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The Elders of the Craft – Z. Budapest

Zsuzsanna Emese Mokcsay (born in 1940) is perhaps better known by her pen name, Zsuzsanna, or simply Z., Budapest is an American author, activist, songwriter and playwright who write about feminist spirituality and Dianic Wicca. She founded the Susan B. Anthony Coven #1 in 1971 as the first all-female, and ONLY female, witch’s coven, as well as the female-only tradition of Dianic Wicca.


Z. Budapest is the founder and director of the Women's Spirituality Forum, a nonprofit organization which features lectures, retreats and other events, and also was the lead of a cable TV show called “13th Heaven.” She had an online autobiography entitled “Fly by Night,” and as well as writing for the religion section of the San Francisco Examiner on subjects related to Pagan religions. Her play “The Rise of the Fates” premiered in Los Angeles in the mid-seventies. She is the composer of several songs including "We All Come From the Goddess," a very well-known song in the Wiccan community.


Z. Budapest was born in Budapest, Hungary. Her mother, Masika Szilagyi, was a medium, a practicing witch, and a professional sculptor whose work reflected themes of Goddess and nature spirituality. In 1956, when the Hungarian Revolution began, she fled to Austria as a political refugee. She finished high school in Innsbruck, Austria, graduated from a bilingual gymnasium, and won a scholarship to the University of Vienna where she studied languages.


Z. Budapest emigrated to the United States in 1959, where she studied at the University of Chicago, with groundbreaking originator of the art of improvisation, Viola Spolin, an actress, educator, director, author, and the creator of theater games, a system of actor training that uses games she devised to organically teach the formal rules of the theater, and the improvisational theater group The Second City. She married and had two sons, Laszlo and Gabor, but later divorced. She realized she is a lesbian and chose, in her words, to avoid the "duality" between man and woman.


Z. Budapest's first job in television was as a Color Girl for the CBS Network in New York, assigned to The Ed Sullivan Show. These were models that were used to calibrate the color on the TV cameras, a difficult thing in those days. Primary colors weren’t hard but getting the flesh tones right was critical. They would start work before the broadcast day had begun (no 24-hour schedules then) and pose before the cameras as the engineers and cameramen made adjustments. Most were never actually seen on the screens of TVs at home.


Budapest moved to Los Angeles from New York City in 1970, and became an activist in the women's liberation movement and worked on the staff of the first Women's Center in the U.S. She was responsible for the creation of an Anti-Rape Squad and the Take Back the Night Movement in Southern California, and facilitated many of their street marches.


In 1975, she was arrested for "fortune telling" at her candle and book store in Venice, California following a "sting" by an undercover policewoman Rosalie Kimberlin, who received a tarot reading from her. Subsequently, Budapest was charged with violating a municipal by-law, Code 43.30, which made fortune telling unlawful. Budapest and her defense team described her as "the first witch prosecuted since Salem," and the ensuing trial became a focus for media and pagan protesters. Budapest was found guilty.


Following her conviction, she engaged in nine years of appeals on the grounds that reading the Tarot was an example of women spiritually counselling women within the context of their religion. With pro bono legal representation she was acquitted, and the laws against "fortune telling" were struck from California law.


Crazy as it seems, that was the situation back then. If you’ve ever talked to a witch that was around at that time and perhaps wondered why they didn’t give out their names or contact information, this is the reason. You could be arrested for practicing witchcraft, reading tarot or any one of dozens of things that are considered normal today. You could lose your job, be shunned in your town or profession, or even physically attacked. The Burning Times are not so long ago, and can easily return. Don’t think so? Remember, you once thought that way about Roe v Wade and the Voting Rights Act.


In the 1980's, she created the TV show “13th Heaven,” which ran on syndicated cable in the San Francisco Bay area for seven years. She has organized and led bi-annual Goddess Festivals since 1991 where women gather for workshops and ritual in the Redwoods of California (see


As Z. noted on her website,,


“I am a witch by birthright, my mother was an artist, and gifted medium. 

I am considered the Grandmother of modern witchcraft as I have devoted my life to the Goddess.

I have been giving Tarot Readings and Leading circles for over 50 years.

I am best known for my books on The Goddess Movement, Tarot, and Feminist Witchcraft.

Some of my best-known works include The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, Grandmother Time, Grandmother Moon, Goddess in the Bedroom...just to name a few.”


I met Z. Budapest once at a ritual in Los Angelus that I was invited to attend. A friend introduced me to her and we briefly spoke, as one will after such an introduction. I found her to be a very nice lady, warm and friendly. I had been a bit apprehensive because I have had less pleasant meetings with Dianic witches who seemed to held my male heterosexuality against me, and here was the creator of the Dianic Tradition, but Z. was nothing like that. She was quite kind to a newbie witch like me, I was glad to find out.


Books by Z. Budapest include;

The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows. Feminist Wicca. 1975.


Selene, the Most Famous Bull-Leaper on Earth. Diana Press. 1976.


The Grandmother of Time: A Woman's Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every         Month of the Year. 1989.


The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts. Wingbow Press. 1989.


The Aquarian Holy Book of Women's Mysteries: Aquarian Rituals and Spells for Present and Future Witches. lulu Press. 2022.

Grandmother Moon: Lunar Magic in Our Lives—Spells, Rituals, Goddesses, Legends, and Emotions Under the Moon. HarperSanFrancisco. 1991.


The Goddess in the Office: A Personal Energy Guide for the Spiritual Warrior at Work. HarperOne. 1993.


The Goddess in the Bedroom: A Passionate Woman's Guide to Celebrating Sexuality Every Night of the Week. HarperSanFrancisco. 1995.


Summoning the Fates: A Woman's Guide to Destiny. Three Rivers Press. 1999.


My Dark Sordid Past as a Heterosexual: The Autobiography of Dr. Zsuzsanna E. Budapest, First Destiny. CreateSpace Independent Publishers Platform. 2014.


Z. Budapest is still around and going strong. Check out her website to see what’s she’s up to. If you’re interested in reading more on Z. Budapest and her work, try this article.


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Blessed Be

Sterling Knight


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