February 14, 2011
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 emailus.
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
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
April 17th, 2010
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
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.
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 did not get its name any kind of recognition as a real community 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
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 the 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.
February 19, 2010
We are holding our own through this
winter and I am finding that living here and commuting to
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 Hous e. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
December 20th, 2009
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!
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
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!
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. :(
October 20, 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.
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
some more positive news. We held Palenville Pagan Pride Dayon 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
October 20, 2009 – An Urgent Appeal to the Pagan Community:
To all the Pagan Community:
We are a
Pagan congregation that is encountering entrenched discrimination in upstate
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.
real property and run a brick-and-mortar establishment in the Town of
land with an outdoor Temple/Grove in the hamlet of Palenville. We purchased the
property 2002 and turned it into a
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
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 email@example.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.
Rev. Cathryn Platine, First Battakes
Rev. Viktoria Whittaker, Battakes-in-Waiting
August 22, 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.
friend John and his girlfriend,
helping Helen build the kiln room for her pottery (which is simply the
conversion of a decrepit, attached tool shed).
telegraph office is now complete and functional! Not only that, there are 3 organizations
that are interested in our work:
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.
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
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!
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.
Special Announcement: Palenville Pagan Pride Day!
I am very
excited to announce that I have been made the Local
Coordinatorfor Pagan Pride Dayfor
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:
* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 5, 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!
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. ;)
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! J
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.
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,
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
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.
December 21st, 2008
Blessed Winter Solstice to you all!
Cathy’s cast iron cook-stove is now in place and working. She and Helen set and grouted the tiles that Helen made which forms the base that the stove sits on and it’s just beautiful! We still have yet to mount the tiles to the back and side of it, but there is cement board surrounding it to shield the walls from heat and sparks. The stove also works wonderfully to heat the area, just as we’d hoped. We’ll be shutting off most of the house during the winter, and concentrating the heat on those main areas that people will be using as well as where the water pipes are. That means the third floor as well as most of the second will be closed off unless we have people staying with us.
Any readers who live in Palenville will no doubt be pleased to hear that we have started to scrape and paint the building at long last! Due to the sheer size of it we will be working in sections and are starting in the back. It’s definitely not something we plan on having done in the near future, and it will probably be next summer’s big project. Any of you good folks out there care to help us out? We can use donations of labor, paint or cash toward this project. ;-)
We finally heard back from the paranormal investigators, our good friends at Astral Light Paranormal Investigations with the results of their investigation of Central House. Over the years several people have reported having unexplainable events happen to them at Central House. This includes all kinds of things ranging from cold spots to people being locked in rooms to disembodied voices being heard to full-blown apparitions being spotted.
After a thorough investigation, several EVP’s were recorded. One of them sounded like an ominous threat against Cathy, but it turned out to be a restligeist, or residual haunting. This particular EVP came not from the dead, but from the living. It was left behind by a priestess who has since left us and it has since been dealt with. Unfortunately, no ghost photos were taken, nor did any of the investigators have any direct ghost experiences while they were there. For this reason, their determination was “Likely Paranormal Activity”, but they stopped short of actually certifying it haunted. Who us, haunted? Naaaaaaaah. ;-)
We have begun holding the goddess Meetups and we have had a few new people come. We also are now holding open houses on Saturday afternoons for anyone who wants to come.
On a less
positive note, we had something of an emergency regarding the property tax
bill. We were advised by our
attorney to raise the money and pay the Town of
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank those of you who donated to us to help us save the property. I would especially like to thank my mother for helping us out. Mom, if more Christians were like you, the world would be a much happier place. I love you so much.
September 29th, 2008
We’ve been hard at work trying to get the house prepared for winter. Cathy and Helen have been rerouting the gas lines to service the relocated gas heaters. Cathy also fixed the burst pipes from the downstairs bathroom, which had rendered it virtually unusable and had been weighing on her. During the first winter that Cathy was not in the house, the idiots who occupied the Phrygianum completely ignored her suggestions and let the pipes freeze. Since the kiln room is going to be behind this bathroom, let’s hope that it’s never going to be an issue again!
