It's 7:30 on a Sunday morning. I'm writing this in the home of Marianne and Dennis, who I don't think are awake yet. For company I have a cat named Skeksis and a young man named Lee. Skeksis is ignoring me. Lee is dead.
Reclaiming by Doing: Ecstatic witchcraft in action
For Reclaiming Witches, what we do is the living embodiment of what we believe—about human worth, the holiness of the Earth, and the individual and community relationship with Mystery. Join me as I explore some of the tradition's central tenets and commonly held beliefs through the actions of our members. From soup kitchens to street actions, from guerrilla gardening to gender salons, "Reclaiming by Doing" hopes to illuminate the sacred in ordinary and extraordinary life.
My wife and I spent last weekend at the third annual Paganicon, a gathering of Pagan-identifying folk from the Twin Cities area (and beyond). The Reclaiming presence continues to be small. Apart from my lovely wife and myself, and a couple friends we're slowly pulling into the Reclaiming orbit, I only spotted one person who positively identifies as being part of that nebulous entity known as "Paganistan Reclaiming".
So there we were, a small number of us expected, whether people said so or not, to "represent" our tradition among the swirl of other Paganisms present at the convention. Which, as I've mentioned before, is nigh impossible. I can represent the way I practice Reclaiming, and perhaps the way it's done here in "Paganistan" (a term for the greater Twin Cities area Pagan community), but beyond that, we weave a glorious tapestry of belief and practice that's difficult to easily encapsulate....
This week, my wife and about 60 fellow members of the Reclaiming tradition traveled to rural Wisconsin for Winter Witchcamp. Staying behind is hard for me, despite knowing I need the year off. Winter Witchcamp is a spiritual home-away-from-home, and many members of my home community will be there, as well as friends I only see at that time. I miss them fiercely.
What is witchcamp? For many, it's integral to the Reclaiming experience. It's part summer camp (even in Winter), part symposium, part family reunion. For several days, we learn together in groups small and large, eat together in a lodge and sleep together in cabins (and tents, in Summer, but this is February in the Upper Midwest, and we're not crazy) , and make magic and ritual together.
There's really no wrong way to "do" Reclaiming (folks sometimes use this as a criticism of the tradition, but I count it among our greatest strengths). But sometimes, if we're doing our thing on our own, without contact with others, we risk losing track of our principles, even the very practices and beliefs that first drew us to the tradition....
Political and social activism form the core of many a Reclaiming witch’s practice. A main impetus of the tradition’s formation was the desire to reunite spirituality and activism, a union deliberately put asunder by many neo-Pagan traditions. From envelope-stuffing for local school board candidates to getting arrested at the RNC and DNC, activism is at the heart of what many of us do.
One of my day jobs is for the Minnesota Legislature. Not one individual legislator or party, but the body as a whole. Because ours is a nonpartisan office, and because I made certain agreements when I took the position, I am barred from overt political action. For the past several years, I’ve made my peace with this.
But this year, there are amendments....
I am about to tell you a Deep Reclaiming Secret. Seriously. This is, like, twelfth-level initiate stuff.* This is the secret of how to become a Reclaiming Witch. Are you ready? Here goes (at least, as I was taught. Your Moose May Vamoose):
In order to be considered a member of the Reclaiming Tradition, you must name yourself as such and agree to abide by the Principles of Unity.
The day I started this post was pretty easygoing, spiritually. I got up early and took a six-mile bike ride. Later in the morning I edited the first chapter in a novel-in-progress about pilgrims who travel thousands of miles to worship a tree. In the evening, I biked about a mile to help a local feminist theater company label brochures for their new season. Blessed be.
When I started in Paganism twelve years ago, big, elaborate rituals were the order of the day. Every day. This took a lot of time (one of the few times I've been glad of underemployment). In some ways, that's a good thing: sacrifice can (and perhaps should) be an integral part of religious practice. Problem was, the rituals did nothing for me, spiritually. Day after day I performed these solemn rites, and I never felt connected to the divine, the Cosmos, or my Highest Self. I felt like a silly girl surrounded by fire hazards, waving a knife around.
Here's where I felt the deepest sense of spiritual connection: walking the two-mile mini-pilgrimage from my apartment to the Mississippi River, experiencing the wondrous aliveness of my body and humility in the presence of this ancient and majestic river. Ghost-writing letters to the editor for a conservation and renewable energy campaign, placing mind and hand in service to the Earth I loved. Making a game out of how many days in a row I could go without starting my car, challenging myself to do better, to be better, for Gaia. I knew these things about myself. Yet for my first Pagan year, I resisted this understanding. I'd embarked on a new religious path rich in magic and mystery; I couldn't find spiritual fulfillment doing the same mundane things I'd always done, could I?...