have moved into Central House and am now living here fulltime with my four cats. My husband and I are doing a trial separation and this move may or may not be permanent. In the meantime, I’m glad that I’m doing it, since there is much to be done, and Cathy and Helen really need a few more pairs of hands.

Our new friend, Jenna, is now running a local social and support group for Trans people called KTGA, or Kaaterskill Transgender Association at Central House. This is a support group for local trans people who may otherwise be isolated. It’s great to be able to now offer another program that is in keeping with our spiritual mission. For further information on times and dates, email us.

Another recent big development for us is that now we have purchased a shortbus! It is a 1998 International school bus with a Thomas body that was meant for Special Needs children and has a wheelchair elevator! It was a bit of an adventure getting back as well as getting it registered/insured, but we have solved that problem. We are currently adapting it for use as an RV and still batting around some ideas for how to “hippify” it. Helen has already cleaned it and started painting a base coat on the outside. We have found that pink works very well for covering up school bus yellow in order to prepare it for another color of paint. It has already proved its usefulness in being able to carry all of my furniture in one trip. It is also useful for picking up antique furniture purchased on eBay and elsewhere. That is one of the upsides of the bad economy (for us, anyway) is that the prices of antiques are depressed and it’s a buyer’s market. I was able to purchase some beautiful, Victorian parlor furniture for our living room at a fraction of its true value.

Helen’s friend John and his girlfriend, Brittany have been staying with us. We handfasted them at the most recent full moon celebration. Congratulations and best wishes to them both!

John is helping Helen build the kiln room for her pottery (which is simply the conversion of a decrepit, attached tool shed). Brittany has been painting some Minoan lilies on the bar in the café, something that Cathy has wanted here for a long time. I’ve put my grandmother’s Sammeltassen (that’s little Bavarian china teacups with saucers) on display behind the bar. This is to not only help make the place seem more of a café and less of a bar, it’s also paying homage to the German tradition of women gathering for coffee and cake in the mid afternoon, which is much like the English tradition of High Tea. This is something we have been trying to revive at Central House.

Our telegraph office is now complete and functional! Not only that, there are 3 organizations that are interested in our work: Edinburgh University, The National Organization for Women and a bunch of Confederate Civil War re-enactors!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 3, 2009, Continued

Okay, now, here is the more positive news of the goings-on at Central House. First of all: yes, we really do harbor kittens! The newest residents of the Phrygianum are a couple of adorable little boys who have been named Gandalf and Frodo. Gandalf is all grey and Frodo is mostly black with some white patches. I’ll have to get some pictures of them for posterity. They are both adorable but still shy. We’re working on getting them properly socialized.

We have now cast enough concrete column sections to complete the first temple gate. The foundation has been poured and all we need to do is mortar it together. Once that is done, we are looking at some concrete paint to paint them. Yes, I know most folks think that classical ruins and columns are bleached white. It’s a little-known fact that back in classical times that when they were new, classical structures were actually brightly, even gaudily painted. What we look at from our perspective is an ancient ruin when all of the color has worn away and they have been bleached white by time and the elements. Certainly the Cybellines of old were known to be very colorful in their dress and accoutrements.

Work continues on the hallways. The first floor is now almost done. I had spend a week off from work and at Central House with the hopes that we could get some serious work done on them while I was able to give them several days of my undivided attention. Unfortunately, not only was the work a lot harder than I had anticipated, with some very stubborn bad spots in the wall as well as some wallpaper that simply would not come off no matter what I did with it.

Plans for Palenville PPD are moving forward. We now have some new committee members who are from another local goddess group for women. We made some new friends and hope to see a lot more of them in the future. Hopefully, we will be seeing more pagan groups come to use our facilities and fellowship with us. One of our other new projects is preparing one of our fields in the back to be used by other guest pagan groups for ritual. We had a donated fireplace for the garage sale that did not sell that we hope to make into a chimnea to serve as the South Gate for pagan rituals.