Cathy has moved the
propane heater out of the mock fireplace in the living room and replaced it with
my cat mantel shield. My mother is
an antique dealer and when she left the area for
One of the latest acquisitions is a previously unknown postcard of Central House from 1911 that I acquired on eBay. We were all thrilled to get it! Helen has already blown it up.
We had a surprise visit from members of the Lombardi family. Here’s a bit of Central House history: the elderly man whom we purchased the house from in 2002 was a member of the Genetelli/Lombardi clan, several members of which owned the house from just prior to WWII until we purchased it from them. It was great to see them and show off what we’ve been doing and to hear old stories about the place and the people who stayed there in days past. It’s always good to have a visit from them, and they are always welcome.
September 24th, 2008
We held our Mabon/Fall
Equinox celebration this weekend at the temple. Sue and Amanda came from
We now have a
kiln! Cathy found it on eBay for a
song. It came used from a college
I found a bunch of reproduced, vintage articles and plans from old farm magazines on eBay for various projects. These include, building your own kiln (not that we need it now, but it’s a great thing to have on hand), how to build greenhouses, how to dig your own well, how to build a henhouse, beehives and my personal favorite, a windmill electric generator! One of our dreams is getting the Phrygianum off the grid, and our own wind generator would be a great start! It should also take a big bite out of our electric bills.
We’ve also gotten some fertilizer for the veggie garden bed. We’ve had some of the locals chide us for not using the wonderful garden bed when the former owners used to grow such wonderful tomatoes in it. Well, unfortunately, that bed is now used up and needs some major replenishing. Hopefully what we got along with a few years worth of compost will do the trick.
The next fall project is insulating the house. We’ve gotten pink stuff and are next looking at blow-in insulation. We’ve already insulated two rooms in the back of the ground floor. This should save us a fortune on heating this winter!
We’ve gotten tax bills
from the Town of
August 22, 2008
Harvest Meadows was great! I came down a day early with my friend, Marge to help set up. We had a lot of fun doing so with Cathy and Helen.
The pond that we put in is now home to several frogs! When Marge and I went to visit it, we saw eight frogs in or around it. Wow! And there were at least two different species. Even though frogs are supposed to be endangered, they certainly aren’t around here. One of them even looked up at us and started croaking. Awwwwwww…..
We had 10 people altogether at Harvest Meadows. Helen put on a two- part workshop on the basics of pottery. She covered the different types of clay, some basic techniques for throwing pots and bowls as well as making mugs, beads and tiles. We also did some work on some of the tiles she is creating for the new kitchen. I think I may paint bees on some, since they are hex-shaped and make a honeycomb effect. ;-)
A local high priestess came to put on a plant meditation. Cailean’s daughter, Chessie, taught a workshop on candle making/candle magick and Randi and Felicia led us all in drumming on the full moon. They taught us some basic rhythms as well. Cathy once again gave her talk on the goddess in antiquity and we showed The Goddess Remembered trilogy. This is a feminist/pagan three-part documentary that covers ancient goddess spirituality through the Burning Times to today’s goddess revival.
We also got to enjoy
some wonderful food. Helen made her
sushi. And we enjoyed roasted
veggies and barbecue. I made some
pizzas and we enjoyed Cathy’s yummy scones for breakfast.
Tomorrow evening we are having a group of paranormal investigators come to investigate Central House. I can’t wait to see what happens…..
Helen is now living in the Maetreum full-time. It’s so good to have someone there again! Cailean stayed for a week, and brainstormed with Cathy and Helen on some new ideas for winterizing the place. One of those includes putting in a winter kitchen.
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with old houses, let me bring you up to snuff. 19th century (and earlier) houses often had two kitchens, one that was used in the winter, and one in the summer. The winter one was inside of the house proper, just like the kind of kitchens we are familiar with, where the rising heat could help heat the house. The summer kitchen was built as its own wing or as an outbuilding. The idea there was that the heat would go out through the roof when it rose, and not make the house any hotter. A necessity back in the days when there was no air-conditioning – or even fans!
Central House was built strictly as a summer place, and not had any significant updates in its history, save for the installation of electricity and the bathrooms during the early years of the 20th century. It has no furnace and no central heating. It blew me away just how tiny the basement is for a building that big. And there’s nothing in it, not even an old coal hopper! Its only kitchen is a summer kitchen, and therefore we lose an awful lot of heat and energy during the winter, thereby contributing to the high cost of heating an 18-bedroom, 4500 square foot house. It’s going to be interesting to see how it works out….
