Florinda Donner (click on picture for full-size image)

Florinda Donner-Grau Chronology Part I [1966 - 1980]

December 7, 1966 每 Florinda (then Regine Thal) marries Edward M. Steiner (a petroleum engineer from Houston) in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. [Per 1972 divorce petition.]

July 1970 - Florinda first meets members of don Juan*s party, according to her book Being-in-Dreaming: An Initiation into the Sorcerer*s World. [Florinda describes this first meeting in chapter 1, where she explains that she decided to cross the border into Mexico "on an impulse," after attending the baptism of a friend*s child in Nogales, Arizona. As she is leaving the party, one of the other guests, Delia Flores, asks Florinda for a ride to Hermosillo. They spend the night at a hotel in Hermosillo where Florinda has a nightmare, causing her to insist that, "Nothing in the world will make me stay in this hotel. I*m returning to Los Angeles this very instant." Hardback edition, p. 3.

Delia offers to take Florinda to a healer to "cure" her of her nightmares. It takes four hours to reach the healer*s house, "in the outskirts of Ciudad Obregon." There Florinda, in a "dream," meets Esperanza and four other women, including Old Florinda; Mariano Aureliano [don Juan]; and an "acrobat" who introduces himself as "Mr. Flores." Later Florinda is asked, "How did you end up in the United States?" Florinda explains that she "wanted to go to school," and that she "was in England first, but I didn*t do much except have a good time." Florinda is then asked "Are you in search of a man?" She responds, "I suppose I am. What woman isn*t? . . . . Do you have someone in mind? Is this some kind of test?" p. 29. [Note: Florinda is apparently already in the mood to file for divorce, although she doesn*t do so until two years later.]

Delia then takes Florinda to meet Esperanza again, this time not in dreaming. At the end of the day, Florinda is given a map and the suggestion that she return to Los Angeles by way of Tucson, where she is to meet Delia at a certain coffee shop specified on the map. When she gets to the coffee shop the next afternoon, however, she is met instead by Mariano Aureliano. (Chapter 4) While driving there, Florinda realizes she had lost track of a whole day in Ciudad Obregon. After some explanations, Aureliano takes Florinda to act out a scene at a diner with a cook he supposedly has a grudge against. Florinda is made to wear a wig and to place a fly on her plate, which later turns out to be a cockroach. The cook is not ruffled, and Florinda is annoyed to later find a spider crawling out from a lettuce leaf. (A few chapters later, we learn that the cook, Joe Cortez, was, of course, Castaneda.)

[Note: Here's a useful take on Florinda's description of these events by David Worrell, keeping in mind that Florinda was married at the time: "She is supposed to have been in Nogales, AZ, attending a baptism (on a Saturday), and decides afterwards to give a stranger a ride to Hermosillo where she then decides to spend the night. Then, in the middle of the night (early Sunday morning), she decides to leave and go way down into Mexico to see some curer (it took until two hours past dawn to reach the place). Next, she spends the whole day down there in Mexico, having all sorts of odd experiences, and eventually falls asleep and takes a nap (where she apparently loses an entire day (Monday). Then she spends another day (Tuesday) coming back via Tucson where she horses around with this bunch of odd strangers in some restaurant (including Castaneda, who was supposedly working there, although he was still a student himself at this time), before finally . . . driving back to L.A., all with no mention whatsoever of some possibly worried hubby back in LA."

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David further points out the following discrepancies between Florinda's claim in Being-in-Dreaming that Castaneda was working as a cook in a Tucson diner in July 1970, and Castaneda's own description of when he performed the "sorcery task" of working as a cook, and how his books characterize his 1970 activities: In Castaneda's first Magical Blend interview (which took place in 1980 or *81, after Second Ring of Power was published in 1977), he claims that after don Juan left it was the "Toltec woman" who assigned these work "tasks" to him, la Gorda and the Genaros. In that interview, he purportedly described "tasks" of "the last three years": "The way of teaching of the Toltec Woman is to put us into situations . . . . One of the many tasks was that of cook in those roadside cafes. La Gorda accompanied me that year as a waitress. For more than a year we lived there as Jose Cordoba and wife!" Well, the earliest that "task" could have been, based on this interview, is 1974. And that's a hell of a long way from July 1970. But even if the interview is somehow in error on the time frame, or Castaneda lied about the time frame, there is still a problem with this little stint of "being a cook" back in 1970, because back then Castaneda himself was still a student. (He didn't receive his Ph.D. until 1973.) So how could he have spent a whole year being a cook? In A Separate Reality, Castaneda claims only that during 1970 he was taking time off from seeing don Juan and that he spent much of this time working on his field notes. Somewhere near the beginning of 1970, after seeing don Juan in December, he said: "I did not return to Mexico for months." The next record is from October, 1970.]

