I am delighted to welcome you to my website. Please feel free to ramble at your leisure—there’s my blog, an interview, research suggestions, reader’s sharing page, and lots of great links to other writers and artists with similar interests.
And don’t forget to let me know what you think! I’m always up for a juicy discussion.
Tamis Hoover Renteria
The book is now published!
In my earlier blog about my life as a witch, I was dealing on a psychological level. I neglected to mention, however, that I’ve been dabbling in modern witchcraft, or Wicca, for several years. But because my religion of choice is Judaism, and because I don’t feel fully committed to paganism, I am not able to say wholeheartedly, “I am a witch.” However, I am pretty comfortable with the terms “Jewitch” and “Goddess Lover.”
Allow me to explain what I mean by witchcraft. First, modern Wicca is not devil worship and has nothing to do with Satan. It’s a contemporary spiritual movement that has many streams, all of which claim the source of their practices to be pre-Christian pagan traditions revolving around nature and the agricultural seasons.
I have primarily explored two different streams of Wicca. One is the west coast based Reclaiming movement, written about so eloquently by Starhawk, a self-identified witch, writer, novelist, creator of rituals, and political activist. Reclaiming rituals are open to the public——both men and women——and are playful, joyous, solemn, and drug free. They celebrate the Goddess, and sometimes the God, and are rooted in a reverence for the natural world. They primarily meet on the eight holidays of the sun cycle derived from Celtic and western European traditions, like Beltane in the spring and Samhain (Halloween) in the fall. Continue reading
My husband and I are real homebodies, but the past four months since our youngest son moved out, we’ve been living on the road like gypsies. We recently relocated from Tucson to California’s central valley for Beto’s work, but we refused to give up our dream of returning to the Bay Area. So we rented an apartment in the small farming town of Hanford, and started commuting north every weekend to stay with relatives and enjoy the weather and culture of our homeland.
I must say that this new peripatetic lifestyle has been a challenge to me as a woman who prefers to nestle down in my own home, surrounded by my garden while keeping carefully guarded rhythms of writing, housework, gardening and socializing. But that old life suddenly vanished last spring when Beto received the job offer. From then on it was all about preparing the house for selling and then moving.
And now this strange commuter life on the weekends.
Frankly, I am so disoriented that I’m even worse than usual about keeping up a calendar and am constantly missing appointments. I’m also frustrated by the constant packing and unpacking, and the difficulty of keeping track of my clothes and all the items for grooming and health——toothbrush, floss, razor, vitamins, medications, lotion, make-up etc——that I have convinced myself are necessities of living. Continue reading
Recently I was interviewed online by a woman who——like me——considers herself part of the goddess spirituality movement. Because of our shared background, the interview flowed smoothly from the beginning until the moment I unintentionally stumbled into talking about my son joining the military.
What I said was that I felt deep shame and heartbreaking conflict about being a goddess woman whose son was a Green Beret in the Army Special Forces. I expected her to be shocked or possibly sympathetic. But to my surprise, she launched into a vigorous defense of my son and all people who “served their country” in the military. She herself had been in the navy, had husbands who had been military men, and knew dozens of upstanding, wonderful people who had served.
I confess that in response, instead of defending my position, I backed off and conceded that she might have a point. I was not prepared to break the easy-going affability of our conversation and start a fight. I was bred as a nice southern girl, and I usually opt for sociability over truth-telling in public situations. I’m not proud of that, but that’s the way it was.
When I say I’m a goddess woman, I mean that I care deeply about affirming life, growth, and genuine communication between people. (It’s also my take on being a Jew). I’m rooted in a leftist, feminist, Jungian, California, post-sixties, anti-military, anti-violence, anti-nuclear, pro-love, pro-LGBT, question authority kind of spirituality, the kind that Starhawk and other like-minded pagans practice, and that many leftist leaning Jews and Christians also practice.
So when my son started talking about joining the military, he might as well have told me he was joining a perverted Satanic cult. Continue reading
Our ancestors long before the introduction of christianity were deeply aware of the turning of the seasons and the cycles of moon, sun, and earth. At least for those of us from the northern hemisphere, autumn is the time of year when the days become shorter and the nights longer, and the sun appears almost to have abandoned us. Summer’s radiant flowers fade to brown and tree leaves whither and fall to the ground, visual reminders of our own fragility and mortality on this earth.
Soon, winter with its snow, rain, and cold will arrive, seizing our lives with a dark and icy grip. Our agricultural ancestors had to pray that their stores of food would last through this difficult season, and that the sun and its warmth would return fully in time for them to sow crops again and be reassured that they would live another year.
In both ancient and modern pagan ritual, autumn is considered liminal, a transitional period between life and death, summer and winter. It is time to turn from summer’s abundance, fertility, and reveling to prepare for winter and a long period of rest, renewal, and waiting. Continue reading
My 91 year-old dad said a mouthful the other day as he was puttering around the house, trying to fix a few things: “Honey, I’ve just got one thing to say; when old folks start falling apart, their houses start falling apart right along with ‘em.”
I can’t argue with him. As I wander around what once was my childhood home—— a beautiful, light and art filled Eichler mid-century modern house in Palo Alto——I know exactly what he means. Not only is the house deteriorating, but much of it is filthy. That’s because there is no healthy, live-in housekeeper to keep up with all the cleaning——the smelly bathroom that won’t lose the strong scent of urine no matter how much I scrub it, the filthy kitchen drawers layered with old food and crumbs, the cobwebs in every corner, and the dust on all the odd and beautiful assortment of pottery and baskets that my mother has collected over fifty plus years.
There has been no loving, cleaning touch in this house for the past eleven years since my mother came down with Parkinsons disease——only a commercial housecleaner once every two weeks and the bits of cleaning that my father and my mother’s full-time caregiver can manage.
