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, May 9, 2010

May 9 2010 – Our Case Update

We got our application back from the town for the 2010 property tax exemption. Once again, despite everything, they STILL denied our exemption and STILL gave us a nonresponsive form letter for the denial with the reason that changes every year and that appears to be just pulled out of some bodily orifice.

We will be still protesting our denial at the annual grievance hearing in Catskill on May 25th at 4:00pm. We are looking for a bunch of pagans to join us in a peaceful demonstration there. If you are interested in participating, please email us.

The good news is, that our attorney is moving forward with the service. Hopefully, this will be finished in our favor, soon. Another bit of good news is that we’re now all over the local as well as the pagan news! Jason of the Wild Hunt blog posted an update to our case once again. Thank you Jason, and once again Mother’s blessings to you! This week, we will also be on Pagans Tonight again. Keep your eye out for us!

Cathy has been attending several local meetings. A town meeting was held at the Palenville Fire Department with our Congressman, Scott Murphy on April 19th. Not only did she bring our legal battle to his attention, she also weighed in on how little the residents of Palenville get for our tax dollars in terms of municipal services as well as letting our feelings known on the possibility of natural gas drilling happening in our part of the Catskills. Naturally, we oppose it. One of our priestesses in Western Pennsylvania had lost two wells on her property that were contaminated by the side products of hydro fracturing. This one got on a local radio program.

She also dropped in on a town Assessment Board meeting and let her feelings about our situation be known. She also attended a Town Council Meeting and had it out with Peter Markou, the Town Supervisor over the tax exemption issue. This one made it to one of the local papers.

We have also been detailed in two articles in a new online magazine called the Watershed Post. One was just profiling us and another was about our battle with the Town of Catskill(We defy you not to harbor this kitten!). Despite a gaffe made about Salem witches being burned at the stake, it was an excellent article. Since the reporter also interviewed Nancy McCoy the Town Assessor and Daniel Vincelette the town attorney (the one who wrote that objectionable legal opinion about us), it is worth checking out to see just how arrogant and small-minded these people really are. It’s also worth noting, that this is the first time we’ve been given any notion as to just what their objections actually are. Also interesting that now it comes out when the eyes of public scrutiny are finally upon them. Fancy that.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 17th, 2010

We finally have some good news regarding our legal case! Last week, Judge Pulver made a ruling in our favor. The case itself is not over, but we did achieve what we feel is an important victory. The town’s attorneys have focused their legal strategy on trying to get our case dismissed due to some errors we made in service. Our original attorney had told us to only serve the Assessor’s office, which we did. They countered that we needed to serve the county and the school board as well, and asked that our case be dismissed on that basis, as well as the fact that we basically started this case pro se, or basically we had to go it alone because our prior attorney took herself off the case. Although we were upset at the time, she probably did us a favor in retrospect since she claimed she was not competent in this area of New York law.

The decision was thus: not only is Pulver refusing to drop the case, he is also allowing us to amend our filing to include the county and school district, as our attorney requested. This is just in the nick of time, because we have already started to get threatening letters from the county about seizing our property by the end of the year if we are not paid up by then! Although it’s not over until it’s over, we are pretty optimistic about how things will turn out. Thus far, they have shown that they really have nothing against us other than the legal equivalent of clerical errors (which is how the judge put it). If they try to defend themselves with the real reasons for this, they will open themselves up to pretty hefty damages from a civil rights or Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act case which we are completely prepared to file and pursue if they don’t just concede and give us our property tax exemption back. Given that both the Town of Catskill and Greene County are going through a fiscal crisis of their own, it would be an incredibly foolish gamble for them to make.

As for other news around the Maetreum, we held Season of the Tree on the last weekend in March. We had hoped that by holding it the weekend following Ostara/Spring Solstice that we would have had more pagans coming. I think it did help more pagans show up, but we had a low turnout – only 7 people came. Ironically enough, the next weekend, 11 people came, including 5 people strangers who just turned up at random. Go figure. Nonetheless, it was a great Season of the Tree. Some of our new friends participated and undertook the Mysteries.

We have finished the painting work on the bulk of the 2nd floor hallway. Now the only common areas that are left still paneled are the bathrooms and the immediate hallway surrounding them, the stairs and main entranceway. We have found some nice, commercial tiles for the hallway as well, having also gotten rid of the carpet – finally! We have also found just the perfect things to re-do the ceiling. Armstrong makes these wonderful acoustic tiles just like the old ones we have – only they have been pressed into patterns matching old, tin-tile ceilings! Since we already have the tracks laid, they’ll be a snap to install; it’s just a matter of getting the money for the things.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

March 7th, 2010

Cathy, Caillean and I have been doing research into the origins and history of Central House. Our research is still ongoing and we may well fill in more blanks in the future. Eventually, I would like to create a whole webpage dedicated to the history of the house but I still wanted to report on what we have thus far.

We had been told by the prior owners that Central House was built in the 1850’s and originally was a tavern. We have not found anything thus far that either proves or disproves this. It’s still a very real possibility that this was so.

In order to research a house, you not only have to look at the history of the house but also of the people associated with it as well as the history of the community it is a part of. Doing a deed search as only brought limited success, so we had to go about it through indirect means.

The hamlet of Palenville had been previously known as Three Corners and Irvingsville. It did not appear to have been called Palenville until 1859.  Even then, it had a decidedly poor reputation. It was described in an 1860’s publication as a “primitive wayside”. As of 1859, it had 18 dwellings, 2 taverns, a tannery and not much else. Even though the renowned Catskill Mountain House had already been there for a number of years and Palenville had a gorgeous view of it, its glory days were yet to come.

