Monday, August 20, 2012

Accountability, or Lack Thereof

I'm going to relate two concrete examples of issues of accountability, tangible issues, that have been brought to my attention by the people who were wronged.  These two examples concern financial matters.  The magico-spiritual and/or social issues may be articulated in a subsequent post.  For now...

* * * * *

A Reclaiming community on the East Coast decides to have a teachers' retreat.  (Hereinafter I'll refer to this particular community as "SH.")  The venue they choose is in a state where none of them lives.  This venue must be rented by a resident of that state.  They ask a prominent Pagan who lives there to reserve the venue for their retreat.  (Again, for clarity I'll assign this person the appellation of "PP.")  PP does as SH requests and reserves the venue.  He is required to pay a sizable deposit ($400, I seem to recall) which he does.

In the meantime there is a dust-up within SH.  Some members seem to think it's elitist to allow the teachers to go off by themselves to work on the things they think are important for them to work on.  (Please allow for some distortion of this story due to its second-hand nature.  I think the facts essentially boil down to the same thing.)  As a result, SH cancels the retreat.  Period.  That's it.  End of story.  Well, no, not really.

Other local Pagans who have loose affiliations with Reclaiming and this particular community decide to collect money from amongst themselves to repay PP.  PP, although he appreciates the effort, does not feel this is okay.  He declines their offer.  He insists, rightly in my opinion, that the repayment is owed by the people who asked for him to do this, not from others loosely connected with the trad or group.

How do I know about this if I live on the West Coast and am not involved with this local Reclaiming group in any way?  Well, I've made it my business over the past 30+ years to expose myself to different Witches and Pagans around the country whenever I'm given an opportunity.  PP, who is a good friend, told me.  Since I have formally withdrawn from Reclaiming, I have spoken with PP and learned, no surprise, that no effort has been made to repay him.

What can I do about it?  Not much, except to say it here.  There is no central authority.  I'm fine with that.  In fact, I think it's healthy.  Still, where is the personal or group (SH, not all of Reclaiming) accountability for having made this request of someone not a member of the group, caused them expense, and then changing their minds and leaving PP holding the bag?

* * * * *
Example Number Two:  A local SF Bay Area Reclaiming person moves to a city in the San Joaquin Valley.  I will refer to this person as "Mover."  I have friends there, have presented workshops there, and now have been invited to present at the first Pagan Pride event in this region.  I do so and I enjoy the day.  Mover is there and is cordial.

A month or so later I get a call from one of my Pagan pals who lives in the area.  I'll call her S.  S tells me that Mover had announced that she was teaching a Reclaiming class.  Several local folks, being excited at this prospect, paid deposits to be in this class.  Mover disappeared.  Simply disappeared. She left no word and no one seems to know where she's gone. 

S, on behalf of those who paid deposits, herself included, phones me in distress.  She understandably wants to know where Mover and the deposit money is.

I call two local Reclaiming people whom I know to be mentors of Mover.  They don't know where Mover has gone, either.  That's the end of it.  This happened maybe ten years ago.

Several years later I encounter Mover at a wedding, so obviously she is no longer "disappeared."

After my resignation, S contacted me to offer support and sympathy.  She recognizes similar patterns from groups she's been a part of.  Just to be sure I'm current on my facts, I ask her if she's ever heard from Mover and/or been refunded her deposit.  She has not.

Oddly, Mover shares a cabin with me at Dandelion 5.  We do talk briefly about Mover's short residence in this Valley city, but no mention is made, either by her or by me, of the missing money.  I decide, because so much time has elapsed and because of the reasons she gives for having left that city, not to bring up the matter of the money.

Now, however, the landscape has changed.  I have resigned, and one of the reasons I've given is lack of accountability.  I mean this accountability in many ways, not just financial.  I offer these two examples because, being cold facts, they can be assessed objectively rather than subjectively.  Other less objective lapses in accountability are more difficult to articulate -- and to judge.  Perhaps readers may have had similar experiences.  If so, I invite you to write of them here.

50 comments:

E.J. DuPree said...

This is so sad to me and goes against the ethics and vows I like to think we all take when we choose to walk this path. As a younger person, I am mortified by the way our elders are being treated, I am angered that there is not common bond and that the covenant of Reclaiming has been tainted. It's one thing to make a mistake and in the end endeavor to do the right thing, it is quite another to steal and swindle a person. More than the money tho, its taking a piece of someone's spirit and what it means to be part of a gathered community. I know it is hard Wise One, but thank you for being honest.

Evelyn said...

Macha, would you please add the time frame to the story about "SH"? I am concerned that this story, without being located in time, gives the wrong impression about the many wonderful, ethical, and accountable people who have organized in the Spiralheart community for the past many years, with whom this story has nothing to do.

Sue Young said...

In a perfect world, which doesn't exist either within or without Reclaiming, each one of us would take responsibility for our actions.

In the world outside of Reclaiming, accountability does rest with some central authority whether that be the Courts, the Pope, the Boss, the High Priest/Priestess etc!

I am wondering, Macha, whether you have given any thought to possible acountability structures within Reclaiming?

Also, reading about your own personal experiences gives me some understanding of your journey. Reading second hand examples of incidents that might not be related accurately that occurred who knows when among people who may no longer be members of a particular community or reflect its values does not. I was surprised to read them.

love shya

Pitch313 said...

I'm tending to see these two stories as pointing out what gets sloppy and thoughtless about Pagan-ish organizations more than what gets calculated and greedy.

Diffused responsibilities may mean that, when circumstances change, nobody ends up with enough clout to correct an error or right a wrong or write a check.

Being a leader can get quirky in organizations formed around a notion of "leaderlessness." I think that's one reason some of them develop along the lines of duplicitous authoritarianism and concealed inner factions. And others fuel themselves with cluelessness.



Gwion Raven said...

