Who am I?
My name is Ellis Arseneau. I generally go by El. As of today, I am 69 years, 4 months and 21 days old. I am the Father of three sons, Joshua, Jordan and Jesse; Grandfather of four girls, Mia, Poppy, Dorothy and Joy; and five boys, Isaiah, Jalen, Cam and Ian. And one great grand daughter, Olivia.
I hold a Masters Degree in Journalism from University of California at Santa Cruz, and I minored in History and Political Science. My father was a World War II veteran, and a Roman Catholic. My mother was Jewish. .
My story begins at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee Illinois on 15 November 1953. At 1:55 AM, I entered the body of whom would be named Ellis Stephan Arseneau, when that body was ejected from his mothers womb and took it’s first breath.You see, the soul, or self, or Atman, does not enter the body until that body takes it’s first breath. Before that, the soul is just waiting for a body to become born and therefore available. The body is just a cell, a vessel, a transport. The soul, the self, is the real person.
The first seven years of life was spent on my fathers farm just a few miles outside of Beaverville Illinois.
Beaverville (originally Ste Marie) was founded in the 1850’s by the descendants of Acadians who migrated from Quebec on the instigation of Fr. Charles Chinique, who was also responsible for the development of nearby Ste. Anne and another satellite community, Le’Rable. The Acadians where Bretons who, fleeing persecution and eradication of their Celtic culture by the French, landed on the shores of Nova Scotia in 1650 and founded Acadia,a colony which flourished for ten years. The British came into the region later and drove the Acadians out. About two-thirds of them fled to Louisiana and are the ancestors of the “Cajun” people (Cajun being a corruption of the word Acadian). The other third fled to Quebec. Many of these became fur trappers,”Couer de Bois” and “Voyageurs” and helped carve out the unique history of New France. An ancestor of El’s, Jaques Arsenault was the ships pilot who steered the ship that traveled from the port of Saint Goustan to Port Royale.
My father grew soybeans and corn, and with my uncle, raised and slaughtered Black Angus cattle, which were sold to the Kosher meat market in Chicago, just seventy miles away. My father was a Catholic, and my mother was Jewish. At the time of their marriage they were, for all intents and purposes, atheists. When my brother and I were born, they suddenly decided that we needed a religion. But which one?
On the 22nd day of November 1953 I was baptized at St. Mary’s Church (aka, “The Cathedral in the Cornfields”). The following day I was circumcised in a “bris” at my mothers cousin’s
Of course I wasn’t really aware of much of this. I remember hour long, Friday evening trips to Chicago to visit my mothers synagogue, and short trips into Beaverville on Sundays to attend Mass. I remember hearing we were going to Mass, and thinking that Dad said “Mask.” Was it Halloween already? I remember coming home and trying to reenact the Mass in my bedroom. I probably would have done the same after coming home from Temple, but I usually fell asleep in the car on the way home.
There was a big Oak tree in the front yard of our home. One day we were playing in the yard, and I noticed a snake, a big one (probably a King snake) on the tree. My brother (seven years senior) told me that the snake had talked to him. I don’t recall what it said. I remember sitting on the front porch and watching a storm coming in, with lightening and thunder. I remember learning the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday School, but thinking it ended with “…and deliver us from Eagles,…”
I started first Grade at Donovan Grade School in September 1960. I should have started the year before, but I wouldn’t be six until mid November, and the authorities wanted me to mature I guess. At that time, Kindergarten was something to be found only in large cities, and Pre-School hadn’t even been invented yet.
I grew up going to Temple in Chicago on Friday nights and Mass in Kankakee on Sunday mornings. After being subjected to a Catholic school for five years, I decided that enough was enough, and requested Bar Mitzvah
Around the time of my 18th birthday, I attended a “New Life” Party. There I was presented with the Gospel, in the form of a little tract published by Campus Crusade for Christ entitled, The Four Spiritual Laws. I set it aside. At the time I was going through a lot of angst due to my breakup with the girl I thought I would end up being married to. So, I was in a spiritually vulnerable state of mind. I was a meditator, having acquired the discipline of Raja Yoga around the time I was fifteen. I was meditating and the tract was laying in my bedside table, and I needed something to contemplate. I picked it up, read through a few times, and said to myself, “I’ll try it.” Thus began my short life as a Born-Again Xtian. One thing: I have always believed, and continue to believe in is reincarnation. I know I have had past lives. I recall a school trip – I think it was in fifth grade, to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I was in the Egyptian exhibit, and I came across the mummy of a boy. In reading about the boy, I came to the realization that I had known this person. It was a feeling I could not shake.