September 1970 - Regine Margarita Thal, later known as Florinda, enrolls at UCLA (presumably with credit given for classes elsewhere, since she receives her B.A. in *72).

1971 - Castaneda*s A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, published by Simon and Schuster. [Covers the time period from April 2, 1968 - October 18, 1970.]

Fall 1971 - The first point at which Florinda*s encounter with Castaneda in the UCLA lecture hall, described in Chapter 6 of Being-in-Dreaming, might have occurred, since she tells Castaneda toward the end of that chapter: "I*ve been studying anthropology since last year" [and only enrolled at UCLA in the Fall of 1970]. "And I don*t really know why" . . . . Two subjects that interest me more are Spanish and German literature. To be in the anthropology department defies all I know about myself." p. 90.

[In chapter 5 of Being-in-Dreaming, Florinda is hiking in the Santa Susana Mountains in Los Angeles when a fog descends and she encounters two men. One introduces himself as "Jose Luis Cortez," or "Joe," and his friend as "Gumersindo Evans-Pritchard." They then indicate that Gumersindo*s estranged father is the famous social anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard, on whom Florinda was doing research for a paper "this term at UCLA." When Florinda, who introduces herself as a Swede named "Carmen Gebauer," asks Joe if he*s from Argentina (because of his inflection), he tells her he is Mexican. In chapter 6, Florinda is seated in a lecture at UCLA where the guest speaker is Joe Cortez, better known around UCLA as Carlos Castaneda, "a well-known anthropologist who had done extensive fieldwork in Mexico," according to Florinda*s friend who is seated next to her.

Florinda confronts Castaneda at the end of his lecture for lying about his name and the identity of his friend Gumersindo, who he admits is really someone named Nestor. As they talk further, Castaneda reveals that he has "written a couple of books about sorcery." He asks her if her name is really "Cristina Gebauer," and she corrects him, "Carmen Gebauer," confessing that that was the name of a childhood friend that she had used. Castaneda then tells her the story of his "childhood girlfriend, Fabiola Kunze," which Florinda suspects is made up, but which contains details that "only a daughter of a German family in the New World would know." p. 87. Castaneda then embraces Florinda, and she begins to cry. At the end of the chapter, Florinda and Castaneda drive to the Santa Susana Mountains and sit overlooking the Indian burial mound, where they*d previously met.]

March 1, 1972 每 Florinda and her husband, Edward M. Steiner, separate. [Per divorce petition filed on April 10, 1972.]

April 10, 1972 每 Florinda (as Regine M. Steiner) files for divorce from Edward Steiner, her husband of 5 years and 4 months. [Case No. SWD38436, Los Angeles Superior Court]

May 20, 1972 每 Regine M. Steiner (Florinda) and Edward M. Steiner execute a Marital Settlement Agreement.

Agreement recites "Whereas, since the marriage of the parties on December 7, 1966, unfortunate differences have arisen between them, and ever since March 1, 1972, they have been living separate and apart . . .." Husband got sole rights to their joint bank account at Security Pacific. Florinda received as her separate property "the 1968 Kharmann Ghia automobile." [Interesting, since Florinda later claims at four different workshops that her "brand new sports car" had been destroyed by Old Florinda and Genaro, and that she was thereafter barred by Old Florinda from driving. See below.] Husband got the 1966 Cadillac convertible. Florinda transferred to Husband her interests in their duplex and lot at 2901 Alma Ave., Manhattan Beach, "subject to the right of rent-free possession of said property by Wife" prior to their sale of the property. Husband got to keep his 100 shares of Pennsylvania Railroad Co. common stock and his employee benefit plans at Signal Oil and Gas Co. Husband also got the right to the furniture and furnishings at the Manhattan Beach duplex, subject to Florinda*s "reasonable use thereof" until the residence was sold or she vacated the premises "whichever shall first occur." Husband agreed to pay to Florinda, in cash, $16,000, of which $3,000 had already been paid, and the remaining $13,000 was to be paid at the close of escrow on sale of the duplex. Husband assumed sole responsibility for the promissory note from Allstate Savings for $65,000 on the property, a second mortgage of $5,000, a loan from Security Pacific for $2,000 and a Barker Brother*s charge account balance of $900. The parties agreed to waive spousal support and inheritance rights.

