Interview With Z Budapest



Recently, I had the privilege and honor to interview Z Budapest. For me, like so many of us, Z Budapest was my first introduction to a women-based spirituality that so filled a need, a hunger for a deity that belonged to me, to us , after lifetimes of being told we were worthless in the patriarchal religions of our birth. For those of us who were/are also feminists, Dianic Witchcraft brought our spirituality and our feminism together in a way that had been lacking. To most of us, the fight for women’s rights and equality and our fight for a women-based religion, seemed a perfect fit. Personally, I will always be grateful to Z for showing me the way to the Goddess, because, truly, it changed my life.


Zsuzanna Emese Budapest was born in Budapest, Hungary on January 30, 1940. She is a natural and hereditary witch. She came to the US in 1959, where she married and had two sons. She was a member of Chicago’s famed Second City troupe. Growing up with an understanding of Mother Nature as spiritual, she began to practice Goddess Spirituality on her own. Identifying as a feminist, she became involved with the women’s lib movement and was a co-founder of the LA anti-rape squad, after a woman was raped on Sunset Boulevard. This squad has gone through changes but is still in existence, now known as Peace Over Violence.

In the early 1970’s, she founded the Susan B Anthony Coven Number 1, the first Dianic coven in the country, the one to which we all aspire to. In the mid-1970’s, The Feminist Book of Light and Shadows as published, was re-published as The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries in the mid-1980’s.

She was arrested for tarot reading in 1975, and even though it took 9 long years, the law against psychics was removed and her conviction was overturned as unconstitutional under the Freedom of Religion Act.

Z is the author of many books, including the aforementioned Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries. She has led numerous rituals, workshops, and retreats in her lifetime. Her various websites offer women information on the Goddess, Dianic Witchcraft, online classes, online tarot readings, and other offerings.

While I asked a few questions of Z, I mostly let her talk, as she has lived a most interesting and varied life.

SM – I am honored to be able to speak with you like this.

Z – Well, bless you for that.

SM – I have most of your books in a book-case right next me . I started studying in my teens and was more traditional but when I became more involved with feminist movement, it made more sense to me to just practice Goddess Spirituality. I found you, and a whole new world opened up for me. Your books were like coming home to me.

Z – I had a small book and candle shop in Venice called Feminist Wicca and I painted the Goddess names all over the space – Isis, Astarte, Demeter, Hecate. When people who come into my space, they would look up and say, oh, I’m home. That was the general feeling of women who came in that we do share a collective soul. It was appreciated than and people have written about it. No matter where you are, once you put the names on it, it becomes a temple. This was a temple.

SM – I have a few specific questions that I would like to ask, but if there is anything you would prefer not to answer, just let me know.

Z – No, no, go ahead. I am writing 2nd part of my autobiography, called “Second Destiny” and all these things and questions stir it up.

SM – I Understand you left Hungary in 1956 and came to America in 1959. That must have been quite the experience for a young woman.

Z – I finished high school in Innsbruck, a bilingual school I got a scholarship in Vienna to be a linguist and I liked that. I planned to learn English after German. I was studying English already when I got my visa to come to the United States. I came on an old army plane that they put the refugees on, a bare bones airplane. It was the first airplane I had ever been on. and it was a long ride.

SM- it must have been so scary

Z – it was and it was not. Because when you are young, and I was raised on books and I was looking forward to it. I lived with books, and I was not so scared. I was so tired though and I fell asleep and my head fell on the fellow next to me who was a Hasidic Jew. I fell asleep on him and slept a good long time on his shoulder but he did not wake me up, he did not mind and he did not make me move. When I woke up and realized what had happened, I apologized deeply and profusely, but he said not to worry.

SM – So, you spoke Hungarian, then you spoke German and you now speak English Are there any other languages that you speak or would like to speak.

Z – I have my eyes on Spanish. and have always been to attracted French, but Spanish is spoken many more places now. i thought I would go with Spanish as I live in an area with Spanish-speaking people. But, I didn’t get to that settled down space in my head to really learn. But It will happen. My father learned Russian when he was 60 years old. He hated the Soviets but he loved the language. The Soviets had the old classics. He could read Tolstoy in the original and he said it was a totally different feeling, a totally different experience.