Earlier, I think I was a Sophomore in High School, I was given the Science Fiction novel,
Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein. The revelation in this book, or as Jubal Harshaw says, “Solipsism and Pantheism: together they explain everything,” had a profound affect on me that would last my entire life. I believed that we are all G-d, and at that time I was convinced that Jesus even taught this: “Thou art G-d.”
After graduation in 1973, I entered Kankakee Community College.
In February of 1974, with the blessing of my Mother, I traveled to Israel. I spent the first ten days touring the country. One thing that struck me on the tour was how much the Christian shrines seemed like a kind of medieval make-believe, and how the Jewish shrines presented as real authentic things.
After completing the tour, I was dropped off at Kibbutz Kfar Blum, located in Northern Israel in the Golan Heights on the Lebanese border near Kiryat Shmona. I loved it! Communal life was something I really thrived in.I was assigned to plow some fields to be planted. They put me on a tractor, just like the one my father used to own back in Beaverville. It was a 1952 International Harvester. Strapped to the right hand fender, was an Uzi. I was given a little map and warned not to stray beyond the red rocks which lined one side of the field. Beyond the rocks were land mines.
In March all of the Americans at Kfar Blum (about 12 of us) were transferred to other Kibbutzim. On April 11, 1974 Kiryat Shimona was attacked by Palestinian jihadists, killing eighteen Israelis, including children. On that day, the school at Kfar Blum was hit by rocket fire. No one was injured.
I and my friend Madi were transferred to Kibbutz Nahsholim, on the Mediterranean Sea about 30 km south of Haifa. When I was there, we grew bananas, avocado and cotton, and raised fish in ponds. One feature I particularly enjoyed was the clothing optional beach. I was very sad to learn that today, 49 years later, the Kibbutz in now a resort.
During my sojourn in Israel I experienced the only military training I have had in my life. Since I wasn’t an Israeli citizen, I wasn’t required to do more than just two weeks. But it was fun and interesting none the less. You haven’t lived until you have bivouacked in the desert, and warned to shack your boots out every morning (scorpions). I learned how to dismantle and rebuild an Uzi. I also got to hike up Mt. Massada. On that day we had lunch at the attractions cafeteria. I ordered a hamburger, took it back to my seat and then returned to the line for a slice of cheese. Some of the other trainees saw this and followed suit (Explanation: Like most restaurants in Israel, the Massada Cafeteria was Kosher, so you couldn’t order a cheese burger. But nothing stopped you from getting a burger and then getting some cheese).
As mentioned, I thrived in the communal life of the Kibbutz. But all good things must eventually come to an end, and in February 1975 I learned that my Mother had passed away, and so I returned to Kankakee.
In August of 1975 I married Lynne, who would later become the mother of my three sons. I would be 23 that November. I took a job with my local newspaper, The Daily Journal, writing obituaries. In June of 1976 Joshua was born, and the pittance the newspaper paid me just didn’t make me an income. My fathers youngest sister, my aunt, was a nun. Vernette, her real name, was also Sister James Mary, now known as Mother James Mary, and was CEO at our local Catholic Hospital, St. Mary’s (founded and administered by the Soeurs Servantes du Saint-Coeur de Marie (Sister Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary). Through my aunt I began my long career in the Housekeeping Department, cleaning the surgical suites from eleven at night until seven each morning. About two years later I would take the same position at the secular Hospital, Riverside, where I would work until 1991 – about 15 years total.
I was a member of several Churches. They all turned out to be cults. The first one was called His Community. It began as a Catholic Charismatic prayer group. In it I saw the potential for Intentional Community (IC). IC was something I was very attracted to. I got my first taste of it in Israel, living on the Kibbutz. I was inducted into the Core, which was His Communities leadership. One day a friend from Community contacted me. He wanted to pray for the Core, as he was perceiving some bad stuff. I agreed and he came over to my house and we prayed. About a week later I was summoned in front of the rest of the Core. I was tried and convicted. Apparently praying for the leaders was a forbidden activity. About three years later His Community was revealed, in the local paper, to be a cult. The whole group bought some property a few states away and took their families with them. Ironically, His Community really did become a IC.
