Budapest, Z (1940- ) Founder of the first feminist witches’ coven and the main branch of Dianic Wicca.
Z Budapest (her feminist name) was born Zsusanna Mokcsay in Budapest, Hungary, on January 30, 1940. Her mother, Masika Szilagyi, was a medium and ceramics artist whose work was GODDESS-inspired. Her grandmother Ilona was a herbalist and healer.
At age three, Budapest had her first psychic experience, an apparition of Ilona at the time of her death. According to Hungarian tradition, a death apparition portends that the departed one will assume the role of guardian spirit in the life of the one who has observed him or her. Ilona has served in that capacity throughout Budapest’s life.
In childhood, Budapest appreciated nature, “playing priestess” and conducting her own rituals. By age 12, she had met a 14-year-old boy, Tom, who was to become her husband.
Following the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, Budapest joined the 65,000 political refugees who left the country. She completed her high school education in Innsbruck, Austria, and won a scholarship to the University of Vienna, where she studied languages.
Tom located her through relatives, and the two were engaged by the time Budapest was 18. She was awarded a scholarship to the University of Chicago in 1959. Three weeks after her arrival there, she and Tom were married. Budapest had two sons, Laszo and Gabor, by the time she was 21.
Budapest studied improvisational acting with the Second City theatrical school for about two years, learning skills she later put to use in conducting rituals and training priestesses. She began her practice as a solitary, worshipping the Goddess at a home altar.
After a move to New York in 1964, Budapest enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Tom took a teaching job as a mathematics professor. The family lived in Port Washington, Long Island. The marriage end- ed in 1970, and Budapest moved to California, where she became involved in the feminist movement and worked at the Women’s Center.
Budapest saw a need to develop a female-centred theology that not only would help women but would answer opponents of the feminist movement who claimed that feminism was “against God.” Drawing on her own heritage and her improvisational skills, she collected six friends and began holding Sabbats. A coven was born on the winter solstice, 1971, named the Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1 after the leader of the women’s suffrage movement.
The sabbats were uplifting and empowering, and Budapest’s message of revolution, women-only covens and the crushing of an oppressive and aggressive patriarchy drew more participants. The expanding group was moved to the beach and then to a mountaintop in Malibu. Within nine years, membership was at 700 and sister covens had formed across the country. The Dianic Wicca movement (also called “wimmin’s religion”) grew to a major force both in Witchcraft and feminism.
For 10 years, Budapest led sabbats and full Moon circles, initiating priestesses and teaching women to bless each other and connect with the Goddess through Mother Nature. One of Budapest’s pupils was Starhawk.
Budapest opened a shop, The Feminist Wicca, in Venice, California, and self-published a book that became a basic text of Dianic Wicca, The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows (1975), a collection of rituals, spells and lore. The book later was sold to a publisher and was released as The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts (1989).
Budapest was arrested in 1975 for giving a Tarot reading to an undercover policewoman. She was put on trial and lost, but the law prohibiting psychic readings was repealed nine years later.
In the early 1980s, Los Angeles’ air pollution caused Budapest to close the shop, turn the Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1 over to another leader, and move to Oakland. She formed a new coven, the Laughing Goddess, but it did not succeed due partly to internal politics and friction.
Budapest did not form or join another coven but developed herself as a speaker, teacher, media personality author and psychic reader. For a time, she hosted a radio program in the Bay Area, then became director of the Women’s Spirituality Forum in Oakland. She also continues to lead rituals, and hosts her own cable television show, 13th Heaven, a title suggested to her by her deceased mother. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Her other books are Grandmother Moon: Lunar Magic in Our Lives: Spells, Rituals, Goddesses, Legends, and Emotions Under the Moon (1991); The Goddess in the Office: A Personal Energy Guide for the Spiritual Warrior at Work (1993); The Goddess in the Bedroom: A Passionate Woman’s Guide to Celebrating Sexuality Every Night of the Week (1995); The Grandmother of Time: A Woman’s Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year (1989); Celestial Wisdom for Every Year of Your Life: Discover the Hidden Meaning of Your Life (2003); and Summoning the Fates: A Guide to Destiny and Transformation (2nd ed. 2007). Her novel Rasta Dogs was self-published in 2003.
The impact of Dianic Wicca may be seen in the increase of literature and college courses devoted to the Goddess and women’s spirituality. Budapest termed religion as the “supreme politics” because it influences everything people do. Patriarchal monotheism has worked to the detriment of women; it has glorified war and has permitted suffering for all. Her vision for the future is that of peace and abundance, expressed in female values, to dominate the world’s consciousness. Then, Budapest said, “both sexes will be free to flourish according to their natural inclinations and abilities. Global Goddess Consciousness means acknowledging the oneness of all as children of one Mother, our beloved blue planet, the Earth.”