Dearest Macha,

Both of the examples you give here point to a lack of responsibility on the part of *an* organiser or *a* teacher. One event appears to be several years old and the other is nearly a decade old. While both are unfortunate instances, they do seem to rest with individuals rather than pointing to something endemic or epidemic within Reclaiming as group. The example of "SH" begs a lot more balance and rigor than your post suggests - What were the agreements that were made? What was written in contract form and by whom? Were there minutes taken that show that a loan, a gift, a donation was given to "SH" and that it was due to be repaid by X and X time. Did the gifter/loaner/donor petition the cell, provide any paperwork or emails that would support their version of events? Did they take any one to court? So many pieces of the story are missing from your post, that it is hard to see where fault is or might be and how restitution might be made.

As another commentor noted, there are many classess, witchcamps, salons, rituals and all sorts of other gatherings within Reclaiming (and I imagine other traditions too) where monies are handled as effectively, ethically and transparently as possible.

Do mistakes happen? Sure. Are there folks looking to get over for a few hundred bucks? Probably. Is that something that any tradition can monitor 100% of the time? Probably not.

This blog post feels like snarky, gossipy, hearsay rather than an expose of accountability within a magical community. And I'm sort of scratching my head here, trying to figure out to what end.

Gwion

Gwion

Robert Mathiesen said...

Gwion,

You may not realize it, but your every post on this controversy reads like a clever advocate for the defense arguing however he can to undermine the credibility of the plaintiff. This does not work to your advantage, or, I suppose, to the advantage of Reclaiming..

I do not know you and I do not know Reclaiming; and I know Macha only through her blog (which I have read since she began it). But as a long-time academic as well as an life-long magician, I am very well acquainted with dysfunction, abuse and bullying in allegedly non-hierarchical groups of people. These things appall me, especially within the magical community, which is why I am posting here.

A group of this sort usually forms around a single person with some measure of charisma. Once it has formed, it always works hard to preserve itself and its own self-esteem above all else, quite apart from any consideration of either truth or justice. This has two consequences.

First, anyone whose existence, personal history, knowledge of the group's past, and insights threaten the group's self-esteem must be marginalized, or even driven out. This includes anyone who has ever been victimized by the group, or especially by its leader. It also includes anyone who has a habit of speaking uncomfortable truths to power, whether that power is hidden (as in allegedly non-hierarchical organizations) or out in the open.

Second, the leader must be protected not only from any mud-slinging, but often also from any knowledge of how the group actually works to protect its self-esteem. Of such leaders it is sometimes said that they must be treated like mushrooms, that is, kept in the dark and fed manure. (Most university presidents seem to be like this.) Some leaders, however, are well aware of what is going on, but manage to maintain an impervious shell of plausible deniability.

So maybe Macha's departure has forced the world outside of Reclaiming to ask the unthinkable question: which sort of leader is Starhawk herself, and what has her role been in all this? Is she simply like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed manure, still blissfully ignorant of how the very general issues I am trying to raise here might apply also to Reclaiming? Or is she more skillful than that? I do not know Starhawk either, but her one public statement that I have seen on this controversy does not read like the work of a mushroom, and her published books seem to be the work of a highly intelligent and perceptive writer.

Helen/Hawk said...

@ Robert. Reclaiming is NOT an organization that's been formed around "a single person with some measure of charisma". Starhawk is/was part of a group of people who's work evolved into a tradition. Folks know her name due to her writing.

It's a tradition reflective IMHO of the time of it's origins: reflecting feminest & anarchist thought as well as knowledge/experience from political activism of the time period (70's anti-war and anti-nuke). As things have come full-circle round to the Occupy movement.

Who am I? An active Reclaiming witch who's really hoping that growth will come from this process and sorry about the clear pain that's happened.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you Helen. I took classes from Star Hawk way back in the 70s. Later I was part of marin ritual planing cell in San Rafael.

Who do you think always gave the OK for any groups working out of San Francisco Reclaiming. Who picked Madrone to run the spiral dance, and then the witch camps. Who would generally speaking be able to nix most of what she really wanted to.

Star is that personality. She has also been very supportive of many people giving loans and in other ways being very generous.

People and groups are very complex. People are desperate to belong and for good reason our very survival depends on the groups we are a part of.

Over 30 years and several continents not you or anyone can tell me that many groups have not been dysfunctional at times. Star in writing her wonderful book the spiral path won a special place in my heart.

Star is one person but she is a key person and if you ask anyone outside of reclaiming about reclaiming whose name do you think will come up.

Gwion Raven said...

@Robert - I very much appreciate your comments and find them to be quite insightful.

Let me just posit a couple of points. I'm not looking to change your opinion of my posts nor of Macha's assertions, just thought you might like to know...

First of all, I am not a lawyer nor any such connected profession. Perhaps my posts came off that way becasue I was presenting different or current information than I saw on the posts, especially the post listed as "evidence".

I actually agree with some of Macha's points and she and I have discussed those on several occasions over the past few years.

What's compelled me to respond is a sense of place and time. When we write something on a blog post or an email it becomes static, stuck in time and absolute. A few of the concerns that Macha has posted took place over a decade ago. The most recent event she's posted about, took place a couple of years ago. I've tried to paint a picture with my responses that, although those events may have taken place and appear to have had an impact on Macha, the tradition and the active, every day, hardworking people of the Reclaiming tradition have improved processes, have self-reflected, have listened to feedback and acted upon it through consensus process and have involved as much of the community that wants to participate in that process in a variety of ways (emails, discussion groups, Dandelion meetings and an inumerable number of "cell" meetings).

If you read back through my posts, you'll note that I'm mostly commenting on specific actions/events that Macha has brought up and pointing out that they've been heard and, in some cases dealt with.

I've tried to point out that in some cases, these events were down to individuals within the tradition, not the concerted effort of the majority of folks within the tradition.

