Florinda Donner (originally Regine Margarita Thal, later Florinda Donner-Grau) was born February 15, 1944 in Amberg, Germany to German parents Rudolph Thal and Katarina Claussnitzer. She is an American author and anthropologist. She disappeared in 1998.
In her childhood she emigrated with her parents to Venezuela where she probably lived as a school-aged child. Her personality and background are very controversial. She sometimes claimed she was born in 1954 in Venezuela and that her parents were both either German or Swedish. Sometimes she called her mother Carolina Claussnitzer, but in an official document from the marriage with Carlos Castaneda in 1993 her mother's name is Katarina Claussnitzer and her father's name is spelled Rudolf rather than Rudolph.
She was nicknamed "Hummingbird" because of her ceaseless energy. She was said to have similar intelligence and charisma as her later husband Carlos Castaneda. Florinda tells in her books that she was an apprentice of Castaneda. She was also called one of "the witches" in Castaneda's books. The type of shamanism that Castaneda and his followers practiced led the followers through a process known as recapitulation, which is a rehashing of one's entire life's memories. This process "rebirthed" the sorcerers by causing them to erase their personal history.
In 1982 Florinda Donner published a best selling book, Shabono after the Yanomami word for shelter, with contradictory pseudo-anthropological stories in which she claims to have lived among the Yanomami Indians in the Amazonas. Among critics the book is called "anthropologically inspired fiction". She lived in Westwood Los Angeles and traveled often to her old hometown Caracas.
Born Regine Margarita Thal
February 15, 1944(1944-02-15)
Occupation Anthropologist, Author
Notable work(s) Being-in-Dreaming: An Initiation into the Sorcerer's World; Shabono: A Visit to a Remote and Magical World in the South American Rain Forest; The Witch's Dream
1966: Regine Thal marries a Houston petroleum engineer Edward M. Steiner in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
1970: According to her book Being-in-Dreaming (published 1991) she has her first meeting in dreams with members of don Juan's party. Don Juan Matus was the famous Yaqui shaman often described in Carlos Castaneda's books.
1971: Carlos Castaneda's book A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan is published.
1971: Regine Thal meets "Mexican anthropologist" Jose "Joe" Luis Cortez, better known as Carlos Castaneda at UCLA. Her apprenticeship with Castaneda begins.
1972: Regine divorces Edward M. Steiner after 5 years and 4 months of marriage and gets back her surname Thal.
1972: Regine Thal Receives her B.A in Anthropology from UCLA.
1973: Carlos Castaneda receives his Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA.
1973: Castaneda starts organizing a secretive group of devoted followers. He teaches Recapitulation and the teachings of the Yaqui shaman don Juan Matus, who appears in his books together with a movement technique "Tensegrity," that he claims is an ancient technique passed down by 25 generations of Naguals, the Toltec shamans.
1973: Regine submits a proposal to UCLA to study curanderos in the town of Tucipata by the Orinoco river in Venezuela. She claims to have already visited the town.
1974: Regine's ex-husband Edward M. Steiner dies at age 44.
1974: Regine Thal receives her Masters degree in Anthropology from UCLA.
1974: Regine, together with Castaneda and a three others, forms a corporation "to produce documentary ethnology." The name of the corporation is Hermeneutics Unlimited. Later this corporation changed its name to Laugan Productions inc.
1974: Samurai-magazine publishes rare photos of Regine Thal doing karate exercises. In the article she is called "Gina Thal."
1975: Castaneda executes a will leaving his entire estate equally divided to four women: Mary Joan Barker, Anna Marie Carter, Beverly Evans and Regine Thal.
1976: Regine is advanced to doctoral candidacy at the UCLA Department of Anthropology.
1976?: UCLA graduate committee approves Regine's dissertation proposal for studying curing practises at Curiepe, Venezuela.
1976 - 1977: The year that Regine claims to have lived with the Yanomami in the Amazon rainforest near the border of Venezuela and Brazil.
1977: Regine Thal leaves the UCLA graduate program without receiving a Ph.D.
1978: Regine Thal changes her name (unofficially) to Florinda Donner. Her new name is based on the name of Carlos Castaneda's teacher's don Juan's wife Florinda Matus. She also calls herself Donner-Grau. A Grau means a "Dreamer" in the shamanistic practice of don Juan and Castaneda.
1982: Florinda Donner's book Shabono: A visit to a remote and magical world in the South American rainforest, is published by Delacorte Press.
1983: An article in American Anthropology [Vol. 85, p. 664] is published entitled: "Shabono: Scandal or Superb Social Science?" Florindas book seems to have similarities with an earlier book: Ettore Biocca's Yanoáma (Dutton 1971), the oral autobiography of Helena Valero, a Caucasian girl kidnapped by Venezuelan Indians.
1985: Regine Margarita Thal changes officially her name to Florinda Donner.
1985: Florinda Donner's book The Witch's Dream is published by Simon and Schuster with a foreword by Carlos Castaneda.
1991: Florinda's book Being-in-Dreaming: An Initiation into the Sorcerer's World is published by Harper San Francisco.
1990's: Florinda Donner gives lectures and workshops about her books and shamanism in various places.
1992: Florinda says in an interview that she is no longer doing academic research.
1993: Florinda changes her name to Donner-Grau.
1993: Carlos Castaneda marries Florinda Donner in Las Vegas.
1994: Florinda Grau marries Tracy Kramer in Las Vegas.
1998: Castaneda signs a will leaving all his property to the Eagle's Trust.
1998, April 4.: Florinda Donner's last public appearance. She appears in a workshop at Santa Monica College Gymnasium together with the other two "witches": Taisha Abelar and Carol Tiggs.
1998: Carlos Castaneda dies. The day after his death the "witches" Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar vanish together with Amalia Marquez and Tensegrity teacher Kylie Lundahl, and nobody hears from them. A few weeks later Castaneda's adopted daughter Patricia Partin disappears as well.
2003: A skeleton is found in Death Valley, California near the location where Patricia Partin's car was abandoned. The skeleton remains unidentified for three years.
2006: The skeleton is identified as Patricia Partin's with a new DNA technology. Some former associates of Castaneda suspect that the missing women have committed suicide (possibly as soon as Carlos Castaneda died in 1998).