Dona and I are currently in a little permaculture farm named Finca Fina in the Andes Mountains, southwest of Vilcabamba, in the southern tip of Ecuador. I’ve had very limited and sporadic internet access in the past few months, and here it’s pretty bad. High winds and other issues have the Internet going off and on randomly, and I have to keep rebooting. It takes me a long time just to read my email every few days—if I can—and then I have other things to do here, such as workshops, rituals, etc.
Moonday morning 8/5, I drove 6-1/2 hours (410 miles) to visit Adrian Cunningham in Bossier City, LA. In the evening he’d planned for me to do a workshop at the Peace of Mind Center in Shreveport. But that fell through, so he just had a few friends over, along with his wife Mee-Hye and their son John. After Mee-Hye’s homemade pizza and some great conversation, Adrian did a short video interview for his blog.
Tiwesday morning I drove another 5 hrs. & 20 min. (335 miles) to be with Dona in Austin, TX. We met in 1982 at the Texas Renaissance Faire when I was touring with Lancelot, the Living Unicorn. We’ve been consorts over 37 years, though there were 27 years in there where we were out of touch. We only reconnected in 2016, when a friend gave her a cell phone so she could call me. We picked up right where we’d left off, and have been continuing our adventurous relationship ever wince, traveling to exotic places in between the Renaissance Faires that she’s vended at for the past 45 years.
Dona doesn’t get out to movies much, and I love ‘em, so On Wodensday the 7th I took her to see the new Lion King in 3-D at an Austin Imax. We both loved it.
Thorsday afternoon we visited with Wolf and Cat, hanging out in their lovely swimming pool on a hot Austin afternoon. Later they took us out for an Ethiopian dinner—Dona’s first. She was delighted.
Friday evening I was invited to be Guest of Honor at a Sacred Sexuality meetup at Soma Vida in Austin. River del Llano MC’d the conversation—primarily about polyamory, but wandering off in different directions as the 40 or so people asked their questions. Afterward many of us went out for drinks and pub munchies to the bar at Hotel Eleven. Everyone was so wonderful and engaging, and I really felt the love we were there to share. River recorded the talk, and here’s the link: https://uncagelove.com/blogfeed/2019/8/15 River says: “I hope your community might enjoy this post and all it has to offer as well! Feel free to post and share everywhere!”
We spent Saturnday packing for our trip to Ecuador. Early Sunday morning the 11th we took a Lyft to the Austin airport for our flight to Ecuador. We flew from Austin to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, then south to Quito, Ecuador, where we arrived about 11:00 pm. We had to hang out and try to catch a few winks on uncomfortable seats in the airport all night before our dawn flight to Loja, way down in the bottom of the country. When Dona started to do a little work on my sore back, a kindly native woman gave her a container of healing salve, which felt wonderful.
The little plane to Loja was a twin-engine propeller plane. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’d flown in one of those! We landed in Loja about 7:00, and were met after clearing customs (really, there weren’t any; they just asked a few questions and stamped our passports) by our hostess, Jacquie Omi, who was jumping up and down and waving outside the baggage claim door.
We’ve been here at few days at Finca Fina, where Omi and her husband Don have built an utterly charming Hobbit house into the hillside, complete with a big round door. They call it “Summerland Tierra de Verano.” They are both brilliant and amazing people, also in their 70s, like Dona and me, and totally dedicated to environmental causes and eco-restoration. Omi’s always maintained: “If my last trip to the bathroom isn’t to a dry-composting toilet, I’ll feel like a failure.”
Omi is our new High Priestess of the Church of All Worlds, as well as being on the CAW Board, and she has great experience and exciting ideas that she’s bringing to the Church. As a teenager she spent ten months in a nunnery having a child of rape. There she became disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, so she left home at 16 and joined the Unitarians, beginning the spiritual journey that led her to Paganism and the CAW.
In 1980 Omi began studying Renzi Zen. In 1991 she founded the controversial Church of Iron Oak in Palm Bay, FL, which affiliated with the Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) in Index, WA. In 1992 she incorporated the Summerland Monastery, defending her legal right to have home church services. In 1993 she met Don, who had the CAW Proto-Nest of the Ancient Sacred Mother. From 1996-2008, she and Don tried to create a sustainable eco-community—Windtree Ranch—in Douglas, AZ.
Omi has been ordained by a number of Pagan groups and Traditions, as she was serving many men in prison in Arizona. She was ordained in CAW at Samhain of 2016, and elevated to High Priestess at Beltaine of 2019. CAW has only one HPs at a time, and she serves a term of seven years.
Yesterday, 8/15, we took a taxi truck to the nearby town of Vilcabamba, which is often called the Valley of Longevity. Locals assert that many residents reach 100 years of age, with quite a few attaining 120, and some even up to 135, which would make this an area with the oldest inhabitants in the world. In 1973, Dr. Alexander Leaf of Harvard Medical School first introduced these people to the world in his cover story for National Geographic Magazine. One of the locals told us that the water here contains colloidal gold and silver…
Even as Vilcabamba’s international fame grew, scientists continued to investigate the secret of the villagers’ longevity, but some were beginning to grow skeptical. In particular, Dr. Alexander Leaf, the Harvard Medical School researcher who had been among the first to conduct research in Vilcabamba, was having doubts. His suspicions were aroused when he realized that the villagers were inconsistent in their self-reported ages. For instance, in 1971 he had met a man who reported his age as 122. When Leaf returned three years later, that same man claimed to be 134 years old.
Leaf then persuaded Dr. Richard Mazess of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Dr. Sylvia Forman of the University of California Berkeley to help determine the correct ages of Vilcabamba’s elderly population. They reached the conclusion that there was not a single centenarian living in Vilcabamba. The oldest person in the village was found to be 96 years old. The average age of those claiming to be over 100 years was actually 86 years. The researchers presented these results on February 27, 1978, at a workshop at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
Far from being the ‘Valley of Longevity,’ the researchers concluded that “Individual longevity in Vilcabamba is little, if any, different from that found throughout the rest of the world.” Further, they reported that “Life expectancy (corrected for exaggeration) at all ages in Vilcabamba (and Loja) is, in fact, less than in the U.S.”
My presentation was held at a charming Vilacabamba restaurant named Mestizo. From 11:00-noon I was interviewed live on camera by Phyllis Serene, “The Oracle,” co-founder of GoddessUniversity.org on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/phyllis.serene and she has a podcast. We totally hit it off together! You can see the interview at: https://www.facebook.com/phyllis.serene/videos/10157454484107118/
The interview was followed by several hours of Q&A with about 30-40 people. Alaura Love www.facebook.com/laura.loborios, who set it all up and did the promotions, was surprised that more men showed up than women, which is apparently unheard of for such events. Linda Gomez, the restaurant owner, (www.facebook.com/MandangoStero) cooked and served us all a sumptuous lunch, and everyone seemed to have a great time. Omi talked a bit more while I ate lunch.
On Sunday we’ll be going back to conduct an official in-person ordination ceremony for Omi, followed by a Croning rite for Alora. Dona and I will be staying on in Vilacabamba for another week, before going on to Quenco. I may be doing other events there…
For previous Journal entries and more, be sure to check out my personal website: www.OberonZell.com