Pagan Paths

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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Active and Impartial

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.

"Please be quiet" by K嘛


Minnesota voters will see two proposed constitutional amendments on our ballots come November 8. One would confine the definition of marriage to one man and one woman. The other would require every would-be voter to present a photo ID.

I have Very Strong Opinions about these ballot measures. But, technically, I’m not allowed to tell you what those opinions are. I can tell you that I’m in a committed relationship with a member of the same sex. I cantell you that many of my friends are in like situations, and others are in relationships of one man and two women, two men and two more men, one man and one don’t-confine-me-in-your-binary-gender-boxes. Many of whom might like to get married.

I can tell you that in one of my other day jobs, I routinely encounter people working two and three jobs where a single attendance violation puts them at risk of termination and people without permanent addresses. People without a single thought of election fraud in their heads, but for whom the restrictions and challenge processes of the proposed ID amendment would form as daunting an impediment against ballot-casting as physically barring the door in front of them.

You may draw your own conclusions from that.

I love my job. I love the work I do and the people I do it with. And I take the oaths of impartiality I swore to my employer very seriously. In the past, I’ve reconciled my distaste for about half of the documents that cross my desk by seeing myself as donning the mantle of Sacred Witness, an important role in our local Reclaiming community, especially in oracle work. The Sacred  Witness attends fully and makes space for whatever work is coming into being, without judgment or critique. I see myself the same way in this job: I make space for democratic process to flower, even when its fruits taste bitter to me.

But these amendments stir such passions in me. Such intense reactions about what is and is not the just and compassionate direction for our state to proceed. I feel these things as a queer person and Pagan. And I find my hands tied—but I also find myself suspecting that I have allowed fear of losing this amazing position convince me that my options were more limited than they truly are.

And so I come to you, the readers of this blog, with a question. A hope. Because I find myself unable to see the way clear in this situation. I hope we might start a conversation here, and come to a conclusion or two, about a situation that I suspect catches a great many of us at one time or another: how do any of us do it? How do we maintain loyalties to two conflicting, if not completely contradictory, pulls? What do we do when our consciences want two things they might not be able to have at the same time?

When the path splits in two before us, how do we make a third way?

Last modified on

Eli Effinger-Weintraub practices Gaian Reclaiming-tradition hearthcraft in the Twin Cities watershed. She plants her beliefs and practices in the living Earth and her butt on a bicycle saddle. Previous works have appeared in Witches&Pagans, Circle, and Steampunk Tales, as well as at the Clarion Foundation blog, Humanistic Paganism, and I’m From Driftwood. Eli writes the "Restorying the Sacred" column at No Unsacred Place, a blog of the Pagan Newswire Collective. She shares her life and art with her wife, visual artist Leora Effinger-Weintraub, and two buffalo disguised as cats. Eli's personal blog lives at Backbooth, and she tweets as @AwflyWeeEli.

Author's recent posts


  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    You obey the promise you made, period. There are no excuses, can be no mitigating circumstances. An oath is an oath.

    In the Saga of the Jomsvikings, we are told that several of the protagonists are tricked into making an oath to attack England; they are so drunk that they don't even remember making the oaths the next morning. But they did do so, and even though to modern eyes they have a very legitimate excuse, they fulfill their oaths, made foolhardily, and attack England, knowing they will die in the attempt. They do die, but their oaths are kept, and the latter is more important than the former.

    There's a reason that the only two types of mortals that are doomed to eternal torment in the afterlife (by being tormented by venomous serpents in Náströnd) are murderers, adulterers, and oath-breakers.

  • Eli Effinger-Weintraub
    Eli Effinger-Weintraub Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    In many ways, I agree with you, Joseph. I'm not looking for ways out of my oaths, or loopholes in them. This is about examining those oaths with open eyes and a clear mind to understand what they truly entail, and, given that, what options remain to me.

    To use a slightly silly analogy, I don't want to deprive myself of all cookies if I've only sworn to give up chocolate chip.

  • David Salisbury
    David Salisbury Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    My first thought would be to take some long calculated breaths, drop into stillness, and ask the God-soul which way is best. While I agree oaths can be important, I also recognize that the terms surrounding them often change so they may not always be applicable. So I think the wisdom of the soul will always offer the correct answer, or at least a venue to discover it.

  • Eli Effinger-Weintraub
    Eli Effinger-Weintraub Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    Thank you, David. Very good advice.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    If it's causing you that much torment, I'd say, look for a job that won't put you in this dilemma. It's a third way, and, IMHO, working in a job that is at odds with your personal principles will have a corrosive affect on your soul. Period. Oath-breaking isn't an answer, and neither is looking for a loophole. You should be able to do your work whole-heartedly, without mental reservation; no man (someone one said) can have two masters. (This may look easy from my perch as the editor of three Pagan magazines, but I worked dozens of secular jobs for years before the Goddess blessed me with this position, and I quit more than one of those jobs because of conflicts with my ethics.) Just my nickel.

  • Eli Effinger-Weintraub
    Eli Effinger-Weintraub Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    I have considered it. But it's difficult to find another job where the work and the work environment are so well-suited to my temperament, and vice versa.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    Understood, Eli: sounds like the situation may be a bit less cut-and-dried that I initially understood it to be. May the Goddess of Wisdom guide your choice!

  • Careswen ferch Madoc
    Careswen ferch Madoc Monday, 29 October 2012

    Just catching up. I understand why you feel like you are in quite a pickle. I can't recall right now if I've ever been in a position where I felt like my professional ethics were in conflict with my personal ethics. If so, I generally go with the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law, and this seems to help. I don't know if that approach can be blocked (in that yarn-crafting kind of way) to fit your situation. I do support your hope to find a third choice – I think this is always a good idea, when dichotomies are presented. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information