GIFs of the Goddess
a tale of enthusiasm
by Valerie Walker
It's 1974 in San Francisco, the San Francisco of "Tales of the City." I've landed here, escaping from mundane ol' Chicago and the MidWestern ambiance which led so many hostile people during the late Sixties to ask if I was a boy or a girl, even when it was perfectly obvious that I was a curly-haired feminist cutie in bib overalls. Oh, pooh to all that, I think. I want to go where people won't judge me by my appearance. I want to go where people are spiritual and free. So I come to San Francisco.
1975: And promptly fall into the Craft. Finally. After all those years of reading about Witches, of poring over "The White Goddess", I'm finally hanging out with the famous Starhawk, and even invited to join her coven, Compost. Wow. I'm really stoked.
I plunge deeply into studying as much of the Craft as I can pick up at the local used bookstore, from Xeroxed and re-Xeroxed fragments of Craften lore, from anyone who seems to have a clue. I pick out my Magickal name. I consecrate my tools. I take my White Cord initiation. I learn the language of the Craft: deosil, Samhain, astral, handfasting... Learning the Craft is more than a hobby, it's an obsession. I am like a goldfish with its eyes and mouth wide open, seeking out crumbs of Witchfood to swallow. I am on constant alert for Magickal implements to decorate my altar. I worship at the Shrine of Our Lady of Unlimited Possibilities. I'm on a mission from the Goddess!
1976: I'm a little disillusioned. There are more and more books coming out on the Craft, and they all seem to be copied from each other, and none of them is telling me anything I don't already know. So I start looking to mythology, read lots of Joseph Campbell, learn about the Eleusinian Mysteries, figure out correspondences on four, on five, on seven. Write a lot of simple rituals. Grow my own. It should be easier to get started in the Craft, I think. More organized. Somebody should start a Witch college. Hey, I have my Red Cord....why not me?
1977-81: Compost College is in full swing. Public rituals in Golden Gate Park, booths at the Haight Street Fair, open Magickal workshops for making mojos, masks, hex spells, candles. Visits to schools on Halloween to clue the kids in about Witches. Performing same-sex weddings. Incorporating as a non-profit corporation. I am passing so many students through that I can't even remember all their names. They are like goldfish with their eyes and mouths wide open, seeking out crumbs of knowledge to swallow. I do my best. Some stay, some don't. But some will start their own covens, which will last for years and years. Teaching the Craft is more than a hobby, it's an obsession. I worship at the Shrine of Our Lady of Spreading the News. I'm on a mission from the Goddess!
Somewhere in this segment of time, I serve as First Officer of CoG. For my sins. Politics, Witch Wars--not a pretty sight. I decide that I'd better go back to being a private citizen instead of a Public Witch. But we have a cute little newsletter, and I'll keep doing that.
1982-5: I'm living in the Napa Valley, being mostly Solitary, but coming down to SF to meet with Compost Coven periodically, and joining the occasional country Pagan for rituals. Boy, I hate this rural life.
In 1986 I move back (with great relief) to SF. Somebody asks me "What was your favorite wine in the Napa Valley?" My reply: "I wanna move back to San Franciiiiiisco!!" Compost is in relative disarray, but still an entity in the Real World. I re-start the newsletter. It starts to take up more and more of my time.
1987-92: The Compost NewsLetter grows, changes, transmogrifies, evolves from a simple Witch coven calendar into a LitZine with a life of its own. The coven hardly ever meets at all. What is this all about? CNL is fun, but is it the Craft? It's more than a hobby, it's an obsession. I worship at the Shrine of Our Lady of Perfect Page Layout.
1993: I finally get a modem for my Mac, and I join CompuServe. All these entities all over the planet, in communication...this is like living on the Astral Plane.....Oh wow, this is cool, I think, and plunge into forum life: Religion forum has real Virtual Witches, trading long long postings about Craften minutiae. Libraries have papers I can download. Learning CompuServe is more than a hobby, it's an obsession. I am like a goldfish with its eyes and mouth wide open, seeking out crumbs of data to swallow. I am on constant alert for cool forums to visit. I learn the language of the Net: ROFLMAO, IMHO, , :).... And there are even virtual rituals I can attend. Not all that big a thrill, but other people report having tears in their eyes. Hmm.
1994, and I'm burnt out on CompuServe. This is lame, I think. Text-only, no pictures, and they charge me astronomical amounts for access. Screw this, I'm gonna get a direct Internet service provider. My friend Dr. Don the magician-turned-Spiritualist minister recommends San Francisco Online, and it looks good. $180 a year, unlimited access time, and if I pay up front, no setup charges. And I can pick a name instead of having a number which I can't remember. Just like picking a Magickal name. Cool.
1995: firstname.lastname@example.org has been surfing the Web for a while, joining lists and quitting them, realizing that they bring too much e-mail and too many arguments. Funny the things people can flame each other over. How fast one is supposed to execute the lat pulldown to the front. What constitutes an officially-certified herbalist. Who played Bunthorne in a particular performance of "Patience". The meaning of a song in Latin played in one episode of Babylon 5. It occurs to me then that the ListWars are very familiar. What was that they remind me of?......oh, yes.
1996: CNL is finally off my hands. Whew. Peter Mooney has taken it over. Now let him run with it. When mail comes, I just put his address on the outside of the envelope, and drop it in the mailbox. Sigh of relief. I was really getting tired of print.
...I want to build a Website of my own. Gee, that means learning HTML. I wonder if it's really difficult...
December 26, 1996: Ron sits me down and gives me a half-hour lesson in HTML. I don't surface again until my vacation is over and it's time to go back to work on January 2. The first version of the Website goes up to the server on New Years Day, just for the symbolism. It's pretty crude, but I'm pleased. It's divided into four segments: FitnessWorlds, for my professional life; Funworlds (fun links and other time-wastage); OtherWorlds (sci-fi and fantasy); and WitchWorlds. Mustn't forget WitchWorlds.
February 1997. The Website has taken over my life. I'm learning the language of HTML: <AHREF="http://www.sfo.com/~wholebody"> , <IMG SRC="eye6.gif" WIDTH="75" HEIGHT="50" BORDER="0" ALT="eye">, </A>. I have put the entire Compost Coven Disk of Shadows on the Web, and am well into the best of CNL. WitchWorlds has won two awards, Stairways Award and Pagan Best of the Web. Wow. I'm really stoked.
Deja vu, anyone?
In full Witchy regalia and feeling my oats.