Founder of the first feminist
witches’ coven and the main branch of Dianic Wicca.
Z Budapest (her feminist name) was born Zsusanna
Mokcsay in Budapest, Hungary, on January 30, 1940. Her
mother, Masika Szilagyi, was a medium and ceramics ar40
tist whose work was Goddess-inspired. Her grandmother
Ilona was a herbalist and healer.
At age three, Budapest had her first psychic experience,
an apparition of Ilona at the time of her death. According
to Hungarian tradition, a death apparition portends that
the departed one will assume the role of guardian spirit in
the life of the one who has observed him or her. Ilona has
served in that capacity throughout Budapest’s life.
In childhood, Budapest appreciated nature, “playing
priestess” and conducting her own rituals. By age 12, she
had met a 14-year-old boy, Tom, who was to become her
Following the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, Budapest
joined the 65,000 political refugees who left the country.
She completed her high school education in Innsbruck,
Austria, and won a scholarship to the University of Vienna,
where she studied languages.
Tom located her through relatives, and the two were
engaged by the time Budapest was 18. She was awarded
a scholarship to the University of Chicago in 1959. Three
weeks after her arrival there, she and Tom were married.
Budapest had two sons, Laszo and Gabor, by the time she
Budapest studied improvisational acting with the Second
City theatrical school for about two years, learning
skills she later put to use in conducting rituals and training
priestesses. She began her practice as a solitary, worshiping
the Goddess at a home altar.
After a move to New York in 1964, Budapest enrolled
in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Tom took
a teaching job as a mathematics professor. The family
lived in Port Washington, Long Island. The marriage ended
in 1970, and Budapest moved to California, where she
became involved in the feminist movement and worked at
the Women’s Center.
Budapest saw a need to develop a female-centered theology
that not only would help women but would answer
opponents of the feminist movement who claimed that
feminism was “against God.” Drawing on her own heritage
and her improvisational skills, she collected six friends
and began holding sabbats. A coven was born on the winter
solstice, 1971, named the Susan B. Anthony Coven No.
1 after the leader of the women’s suffrage movement.
The sabbats were uplifting and empowering, and Budapest’s
message of revolution, women-only covens and
the crushing of an oppressive and aggressive patriarchy
drew more participants. The expanding group was moved
to the beach and then to a mountaintop in Malibu. Within
nine years, membership was at 700 and sister covens had
formed across the country. The Dianic Wicca movement
(also called “wimmin’s religion”) grew to a major force
both in Witchcraft and feminism.
For 10 years, Budapest led sabbats and full Moon circles,
initiating priestesses and teaching women to bless
each other and connect with the Goddess through Mother
Nature. One of Budapest’s pupils was Starhawk.
Budapest opened a shop, The Feminist Wicca, in Venice,
California, and self-published a book that became a
basic text of Dianic Wicca, The Feminist Book of Lights and
Shadows (1975), a collection of rituals, spells and lore. The
book later was sold to a publisher and was released as The
Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess
Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts (1989).
Budapest was arrested in 1975 for giving a Tarot reading
to an undercover policewoman. She was put on trial
and lost, but the law prohibiting psychic readings was repealed
nine years later.
In the early 1980s, Los Angeles’ air pollution caused
Budapest to close the shop, turn the Susan B. Anthony
Coven No. 1 over to another leader, and move to Oakland.
She formed a new coven, the Laughing Goddess, but it did
not succeed due partly to internal politics and friction.
Budapest did not form or join another coven but developed
herself as a speaker, teacher, media personality,
author and psychic reader. For a time, she hosted a radio
program in the Bay Area, then became director of the
Women’s Spirituality Forum in Oakland. She also continues
to lead rituals, and hosts her own cable television
show, 13th Heaven, a title suggested to her by her deceased
mother. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Her other books are Grandmother Moon: Lunar Magic in
Our Lives: Spells, Rituals, Goddesses, Legends, and Emotions
Budapest, Z 41
Under the Moon (1991); The Goddess in the Office: A Personal
Energy Guide for the Spiritual Warrior at Work (1993);
The Goddess in the Bedroom: A Passionate Woman’s Guide
to Celebrating Sexuality Every Night of the Week (1995);
The Grandmother of Time: A Woman’s Book of Celebrations,
Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year
(1989); Celestial Wisdom for Every Year of Your Life: Discover
the Hidden Meaning of Your Life (2003); and Summoning
the Fates: A Guide to Destiny and Transformation (2nd ed.
2007). Her novel Rasta Dogs was self-published in 2003.
The impact of Dianic Wicca may be seen in the increase
of literature and college courses devoted to the Goddess
and women’s spirituality. Budapest termed religion as the
“supreme politics” because it influences everything people
do. Patriarchal monotheism has worked to the detriment
of women; it has glorified war and has permitted
suffering for all. Her vision for the future is that of peace
and abundance, expressed in female values, to dominate
the world’s consciousness. Then, Budapest said, “both
sexes will be free to flourish according to their natural
inclinations and abilities. Global Goddess Consciousness
means acknowledging the oneness of all as children of
one Mother, our beloved blue planet, the Earth.
Founder of the first feminist