SM – So I read in your biography that you were in the Second City Improv Comedy troupe in Chicago —

Z – Yes, that was my only education that I consider important in this country . I did not learn anything useful at the University of Chicago it was supposed to be the best university and when I got there I thought to myself, where can I tie into. I tied into the German department so that I could continue with my German so I would not lose it. We had to write our homework and I would do my homework in German, and after the third time, they called me in and told me they wanted me to do my homework in English which really pulled my grade down. My scholarship was B+ or better, I got free education. if I got less, then I had to pay. I asked them, this education you are offering me, what will it be good for when I am done. They said I could teach German literature in a high school and I thought about it. and thought no one would want that, and so, I had to look for something else.

When I was 4 years old, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote all the time, all the time. I created imaginary stories for myself. There were very few children’s books. I just grew up entertaining myself and made up my own stories until I got hold of books again in my early teens, and I just never stopped reading them. I consider myself raised by books; my parents worked, nobody was home; I was alone. It was a way to have an inner life and not be disturbed. I was sick a lot, which was more reason to read. Essentially, I was very well read by the time I was a teenager and that influenced my writing style and I had a very mature style.

I won a big award. I got the 2nd tier and the first one, the top one was to a 21-year-old. My 2nd prize was for a short story and they called me in, and this was through the radio in Budapest, to make sure I was not cheating. They said that when they read my story that they thought it was a history teacher who wrote it. I said no, no.

My mom was an artist, a sculptor. very well-known. My biological father was only married to her for a few years, the first few years of my life. They got divorced after the war. I was living with my father for a while. But then, my mother put me in a nunnery because there was no food in the city and they figured only the christians had food and I just could not believe my luck. There were other children, other kids, to share my stories, my fantasies with. The nuns loved me . it was great time, but I also learned that the nuns were hypocrites and they were lesbians. The way they behaved. They didn’t have a word for it but we knew that Sisters Josephine and Gabrielle were a couple. They were definitely connected emotionally. If any of us that did anything that Gabrielle did not like, oh, my god, Josephine went ballistic and she got the rug beater.

SM – How old were you when you were there?

Z – From 6 to 8, very formative years. We learned there was no use for male priests. The one we had, he was old and always drunk. When he had to work, the nuns would fix him up, dress him up and lead him to the altar. He was not doing his job. Catholics have this thing back and forth – the priest would say something in Latin and they answer him. I was in the choir and I didn’t repeat anything he said, so I didn’t do my part. The nun passed out the communion and it was totally clear to me the male priest did nothing and the women covered for him and we had to pretend that he was truly doing his job and was not at all drunk. it became great fun when we went to confession because we used to confess things that we read in the bible. We were 7, me and my best friend and the priest would be asleep and he would never wake up and he would sleep through our confession every day. if he did wake up, he would say do your 5 Hail Marys and the other one. then he would sleep again. Then we got really bored and started to make up stories like we did murder…..nothing woke him up. <laughing>

I liked the spiritual lifestyle though. I like there were times for sleep time and for building an altar. They taught me altar building, which turned out to be very useful.

I liked the peace you get from meditation. it didn’t matter to whom you talked to or prayed; it was an exercise of the mind turning inward. I enjoyed that.

They did show me quite a few tricks that I could use later. My total belief in the Christian ways of doing things was never there; my mother just said well, don’t listen to what they say, just eat their food.

She was worried that if I didn’t get enough food in my formative years, I would have brain trouble, that my brain would not develop. I know now that lentil has everything you need; all the minerals and vitamins that you need. Meat is really not that important. Meat came about once a month as this was post-war Europe and nobody had much to eat. The nuns were very creative They fed about 400 women a day. They would batter elderberry flowers and fry them up; fried up in batter, it looked like pieces of meat. Very creative.

Ultimately all my schools that I went to ended and I had to move to another place, a new school. I never had a graduation with the same people who had been together. I never went to a prom. I had nobody from that time in my life except one woman, that was one relationship that I had – not as lovers, but as best friends when I was 9 until 16. It was so full of deep emotions, such emotion both ways. She was always encouraging me to write and I would help her with writing assignments that she was having trouble with. I could write in different styles and they did not notice it was not her. we had all kinds of scams that they did not know about.

SM – When the time came when you were in LA and you first came up with Susan B. Anthony Coven, how did that come about and how did The Feminist Book of Light and Shadows come to be The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, which so many of us thing of as our Bible. At least, that is how I have always thought of it.