On an 1856 map of Greene County that showed the current landmarks and property owners, nothing was noted on the spot where Central House lies. On an 1867 map, the property owner listed in this spot was a farmer named John Harford. This does not rule out that Central House once was (or grew out of) an 1850’s wayside tavern. It was not uncommon then for farmers to make their own beer and sell it, thus letting their homes evolve into taverns.

By 1879, the property owner listed was Calvin Goodwin (1839-1917). Goodwin was a Civil War veteran (5th Heavy Artillery) and a teamster by trade. At the time there were many Goodwins living in Palenville, and to this day there is a local cemetery is known by their name. In the 1880 census, his occupation was still listed as “teamster” rather than boarding housekeeper, although he was living at this location. From this, we have inferred that Central House had not yet become Central House. The earliest mention yet found of Central House in Palenville is 1888. Therefore, we are making the assumption that the little farmhouse/tavern had mushroomed into Central House during this time. The last part of Central House to be added on was the rear wing, in which I am sitting and writing these words. It’s not much younger than the main part of the house. It probably all came together within a 10 year period.

By the turn of the last century, Central House was a very busy and popular place in Palenville. This is likely because the Goodwins made every effort to keep the place up-to-date, comfortable and yet reasonably-priced. At that time, the rooms cost $7-$10 per week as opposed to the Pine Grove, in which they cost $10-$12 per week. The Palenville Zephyr – a local paper published at the time – would list weekly arrivals to all the local inns as well as deliver some tasty gossip.

Goodwin died in 1917. Central house continued on as a successful boarding house during this time. Curiously enough, during the mid 20th century, the house passed through the hands of a number of women owners. One of these owners was the mother of our old neighbor, the late, great Kitty Garrison. Sadly, she passed away a year after Cathy and company moved in at the age of 89.

Cesare Genetelli, the patriarch of the family from Cathy and her partners purchased the property in 2002, purchased the property in 1955 and owned it until his death in 1988. The Genetelli family had run it as a boarding house and restaurant until the late 1960’s and afterward kept it for private use. After Cesare died, the property had fallen into disrepair. Cesare’s son Olindo eventually put the property on the market. He was extremely particular about it, looking for just the right buyer. After it was on the market for 10 years, he finally sold it to Cathy and the original partnership on the condition that we agree to restore the building. Apparently, he had turned down other offers – no doubt for considerably more money – from others who had wanted to tear down Central House or turn it into slum housing.

We have since made good on our promise. We have been truly *restoring* Central House rather than renovating it as all to many “restoration” jobs actually are. The original turn-of the last century linoleum floorcloths still adorn the floors of all but 3 of the bedrooms. Most of them still have the original light fixtures, although they have been rewired. The entire original footprint of the rooms remains. The original bathrooms with original beadboard stalls (complete with 1930’s graffiti!) remain. The original wooden, Victorian “fancy chairs” still adorn the porch and coffee bar areas and the original beds are still slept in. Much of the work that we had to do – barring certain updates needed for safety – was strictly cosmetic and/or finish work. After all those years the house was still structurally sound. For all the bizarre and nonsensical features on the inside which confuse even Cathy herself, the builders clearly knew what they were doing. The floors do not bounce and the stairs don’t even creak! The house was built quickly with the intent of cashing in on the Catskills tourist trade, but yet somehow the house endured.

Friday, February 19, 2010

February 19th, 2010

We are holding our own through this winter and I am finding that living here and commuting to Albany is not as bad as I had feared.

As of this writing, our court case has not yet been resolved, but the judge has now rejected the oral arguments. What this means for us is that there will be no trial – the judge will issue a verdict based on the evidence submitted. Our attorney is optimistic – we’ve submitted some pretty strong evidence! Among that evidence are copies of those pagan-oriented books mentioned in the first October 20th entry. Right now, we are still playing the Waiting Game. In the meantime, we carry on with our work.

We are preparing for Season of the Tree and Cathy and I have begun to work on a new body of ritual for the other three major Cybelline holidays. We are quite excited about this, since we are branching out into other goddess traditions for these, and not just sticking to the Roman Cybelline period. This religion spanned several aeons and cultures, and our rituals should reflect this.

We are also moving forward on our historical projects. I am pleased to report that Chessie has been mentioned in Cambridge Who’s Who for her work on the Women in Technology project for her work on our telegraph office. Congratulations, Chessie! Caillean is also looking to collaborate with the Mountaintop Historical Society on this project.

We have found more historic postcard images of Central House. This brings the total up to five. Unfortunately, one of them was from an image of a postcard of Central House from 1906 on Worthpoint that we didn’t get. However, we did acquire a black and white postcard image that we think dates from 1890-1900 as well as the crowning pride: an A.S. Landis birdseye view of Central House and the grounds that was postmarked in 1930. This one in particular solved a few mysteries, one of which was the purpose of those tiny sheds behind Cathy’s house. We thought that they were outhouses, but they were actually icehouses! We have had Helen blow them up and we now have them framed and hanging in the downstairs hallway, which is starting to become our gallery of historic images. We have also put up some other historic images of Palenville landmarks there.

Helen’s kiln is now operational and she has done her first firings. In the near future, she plans to hold pottery classes as she prepares her studio. If you are interested in taking a pottery class, please email firstchurch@gallae.com for details.

As for other events, we are having the first organizational meeting for Palenville Pagan Pride Day 2010 on February 28th at 2:00pm. We are also starting up a new bisexual brunch here at Central House that will be held on the second and fourth Sundays of the month from 11:00am to 1:00pm. We hold it through Meetup.com. If you are interested, check out this link: http://www.meetup.com/Hudson-Valley-Catskills-Bisexual-Meetup