The second church I was involved with was the Kankakee Fellowship. It was a house church, which means it met in the Pastors home. It was also another cult. This one was part of a whole network of cults attached to the Discipleship/Shepherding movement. This was the first place I had ever seen conspiracy theories preached as gospel. The Anti-Christ was here! He was the top of a pyramid that included the Communist Party, the Bilderbergs, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Masons, the Illuminati, etc. Today we call these groups Q-Anon. It’s the same BS.
I remember attending a weekend campout involving Kankakee Fellowship, the Gilman Fellowship and “Peak’s Religion” (the name given by the locals to a fellowship founded by George Peak, who was “Shepherd” over the leader of Gilman Fellowship and the leader of Kankakee Fellowship, Duane Winn. Lynne was very pregnant with Joshua at the time. I had procured a futon, and laid it across the floor of our tent. When George Peak came around on his “inspection” he did not approve. He showed me some of the other tents, and they didn’t have as much as an air mattress. He seemed to think that loving your pregnant wife meant making her sleep on to of the rocks and bramble;
In the Discipleship/Shepherding movement, women were little more than breed mares, not being allowed to teach or speak in the meetings. This was my first exposure to the full blown misogyny that Christian churches exhibit.
Lynne and I had purchased a house in Limestone Township, in the same subdivision as Duane. It was my community desires that drove this again. But after a few years, Duane’s dictatorship began to takes it’s toll on me. The house we had left behind in Kankakee was still sitting unsold, and the renter we had in there had left. So one weekend when Duane was away visiting his Shepherd, I rented a UHaul and we packed that house up and moved back to our old house in Kankakee.
The last Church I landed at was Peoples Church which actually preached the Gospel that I believed in — Matthew 24. Making society a better place. Helping the poor. By that time the twins, Jordan and Jesse had come along (May 1981). I made the mistake of sending all three boys to an evangelical school, Kankakee Trinity Academy where they got indoctrinated into the “Word.” In the meantime, my marriage was falling apart. I thought that with the twins birth, things would get better, but Lynne had succumbed to the worst traits of Evangelical Xtianity, and we drifted further and further apart spiritually.
Unbeknownst to me, I was entering my Saturn return. This affects of this happens between your 28th and 31st Solar Return. I was twenty-eight when the twins were born. I didn’t know what I believed anymore, and actually flirted with atheism. Later, I joined the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) and studied at work during my breaks. I told no one any of this.
When Joshua turned 12, and the twins were I think 9, I enrolled them all in the Boy Scouts of America. I persuaded People’s Church to sponsor a troop, and I became ScoutMaster of Troop 313, I picked the number “13” (all Troops in that section of Rainbow Council were “3++”) for it’s esoteric properties, many of which can be found in our countries iconography. Mine was the most active Troop in the Council and I received awards for our activity. My troop was out (weather permitting) every weekend either hiking or camping. I used to take my two weeks summer vacation at Summer Camp. This was mainly to spend time with my sons, away from their mother.
I met my first Druids amongst adult scouters. People who were into environmentalism. Lovers of nature. Most were worshipers of Nature, even if they didn’t necessarily realize it. I became particularly close to the Scout Mistress (yes a female) of Troop 355 – Doreen. In fact I had an affair with her that lasted a good three years. It also ended my career as a Scoutmaster. You see, when Lynne got wind of this, (and even though People’s Church was too “liberal” for her taste) she told the elders at People’s. There wasn’t even a trial! I learned from my Assistant Scoutmaster, Drew Horn, that the Church was disbanding the Troop. That was that. Funny they didn’t even consider their own sons in this decision. They couldn’t find anyone in the Church to take my place, although I knew of several well qualified candidates. I put my boys in with Troop 300 (under the auspices of St, Patrick’s Church), and served as an assistant SM for them for awhile, but I was tainted.
It was at this point that I realized that Jesus the man, the historical person who was allegedly the founder of Xtianity, never actually existed. It was all a lie. (In 2005 Joeeph Atwill published the proof of this, Caesar’s Messiah).
I was subsequently fired from my job at Riverside. Doug Duncan was a rabid Baptist and could not suffer an adulterer working in his Department. They didn’t actually fire me for that. They trumped up other crimes. I’d been attempting to start a Locksmith business at the time, so they accused me of distributing “Grand Master” keys to other workers in Housekeeping.
I applied for unemployment, and went to a meeting in Chicago to get a determination. Only Riverside didn’t bother sending a representative, so I won my case by default. I had a Real Estate License, and went to work with Real Estate 100. I also worked part-time selling insurance through the auspices of my friend Drew Horn. These career paths were not all that prosperous for me, and it was lucky I continued to receive unemployment. I listed exactly 3 houses and sold none. I didn’t sell a single insurance policy. I was introduced to “the sacred Buffalo weed” (aka marijuana) from Drew who used to hold meetings of the “Sacred Buffalo Lodge” at Kankakee River State Park.