Z – Yes, yes, I do too. I felt we needed our own scripture, real scripture for us. Some I wrote, some I edited, some I corrected and some was written by early members of the Susan B. Anthony Coven #1. The way I was pushed, each time we gave speeches in colleges and sometimes high schools, there would be some guy waving a bible and saying things like we were satan’s daughters. I thought, gee, we have to have something to wave back at them. it’s a shame that we do not have a holy book. So, I thought I shall write one. All of my writing has come for to this – a holy book for us; who else would write a holy book? My friends said you have waited all your life and all your lifelong devotions to writing comes to you to write our holy book. I have all of our holidays, the Dianic holidays which we still do not celebrate enough; and some were women only and some were both sexes. it took a while to write properly – I don’t type well. Sue Dixon typed up the Holy Book and bless Sue wherever she is.

In the 1970s, we were still forming. The goddess movement was happening. I was proselytizing tirelessly. i thought if you don’t have spirituality with a movement then you have nothing. You have to have a moral high ground to stand on. The Holy Book gave us that; it gave that to the practitioners. I kept saying do not follow this verbatim. if you have a better idea, use that. You have to have your own ideas. So lots of people started writing books about this angle and that angle of the their rituals, but still the accusations came of being satan’s daughters.

The fight for abortion was really, truly important to me anyway and to millions of other women. This was all about men making laws and taking control of our lady parts. We have vaginas. They do not have vaginas and they should not make laws about our lady parts. This was the impetus. I went to every march. I have never had an abortion or been raped, but I could not imagine being stuck with a baby and see the rapist in that child every day, horrendous.

SM – All of this was going on at the same time of the feminist movement, the coven started, lThe Feminist Book of Light and Shadows turning eventually into the Holy Book.

Z – The Holy Book was always there, but no one would publish it; it was too long, too subversive. I was turned down by many publishers. We carried it in a big luggage to the 3rd Goddess Conference in Boston – 2,000+ women were there, 2,000 already in the Goddess movement. 2,000 women to come, to take on the travel and deal with the inconvenience, but most of us were young, so it was bearable and then all kinds of miracles happened.

The 1970’s had the seeds for everything for the future. We could not get loans, there were no personal bad credit loan options, we couldn’t write checks. We could only use money orders. The women couldn’t buy a house. You needed a husband’s signature. So, we said let’s forget about it and make our own bank. We opened the first women’s bank in West Hollywood and women got houses and loans, and they paid it back. It was going well until big business noticed that the market was changing and started giving loans and money to women. Credit cards came a long time after that. That’s how we cracked the financial ceiling.

The feeling was there and we were very hopeful. My friend opened a Dianic garage to teach women how to do fix look the small things on their cars. We had a Women’s center, we had karate, we had so many things.

SM – These are wonderful stories that are not in your formal biographies. You were at the beginning of everything for women, not just spiritually but politically

Z – Yes, and we knew each other. We knew where to go to meet people . any time we needed each other, we were there, any time a need came up, one of us would do it. We would line up in we would support a sister. We would teach woman how to drive because that was another problem. They would be intimated at the test. They would flunk because they were women, there was prejudice against women drivers.

The best one was for the rape victims. When nothing would happen at the police station, we would start showing up with the rape victim and fill up the place to support our sister. She would tell her story and then the next police would come in and want to hear the story and we would say, you missed it and we are not going to allow our sister to go through it the horribleness of it again.

SM – Is that how the anti-rape squad got started? I know you were one of the co-founders of that. I wanted to make sure we talked about this since April is Sexual Abuse Awareness month.

Z – in Hollywood, the media was on every other corner, the Hollywood media, and when there was an event, we made sure they knew about it and when we started this anti-rape squad, they wanted to hear about it. We gave interviews about how 1 out of 4 women were raped and every minute a woman was attacked, and things like that. We had our facts down because the media never bothered to find out facts. Then I put the cherry on top by saying rapists should be hexed because they have too good of luck and get away so I started thinking about hexing rapists and other assault guys. Criminals need luck, they often get away. One of us gave daily reports on one guy. She saw that her rapist drove a big truck and she saw that his place was put up for sale, he was driven out of town. We leafletted the neighborhood and where he worked with his picture to show the world what he has done, that this man was a rapist. He was driven out-of-town. It was a pushback. The women were prey but they did not want to learn self-defense and said that men were good; until we started the hexing and the wool fell off their eyes.

