The Come As You Are Coven of Oakland CA has experienced a seismic shift recently, in which its former High Priestess has been outed as an abuser and manipulator. There are many people that I trust who are coming forward with their stories. Mine, at best, is tertiary to theirs, and I want that to be very clear.
The former HP (FHP) started showing up at AMUH events I think a few months before my head wash to Oshun. I asked my Mai de Santo if I could invite the FHP to my head wash because I’d been pleasantly impressed with her, and Mai said of course I could. I bought some ingredients for my head wash water from FHP’s new shop. FHP seemed pleased to have been asked, and presented me with a bottle of Damiana liqueur in a bottle shaped like a seated woman on the day of my event. She seemed sweet, eager to ingratiate herself, and more than willing to share what she knew about Things In General. I liked her immediately. I liked her shop, too. I never felt compelled to buy anything when I went in there, yet I often did, even if I didn’t actually have the money to do so. Little things; small 5.00 crystals, rarely anything more than 10.00. I remember that I ordered a specific Tarot deck and then when it arrived, I couldn’t actually pay for it, so told them to put it out in stock. I found a pair of earrings that I liked and put them on layaway, but I never did make more than the first payment. After 3 months, I finally told the store manager that I really just couldn’t afford them and to please put them back in stock. Unexpectedly, the store manager refunded my deposit, even though those earrings had been off the floor for 3 months. I found that surprising, and still have that store credit in my wallet. It’s over 2 years old now.
One of AMUH’s Temple Keepers, a few weeks after my head wash, said something to the effect that FHP was a business woman first and foremost, and would always, only, think of herself first.
FHP and I did not get to be good friends, but I would say that we got to be good acquaintances. I rec’d readings from her a few times and felt nothing but support and encouragement in my desire to go to school, perhaps beyond a B.A.; she offered to write a letter of recommendation to me if I decided to attend Sarah Lawrence, her alma mater.
I played with that idea for several days before filing it away for future reference. I ended up knitting her a scarf the year she was initiating to Oshun. I knew she was going to be heading back East to see her family and I was also pretty sure that she didn’t have a white scarf, so I knitted one, in the Peacock feather pattern, and added gold beads to it here and there. I don’t know that she still has it, but it’s a thing I made for her.
I started going to school and had less time for AMUH events. When I started attending Mills in 2015 my attendance at House events dropped to 2 a year from once a month: PantheaCon, and House Anniversary, with maybe a Bembe or a dinner if my homework schedule allowed. I was working hard at school and loving it but missing the community and magical aspects of AMUH. The Mills Pagan Alliance didn’t do a thing for me; but several people I knew, liked, and trusted, were getting involved with CAYA so I thought I’d try them out. I attended several public rituals in Alameda; some I found engaging, some not. No blame to anyone; it’s the nature of events, I think. Everyone gets something different out of them, and events I felt separate from others felt very engaged with It’s not a flaw or a fault in me; it’s simply how these things go. I’ve seen this time and time again at PantheaCon, too. I also attending some public rituals in the shop. A note on my use of the word “public”: not that anyone could walk by the shop and come in and join us public, but that these events were not limited to only clergy and/or members of the congregation. I liked FHP and I liked many of the people I met at CAYA events although I never got close to them. This has more to do with my own reticence and social anxiety; everyone I met was very friendly and willing to talk with me. Still, I felt that I didn’t “fit”. FHP offered classes both online and in person. There was Tea & Chanting, there were gratitude observations, there was Initiate training. I tried them all but something didn’t jibe for me. During Initiate training, which was held at FHP’s home, I often felt as if, because I didn’t the money to pay for classes beyond the minimum requested donation, that I was a failure, that I was only there on sufferance, that I was a charity case. I felt like Scarlett O’Hara during the bazaar in Atlanta when she realizes how different she is from everyone around her. I liked them all, I liked FHP and her eventual husband, but I just didn’t fit. Money got tighter. I quit the Initiates’ training, I stopped attending rituals except at PantheaCon. And now, this year, I’m not attending PantheaCon either, because the money didn’t work out.
During the course of our readings, I felt very strongly that I didn’t want to give FHP too much information. I was trying to get her to prove how good she was from what she knew of me both from our in person interactions and from what she saw on my social media site. To the best of my knowledge, she read my cards honestly and didn’t try to coerce me in any way to spend money I didn’t have or act in a way dishonorable to my personal code of ethics.
And here’s the thing about abusers: if they know they can’t use you, they generally either shun you, or treat you decently. FHP treated me decently, I believe. I had nothing for her, which she learned after I finally disappeared from Initiate training. It was no skin off her nose.
And here’s something else: I’ve spent almost 2 hours writing this and giving her energy by doing so. I should instead have long ago gotten up and gotten about my day but instead I felt it was important to put this down somewhere that wasn’t in the bright spotlight but that also wasn’t forgotten.
I feel very muddled, still. What was the point of all of this, again?