I feel much better tonight after checking out some facts. I'm not leaving this community. I can't be gotten rid of that easily. If that were the case, I'd have been gone long ago. It's not just stubbornness either. I've put a lot of myself into Reclaiming over the years. I haven't been at the center of things all of that time, by choice. But I've been involved. I've contributed and collaborated, consensed and created. I've done grunt work and visible work. I've also griped about what I think we're doing wrong and praised and bragged about what I think we've done right.
When I've done the former, I've managed to upset people who don't want to hear what I have to say, but I can honestly say that I've tried very hard to offer my critiques in as constructive a manner as possible, avoiding ad hominem/feminem attacks. I have my late friend and colleague Judy Foster* to thank for insisting that I hone that skill.
At the same time, every single time I've spoken to something that others might think is an unpopular sentiment, at least one person, and usually three or four, will breathe a sigh of relief and say, "Oh, I'm so glad you said that! I was thinking that and I didn't want to say it. Thank you." Let this be a word of advice for whenever you feel shy or reluctant to express what you think may be an unwelcome cautionary: Say it! If you are working in a trusting consensual manner, you will be heard, and your concerns will be addressed. I have never known this to have any other outcome.
So maybe that's what we're doing now -- reflecting and seeing the patterns that have developed over the last 25 years. Then trying to articulate them in a loving, contructive way.
I don't see Reclaiming, or any other kind of Craft, as simply a launching pad. My friend Cat Chapin-Bishop reminds me of the riddle: "What do you call a 4th degree Witch?" Answer: "A Buddhist." Meaning, of course, that a lot of Pagans leave the path for other spiritual traditions where they can get more training, or go deeper (in their way of thinking). Or find another teacher or guru. I suppose it could be considered a launching pad for people whose true personal path leads elsewhere. But if you make use of what you've learned, Witchcraft becomes a way of life and a lifetime pursuit.
To me, learning Craft gives us the sacred technology(ies) and thealogical framework to then proceed to work it and work it and work it, season after season, Wheel after Wheel. And with each working, we can go deeper, gain clearer understandings, have more profound experiences of the numinous. We can gain insights into the workings of the Worlds and the workings of our own hearts. We can grow in compassion and understanding of our sisters and brothers of our species. We can build a greater awareness of our interdependence on the Web of Life. We can feel our interconnectedness with all of life. We can learn wisdom. We can finder inner peace and the strength to work for positive change in our own lives and in the wider world.
I'm reminded of the words of my dear friend Steven Posch of Paganistan (one of the two best Pagan ritualists in all of North America, IMO):
"Witches' work is turning the wheel,* This rememberance of Judy's life neglects to mention that she is one of the founders of NROOGD (New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn) Witchcraft as well as having been a much-loved member of Reclaiming Collective. I consider her to be among our Mighty Dead.
And round the wheel doth turn."