This year’s garage sale was not as successful as last year’s in terms of monetary gain, but our annual sale has many purposes. The most important one is having a chance to interact with the local community, not to mention eliminate the junk that seems to breed in the house. And this year, we managed to finally get rid of some enormous, utterly useless (for us) dance mirrors that had been left behind by a former resident. They never made it past the first floor hallway, since they were just too big to put anywhere. They were also one of the reasons why we were unable to complete the first floor hallway – they were in the way! Cathy had been hoping to also get rid of the “Transy House” dining room set as well. This was an otherwise very nice circa 1930’s dining room set including a china closet, server, buffet and table and chairs that had originally come from the brownstone in Brooklyn that had become Transy House which had eventually made it’s way up here. The set did not sell, and once more, it remains part of our living/dining room.

But of course, I myself will soon be contributing to the problem – but at least my junk is antique junk that will look good in Central House!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3, 2009: We Harbor Kittens

The header is a reference to something that happened during the first year that we were in Palenville. We laugh about it, but the humor is bittersweet.

In 2002, the first Catskill town meeting was held for the first time in many years in Palenville. The principal item on the agenda was “that bunch of weirdoes” that moved into Central House. The local slumlord (who shall remain nameless) had been trying to purchase Central House from the elderly man who owned it for years before we bought it. However, the old man continually refused because he loved the house very much and did not want to see it torn down or turned into slum housing. Once we bought it, the slumlord tried to drive us out of town by playing the bigotry card so that he could finally acquire the property. And please take note – virtually every genocide or organized campaign of hatred and murder against an unpopular minority from the witch-craze of medieval, reformation and colonial American periods to the lynching of black people in the south to the Holocaust and beyond had property theft as the underlying motive. It’s just simply good ol’ fashioned greed dressed up in racist/misogynist/homophobic clothing.

What happened was that he addressed the assembly trying to turn the townspeople against us by telling a bunch of lies: that we were supposedly Satanists, child molesters, criminals, etc. But the worst of it all was…….wait for it………we HARBOR KITTENS!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, he concluded his ominous rant with “…and they harbor kittens”, and that was it. By doing so, he shot himself in the foot and instantly went from being someone universally feared and respected in town to being the local laughingstock. At the level of the people, it was an utter disaster for the slumlord’s cause, and the townspeople all came up and introduced themselves. To make things even funnier, Cathy then went on to make several hundred buttons saying, “Welcome to Paganville” and “I harbor kittens”, and brought them to Earl, the then proprietor of the Green Cow to sell. He was sold out in a couple of days! Clearly, the good people of Palenville have much more intelligence, savvy, moral backbone, not to mention sense of humor than Mr. Slumlord ever gave them credit for.

However, at the level of town government, the bigot slumlord’s clarion call did appear to have been taken up. At the meeting, he called for the town to try and drive us out by bombarding us with fire safety and zoning inspections. Sure enough, over the years, they’ve been trying to get in for inspections. Every time, Cathy has always managed to respond by refusing them entrance, and throwing the law back at them to show that the section they were quoting was totally irrelevant to us and our situation. And now, I kid you not, the town Board of Assessment is citing this as the “real reason” we’ve been denied these past two years!

Yes, that’s right! Now they are basically admitting that yes, we are indeed a convent, but that we supposedly failed to complete the appropriate paperwork to change use and submit to an inspection, since it had operated commercially as an inn since the late 60’s. Now, the place is zoned Commercial (which is one of the reasons why we had purchased it), and this means that the Commercial designation is supposed to umbrella all other uses, which is why you always see “Zoned Commercial” on billboards offering land for sale. Supposedly, this designation means you can do just about anything with the land within reason, thus making it very attractive to potential buyers.