And to the best of my ability, I've tried very hard not to invalidate Macha's feelings or perceptions of the events. I wouldn't presume to to do so.

I see hundreds of people each month that come to gather, celebrate the Wheel of the Year, teach, take classes, participate in rituals, organize protests, plan camps, mentor our teen community and many other activities to numerous to mention here. And those people have shared their stories of how much Reclaiming means to them, how much having a place like Reclaiming has enriched or even saved their lives.

I fully support Macha's choice to walk away after 30 years. I fully support her choice to blog about her hurt feelings and her observances of the Tradition from her esteemed vantage point. I also feel, I don't know, duty bound(?) to speak out/up if I perceive that there are parts of the story that aren't being told, or at least, could use some clarification.

Happy to take this discussion with you off of Macha's blog. I'd like to hear more. You can find me on facebook at gwion raven (I think I'm the only one with that name!)

Gwion

Anonymous said...

Gwion

A definite attack. There is no attempt to understand on your part. You were not there through most of Reclaiming's existence. Macha has nothing to apologize for and no reason to make things up. How would you feel after contributing to a group for 30 years to find out that you have been undercut and kept out of witch camps not by the camps because your requests never got that far, but by Star herself. So ask yourself how would that make you feel. I took a class with Tami (Urania) and Macha, it was a wonderful class. Macha is a good teacher.

Read her writing, she is a person who values integrity. It takes allot of courage to go up against a group you love when you think it has gone to far astray. Your attacks are just an addition to that pain.

Perhaps when you are 70 you will have a different perspective, or after you have tried to contribute whatever you could for over 30 years.

Also I have seen some very poorly run consensus meetings. It is very difficult to run and monitor consensus meetings. It is very difficult to be a good participant in consensus meetings. It is near impossible for strong personalities not to take over. Since You have a strong personality you may not notice all the people lost in the background.

Gwion Raven said...

Hi Anonymous,

I'm really interested in being transparent because I think that's the best policy, especially as we're commenting on a blog post, largely, without the benefit of sitting together and seeing the body language and hearing the tone in our words.

You are right about a good many things in your post. I've been involved with Reclaiming for about ten years, primarily in the North Bay. I've been very involved with planning and organizing rituals, events,taking classes and teaching classes for the past 4-ish years.

I absolutely do not know all that has transpired in Reclaiming, as a tradition, and I certainly cannot pretend to know all of the hurts, angst, betrayals, loves, hates and other interpersonal stuff that has occurred throughout the last 30 years.

I've had a few conversations with Macha over the past 3 years about some of her issues and concerns. And, I've said here, that she has some really valid points. Points that a good many folks would do well to listen. Macha has kindly obliged the North Bay community on several occasions, with her ritual presence, advice, and feedback. And she's been a real mentor to me. So I do understand that her decision to leave Reclaiming has been a long process and, no doubt a painful one for her to make.

I've checked my posts, because I really wanted to make sure, and I can't see where I've ever said "Macha you are wrong.", "Macha this didn't happen.", "Macha you have no right to feel the way you do". I don't believe I've suggested that everything Reclaiming is all roses and unicorns.

My focus, has been to say "while these things may have happened (and I have no reason to think they didn't for exactly the reasons you've pointed out)some of the concerns you've brought up have been addressed, have been worked through, have been listened to and the community as a whole is filled with dedicated, hard working folks that really do try to live up to the promise of their convictions.

I don't see where Macha has mentioned (on these posts) being kept off of witchcamps or being thwarted by Star. I have no knowledge of those events and wouldn't and haven't commented on them. I'd say that those wounds would be for Macha and Star to solve.

As far as my personality and age? I don't know if you and I know each other or have circled together. I don't know if you and I have been in a consensus meeting together or chatted around community. I worked really hard to like consensus process. It isn't easy but it is valuable. I've sat through some rough meetings for sure and some spectacularly brilliant ones. I am hardly perfect, but I work diligently to make sure that all voices are heard and all sides considered.

I'm offering here again, for you to contact me directly if you should choose to. I'm happy to talk via phone, FB, have tea or what have you, if that gives you a better sense of where I might be coming from.

Now I'm off to call Macha...

Dana Morgan said...

I'm NOT from Reclaiming. I'm NOT from either coast.

One view from the Midwest says we've seen the same abusive, manipulative, thieving nonsense here -- in different traditions or unaffiliated -- from men, women and suspected trolls -- involving money, trust, time, love, sex, promises and occasional death hexes. (They didn't mess around in the 70s in Chicago.)

This lack of accountability is not unique to Reclaiming -- though I can certainly appreciate writing from what you know, and that's what you've known for 30-some years. Gotcha. My examples would be Midwest and East, not in that tradition of thought or practice, and still sounding remarkably similar.

Might suggest you let this cook for a bit longer. It will be broadly applicable, and is something that needs to be heard on a broader scale.

Sparky T. Rabbit said...

Gwion Raven said...
Dearest Macha,

Both of the examples you give here point to a lack of responsibility on the part of *an* organiser or *a* teacher. One event appears to be several years old

...................................

Hey, Gwion,

Remember that republican politician who so recently made the insane comments about "legitmate rape" and abortion? He got called big time on his statements, and his following reponses seemed much more human. I don't believe for a second that he really changed his mind about anything he'd originally said, but was obviously trying to back track to cover his ass. "No, you don't understand. What I *really* meant was..."

I feel the same way about your posts here. Unless Robert (don't know him but love his writing) had called you on what you'd said, I don't believe you would have ever written your following much-more-human posts with all the "Oh, you don't understand. I really like Macha and I'm going to call her right now..." BS.