Maybe one of the blessings in this situation is that my parents are too old, ill, and self-absorbed to really see all the dirt. However, my dad does notice all the maintenance issues that he can no longer handle, like leaves in the gutters and peeling paint on the beams, and it bothers him. Continue reading
Don’t tell anyone, but I have occasionally dabbled in the writing of erotica. Not porno, but tasteful sexual fiction from a woman’s perspective. It’s not such a big deal; after all, a lot of bodice rippers are soft female porn disguised as a story line, and nobody faults their writers.
For some reason, however, I felt timid when it came to writing sex scenes in The Prophet’s Woman. In fact, two of my commenters on the early stages of the novel told me I needed to spice it up a little——you know, open the bedroom door a bit wider so that the readers could see what was going on inside.
I don’t know why this was so difficult for me. I don’t think it had anything to do with the fact that I was writing about biblical characters——I’m too distant from any sacred feelings about the Bible for that kind of censorship. Continue reading
For me, Halloween just isn’t as fun as it used to be. And I blame that not on my age, but on the rampant commercialization that this modest holiday has undergone in the past ten to twenty years. The more giant inflated black cats perched on humongous orange pumpkins I see, or the more fake pottery jack o’ lanterns and bloody fake heads I spot decking out the entryways of every suburban domicile, the less enthusiasm I feel. You can’t even get through a CVC pharmacy to get your prescription without being accosted by a mechanical monster hand, or howled at by a white plastic ghost sensitive to passersby.
Okay, now I’m going to sound like the old codger that I am. When I was growing up, we didn’t have all that stuff. In fact, Halloween was a great time for creativity, for pulling out the old clothes, the ripped sheets, the colored paper, the scissors, and the crayons to make something scary or magical, whether a costume, or a string of construction paper witches, or the carved scary face of a jack o’ lantern. Even at school we learned how to fold and cut paper pumpkins, and color scary scenes of black cats, owls, and round yellow moons.
Every Halloween my mom, whose middle name is creativity, asked us what we wanted to be, and proceeded to sew, scavenge, or borrow all the bits and pieces she needed to turn us out as the cowboys, princesses, pirates, fairies, or (yes, I know it wasn’t P.C.) Indians we dreamed of. The best costumes she ever came up with, however, were the three matching pumpkin outfits. She made giant “balloons” of orange fabric with yellow faces sewn on them that we put over our heads and filled with newspaper to make them plump out. My sisters and I wore green tights, long sleeved green shirts, and tiny pumpkin top hats on our heads, with little wagging green stems. They were the absolute hit of the primary school Halloween parade.
And now you see pumpkin costumes for sale everywhere from drugstores to children’s boutiques. Continue reading
When my sisters and I were young, my mother used to dress up as a witch on Halloween. She set up an old rusty cauldron in the courtyard, filled it with candy, and then delighted the neighborhood trick-or-treaters with her screams and cackles as she handed out tootsie rolls and miniature Hershey bars.
Eventually, I inherited the role of witch and took the act to the next level. I painted wrinkles on my face, dabbed green eye shadow on lips and eyes, and wore a black wig over my blonde hair. And to give the courtyard a more authentically spooky air, I hung spider webs and old, gray rags from the trees, put dry ice in the cauldron and fake flames under the firewood, and played creepy sounds‑——creaks, groans, and howls——on a tape recorder.
I loved playing the witch because on that one magically menacing night of the year, I could transform from a religious, sheltered, good- girl teenager into a powerful, dangerous, and independent crone. I even added a spicy edge of sexuality to my act by screaming and flirting with the older boys who swaggered into the courtyard in small gangs in the late evening. They bristled with delicious adolescent male attitude, wearing no costumes and carrying oversize pillowcases for candy, daring anyone who refused to feed them with pumpkin smashing or worse. I was exhilarated by their energy, and toyed with them like a spider with its prey, poking them, screaming at them, and saying things I would never have dared to say on any ordinary day and without my witch’s attire.
It was a thrilling but safe way to release some of the raging female libido that boiled just beneath the surface of my girl-next-door, bible-quoting persona.
In later years, Continue reading
For many women in the thirty years since its publishing, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is far more than an entertaining read. In fact, many women cite it as one of the books that first sparked their interest in feminist pagan spirituality. What is it about this book that is so exciting to women in search of meaning?
First, the author takes a cherished romantic myth from the Western tradition——King Arthur and the Round Table——and turns it inside out by rewriting it from the perspective of the women characters. But not just any women characters. These women (except for Gwenhwyfar the Queen) are practitioners and priestesses of a women-centered spirituality that is deeply rooted in ancient, pre-Christian, pre-Roman England, and they are fighting to protect this tradition against the increasingly hegemonic spread of Christianity in their homeland. King Arthur’s kingship and his court are the battleground for this clash of cultures and religions.
In telling the famous Arthurian legend from the perspective of women, suddenly, the traditional “good guys” and “bad guys” of the beloved stories are no longer so easy to classify. Morgaine is not an evil sorceress, but a priestess fighting to keep Arthur faithful to his promises to ancient Avalon and the Goddess, as well as the non-Christian peoples under his care. Lancelot is not just some wandering knight that joins the court and falls in love with Gwenhwyfar, but the son of an Avalon priestess who rejects his mother culture to fight for a Christian king. And Gwenhwyfar is not just a lovely maiden whose misfortune is to love two men, but a Christian woman, raised by a dominating and neglectful father, who fears the world and anything outside of her narrow range of vision——especially Avalon. It is, in fact, Gwenwhyfar who ultimately pushes the king to betray his vows to Avalon and the ancient religion and to embrace Christianity exclusively. Continue reading