In January of 1992 I moved into an apartment on the West side of Kankakee. My marriage to Lynne was over.
In the meantime the internet was born. It was on Compuserve, and later GEnie, that I met wife number two, Qadisha. She frequented the Pagan groups that I had ventured into. In March of 1992 I flew out to San Francisco, and landed at her house in Santa Cruz for about a week. The following May, with the support of my brother and his family, I flew Qadisha and her daughter Amanda (then 8) to Chicago. The next day, after meeting with my sons, Qadisha, Amanda and I packed up my ’90 Chevy Celebrity and drove across country to her home in Santa Cruz.
Qadisha was a writer and she ran a video production house, which I invested in. I wanted to buy a house, and at that time I could have, but Qadisha discouraged this. You see, my plan was to establish a place where I could bring the boys — move them out to California, and away from the evil influence of their mother. But, I couldn’t invest in Qadisha’s business and buy a house. So, you know what happened. VideoMagic was the business’s name. I lived with Qadisha for three weeks. Then, out of the blue, she announced that I had to move. When she first moved into her condo, she had promised the Goddess that she would never have a man live with her. My new landlords were friends and Coveners of hers (Oh, did I mention? Qadisha was a Witch). Robin and Dean were good friends, and we enjoyed many a talk in their hot tub on the nights when Qadisha had her down-time from me. I was too “needy.” I was too “co-dependent.”
Mostly, I saw Qadisha on the weekends. Unless her “period” intervened, or she had Coven business.
In November 1992, we went for a weekend at Valley of Fire State Park, north of La Vegas Nevada. It was a gathering of members of the GEnie Pagan group. Qadisha and I were handfasted at this event. It wasn’t a legal ceremony, just religious. In the meantime Robin and Dean had moved to France. Dean was a Unix wizard, and he would be working on the European Unions credit card system. They sold their house, and since I was newly handfasted, I moved back into Qadisha’s condo.
That lasted for about six weeks. I guess the Goddess (I am thinking Jesus in drag?) reminded her of her promise. This time I took the initiative and moved in with a friend I had met at a Pagan discussion group, “Circle of Fools,” which met in Felton.
For the Winter/Spring semester (1993) I enrolled in the Journalism curriculum at University of California at Santa Cruz (“GO Banana Slugs”) and was able to complete the college studies I had started in January 1973. I was forty years old. Why did I wait so long to finsh college? First wife Lynne was sure the “Jesus” would return at any time, so why waste your time and money on a degree? Just work to survive and then be rewarded in Heaven. It’s partly my fault. I was a born-again believer up until November 1983. I believed that Israel’s liberation of Jerusalem in June of 1967 began a forty year countdown (“when Jerusalem was no longer trodden down by the gentiles”) and that Jesus would return during that time. So, he would have returned no later than June of 2007. I don’t see him anywhere. Do you? Once I realized that he not only was not the promised Messiah, that he never actually existed, it no longer mattered. But I had to get out from under Lynne in order to resume my education. Today I hold a bachelors degree from UCSC, with a major in Journalims and minors in political science and history.
Job wise my degree really didn’t help me. Newpapers aren’t willing to hire a forty year old college graduate with no experience, so I worked at VideoMagic, at Radio Shack, and lastly at Take-Out Taxi (think of it as a pre-cellular Uber Eats) as manager.
Also in 1993, Quadisha and I were leading a little Wiccan group, Circle of Fire and Friends. Eight times a year we would gather on the beach either at Twin Lakes or Seabright and hold a ritual honoring that turn of the wheel of the year. Our best event was the yearly campout at Pinnacles National Park. This occurred either the weekend closest to the Autumnal Equinox (Mabon) or the weekend closest to August 1st (Lughnasadh). This was an IC in miniature, and it always warmed my heart.
It was at one of these that I first met Duame Rostoker (AKA, Adam Walks Between Worlds). He was a bard – a singer, song writer, story teller, comedian. An entertainer in the Celtic tradition. He was retired (at age 30) from Microsoft where he was a member of the team that compiled the first version of Windows. He was a Vietnam Vet, a womanizer, a lover and distributer of Acid, and as time went on, a close friend. Duane and I were members of Oberon (formerly Otter, formerly Tim) Zells group, the Church of All Worlds (CAW). CAW was named after the church in Heinlein’s novel, Stranger In A Strange Land, that the books hero, Valentine Michael Smith, had founded. CAW was noted for promoting what I refer to as the Pagan Lifestyle: poly-fidelity, naturism, and intentional community. Duane had the fortune of being one of Oberon’s “shining new things,” and was quickly named “Official Bard” of CAW.