You're a clear spokesman for the Reclaiming party line around Macha leaving. (Yes, yes, I know. There is no Reclaiming party line; but that's just part of the Reclaiming party line.) The fact that Reclaiming has decided to frame this story into the Good Guys vs the Bad Guys is very telling, and says loads about where Reclaiming is nowadays.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Evelyn, no. The time these things occurred is irrelevant. You and your current colleagues may have had nothing to do with this and may even be appalled. But the fact remains that these things, being but a few specific examples, did happen under the overall aegis of Reclaiming, and were reported to me as a visible member of the trad, makes them valid.

I had always considered that a Witch's word was inviolate. If there were misunderstandings or miscommunications, as I believe in the first example there were, then someone is responsible for clearing them up.

It embarrasses me and shames me when I'm presented with such screw-ups. By disaffiliating myself from Reclaiming, I am assuring that I will no longer be subjected to such embarrassment. Now I will only answer for my own screw-ups (which I will try my best to avoid).

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Shya, thanks for your reflections.

These "second-hand" recountings are my personal experiences. As a public Witch associated with Reclaiming, I have been expected to answer for them. Obviously I cannot.

Yes, I've given thought to accountability, and further I know that not everyone is gonna have the same standards of behavior or operates by the same general ethics, yet I contend that a Witch's word is sacred.

Besides, I guarantee you that the second offender, the one who disappeared with the deposit money, is a member of the community. She is a local teacher, a WC teacher (unlike myself, who have been covertly prevented from teaching WC), and was present at Dandelion 5 a few weeks ago.

I am not reporting these things to air dirty laundry, but rather to explain some of my experiences as a public Reclaiming Witch by using simple facts: these things did happen, and they have not been rectified. I am not so naïve as to think they ever will be, and that's not the point.

If a person announces she's teaching Reclaiming classes in an area that hasn't had a Reclaiming presence, and then makes off with the deposit money, and you live there and gave that person a deposit, who would you call? Where would you turn? Would you not most naturally contact your friend, in this case me. who is publicly associated with the trad?

This is one example of lack of accountability that has contributed to my decision to withdraw.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Pitch, thanks for your comments.

I do not think that in either of these examples I've presented that any of the parties intended to rip anyone off. In the former case, I suspect it was just bad communication and misunderstandings. By my standards, these should have been discussed, clarified, and rectified. Even so, I suspect the harm was unintentional.

I can see evidence of the things you mention, "duplicitous authoritarianism, concealed inner factions, and cluelessness," in the group. In the case of the last characteristic, cluelessness, I suspect that is reinforced by idealistic notions about the trad that I, unfortunately, shared for far too long.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Gwion, although we have talked on the phone and consider ourselves friends, I did tell you then about something you said that upset me. I want to repeat myself here so that others have some idea of what I'm talking about.

You said, "What were the agreements that were made? What was written in contract form and by whom? Were there minutes taken that show that a loan, a gift, a donation was given to "SH" and that it was due to be repaid by X and X time. Did the gifter/loaner/donor petition the cell, provide any paperwork or emails that would support their version of events? Did they take any one to court?"

I wasn't present, of course, but according to two people who were this happened in the course of a casual meeting. I doubt it was even any kind of "official" meeting because PP, who is not Reclaiming, was there. For all I know, it could have been a conversation in a coffee house. I have learned since posting this here that PP was the person who mentioned that the venue had to be reserved by a resident of the particular state, that he resided there, and then he offered to reserve the place. He did. I can't imagine having anyone, either party, sign anything in blood about extending a short-term loan on behalf of a group PP had every reason to consider honorable.

I would ask you, and any other Reclaiming teacher: do you require people who take classes and make a deposit on them to sign a contract? I don't think that's an awful thing to do, but I have never known anyone to do so.

I'm just sayin'...

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Helen/Hawk, thank you, too, for your comments.

I see you saying something similar to what I've been saying for lo these 30+ years, and that I've written about extensively (see Witchvox, for one place), and for which I now hang my head in embarrassment at my naïveté and idealism.

I say to you now: if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

Gwion Raven said...

Sparky,

I am a person that has suffered the humiliation and degradation of rape personally. I find your comparison reprehensible.

Robert made a valid point about my writing style or, rather, how it was coming across. I did not back away or change anything I said, I merely explained it more fully with, perhaps more context. And I invited Robert to carry on the conversation with me, if he wanted to.I called Macha because it seemed like the right thing to do. I'm a big fan of speaking with a person, in person, where possible and it seemed appropriate to talk with her about our conversations here on her blog.

I've stated on several post here that I support Macha's decision to leave, not because it means "YAY! she's gone" but because it seems to serve Macha's needs.

Macha has encouraged conversation, debate, dissent and an airing on this topic and others. I happen to disagree with some of her points. Disagreeing does not mean invalidating her experiences. That I have been careful not to do.

Sparky, please feel free comment on what I say. Please feel free to disagree with it. But Sparky, Please refrain from ever comparing me to a man and a belief system that would promote rape culture, demean those that have been raped and seek to delegitimize the pain and suffering of those that have been raped and then away the fundamental rights of other human beings for the sake of power over.

Gwion

Anonymous said...

Sparky,

To accuse someone of being the "spokesperson for the Reclaiming party line" is, in a word, ridiculous. You're right no one is allowed to have an opinion that is different from Macha's unless there is something underhanded going on. They must be a secret agent for Starhawk (note the sarcasm).

Typing rude comments on a blog post against someone, you most likely have never met, is a highly ineffectual way of communicating and only leads to misinterpretations, confusion, and potentially hurt feelings. The written word is imperfect in conveying how someone truly feels about a subject.

If you really want to understand what someone means, why don't you try talking directly to that person; like it seems Gwion and Macha did.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Take a breath, guys!

First, it seems that there is more than one "anonymous" posting here, so it's easy to confuse what one person is saying from what another is saying.

