Deena Romoff – Spirituality and Religion

“My other car is a broom.”

[In the early and mid-1980s, there] was all this women’s spiritually coming up—a lot in San Francisco. And here’s little Spokane. We had a coven for 13 years. [The coven] that we had, it was called Labrys Grove Daughters Rising Chapter 1. We had this whole idea of having different chapters after a while. We had a Dianic coven, which was all women. We didn’t make it specifically lesbian, but almost everybody was a lesbian. We were a group of people that hung out together, and mostly we were lesbians. It’s interesting that a lot of things that have happened—like the coven, and the drum corps,[1] and different things—start out with the women and the predominant number of them are lesbians. And the ones who aren’t lesbians either become lesbians [laughs] or . . . it’s not their thing.

I have a pentagram tattooed on my shoulder, since the early ‘80s. Still, when I go to the Y[WCA], I sit in the hot tub and I’ll have a person across from me go, “Oh. Well, what does that mean?” I know right away that they are Christian. Because they know very well what they think it means  . . . We were originally nature worshippers, because that’s all we could figure out [about where we all came from]. We could see spring, life renewing, and things being born. Everything has cycle to it. Basically pagans and witches [have similar ideas about where it all began, but witches call it “Goddess”—woman, birth creation]. They were in tune with their own sense of connection to the universe, to plants and animals.

You know, when Christianity started, at first [Christians] were rather friendly with the pagan groups. Then, as people were not converting, and they started doing the Crusades and all of that, then they got very vicious. They think that nine million women—and men and children—were killed in Europe during the Crusades and the witch burnings. In Europe alone! Whole villages in Germany. All the women killed, which has a whole other ramification. So, what they did was take the pentagram, turn it upside down, made it the sign of the devil, and made everything pagan, witch, scary, and all of that.

Because pagans see themselves on the same plane as everything else in nature, if there is a higher power, they’re up there with it. They’re just part of the whole thing. They’re an essential piece. And here’s Christianity that wants to do the power over thing. And everything that is not male—women, children, blacks, blah, la, la, la, la—all the way down the pecking order, are to be used and abused and get their life sucked out of them.

Here’s what I think happened: here we have this huge historic holocaust of women. Well, the first part of it is, men were so scared of women—and their power and what they could do—that the only way to subdue them was to kill them. Right? Then, the other thing is, on women’s side, is that they have been terrorized for so long that it’s very hard to break out of that. Anything that has to do with women gaining power, speaking up, being seen, is very, very threatening to the status quo. So, being lesbians, being witches, being not married in the 1960s . . .

[The coven was] very visible. I have pictures of when Reagan came to Spokane. We had the whole coven out there in their black capes and everything. We were just hot! Sometimes we’d have rituals open to the public, and this and that. You have to be seen to be believed. Because otherwise people are fearful. They’re fearful of the unknown. They’re fearful of what they heard growing up about women, about witches. The Bible. They’re scared shitless of women! You know, women are amazing. They bled and didn’t die. These human beings came out of their bodies, and they had no clue: “How did that happen?” They were revered, you know. Goddesses.

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So, I got this job. You know, I have freedom of religion. My bumper sticker on my car was “My Other Car is a Broom.” I would bring political stuff in and we’d talk in little groups.

It was during a time I worked in a drug and alcohol assessment center. We did assessments for the federal government, for Child Protective Services, for probation and parole, because people were getting out and they needed to have treatment and yada yada. My boss, the executive director, was very progressive. Anyway, once a month we’d have an all staff meeting. We’d do things like line dance, or I showed all my photos from New Zealand, or we’d have someone come in and do something as a group. A couple of people at work started a lawsuit against her and another woman at the agency for forcing them to practice witchcraft, giving them material they had to read, which wasn’t true . . .

But I was the out witch, so we had a deposition. We had to go talk to these attorneys and the whole thing. They’re asking me the most bizarre questions about being a witch: What did my bumper sticker mean? It was stupid!  It was insane! I looked at him and I said, “It’s a joke. You know, it’s a joke.” But there was things like, Did I talk about it? Or did I pass things out? I said, “one-to-one. I’d have a conversation with somebody and they’d say something and I’d say, ‘Oh, I have something for you to read about that.’” [My boss] didn’t force us to read anything. She was interested herself. But it was all on a personal basis.

I think men can so relate to [witchcraft], if they open their minds to it. [At work,] I had a fellow who was in the Witness Protection Program. I get a call from the feds and they say, “Bill is coming in. He might be vague about certain things, and all of that.” Here we are in Spokane. I go out to the waiting room, and there sits The Godfather himself: Big man! Gold!!! “He’s anonymous in Spokane.” My foot! He comes back in my office . . . They don’t want to go to treatment—most of them. They try to convince you that they’ve been through treatment, that they don’t have a problem anymore. I always have my ear open for that. He was right in there: this and this had changed his life, and going to meetings, and the whole thing. Then he says to me, “You know what really did it, Deena? You know what really changed my life?” I said, “What?” And he said, “Reading that book. That book by Merlin Stone, When God was a Woman. So, you know he’s telling the truth. Here is this guy that is so stereotypical, but he can open up his life enough to look at alternatives. Anyway, I think life would be a lot more exciting if we wasn’t so fearful about people having other ideas, or being different, or any of those things.

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One of the few things I got out of Judaism—and I didn’t get it until much later . . . [My past partner] loved Judaism—and he still does. He and I put together a Passover Seder when we lived in Duluth and he was working with nuns and priests. A lot of them were involved in the anti-war stuff. So we had a Passover dinner. We read [Allen] Ginsberg, you know, this and that. We had fish and rice for dinner, all these things. And then we’d do [Seders] in Spokane. We’d do them at the farm. We had Passover at the farm. You know, people loved it, because it’s a liberation Seder. It’s about being free.

Then I wrote a women’s Seder. And then it became a lesbian Seder. I’ve done big community Passovers with the Seder. Men come, women come, straight people. They love it. There’s something in there that people can pull out for themselves, because everybody can relate to liberation and being free. There’s a word call, “Mitzri.” That’s what they call Egypt; it means “narrow places.” We all have these “narrow places” that we’d like to come out of. So people can relate to it.

[My past partner is] getting his little community in Olympia together [for a Seder], and my kids are going. They decided instead of using one person’s Passover Haggadah, they’d get input from everybody. I offered mine, and I noticed he sent me a draft that he changed all my “women’s” stuff to “people.” What is the problem with making people uncomfortable?! One woman, when I said something about offering my Haggadah, she said, “Well, I don’t want to alienate anybody, or make the men there uncomfortable.” And immediately I said, “Well, what’s new? Women have been uncomfortable their whole lives. Everything has been male-oriented. All they do is talk about God-He, he-this, and he-that.” I said, “There’s something in there for men to relate to. They have their own oppressions in life.” But that whole idea that, it’s not good to make people uncomfortable . . . especially men. Women work very hard not to make men uncomfortable.

 

[1]The Giant Ass Drum Corps, which began in 1999; now known as Diesel Daisy and the Bucketts.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 20 March 2013.