We’ve been prepping the house for Harvest Meadows and other events. Helen did a great job of cleaning up the front porch and the coffee house area looks great! Helen has cleaned and organized it and Cathy has put up curtains.
I have been working at putting up stencils in the coffee house as well. We’ve been going for a “country kitchen” feel, and I am putting up stencils of bumble-bees and butterflies. This is a motif that I hope other Cybellines will adopt. In ancient days, the non-gallae women priestesses were called “mellissae”, meaning “little bees”. This goes along with a bee motif that pervaded the ancient faith of the Magna Mater. Her temples were often shaped like beehives and the goddess in the Minoan civilization is seen with a beehive on her head. (The original beehive hairdo? Just kidding! ;) So bees represent the natural-born women priestesses. Now, the ancient gallae never used the butterfly as their symbol (that we know of), but modern transsexual women do. Both of these beautiful insects together makes, to my mind, a wonderful symbol of sisterhood.
And speaking of sisterhood, we still have some spaces open for participants in Harvest Meadows. If you are interested, please email email@example.com.
June 24, 2008
This weekend, we had a wonderful summer solstice celebration. A few of the sisters, sadly, could not make it, but we still had a great time and a great solstice ritual and picnic Thankfully, Yogi and Boo-Boo did not pay us any visits!
first, two weekends, I was unable to come down, both for Beltane as well as
troubles with my car. I went
through some serious Central House withdrawal!
continued moving in and Cathy has been digging a pond by the side of her house
with the help of Roo, the daughter of one of our priestesses. Roo did a great job (and most of the
digging, I am told). She deserves
Kudos for that. Yaay Roo!
I helped Cathy finish it off, not an easy job, since the
soil itself is very rocky, as you might expect for being located at the foot of
an old mountain! The soil is also
pure clay. I do hope Helen can use
it for her projects. One day she
hopes to hold pottery classes at the Maetreum.
the pond and anchored the lining with some of the many, many rocks unearthed
during the process. They’ll make a
nice, rock garden. We got the
fountain going, added some water plants and – voila! We’ve got
Helen also had a pond liner and some solar panels for it that she has donated to the Maetreum. By the end of the summer, we’ll likely have another pond by the temple grove, too!
big project for the month was getting the tons of junk (and occasional antique
treasure) that the honorable opposition left behind when they abandoned the
property unearthed and outside for our Memorial Day yard sale. If you’ve ever worked as a janitor or
custodian for an institution of higher learning (or even just walked or drove by
the dorms) when the academic year is over, you know what I mean!
This year, we also held a bake sale, selling Cathy’s
delicious scones (Made the ol’ fashion way with real cream!), Jamie’s brownies
and my bread. We also offered free
coffee. That was certainly a
hit. Free coffee and cheap
goods. What a deal! But more
to the point, it was a great opportunity to repair our reputation in the
community. A few neighbor women
stopped by and chatted with us for awhile.
It was wonderful that at last they felt safe enough to do so.In the end, the yard sale was a great success. We got rid of a lot of stuff -
especially the $^%&! Pool table, dog house and a few of the computers - and
made several hundred dollars! This,
along with several donations from several sister priestesses, will go a long way
to getting us back on our feet financially. There was a serious, financial mess that
was left behind by the takeover. We
are now well on our way to solving it.
Thanks to everyone who gave contributions, who helped out with the sale
and everything else!
On the 27th, the day after Memorial Day, I accompanied Cathy to a hearing at the Catskill town hall regarding our “disagreement” with their stance on our tax-exempt status. Fortunately, there were only a few other people there contesting their taxes, and we didn’t have to wait until late at night for our turn like I had feared. The two other people who went ahead of us basically gave sob stories about how their increased property taxes were hurting them financially and were begging for a break on them.
turn came, Cathy gave them hell as only she could. And why not? As far as I’m concerned, she was
perfectly justified in doing so, after what we saw in the Town Attorney’s
opinion - it was pretty outrageous.