Second, Gwion, I'm sorry you had such a horrendous experience -- I have, too -- but I don't really see how Sparky's post could be interpreted as trivializing rape. He's simply comparing party lines, Republican and Reclaiming. It just happend that Todd Akin's remarks provided a good example of backtracking on his original wording yet keeping the same party line. He could have been talking about "clean coal" or offshore drilling or climate change ("ain't happening") or war profiteering instead of women's reproductive freedom.

To one of the Anonymi, yes indeed, there is a party line. It's not mine, never said it was. As Sparky has said, the framing is "good guys vs. bad guys." Perhaps he'll unpack that further here.

And finally, to one of the Anonymi, I have not mentioned WitchCamps and Starhawk at all -- yet. That's another socially/organizationally complicated thing I'm saving for a whole other blog entry.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

One more thing: I think Gwion's sincere comments come from the fact that most of his work with Reclaiming has been in one "cell," North Bay Reclaiming, which is relatively uncontaminated with some of the posturing and jockeying for positions considered to have prestige. He works hard, is diligent, committed, competent, reliable, and kind. And -- and here's the big one -- to my knowledge he has never had occasion to rock the boat. I, OTOH, have, which is why I have finally given up.

As Sparky has said elsewhere, there is always dissent. No group is 100% homogeneous in opinions. Yet when one person speaks an alternative perspective or opinion, and no one backs that person up, then finally the speaker wears out and gives up. That's what I did. As long as a group is all lovey-dovey and everything is copacetic, that's not an issue.

Give it time. It's mind-blowing to me how long I wore blinders in the spirit of idealism.

Then again, maybe some of the discussions precipitated by my leaving will give pause for reflection and reevaluation, and maybe change will come. So far, though, it seems most have circled the wagons. Personally, I'm grateful that Gwion is still talking to us (i.e., me, the pariah).

Sparky T. Rabbit said...

Anonymous said...

To accuse someone of being the "spokesperson for the Reclaiming party line" is, in a word, ridiculous. You're right no one is allowed to have an opinion that is different from Macha's unless there is something underhanded going on. They must be a secret agent for Starhawk (note the sarcasm).

-----------------------------------

I'm afraid you'll have to show me the actual quotes where I've said *any* of those things you've referenced above.

People who frame a story in terms of the Good Guys vs the Bad Guys usually see anyone who disagrees with them as viewing the situation the way they themselves do. For instance, I don't see this story as Macha vs Starhawk, nor have I ever told it that way. I think that must be *your* version of the story, since you're the one who's mentioned it. No surprise there, of course.

Oh, yeah, and your name is...?

Corby Lawton said...

Groups have some unique powers over us. Especially when we are young and the mystery and power of groups is new to us. There is a magnetism to any group. there will be a power dynamic to any given group. It can be hard to break into a group, or very easy if the circumstances are Ideal. If a group lapses into silence it can be hard to break that silence. We are adaptable creatures and will likely show different sides in different groups. sometimes for that reason we may try to keep our groups apart. For instance you may act differently around your family than a group of same sex friends and different again around groups that are of mixed sex. It can take a huge amount of courage to reveal how one personally feels in a group. or even to break an uncomfortable silence. We are all susceptible to emotions of all sorts. Envy, resentment, Etc. It is our natures and training that allow us to act civilized. In the end we are animals and we do the best we can. One misunderstanding can cause years worth of bad behavior that can infect a groups dynamic with petty darkness.
Complicated in this case because in magic like in movies one needs to suspend ones disbelief, it is bound to become part of the group dynamic.

Sparky T. Rabbit said...

Gwion Raven said...
Sparky,

I am a person that has suffered the humiliation and degradation of rape personally. I find your comparison reprehensible.

----------------------------------

For anyone following the story, I hope you’re taking notes. Gwion’s reply is a classic demonstration of a Reclaiming response, using their shadow-values of manipulation, victimhood, codependency, and radical guilt.

The entire analysis deserves an article (forthcoming), but here’s the short version:

If you want to get your way, or want to change the subject quickly, or want to distract people from what’s going on, portray yourself as a victim. Groups that value victimhood, such as Reclaiming, see victims as righteous and always right. Don’t forget to add too much personal information, such as telling total strangers what you have suffered personally. This creates false intimacy, which tends to break down people’s boundaries and powers of discrimination, which makes them more likely to sympathize with and support you.

In addition, and if at all possible, portray someone you’re reacting to as (at least) politically insensitive, or (best choice) as an oppressor. It doesn’t matter what this person has done or said. Where codependency reigns, as in Reclaiming, any uncomfortable feelings you have can be blamed on someone else, who “made you" feel bad. That person is then responsible for making you feel better, or else be branded a villain for life.

Radicals seem to carry an amazing amount of guilt around, which they often try to relieve by championing those they see as victims – especially those from the latest batch of fashionable victims. So groups like Reclaiming, which sees itself as politically radical, are ideal environments for professional victims, who know a good gig when they see one.

Gwion's comment is a great example of what I mean when I make reference (only somewhat facetiously) to the Reclaiming party line. It's behavior that's modeled, learned, and accepted within a group, that members may not even be conscious of, but act out nonetheless.

Robert Mathiesen said...

@ Helen/Hawk

Indeed, Reclaiming began as a group of people (including Starhawk), without a clear center or single leader, whose work evolved into a tradition. But it takes an almost superhuman effort on the part of *everyone* in the group for the group to remain leaderless as the decades roll on. It beggars belief that any group has ever managed to pull the trick off for as long as 30 years and more. I would sooner believe a person who says he has seen pigs fly.

It's easy to keep the myth going, so long as leadership and centers of power remain somewhat hidden. But myth is never a simple reflection of reality. When it is a question of power, myth can often be a mighty tool of exploitation, abuse and control.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Gwion wrote: "Happy to take this discussion with you off of Macha's blog. I'd like to hear more."

Discussions such as ours really have to be conducted in full daylight. To move this one off list would be something of a betrayal, I think.