There was one who killed 13 women, who were prostitutes. He just tossed their bodies onto the freeway, so they called him the freeway killer. I thought if I don’t go after this guy, I would never find out if I can, and no one else would do it, so I would. So I

improv-d a ritual and got candles and set them up on the seashore, and got all of the first names of the victims. i thought, I will call them, they probably have not gone too far away yet. So, I spoke to them, I called on them by name. Let’s get him, let the earth give him up, let the weak one give him up, let his family give him up. This man had a cousin who was his ally in this. The cousin got picked up for shoplifting and said his cousin would be angry when he heard this and started bragging about his cousin the murderer. They took him home after he was done with the police, and they found the torture instruments and when the guy came home, they got him – this was 3 days after the hex was done they were brought down, so I thought this was the formula Call the victims by name and ask them for help.

SM – I remember when you spoke about hexing that there were some that said we, as witches, are not supposed to do that, that we are not to harm anybody.

Z – <laughing> – Oh, bullocks, bullocks bullocks – That is so against the Goddess’ justice. The Goddess’s justice says that even if you have not been harmed, if you were not killed, if you are a female, and a sister was harmed, you identify with that woman.

SM – You said, “if you cannot hex, you cannot heal”

Z – Yes, you cannot heal and sometimes the hexing is the healing. Women find out they have powers and with the spirituality of the goddess, it is the power of the divine. You have allies on the other side but you must be doing it, not justing talking about it, but actually doing something. In this case I was outraged. Once I was no longer male-identified, which I was for a long time, I found myself. Women who are male identified never find themselves. You have to start with identity. Women internalize the fear of fighting back. They believe you will get it back ten fold. No. No. If you attack the innocent, it will return to you; 3 fold, 10 fold, it does not matter, it will return to you. if you do not attack the innocent, then it is justice, evening out the scales. The Furies tend to come down on these big crimes. Make them go to jail, that was always the best way – criminals attack each other, and rape each other and get diseases and then they die.

Yes, one of our friends, a member of the rape squad was brought down by 5 young men, they all raped her and beat her and took her bike, left her for dead in the street. Made me very angry. She did not want to go to the police because they were black, and she was a communist and she did not want to propagate that black man stereotype . I could not talk her out of that so these guys were fair game. Don’t take too long but you have to prep the women so they are not afraid. Don’t do any hexes with people who have scary feelings. If they are women, it doesn’t matter if they are Phd’s or whatever, they go after them; they see a female, they are not really interested, they just want to exert power over you. They do it in groups, and I have a whole theory about that. The group rapes are homosexual acts that are acted out on women and they are usually men who are afraid of their own sexuality but want to see other men’s penises in action. A woman gives them an out; they are not out, they are not homosexual. It is very dangerous when gay guys don’t come out. it’s not always expressing itself in violence but the uneducated yahoos, when they kill someone it is very intimate.

I love gay guys otherwise. I did have some friends when I lived in Oakland. They were called the Order of Perpetual Indulgence and they dressed as nuns on roller skates. They were incredible sluts lying down on their roller skates on the streets of San Francisco fighting against intolerance. A very good friend of mine died of AIDS. He was running for mayor in San Francisco against Diane Feinstein. Diana had such good humor, he pinned a button on her lapel that said get happy for mayor. Everybody was so young.

But, age is a social concept. However, I inherited from my family, bad hips and bad joint. I was already aching by the time of my 50’s and I spent my 60’s putting my body back together again. I had actually three operations because the second hip replacement didn’t work.

SM – I understand that. I’m trying to also put my body back together again. I find that the spiritual aspect of my life helps me with the physical aspect of my life, if that makes sense.

Z – Yes, it does. You know what, our bodies are incredibly smart and everything inside our bodies has a job and they do their job. But, when they go up against inherited things, there is not much they can do. My operations were done in Hungary, they did a good job. I could not afford it here as I was too young for Medicare. It gave me a way to go and meet folk. the peasants from the countryside. It is more territory now, and so colorful. So many people, so many different foods. Women do the embroideries and you wear the most fantastic outfits. My people were nomads and women wore their Goddess outfits. Spectacular costumes passed down from mother to daughter with feathers and crowns – the young girls always wore crowns which was a crescent shape on their head, very intricate; it was the moon and they wore the moon on their heads. These outfits have these cultural marks and you can trace them to their origins. It is all about the embroidery. You were in your goddess outfit and you were beautiful.