She reiterated the points that she made on the main Central House
page. We were not given this
material, even though we were entitled to it. I had to do a FOIL request
to get it (since they didn’t know who I was, I figured that I would be the best
one to do it). In a situation where
a locality disagrees with the federal government regarding the tax exempt status
of an organization, the burden of proof is on them. The legal opinion that they based their
ruling on is full of distortions, events taken out of sequence and complete
ignorance of our religious symbols.
For us, something as prosaic as a pine branch could be a religious symbol, or a table linen with embroidered bee motifs, or a vase full of violets, or even (well, especially) that stuffed toy lion in the living room! When I went into the hearing with Cathy, I was wearing no less than 53 religious symbols on my body. I don’t think that the town officers could have picked them all out. Heck, unless you had a familiarity with the Cybelline faith as well as other goddess traditions and even the writings of Z. Budapest, you would likely miss a few!
I sincerely hope that they will restore our tax exempt status after all that. None of us want to drag them into court, but we may have to. We’ve just come out of a nasty fight with some mentally ill antagonists in our own ranks and right now we need another fight like we need a hole in the head. We really just want to be left alone to practice our faith and carry out our mission in peace.
Cooking and Food at Central House
I started this section
as part of the entry for May, but it seemed to take on a life of its own, so I
gave this little tangent its own, separate section.
Some old friends came
down to visit us on Saturday for the yard sale, and I was cooking dinner. I wish I could have offered them a
better dinner than the Mac ’n’ cheese that I had planned, but they seemed happy
with that. I really love to cook
and bake (I have a few professional bakers in my family tree), but my husband
has some very set ideas about what he will and won’t eat and I don’t have much
room for culinary experimentation with him (But since he’s stayed slim and trim
most of his life, unlike me, I can’t talk!). I’m very grateful that I have a
receptive audience at Central House for my culinary adventures. I’ve made lasagna, pizza, homemade pesto
and various casseroles for Saturday night dinner before class. One of these days, I will have to try
eggplant parmesan and maybe some calzones.
But while I’m tooting my own horn, I would like to add a nod to Helen’s
bean stew, sushi (She learned how to do it from the Japanese monks at the
Grafton Peace Pagoda!) and her mouthwatering cole slaw. Maybe we should compile a Cybelline cook
The Central House
kitchen is great for cooking for large numbers of people. Cathy, having spent the bulk of her
working life in her own business designing and building kitchens, has her issues
with it. I do have the utmost
respect for her expertise, but I will say that it’s great to be cooking with at
least 2 other people and have plenty of room!
Apart from a counter that’s at least 10 feet long, it has 3 stoves – a great, big old, commercial gas range; a home gas range and reproduction cast-iron, wood-burning stove. We also have 3 refrigerators: two modern, residential ones and this great, big old commercial one which appears to date from the 1930’s. It actually worked when the gallae moved in, and I’m told that all it needs is to be recharged and it’ll work great once more. The place was clearly designed to cook large amounts of food at any given time. This is because in its heyday, Central House not only provided a place for people to sleep during their stay, but also fed them breakfast, lunch and dinner. We found an old, meal schedule card for the place that’s at least 50 years old, that gives specific times when meals were served. Anything other than these times was a la carte and was subject to an additional charge. One of these days, I’ll have to scan and post it.
Despite all of this,
I’m kind of amused and a little nonplussed that the Town Attorney of Catskill
stated in his report that the property included a 1500 square foot
restaurant. Okay, with the bar and
all of that, I can see the *potential* for a restaurant. However, we just don’t have the kind of
resources needed to turn what we have into a functioning business. In this day and age of increasing costs
of everything, I don’t think that it would turn a profit, anyway. But more to the point, we are a
religious convent home. We’re not
in the food service business.
Besides, a Cybelline restaurant is just too hilarious to think
about: We’d be wearing tie-dyed
stolae, beating our drums and subjecting our poor customers to castration
humor. They’d run away screaming!
this does bring up some interesting issues with being what is basically a pagan
reconstructionist faith. Just how
devoted are you going to be to historical accounts of your faith? Do you become another SCA or Nova
Roma? Personally, I look at it this
way: it’s been 1600 years, we’ve
got a lot of catching up to do.