(My replies have been delayed as I've been away on vacation.)

Robert Mathiesen said...

Macha (Broomstick Chronicles) wrote: "I had always considered that a Witch's word was inviolate."

Indeed! And not just a Witch, but any magician. If your own words do not have the power to bind even you, how can you expect them to have any power over anyone or anything else. I find it very hard to respect anyone who does not scrupulously keep his or her word.

Robert Mathiesen said...

@ the Anonymous who took classes with Starhawk way back in the '70s:

There is a telling entry which Anne Hill posted on her Blog o' Gnosis way back on April 20, 2008.

To summarize what she wrote (I have no independent knowledge of the situation), the Bay Area teachers' cell was split into two factions, neither of which trusted or would even talk with the other. Anne and another Witch spent months of effort on arranging a meeting between the two factions, with a neutral facilitator, to work through the issues that divided them. The night before the meeting, Starhawk sent around an email saying that this meeting should really focus on something else, and others quickly picked up on her suggestion. "Months of preparation were tossed out the window," and the two factions (Anne wrote) were not able to work through their differences then or later.

When I first read this awful story, back in 2008, I simply thought, how clueless and clumsy of Starhawk to hijack this particular meeting, and how unfortunate for Reclaiming that she did so.

But as the present thread has developed on Macha's blog (and before that on the PNC-Minnesota Bureau's blog), I have been impelled to rethink my first impression of what Starhawk did, and to revise my estimate of her as a person.

Starhawk is a highly intelligent person, and she also has a profound and sophisticated understanding of power and how it can be used. I now ask myself: could it have served her own hidden purposes *deliberately* top derail all Anne's efforts toward healing the rift between those two factions?

In the sixth post on this thread I wrote about the natural tendency of groups to coalesce around a single leader and to drive out rivals to the leader, as well as victims of the group or the leader and all those who speak uncomfortable truths to the group. This is a natural process, albeit an unpleasant one.

But it can be exploited by any subtle leader to consolidate her own power, and such a leader will also have a vested interest in dividing to conquer: it will often not be in that leader's interest to heal rifts between factions.

Here is one of the maxims that such a leader relies on:

"Sincerity is the key! People judge truth by sincerity. If you can fake sincerity, you can do pretty much anything with anyone."

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Robert, can you perhaps provide a link to Anne Hill's April '08 blog post? I can't find it. I did, however, find this handy dandy reference to her Reclaiming-focused blogs: http://gnosiscafe.com/gcblog/posts-on-reclaiming/ So, so many of them are relevant here!

Plus, I'm blown away at some of the things I said. Makes me feel all the more foolish. ::sigh::

Robert Mathiesen said...

It's the post titled "Same As It Ever Was," and here is the link:

http://gnosiscafe.com/gcblog/2008/04/20/same-as-it-ever-was/

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Thanks, Robert. I actually had re-scanned (not really reread) this last night, but didn't recognize the teachers' cell stuff because I'd left that cell years before.

As I've mentioned before, I think, I had found myself a relatively comfortable place on the periphery. I could avoid meetings and all the tedium and dysfunction found in them, and yet remain more or less a part of the trad. No longer!

Some years later there arose the ICT, which originally meant Independent Camp Teachers, formed by disaffected WitchCamp teachers (Oak, Anne Hill, Thorn, et al.). Then they asked me to join, since all but one were in the SF Bay Area. When I did, I asked them to change the name to Independent Craft Teachers. We issued a statement about teachers not sleeping with students (at WCs in particular) because at some camps this was fairly common. Even the statement, and asking others to sign in agreement with it, caused quite a stir.

Of course, since I have been prevented from teaching at WitchCamps (a subject to be explored in a subsequent blog entry), it didn't affect me. That said, I was a fairly prominent public figure in the trad at that time, so I guess my name may have given the statement more weight, don't know. In any case, I agreed with the statement so I signed it with the others. Protests among WC folks ensued. You can imagine.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Indeed, Macha, I can imagine, both the state of affairs and the reaction / resistance to the statement you signed. (Similar things have gone on in the academic world since well before I was born, and I turn 70 in a few days.)

S said...

I am one of those persons Macha is referring to in her post. I was the one who had put trust and belief in "Mover" BECAUSE of their attachment to Reclaiming. Because this was MY personal experience that Macha was accurately accounting on this episode of her blog, I can back up 100% of that example. This person was representing Reclaiming, and I do beleive although have no way to prove, that the money was taken under false pretense in order to "skip town" and leave several of us empty handed with empty promises. This really tainted my whole perspective of Reclaiming. Is this how their loosely structured tradition works? What do you do? You call the elder who is your friend and bring up the concern. This "Mover" came into our community, built up trusts and friendships, and then just dissapeared. What Macha has recounted is from MY personal experience and sharing it with her. It is absolute truth and I am glad it has been brought into the light. Being that this "Mover" is still apparently a very active part of Reclaiming, it is bothersome and if I was an elder of this tradition, I would want accountability of situations in which the tradition she co-founded is being reperesented.

Broomstick Chronicles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Broomstick Chronicles said...

S, thanks for posting about your experience.

Oddly, this person settled into the cabin I was already set up in at D5, which I thought was strange. Over the course of the few days we were there, I considered bringing this (and another incident of this person called in "unethical" on a public list when talking about something she knew nothing about). I took a wait-and-see attitude.

Some while later the subject of this person having lived for a while in your area arose. She mentioned the Pagan Pride Day where we danced a spiral. She also told me a bit of her troubled personal history, which made me feel some sympathy for her. WRT to her time in your area, she said she split in a hurry because the relationship she was in there was abusive. I can certainly understanding hightailing it out of an abusive relationship in a big hurry. She never looked back.

Unfortunately, neither did she make any attempt to return any of the money she'd collected by way of deposits for her class.

