Liminal Book Review: "Grandmother Moon"

Grandmother Moon by Zsuzsanna E. Budapest. Published by the Women's Spirituality Forum, 2011. 358 pages.


Zsuzsanna Budapest, Starhawk and Ffiona Morgan are the three ladies who's visionary works laid the foundation for my personal spirituality and ideology. Having started my earliest witchcraft years in the Dianic vein, I am rather surprised I have not read more from Zsuzsanna Budapest. The two I have acquired and read are “Summoning the Fates” (which I will review at a later time even though it is her BEST work) and her play “Rise of the Fates”. After hearing her speak a few times I formed an opinion about her based on respect as an elder in the path of Goddess religion and witchcraft as a means of self-empowerment. Her rough around the edges and fearlessness was/is an inspiration as a young woman and should be for people of all backgrounds.

Recently I have gone back in the chronology of pagan and witchcraft literature to examine, to refresh my thoughts and workings as I have reached a plateau in my spiritual progress. I acquired Z. Budapest's revised classic “Grandmother Moon”. Organized by the lunar calendar, each cycle includes a Goddess myth, message from an associated deity, a “moontide” section which describes a possible obstacle during the cycle, spells, world lunar festivals, a lunar herb and other folkloric tidbits told in the style Budapest is best known for: through connections in her personal anecdotes. Each moon is named for the energy, coinciding with the common names from almanacs and “old wives tales”.

The introduction gave me a revelation I was not expecting. Z discusses a possible explanation for the separation of the humanoid primates we once were and the up-right, speaking homosapiens we eventually became; suggesting this shift occurred not by the once thought agricultural revolution but when we ceased being entirely solar creatures and transformed into the lunar beings we are now. Something I have never thought of: Why are human women the ONLY mammals which bleed monthly? Early humans would seasonally go into heat, much like modern primates. At some point this changed...our bodies began to synchronize with the tidal lunar energy, bringing an ebb and flow of magical energy into the microcosmic world of our ancient ancestors. From a biological perspective this gave our species a better rate of growth, since we could ovulate more frequently. With this came a surge in population growth, which also meant more people to help feed and care for the rest. Whilst women were connected with the mysteries of blood and birth, men were kinda left behind in a physical sense,. They learned to plant and harvest according to the phases of the moon, as many successful gardeners still do.

Budapest's storytelling is one of the things which most people find so endearing about her personality and it comes through in several examples. One in which I found particularly interesting is the recollection Budapest makes about a family conversation when visiting back home. The heated political passion of her family combines with her spiritual-warrior self. In discussing the past hardships of her home country, Budapest offers two perspectives to the readers: through her families eyes and her own, being the daughter who returns to see the aftermath of war; something pagans here in the United States rarely can say to understand. Budapest recalls a workshop she gives in her home country and I was surprised to read the reaction from the women, public and media... all were so positive and full of support; unlike the combative stance she gets in her adoptive culture of America through the religious right and, more currently, our own Pagan community. If Americans had gone through the similar experiences of being caught in one corrupt government after another, with their rights taken away including choice of religion or property ownership, I think we would appreciate someone holding a flame in the wind and dark.

Budapest has always been a radical, never wavered from her political-spiritual ambitions and often says things many do not want to hear, but they need to be said. Her personal views may be from another time, but as she becomes the Grandmother Moon, her wisdom is timeless at the core. I think before people make a judgment about who she is and what she teaches, they should pick up this book.