It’s good to know what our ancestors did, how and with what. We need to honor them, but to slavishly
imitate them, to my mind, misses the point. Our religion lasted for 8,000-plus
years. How does a religion survive
changing times and cultures? It
adapts. The Cybelline faith as it
was practiced in prehistoric Anatolia no doubt was quite different from the
faith as it was practiced during our last days in
That being said,
though, the practices of the past do have a logic and meaning to them. One of
the elements of the Season of the Tree festival that I enjoyed the most was the
The nesteia fast that you have the option of
practicing before the festival also has a clear purpose – preparing you for
receiving the mysteries. With this
fast, you refrain from root vegetables, especially garlic, as a way of showing
respect for Attis, who at this time is dead in the ground and awaiting
resurrection. After having done it,
and being someone with years of pagan ritual and energy-working experience, the
reasoning behind it was very clear. Root vegetables, especially garlic, have
a grounding effect on you.
According to the book The Healing Power of Garlic, certain Buddhist
monasteries will not allow it in the food that they cook. This is because it’s actually
counter-productive for the heavy-duty meditation based spiritual work that they
do. You want to eat garlic and
other grounding foods after you are done with your energy or spiritual work as a
way of getting rid of excess energy and returning to the mundane
Bread also plays an important role in the Cybelline Mysteries. Since baking bread is one of my hobbies, I was a natural for providing it this year. Next time, I am hoping to get my hands on some emmer wheat flour for the bread, since that type of wheat was used almost exclusively in the ancient world. What role does bread play in the Mysteries? Can’t tell ya – it’s a Mystery! ;-)
Spring!!!!!! So many things to do
here, but there is also such energy available to go towards them. There is so much energy moving forward
at Central House and so many projects begun.
been getting an incredible amount of work done on weekends. These days it’s just Cathy, Helen
Farrell, Jamie Hunter and myself most of the time. I’ve been making a weekly Saturday
ritual of going down there for classes and worship, cooking dinner and helping
out however I can. I’m looking
forward to having opportunities to learn new skills needed to fix the place like
welding, glazing and electrical work.
thing we did after the Season of the Tree was paint the bar/dining area white
with tan trim and it looks GREAT!
You wouldn’t believe how much brighter it is in there. We also removed the alcohol
paraphernalia from the back of the bar and replaced it with goddess
imagery. The television set on the
high shelf has been replaced with the kernos that Helen made. One of these days I’m hoping to get some
pictures up on the website.
south/front gateway to the temple grove had been blown down in a windstorm
during the Season of the Tree, and it is now fixed and up again. Nonetheless, we’re still taking it as a
sign from Mother to replace the gates with concrete, neoclassical pillars like
we have hoped for! We also finally got the concrete benches repaired and
Helen has been working like crazy, clearing out and painting the bedrooms in the rear wing behind the theater to be her bedroom and workroom. Soon she hopes to be here permanently and open up a pottery.
fixed her lawn tractor and has been having an absolute blast on it, keeping the
grounds mowed. (Who says grounds
keeping can’t be fun?). We have
also been working very hard on clearing brush and planting flowers and
herbs. The grounds now look better
than they have in a couple of years!
been opening up a lot of sealed doorways.
The refrigerator has been moved away from the door that goes between the
living room and dining room by the basement stairs and it is now in use
again! The side door in the dining
room that goes out to the side porch is now open, too. Cathy and Helen have been working on
opening up the long-sealed back door in the kitchen. I do hope that the fire safety
inspection people will appreciate our efforts in adding more fire exits!
It’s interesting what you find in an old house when cleaning it out. I have started working on clearing out room #4 to prepare it for drywalling and new wiring. I wound up unearthing a framed photo of Stonewall veteran Marsha P. Johnson there. Curious, since just the previous week, an older gay man who had been a close friend of hers had come up to visit us and reminisced quite a bit about her. I’m told that Sylvia Rivera herself had hoped to come and live at Central House before her untimely death. Sadly, though, that was not to be.
