The History of CAYA
In 2003, Yeshe Rabbit Matthews began offering public rituals honoring the Sabbats and various seasonal high points at her home and other public locations. During the next two years her Beltane Bonfires at Ocean Beach, annual Valentine’s Day Love Magic potluck, and Yule Wand-Making workshops became popular Bay Area community events that drew people from several different paths together for spiritual growth, community magic, and fun. At that same time, Yeshe was making the acquaintance of other local Craft practitioners. These creative connections produced a small but vital community of women witches who liked, among other things, to sit in hot tubs, drink champagne, and sing under the full moon.
In summer of 2005, one morning Yeshe awoke from a very vivid dream. In that dream, she heard a voice speaking that said, “You are going to start a coven. It is going to be called Come As You Are Coven, and it will be a place where everyone can find something they are looking for.” This powerful dream led Yeshe to begin formalizing the casual rituals she had been offering, and inviting others to participate in them with greater leadership as a way to foster a stronger local community of pagan eclectics. The first formal ritual offered under the CAYA name was Autumn Equinox, 2005. Several of the Priest/ess/xes and members of CAYA today have also been with CAYA since the beginning, and have helped this Coven to grow with joy, wisdom, laughter, and love as we welcome new individuals and lessons into our community each year.
- 2003: Yeshe Rabbit Matthews begins offering public circles in the Bay Area, and meets Heaven Walker and Molly Blue Dawn.
- 2004: Yeshe, Szmeralda Shanel & Heaven Walker begin to meet as a women's full moon circle called Grove of Artemis.
- 2005: CAYA Coven is formed from Yeshe's public offerings and Heaven Walker and Szmeralda Shanel's Grove of Artemis circles, and begins offering public rituals; Stella Iris joins Yeshe, Szmeralda, Heaven, and Molly as one of the Coven's Founders.
- 2006: CAYA begins offering Full Moon Circles for women and men as well as multi-gender Sabbats for All at the Berkeley Yoga Center.
- 2007: CAYA begins Training Initiates in the Wildflower Tradition. The Wildflower Tradition embodies the core commitment of CAYA: public service Priest/ess/xhood. It has two levels of Priest/ess/xhood: Priest/ess/x and High Priest/ess/x. The Wildflower Priest/ess/xes primarily offer service to the CAYA community, where the Advanced Wildflower High Priest/ess/xes offer significant amounts of leadership and service to the CAYA Community, and represent CAYA in other communities and organizations.
- Also in 2007: Yeshe is ordained in the Dianic Tradition by Z Budapest, and CAYA begins training High Priestesses in the Amazon Priestess Tribe. The Amazon Priestess Tribe offers women a safe, loving, and empowering arena for significant personal growth in the Blood and Womb Mysteries.
- 2008: The Sabbats for All move to the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists’ Main Hall.
- Also in 2008: the Amazon Priestess Tribe begins offering clothing-optional Goddess Sabbats for women at the yoga studio.
- 2009: CAYA hosts its first Harvest Home Retreat Weekend at Stone City Pagan Sanctuary.
- 2010: CAYA adds another Mystery Tradition to its spiritual development program: The Green Men. The Green Men provide a safe, magical, and brotherly space for men to address significant personal growth and develop into High Priests.
- 2011: CAYA launches its Aspirant/Dedicant program, as a prerequisite to its Initiatory programs.
- Also in 2011: The Amazon Priestess Tribe and the Dianic Tradition are called to action in a community controversy about the rights of trans* Pagans in single-gender spaces, providing the catalyst for a larger, much-needed conversation in the Pagan community and in the Dianic Tradition.
- 2012: To protest the ban against trans* women in the Dianic Tradition, the Amazon Priestess Tribe retires from its Dianic lineage and becomes The Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe, a Pan-Dianic Sisterhood. The primary mission of the group remains the same: to provide its existing and future cisgender women members with a safe space to explore Blood and Womb Mysteries. However, the Tribe also adds a second mission: providing trans* women with safe space for Goddess reverence and personal exploration of themes related to self-development, personal confidence, personal empowerment, beauty, & devotion.
- 2013: CAYA moves its rituals to The Home of Truth in Alameda, CA.
- Also in 2013: CAYA establishes the Track System of service. Priest/ess/xes in active service may choose from the following areas of service each year: Public Service Track, Rituals & Events Service Track, Leadership & Learning Service Track, Education & Information Service Track, or the Pastoral Care Service Track.
- 2014: CAYA's Priest/ess/xes dedicated to deities in common decide to gather into several different affinity groups and temples within CAYA, and interface with others outside of CAYA, to create bodies of work in honor of these deities.
- Also in 2014: CAYA performs an experiential study of community needs, offering a variety of different types of Full Moon Circles: single-gendered, multi-gendered, child-friendly, more adult in nature. The outcome of this study yields plans for 2015: to return to offering single-gender circles, with the addition of a third circle: the Rainbow Moon Circle for individuals who are fluid along the gender spectrum. This plan meets the widest variety of stated community needs possible.
- 2016: The Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe transitions from being a public ceremonial group to a private women's group, and changes its name to Mothers of the New Time. The Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe, a tradition dedicated to MxGender Mysteries, is formed.
- Through the years, CAYA Priest/ess/xes have also presented rituals and activities at the Berkeley Pagan Festival, PantheaCon, The Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium, Z Budapest’s Gathering the Goddesses Festival, The Goddess Temple of Orange County, the Glastonbury Goddess Conference, the Goddess Crafts Fair, and the Sacred Harvest Festival.