We just don’t buy it that we need to apply for a permit for change of use. This is for two reasons: first of all, our exemption was thrown out for 2007 and 2008 after being initially granted in 2006. They did this based on the opinion of the town attorney, who had been specifically requested to give it (the identity of this individual who made the initial request is one of the biggest mysteries in all of this). The opinions for both years were filled with distortions, deliberately fudged timelines plus lots and lots of transphobia, misogyny and religious bigotry directed at us – but that’s beside the point. I happen to work for a taxing agency myself, and I know for a fact that you DON’T pay good money to a lawyer for a legal opinion if the only issue is a simple failure to file for a permit! Nope, you get a legal opinion when you need clarification of some complex legal point or – as the antics of the prior President and his staff have shown us – if you are looking for legalistic justifications to do something that you know is illegal, immoral and just plain wrong. Second, as I have mentioned previously, we were initially granted our exemption in 2006 when we applied for it without a peep. We didn’t hear about the missing paperwork then and were only informed about it at the May 26th grievance hearing. If it was such an issue, wouldn’t it have held up our initial approval? And moreover, shouldn’t it be taken as a sign that the Change of Use permit was never required in the first place?

To be blunt, yes, we do ascribe sinister motives to this sudden change in plan. We see it as proof that the town Board’s true motivation here was indeed to abuse their authority to make us give up our property and drive us out of town just as Mr. Bigot Slumlord had wanted in the first place. Why? This year, I had located an advisory opinion from the New York State Office of Real Property Services that stated that convents ARE in the Mandatory Exempt class and why. All we needed to do was prove that we are indeed a convent, despite the fabrications of the Judge Bybee of Catskill. We did this, we had beaten them at their own game and rather than admit defeat and restore our exemption, they pulled this nonsense about how we never applied for a permit. Their motive with this move was clearly to pull a fast one on us. They were trying to trick us into filling out this useless piece of paper, but more importantly, they wanted us to give consent for them to enter the property for an inspection. All sounds easy and benign, right? WRONG! In a prior lifetime, Cathy had been a building inspector herself and knows all the tricks that localities pull. Even if the property was immaculate and flawless they would have found *something* that would have justified condemning the property and preventing us from using it while the case was tied up in court for years. Remember, we are dealing with people who have previously shown that they have no qualms about lying on the official record to get their way.

They can’t win. With this latest change in strategy, they have violated federal law. We can now sue them for actual monetary damages at this point above and beyond demanding that they refund the taxes with interest. We can even send the Justice Department after them. We were led to Central House by the Goddess to do Her work. Federal law recognizes and supports our fundamental right to do so, irregardless of what some greedy, small-minded local officials want.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Special Announcement: Palenville Pagan Pride Day!

I am very excited to announce that I have been made the Local Coordinatorfor Pagan Pride Dayfor the Hudson Valley area. The Maetreum of Cybele will be hostessing this event. We will hold the organizational meeting to form the committee on Saturday, April 11th at 2pm at Central House. The date of the event is one of the primary items on the agenda.

Pagan Pride Day is a combination of charitable activity and community outreach, committed to creating a positive face of paganism for the larger community. We are looking for volunteers for the Palenville Pagan Pride Day committee to help with the following areas:

* Fundraising
* Public relations and advertising
* Acquiring pagan vendors
* Workshop/speaker booking
* Charitable outreach
* Booking musicians

We welcome pagans from all paths and all groups. Being a member of our Pagan Pride Day committee would require making a commitment to be present for at least most of the meetings, which will at first be held every two weeks and as the event draws closer, they will be held as necessary. Volunteering on the Pagan Pride committee can be highly valuable and rewarding experience. You'll make new friends, learn new skills and take away many wonderful memories. Most of all, you will be part of an important effort to draw our local community together. Sounds good? Then drop us a line at
firstchurch@gallae.com If you can't make the commitment to be on the committee, but would like to be involved in some other way, such as by vending, presenting a workshop or just helping with setup and cleanup, drop us a line, anyway!

Come and help us make Palenville Pagan Pride day happen!

April 5th, 2009

Season of the Tree was a success again this year. We had twelve people in attendance altogether. We would have had more, but two of our priestesses had family emergencies involving parents just before the weekend. Four people underwent the Mysteries this year, and we played “Milk” in the theater for the others. I assisted with conducting the mysteries. We elevated two priestesses: Helen Farrell and Caillean’s daughter, Francesca Tronetti. Congratulations to them both!