As I said, I did report this situation to two of her mentors. They were the ones who told her to back off on the public list where she'd called me unethical a few years earlier. No apology came, of course, but at least the conversation stopped.

One of those mentors asked me what she (the offender) could do to make things right with me. I said maybe a public apology on that same list, but even then I wasn't sure. I try to conduct myself with some honor and take some pride in that fact, so it can be hard for me to let go of an insult, particularly such a public one. (I might add that no one on the list ever said one word in my defense after that insult. That should have told me something.)

Since the time of the public insult and the running off with deposit money this person has taught in SF and at WitchCamps.

I ask again: how does this example evidence any accountability on behalf of the trad?

As to the matter of all this history and our winding up sharing a cabin at D5, I decided, based on the personal history she shared with me, that nothing would be served by my bringing it up to her at this point in time. I suspect she's even forgotten it ever happened.

The same is true of the other incidence of lack of accountability I mentioned here: I suspect the person who asked PP to reserve the venue forgot s/he had even done so.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much over this entire situation and I won't be checking for further comments. I feel the the people who are saying things against Macha are being just as disgusting as some of the people who are writing on this page 'defending' her.

What is great about Reclaiming is that it can be anything you make it. BUT you have to be willing to do the work, step up to the plate, hear feedback about your own behavior, and offer it as well. It isn't a one way street.

I have noticed that some people posting things against Reclaiming on this page are also commenting on the Reclaiming community yahoo groups. I wonder, will you continue to post and follow the conversations on these lists even though you are so obviously unhappy with this tradition.

Why follow the conversations of a group you don't want to be involved with. Is it only because of a need to stir the shit?

If it doesn't serve you it is totally ok to move on and find a tradition that does. The tradition doesn't have to change to meet one person's needs or expectations, but evolve, grow, and match the needs of the larger changing culture.

There are obviously a lot of former Reclaimers (and current ones too) who are living with a chip on their shoulder, still dwelling in the situations of the past. It's time to let it go and move forward.

Oh and Sparky - I have found your responses to be so negative, baiting, and ugly, that I am keeping myself anonymous because I feel the need to protect myself. No doubt you will use this as another way to show how Reclaiming is manipulative and shady. Of course what is important to remember is that I speak only for myself and not for the Reclaiming Tradition....as is true for anyone who is posting.

Blessings.

S said...

While I can not defend or deny the allegations of "Mover" being in an abusive relationship,(it wouldn't surprise me as I knew of whom the other party was and have since come to the realization that the significant other isn't one I now would associate with) there was still no excuse to not at least contact me to let me know what was going on. To completely cut off ties without explaination regardless of the reason for leaving is lacking of personal accountability. Perceptions are very powerful. I would have at least liked to hear from the person upon their dissaperance to offer an explaination. It would have made the situation less negative. My perception of Reclaiming had changed not for the better after that situation. I am an outsider, I hold no affiliations, but I can back up the second example as it involved me directly. I support Macha, and her decision, and am sympathetic as to why.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

UPDATE: Apparently, as a result of this blog entry, someone did some digging and discovered the story behind the matter. As I suspected, the SH person had not remembered the event. That person is apologizing to PP and refunding the money he expended on SH's behalf. I'm glad to learn of this.

Sue Young said...

Thanks for summarizing the resolution of the SH event, Macha. An admirable resolution done with integrity.
There are some lessons here.
Most of all, I think, a
whole lot of trashing going on based on assumptions and prejudices rather than fact.
First rule of anything - go to the source, rather than speak of what you don't know!
Shya

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Actually, Shya, as things turn out, it is not An admirable resolution done with integrity." There is a dark side that I have learned from having been copied on an email from PP to the individual in SH who is repaying the money. I'm awaiting permission from PP to explain this.

There was not "a whole lot of trashing going on based on assumptions and prejudices rather than fact." My facts are correct; I checked them repeatedly, over a period of years and again immediately before posting this blog.

You say, "First rule of anything - go to the source, rather than speak of what you don't know!" This is exactly what I did. PP never told me who the individual was who asked him to reserve the space, probably out of discretion and not wanting to single her out, so I couldn't take anything to her. And how do you take anything to a "leaderless" group like SH where no one wants to take responsibility?

I'm surprised that you'd take this attitude, given our breakfast conversation in Philadelphia a few years ago. This is the kind of thing I was talking to you about when I told you that people bring these kinds of things to me. I don't know why. They tell me they do so because I'm an "elder." Perhaps they assume that by assigning me that role I can do something to change or rectify the things about Reclaiming that trouble them (or to seek redress). Obviously I can't. Gods know I tried for more years than most would have. Plenty of people kept telling me they wondered why I kept hanging on.

Further, in the case of "Mover," I immediately advised two of Mover's mentors about what had happened, as I've done more than once when Mover has behaved inappropriately in public and on behalf of the trad.

Further still, I have only detailed two incidents of lack of accountability in order to give hard, fact-based, irrefutable evidence of the many things I hear about. I have not mentioned any of the many questionable goings-on at WitchCamps that campers have brought to me because, although they may have been reported accurately to me, they are subjective. Others may have experienced the same things differently, possibly even positively.

Since I have been prevented from teaching WC, there has been no avenue for me to observe, participate, or help improve teachings.

Sparky T. Rabbit said...

Anonymous said...
"I'm pretty much over this entire situation and I won't be checking for further comments."

So there’s a bunch of kids playing together in a local park. Little Margaret, the control queen of the group, finds she isn’t getting her way, so she says, “I’m tired of this. I’m taking my football and going home.” And off she stomps. What she wants is for the other kids to stop playing and take care of her (which means them doing what she wants), but instead they just keep on playing.

Fine, Margaret. Take your football and go home. (I’m speaking only for myself here, of course.) There are always people on the web who need to make sure everyone knows how they feel about an issue -- as well as get in some good name-calling -- but don't have the courage to sign their names to their words. These people who are unworthy of inclusion in adult conversation.