And that’s another, wonderful thing about Central House: the myriad of connections to history that it has, and not always just the kind of Catskills history that you would expect!
though I am starting this blog in May 2008, I really wanted to start recording
events from when the occupation of the Phryrigianum finally ended on March
10th. It seemed like an
appropriate place to start.
for this blog is to keep things positive, as they truly are, however much as I
hate to I do feel that I need to reiterate some of the points that Cathy made,
not just to corroborate her version of events, but to also set the stage so that
the reader understands just what we were up against, and why our eventual
success was so significant and meaningful.
Cathy described the condition of the house when it was reclaimed (on her “What’s New” page), she was not
exaggerating in the least. Mess
does not even begin to describe it!
She has described it as looking like a frat house. In my opinion, the condition of the
place had gone beyond that of frat house and had graduated to that of crack
with, it did not look like there had been any serious attempt to clean the house
during the entire time she had been gone.
We had a good –albeit bitter- laugh over the fact that the one thing that
had not been stolen, broken, defaced or depleted (or even touched!) was a large
bottle of Pine-Sol that Cathy bought for the house just before she was driven
out! We certainly used most of it
up then, I can tell you! There was
a thick layer of grease and grime over EVERYTHING in the kitchen! It took several scrubbings to get the
cooking area back to some semblance of cleanliness.
We had to
clean every dish in the house, and I mean EVERY dish in the house! With all of the dishes in that place,
there was always someone at the sink washing and another one drying, all
throughout the Season of the Tree.
While washing the dishes, we also had to contend with a clogged sink
pipe. (Which, may I add, was brand new before Cathy was forced to leave.) Helen
also had the washer and dryer running 24/7 to clean all of the bath and bed
linens. We just didn’t feel
comfortable having people use them without it.
the worst of it was the odors.
Nearly the entire second floor reeked. An incontinent individual had been
previously housed in the ONE ROOM that had new carpeting! Cathy went over it TWICE with a carpet
shampooer, and the odor and stains were still not completely eradicated. Looks like we’ll have to get rid of the
worse than that room was the bedroom that was being used by Manny, the so-called
caretaker. The odor in there was so
bad you literally could not stay in there for more than a minute or so without
gagging! It reeked of dirty bed
linens, pet urine, testosterone and goddess-knows-what else! Helen voluntarily went in there,
scrubbed and aired it out. She’s a
truly brave woman!
The upside to all of this, though, is that despite this nightmare we were confronted with so soon before we had to put on the biggest event of the year for the Maetreum, we did it and we did it well! Even though there are still major repairs yet to be done, the place is finally feeling like a home again. Many times, Cathy broke down and cried because we all pitched in to help her, as opposed to times past when no one seemed to care. For once, she didn’t have to cook or set up for meals, either, because we all did our bit. Although cleaning and salvaging the place was hard and frustrating, not once did any of us succumb to frustration and negativity, as tempting as it was!
on a terrific workshop on the role of male deities in a goddess-based religion
and yours truly put on a workshop about destructive conflict in groups featuring
antagonists/trolls (which is
what I believe offers an excellent explanation for happened to the
to give a resounding THANK YOU to everyone who helped out with cleaning and other work during this time. To Helen, Jamie, Sherry, Roo, Sue,
Salutations and may
Mother’s blessings be upon you!
Allow me to introduce myself:
My name is Viktoria Whittaker and I am one of the newest priestesses of
Cybele. I’ll be your author and
hostess on this blog where I will be providing updates on what’s happening at
Here’s a bit about
me. I am a 37 year old bio-woman
(For the uninformed: that’s a woman who is not trans.). I live in
My outside projects
include running the Capital
District Bisexual Network as well as the Albany Polyamory Meetup. In my religious life, I am the Assistant
Pastor of the Schenectady
Pagan Cluster and I am studying for the Third Degree of the Correllian
Tradition of Wicca through the
It was through Harvest
Meadows that I first got to know Cathy and learned about the Maetreum. I had also known Helen Farrell for many
years. I have been taking the
instructional classes this year and was elevated at this year’s Season of the
Tree. I was also elected Treasurer
of the Maetreum this Season.
In this blog, I will be relating my experiences with the Maetreum and my fellow priestesses. But before I do, here is a standard disclaimer: the opinions and views that I will be chronicling here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Cathryn Platine or the Maetreum of Cybele.