Marina also came back to visit us for the first time in a number of years. It was great to have her back and for me, to finally meet her in person. She brought along her new girlfriend, Norma and a cooler full of exotic fruits. There was some delicious mangoes and papayas along with something far more exotic: a durianfruit. These fruits are native to Southeast Asia and are quite popular there, but for westerners, they are an acquired taste that most of us don’t acquire. They have a delicate, creamy texture, but an indescribable flavor that has been compared to almonds, onions, garlic, asafetida or less charitably to lighter fluid. I can’t say that Marina won me over to the wonderful world of durian fruit, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to try one!

We have finally gotten started on redoing the walls in the ground and second floor hallways. As of this writing, most of the 70’s era wood paneling is now off! We found, to our pleasant surprise, that much the old plaster was still in decent shape. There were only a few places where large chunks had come off. What we mostly have to deal with are numerous, small nail holes and dents. It looks like all they are going to need is just some patching and sanding with drywall compound. Given that the walls were in such good shape, relatively speaking, I’m kind of baffled as to why the wood paneling was put up in the first place. It didn’t do a thing for the ambiance of the place, and frankly made it feel like a cave or dungeon. Underneath the paneling, we found old wallpaper in a rather attractive, circa 1930’s (we think) art deco pattern that looked like stylized feathers. It was beige and gold with a few red highlights. We liked the look it gave, but unfortunately since it was ripped and moldy in too many places, we could not save it. Ultimately, we are going to paint the walls white, and strategically place pictures and stencils to hide any flaws. ;)

Monday, March 2, 2009

March 2nd, 2009

Howdy, folks! It’s been such a lovely winter, hasn’t it? (Yes, I am employing a generous dollop of sarcasm here!)

We now have some new sofas, thanks to Randi and Felicia. Now those of you who have been to visit the Phrygianum will no doubt be asking what we need new couches for, since we already have a whole theater-full of them. Well, there was that old, plaid loveseat in the living room that was (putting it nicely) better suited to a 70’s era suburban rec-room than to the Pagan-Goddess-flavored-Country-Victorian look we are going for. Unfortunately, while they were in good shape and clean, they just weren’t the right look for our living room. What we wound up doing was swapping them with Cathy’s blue loveseat and matching wing chairs. Those are now in the living room and the new sofas are in her living room. While not quite to her taste, either, they fit, and the long sofa is perfect for lying down on. Helen’s production potter, John, came to help us out with these.

We had some problems with the well, but these have been fixed. A part just needed to be replaced. Cathy wants to put the other well into service along with one of her other dreams: an old-style, hand pump. It would be a very handy thing for those times when we lose power or for providing water for the gardens and temple. Not to mention it would be so much fun!

Cathy has also obtained some more concrete molds. In addition to molds for columns, we now have molds for benches (to add more benches to the temple) as well as for interlocking stepping stones. The plan is to ultimately put a stepping-stone path leading from the main house out to the temple, which will have more benches and be surrounded by columns. Eventually, it’s going to have the look of a classical ruin. Our biggest dream, though, is to erect a life-size statue of Cybele, herself. That’s going to take some doing….

Season of the Tree is only 3 weeks away. We have a few new activities planned as well as some authentic “period” touches that we have never used before. I also plan on doing some Reiki attunements for whoever is interested. Just contact me first! 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our Latest Women's History Project

This one is so special it warranted its own blog entry. Our latest project represents yet another Great Leap Backward in women’s history. We normally deal with ancient women’s history, but this one will deal with more recent history. Not too long ago, when Sister Caillean was visiting us, it occurred to her that Central House had likely at one point in its history had a telegraph office, given that it had a number of patrons and was a prominent building in the town. Naturally, it’s no longer there.

Telegraphy was the primary method of long-distance communication for a long time. It is the forerunner of the internet and email technology. The primary telegraph operators were women. Telegraph technology would never have been so successful had it not been for the thousands of women operators. This is an overlooked, but important nonetheless, facet of women’s history. Were it not for telegraphy and the women who did it, we would not have internet and email today.