I have been collecting pictures of my countrymen with their outfits. They started to get into modern clothes at the end of the 19th century, and they now they just take their nice clothes out just for holidays.

Many of these photos are in my first book, called “First Destiny – My Dark Sordid Past as a Heterosexual”. https://www.createspace.com/4973374

It has tons of pictures of my first 30 years. I am now working on my second autobiography, “Second Destiny”, but no subtitle as yet.

SM – This year is your 75th, your diamond birthday and you just got the SAGA award……


Z – Yes, it was from a matriarchal association; The Association of Women in Mythology. All very smart, educated women who teach this in school. But I wasn’t happy that they do not come to my festivals. I have bi-annual festivals and the next one is in 2016. These women, they are book ladies, they do not do camping – they don’t go smell the earth. In my rituals, I actually make the women kiss the earth and once they kiss the earth, they says they never realized the earth smelled so good. The forest is clean and does smell good. The intellectuals do no like this so much but I have to forgive that.

SM – In their own way, they are spreading the word of the Goddess. They recognized you and gave you the credit that you so richly deserve for the life you have led teaching and serving the goddess in the way that you have.

Z – Serving the goddess, and also creating jobs for those who serve her. I fought the law that was against reading tarot; I fought against it and I won after nine years. The Supreme Court struck it down.

SM – When they arrested you for reading tarot, it took 9 years to change the law. After the trial, before all of the appeals, were you able did you back to reading tarot, or did you have to wait the nine years for them to change the law?

Z – I could read because they are not everywhere. The way it was administered before was a revolving door law, you got busted, you paid the $100 and you went back to work the next day. They would just bust psychics. I was there with Zelda, who wrote books on astrology and was in her 80’s, said, you are young, you fight this. I will pay the $100 fine and move on. in her case, she probably did not do much after that because of her strength but I had the Dianic witches, who were also old and these were my teachers. They had the best occult supplies . I would tell them my idea of a spell and they would give me the appropriate supplies and they were not that expensive and I could afford it. The older sister, she took my hand; she was 85 years old and kissed it, kissed it – that never happens that an older woman in witchcraft kisses the hand of a younger women and she said you will win but not in the way you think you will. I thought I don’t care any which way, just so there is no law against us.

After learning that Z had been in a car accident in October, 2014; hit by another vehicle, suffering a head concussion, which has resulted in headaches, I decided to ask just one last question so that she could go rest.

SM – What would you wish your ultimate legacy to be, for women and Dianics specifically and the pagan community in general?

Z – i would like to see a huge tradition now; huge numbers of Dianics that we don’t even know about coming out of the woodwork, proclaiming themselves publicly. I would like to see them celebrate our rituals publicly; celebrate the goddess in the street, in the park. Many pagans are doing this every year in their annual activities, but I want Dianics to be part of the American psyche. I want women to immediately be able to access their divine selves and I want them to see that male gods don’t work for us, never have, never will. Get over it already.

Practice verbal hygiene which means don’t put yourself down, don’t put your sisters down. You don’t discuss things out of fear. Step away from the fear and do this for the future generations. Just Fearlessness. They say I am fearless, I am not. I have never engaged in a fight I can not win. You have to weigh, what if I win, what if I lose. My purpose was to destroy the law, that was my target. I had to lose the trial but I would have to lose so that I could appeal over and over again and wear them down and let the Goddess step in.

SM – There are really no Dianics around here, even in local covens. Our local Pagan Pride Day has an annual ritual but has no DIanic ritual. On the Dianic Tradition Facebook page, Bobbie has been listing all of us by state. There is one other Dianic in Massachusetts and we have already gotten together once.

Z – Yes, yes. That is what the internet is for. Women are coached even online; women are coached everywhere. Sisterhood needs to be perceived as normal. Ultimately, that is the goal that sisterhood is normal. Women are made into entertainment animals, taking away their humanity and men like that because we are not in a sisterhood, we are fighting against each other, instead of being with each other as sisters.

SM – I thank you for this opportunity to speak with you and for everything you have given me and brought to my life, bringing me to the Goddess as you have.

Z – Blessed Be









Susan B. Anthony Coven #1


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