June 14, 1972 每 Florinda files financial declaration in her divorce proceedings against Edward M. Steiner. She gives her age as 28, her occupation as "Student," and lists a fake social security number.

August 7, 1972 每 Hearing on Florinda*s divorce action. [Edward M. Steiner didn*t show, and an interlocutory judgment of divorce was granted, which provided that on entry of the final decree, wife*s name would be restored to Thal.]

September 5, 1972 每 Regine M. Steiner (Florinda) files petition for change of name to "Cristina Casablanca" [a name that Castaneda later suggests that Gloria Garvin change her name to] in L.A. Superior Court. Petition recites that petitioner was born in Germany on February 15, 1944; that she presently resides at 308 Westwood Plaza, Apt. B-304, LA; that her father is Rudolf Thal, who resides at Colonia Tovar, Caracas, Venezuela; and that the reason for the name change request is "Petitioner will shortly be leaving for an extended period of employment South America where a spanish forname [sic] and surname will be of practical assistance in her work. [Case No. WEC26788] [petition later withdrawn]

September 8, 1972 - Regine Thal receives a BA in Anthropology from UCLA.

October 27, 1972 每 Florinda*s lawyer files for withdrawal of her petition to change her name (Regine M. Steiner) to Cristina Casablanca.

November 2, 1972 每 Final judgment of dissolution filed in Florinda*s divorce action. [SWD38436]

[March 5, 1973 - Time Magazine cover story, "Carlos Castaneda: Magic and Reality."]

[March 23, 1973 - Castaneda receives his Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA.]

Spring 1973 - Florinda submits a proposal to UCLA faculty for a study of curanderos in Tucipata, described as an urban center on the Orinoco river in Venezuela. The proposal states that she had already made a visit to this town.

1973 - Don Juan and his party (except Old Florinda and Zuleica) depart the world. [See, e.g., Bruce Wagner's 1994 Details Magazine piece: "In The Fire From Within Castaneda wrote that don Juan and his party evanesced sometime in 1973 -- fourteen navigators gone, to the &second attention.*]

January 1974 - Regine's ex-husband, Edward M. Steiner, dies, at age 44.

June 14, 1974 - Regine Thal receives her Masters in Anthropology from UCLA.

September 5, 1974 - Castaneda, Taisha (as Annamarie Carter), Florinda (Regine Thal), Beverly Evans and Joanie (as Mary Joan Barker) sign Articles of Incorporation for Hermeneutics Unlimited, subsequently filed with Secretary of State Sept. 10, 1974. [Corporation*s specific purpose was "the production of documentary ethnology." Authorized to issue 750 shares of stock at $100 par value. All five directors were listed at Suite 418, 9200 Sunset Blvd., LA 90069.] [Name is later changed to Laugan Productions, Inc.]

November 1974  - Samurai, the official publication of the All-American Karate Federation, publishes an article by Mauricio Hernandez on "Karate and Women," in which "Gina Thal" is pictured. [I thought don Juan's apprentices weren't supposed to have their pictures taken.] The same issue contains Ms. Thal's article, co-written with Annamarie Carter, entitled "Karate for Children."

[June 13, 1975 - Taisha receives her Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA.]

September 24, 1975 - Castaneda executes a three-page will leaving his entire estate, in equal shares, to Mary Joan Barker, Annamarie Carter, Beverly Evans and Regine Thal. (If these four predeceased him, his estate was to go to the UCLA Department of Anthropology.)

April 1976 - Florinda is advanced to doctoral candidacy in UCLA's Department of Anthropology.

[1976 - Richard de Mille*s Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory is published.]

1976? - Florinda's UCLA graduate committee approves her dissertation proposal for the study of curing practices at Curiepe, on the coastal region of Venezuela.

1976 - 1977 - The year that Florinda claims, in a 1982 interview with the St. Petersburg Times, to have lived with the Yanomami. (See April 25, 1982 article below.) This would have had to have followed the months she supposedly spent living with a curer in Venezuela, as described in her 1985 book The Witches Dream [see below], followed by over a year in the tiny jungle village described in her 1982 book Shabono [see below].

December 1977 - Regine Thal leaves UCLA graduate program, without receiving a Ph.D.

[1980 - Richard de Mille*s critical tome, The Don Juan Papers, published.]

Go to Florinda Donner-Grau Chronology part II