We are now in the process of converting room 12 into a telegraph office and a small living history museum. It will still be usable as guest room. We are setting up the equipment and covering the walls with authentic Women’s Suffrage memorabilia as well. Cai’s daughter Chessie is now working on furthering the project as part of her Master’s thesis. Her school, Edinburgh University is interested in our project as is Seneca Falls. We are hoping to put on a recreation of telegraph usage by sending them a message from the Maetreum for their convocation next year.

Caillean and Cathy have acquired some vintage keys and sounders and cloth-covered wire. Many of these items were still in their original boxes and never before used! In this economy, we were able to acquire them at some amazing prices as well. We are even looking to acquire some historical costumes for the demonstration.

January 10th, 2009

Happy New Year, everyone! Today I am home, snowed in, instead of going down to the Maetreum, so I figured I would take good advantage of the opportunity and finish up my latest blog entries.

This year looks to be an exciting and productive one for the Maetreum. We’ve planned a bunch of new events in addition to the usual ones and we have a lot of restoration projects planned for the Phrygianum. Cathy just acquired a set of concrete molds to make classical-style columns to adorn the gateways and mark the border of the temple. And none too soon, for one of the recent windstorms blew down all three of the wooden trellis gateways. We plan on casting them during the winter, and let’s hope that they will be all ready by Season of the Tree.

This year we hope to make Season of the Tree bigger and better than ever. We’ve got some new ideas and intend to publicize it more broadly.

For this year’s annual Memorial Day garage sale, we are hoping to invite other area pagan vendors to come and sell their wares, thus making it into a pagan bazaar. Our garage sale is always popular with the locals and folks driving up route 23A to get to the mountains. Frankly, I’d be curious about just what kinds of goodies a big, old house like Central House would disgorge, too. We’ve even had people drop by who wanted to buy furniture off the porch!

On June 27th-28th, we are going to hold a Pagan Summit meeting. This is for a purpose that is near and dear to our hearts – trying to solve conflicts within the pagan community. This comes none too soon, either. I just went through a recent drama of my own, and am now no longer the Assistant Pastor of the Schenectady Pagan Cluster. In fact, the cluster no longer exists by that name. I am the owner of the Yahoo list that the group was using, but rather than succumb to the drama, I have decided to make an honest attempt to rise above it by remaking the list for the purpose of conflict resolution in the pagan community. I’ve renamed it Pagan Peacemakers. Thus far I’ve had a positive response from folks in the community, and people are still pouring on to it.

On July 10-12th we will be going back to our roots and holding a Gender and Spirituality weekend. We will be holding rituals, workshops and more. We’re still working on the roster of speakers, but I will be among them this time, and will be putting on a talk based on the spiritual lessons of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. For the unenlightened, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a fairly common hormonal disorder among women. 5-10% of the general female population has it and it was recently discovered that 38% of lesbians have it. I would not be surprised if that figure is comparable for bisexual women as well. It’s basically an androgen excess issue that causes irregular or absent periods, infertility, voice-deepening, hair growing where you don’t want it to, female-pattern baldness and even increased upper-body strength. Basically, it’s like your whole body is in open rebellion against its femaleness. Now if you happen to be a transsexual man, it’s all well and good. If your gender happens to be female, you’re in for a world of hurt. Is caused by an intersex condition? Who knows? In my experience, women who have never had to deal with it just don’t seem to get it. Indeed the only group of women whose experience comes anywhere close is – you guessed it – transsexual women. Only transsexuals seem to understand just what it feels like to know the horror of becoming male when you are female (Not that I have anything against men. They can be very nice, but I just don’t want to be one, thank you very much!). In fact, my endocrinologist once told me that the treatment I receive as a PCOS patient is virtually the same as that which is given to a MTF transsexual in order to change from male to female.

On August 14th-16th, we will be holding the third annual Harvest Meadows women’s festival. This year we will be opening it up to the general public for the first time. As always, we welcome transsexual and intersexed women. This year, since it will fall during the waning moon, we will be honoring the Crone.