There have only been two of those. The first one, Gwyddion Pendrwydd, lived on the CAW property near Ukiah CA. Ceridwen was a friend of his. Gwyddion authored the first Pagan music album, Songs of the Old Religion and was pretty famous and sought after among Pagans throughout North America. Like Duane, Gwyddion was a womanizer, purveyor of Acid, Weed, and great music. One night after a ritual, Gwyddion got into his truck and drove up the hill to his house (“Old Fluffy”). He didn’t make it home. His truck was found upside down at the bottom of the hill. Gwyddion was underneath. There is some controversy regarding Gwyddion’s death, and some people believe he was run off the road. Murdered.
But, back to Duane. After a All Snakes Day celebration at Boulder Creek Brewery, Duane and I made our way into Big Basin Redwoods State Park. It was after midnight and we had partaken of much Guiness and much Trainwreck. We were wasted. But we spoke of CAW, and the Nests of CAW, and we pondered how the Nests of present day CAW were nothing at all like the nests of Mike Smith’s CAW. Polyfidelity was more like swinging, and Intentional Community was more like a house of room mates. There was also a very strong element of Libertarianism (or Ayn Rand’s gospel of selfishness) among the membership of CAW. It was there, in one of the Redwood Groves along the tourist loop at Big Basin, that the Order of the Mithril Star was born.
A few years later, Duane would find he had yet another thing in common with Gwyddion. But let me backtrack a bit. Duane allegedly was accused by a group of women, and girls, of sexual misconduct. A trial was organized, presided over by Oberon Zell himself. It was a kangaroo court. Duane, guilty or not, was found guilty and defrocked. So Duane moved to Los Angeles. There he continued his lifestyle and there he went the way Gwyddion had gone. Duane was murdered. One night he answered a knock at his door. The person on the outside of the door fired both barrels of sawed off double barreled shotgun into Duane’s chest. Duane was no more.
As with Gwyddion, there was much speculation about Duane’s demise. Some say it was a drug dealer that Duane had forgot to pay. Others say it was the husband of a woman Duane had bedded. My own theory is that Duane’s murderer was a Golem. A Golem is the product of Kabbalistic black magick. An entity created to do one mission and one mission only. In this case that mission was the murder of my friend. My reasoning is this: neither the murderer nor the murder weapon was ever found. There were no witnesses to the crime. And, most importantly, there are a sufficient number of members of CAW who dabbled in such magick. They didn’t like Duane after he helped found the OMS. They didn’t like Jews (both Duane and I (and Oberon for that matter) are Jews).
Not a whole lot happened with OMS for a few years.
In the Summer of 1998 Quadisha and I moved to Ashland OR. I moved into a little two bedroom townhouse on Lincoln street. Quadisha went on a quest to use her Section 8 voucher.
Yeah, she was on welfare. That’s the real reason she couldn’t have a man living with her. She had Section 8, a buttload of food stamps, and access to Medicade. She also developed debilitating migraines. They were so bad that she was awarded Social Security disability. So, she was a writer, but she never published anything (at least not anything that paid). She was a videographer, but all she produced were “art” pieces (we did attend an awards ceremony once in San Francisco). At this stage of the videography industry, weddings were the bread and butter. She didn’t want to do those. So the company that I invested heavily in was an utter and complete failure.
It was early on in my life in Ashland that I met Ceridwen. She reached out to me from Santa Cruz. She had it in her mind to move to Ashland and work at the Southern Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She had been a stage manager, and wanted to advance her career. She also wanted to be a part of the Pagan community, and I happened to run the Southern Oregon Pagan Alliance (SORPANT).
Funny thing. Ceridwen and I lived in Santa Cruz, but never met. We had some of the same friends, and participated in some of the same circles, but never met. Maybe we had karmic ends we had to fix.
Over about a three month period, we talked on the phone. A lot. Between us we ran up about a $500 phone bill (this was before smart phones). She drove up for about a week. We spent most of that week in bed. Then she drove back to Santa Cruz, put her affairs in order, and then came back to me.
We’ve been together ever since.