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How Does Reclaiming Work?!

...and how do things get done?

Part of what spurred this theme section is a sense that as Reclaiming grows and evolves, the functioning of the community is becoming a mystery. Diverse structures are developing in different regions, and what works in one place might be found lacking in another.

Our plan was to send a short list of questions to eight or ten Reclaiming teachers and organizers around North America and Europe and ask them to share their thoughts on how Reclaiming works.

As responses came in, it was clear we'd have enough material for more than one article. So our next thought was - let's kick off this issue with some of the basic questions about who Reclaiming is. In future installments, we'll tackle some of the thornier organizing issues. Answering this issue:

Liz Rudwick, UK
Maggie nicAllis, NJ
Rose May Dance, CA
Irish Flambeau, TN
Tami Griffith, CA
BrightFlame, PA

For more information on Reclaiming organizing in your area, contact the Reclaiming website

What does Reclaiming "community" mean? Reclaiming "tradition"?

Community means shared history and meeting places for groups of people. Community does not necessarily mean living together. Community in Reclaiming means shared values and beliefs. - Liz

Nighttime ritual around a blazing fire at Midwest Witchcamp.
Click here for more on Witchcamp.
Photo from Diana's Grove, Salem, MO.

The Reclaiming community has grown very large since the early days. But the meaning is pretty much the same - Reclaiming community is composed of those who teach and attend classes, create and attend rituals, read the Quarterly and websites, and choose to affiliate themselves with the community. I also include in community the spouses, partners, children, housemates of community members. - Rose

For me, Reclaiming community is when people come together with the intention of being their Authentic Selves in relation to other people being their Authentic Selves. Reclaiming community is a place that at the very minimum has a focus on power-with and power-within. I think that is an anarchist idea. Reclaiming community is about being with other human beings in real Terra space. - Irish

This phrase "Reclaiming community" reflects the macrocosm of Reclaiming. That is the whole group of folks around the globe. However, this phrase also is used to speak to the microcosms that make up the macrocosm. For me personally when I am speaking about a local Reclaiming community I try to be clear by stating which one I mean - Bay Area, MidAtlantic, BC, etc. "Tradition" in this case reflects on the spiritual. I often explain to my friends that just as Christianity has various traditions so does Witchcraft. Hence Reclaiming tradition. - Tami

Once upon a time, Reclaiming Community meant those in the Bay Area. Once Witchcamps were established, Reclaiming communities popped up around each of the camps. However, there are still those out in the diaspora who have (or want) a connection to Reclaiming, but do not attend or live near a Witchcamp geographical location. - BrightFlame

Reclaiming is an eclectic tradition, calling on a very large pantheon. Its circles are participatory, usually without a high priestess or priest. The wand passes around the circle quite a bit. In many rituals, spontaneous invocations and prayers are the norm. Some liturgy has been developed for high holidays but is not always used, and more is forever being created. Empowerment is a byword of Reclaiming tradition. Some folks call us the evangelicals of the Goddess Religion, because there is much room for ecstatic and cathartic experience in our circles. We try to bring movement and emotions into our rituals. - Rose

For me, the Reclaiming tradition is based on the idea of immanence, and the thing that makes Reclaiming different from other Pagan traditions is the focus on activism. If you believe that the Goddess and God are immanent, that the Earth is alive, it follows that you want to take action... politically, in social justice areas, ecology and the like. Reclaiming community and tradition are Witchcraft-based... based on magic and ritual. But it goes further, into the activism arena. I like the analogy of Reclaiming being a cauldron with three legs - magical work, inner work, and outer work. The task of getting the three legs working together makes it interesting for me. I think that the idea of Reclaiming hinges on the commitment to challenge systems of oppression. - Irish

How do people get involved in Reclaiming?

One can get involved by coming to any of the gatherings, meetings, workshops, classes, Witchcamps, direct action and magical activist gatherings, joining the discussion lists, or subscribing to local newsletters or Reclaiming Quarterly. In the UK we advertise in the British Pagan press and Pagan federation events. - Liz

As far as the work cells, a "new" person joins, usually, by stepping up to an "old" person and saying, "How can I help?" In SpiralHeart, a good way for a new person to join is to make a suggestion that "the organizers" or "the teachers" do something specific. If the group sees that idea as a good one, the new person may be invited to implement the suggestion. Next thing you know, we have an active and valuable new organizer or resource teacher on the team. - Maggie

Raising energy at a San Francisco demonstration. Joining the Pagan Cluster or Green Bloc at direct action protests is one way people get involved in Reclaiming's blend of witchcraft and activism . Click here for more on the Pagan Cluster and Green Bloc. Photo by Keith Holmes, GroundWork.

I think the main way people find out about it is through Starhawk's books. I found out about it when someone handed me a copy of The Fifth Sacred Thing. Other points of access are attending a class, attending a ritual, attending a rally or demonstration with Reclaiming folks. And going to Witchcamp. - Irish

Public rituals are often the first taste one may get of Reclaiming live and in person. After that, classes seem to me to be the entry way into the community. Although it may also work in the reverse. Classes give you a chance to meet teachers, and after Elements you have the opportunity to meet others who may already be involved with various Reclaiming projects and activities. - Tami

How do I get classes and rituals in my area? Can anyone start a Reclaiming group?

Anyone who subscribes to the Principles of Unity (visit the website, may start a Reclaiming group and do rituals, as Reclaiming is not a lineage tradition and does not require initiation. Some very active groups have been started by people who had read books by Starhawk, M. Macha Nightmare, and others. A good way to start weaving the web of a Reclaiming community is to [invite a Reclaiming teacher to] teach the Elements of Magic class and invite students to consider how they would like to continue to grow and work together thereafter. - Maggie

Yes! At the British Reclaiming Meeting and our Yahoo group we have available the Principles so people can align themselves with Reclaiming if they so wish. As far as organizing rituals, just do it! In UK we have a Yahoo group (British Reclaiming Discussion List) and the British Reclaiming Newsletter to share information and network. There is also word of mouth! - Liz

I am interested in supporting those who are out in the wider Reclaiming diaspora. I am also interested in exploring ways of giving folks in the wider diaspora more of a voice/presence in Reclaiming. That's why I helped to form the Reclaiming Community Resource Collaborative (RCRC, pronounced "Resource"), so that more communities might have access to Reclaiming, and communities might form outside of the general geographic areas of Witchcamps. You can find someone who can come to your area to offer a Reclaiming class. Having like-minded folks do some work together within the Reclaiming trad is a wonderful way to spark a community. - BrightFlame

For more information on Reclaiming classes in your area, contact the Reclaiming website

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