A: " What is great about Reclaiming is that it can be anything you make it."

That statement pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

A: "BUT you have to be willing... hear feedback about your own behavior, and offer it as well. It isn't a one way street."

Funny, that’s just what Macha has been doing, and yet she’s catching all kinds of shit for it from a bunch of Reclaiming members (each speaking only for themselves, of course), none of whom seem to take very kindly to hearing Macha’s feedback. Why do you suppose that is, when you’ve just told us how important feedback is within Reclaiming?

A: "I have noticed that some people posting things against Reclaiming on this page are also commenting on the Reclaiming community yahoo groups."

Care to name names? *I’m* commenting both here and on a private Reclaiming Yahoo list. Did you think I was hoping no one would find out?

A: "I wonder, will you continue to post and follow the conversations on these lists even though you are so obviously unhappy with this tradition."

But I thought feedback was allowed, and even necessary, in Reclaiming.

A: "Why follow the conversations of a group you don't want to be involved with. Is it only because of a need to stir the shit?"

I recommend you click the “Back” button, and read Macha’s recent blog post, “Stirring the Cauldron.”

Sparky T. Rabbit said...

Part 2

A: "If it doesn't serve you it is totally ok to move on and find a tradition that does."

You know, when conservatives told us to “Love it or leave it” in the late ‘60s, we replied, “Change it or lose it.”

A: "The tradition doesn't have to change to meet one person's needs or expectations,"

Hilarious.

A: "There are obviously a lot of former Reclaimers (and current ones too) who are living with a chip on their shoulder, still dwelling in the situations of the past. It's time to let it go and move forward."

Translation: “I don’t want you talking about this, so you should stop.”

Thanks so much for your wisdom and advice. Let me see if I’ve got this right: there’s this group of people you don’t like and are about to leave, and you’re telling them how they should behave. This, of course, bears no resemblance whatsoever to the exact behavior you’ve been criticizing here in others.

On the other hand, take your football and go home, Margaret. Don’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t be discussing.

A: "Oh and Sparky – "

Ah, here we are at the heart of the message. Why didn’t you just say this to begin with?

A: "I have found your responses to be so negative, baiting, and ugly,"

And I find your posts to be snotty, passive-aggressive, and smug. So what?

I don’t care how you *feel* about my posts, and how I feel about yours is unimportant. Surface style doesn’t outshine content in everyone’s world. What is important – to me -- are the points people are discussing, and you’ve ignored (or avoided) all of mine.

A: "I am keeping myself anonymous because I feel the need to protect myself."

Oh, my gods. This takes the cake.

Protect yourself? From *what*?

Oh, you’ve found me out. I have stooges who go to people’s homes, hold guns to their heads, and make them read posts I’ve written that they don’t like, and then they have bad feelings. Mmmmmwhahahaha!!!

Yes, folks, in the wonderful world of codependency, emotions trump reality. If Anonymous feels that she needs to protect herself from me, then I must really be dangerous. I’m sure that’s a very useful tool for you inside Reclaiming. Does everyone fall for it there?

A: "No doubt you will use this as another way to show how Reclaiming is manipulative and shady."

Actually is just shows me that *you* are manipulative and shady.

A: "Blessings."

Oh, right, I forgot to add: hypocritical and pompous.

Speaking only for myself, I say good riddance.

Helen/Hawk said...

Macha said "Helen/Hawk, thank you, too, for your comments.

I see you saying something similar to what I've been saying for lo these 30+ years, and that I've written about extensively (see Witchvox, for one place), and for which I now hang my head in embarrassment at my naïveté and idealism.

I say to you now: if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you."

Dear Macha, I wrote from my experience. Not shopping for a bridge at the moment, tho good to know where I can get one if/when I need one.

I don't think I'm naive (and to tell the truth, it doesn't feel very good to be called that, in fact it feels like name calling). My experience is what I wrote from. But I will say, that my experience is very geographically based, w/out much interaction w/the San Francisco Reclaiming community.

My post wasn't intended as a comment on you/your situation/your choices but rather on a specific post of Robert's.

Sue Young said...

Macha;
A whole lot of trashing about things people don't know was a reference to the responses to your blog. How quickly things deteriorate on the computer screen.

I didn't catch the nuance the first read through, apologies, - yes having second hand reports made to you as some kind of "higher authority" would be awkward, and very energy consuming

I think so much is regional and personality specific, and I think it is very important to have flexible structures in place to handle conflict as well as other things.

And for sure Reclaiming is far from perfect, but I don't see anything else that attempts to operate with the same self-awareness or challenge to the overculture. Case in point - my local wider pagan community has just started a FB page entitled "City" Pagan Fight Club, perhaps in part stirred by transgendered folk taking ritual roles. At first I thought it was a joke, but sadly no.

Shya

Sue Young said...

And to be clear, I do think discussig the details of second hand events on a public forum is problematic.
Shya

Robert Mathiesen said...

@ Shya wrote: "I do think discussing the details of second hand events on a public forum is problematic."

How does this differ from a family where even the victims of abuse insist on keeping the abuse a family secret? (Sunlight is the only disinfectant.)

On the whole, dysfunctional organizations are just plain incapable of cleaning their own houses. This goes in spades for organizations with noble ideals. No one here as said anything that makes me think Reclaiming might be a rare exception to this principle -- a pig that can actually fly.

The only choices the wider community -- in this case the magical community -- has are two. It can tolerate the organization's dysfunctions. Or it can discuss them, details and all, on public forums -- even at second hand. Errors of fact will soon enough be corrected in public.

Organizations, no matter how noble their ideals, don't get to tell the rest of the world to butt out while they clean up their messes. If the rest of the world really does butt out, the messes don't get cleaned up. Almost everyone prefers the devil they already know to the angels they have not yet met.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Thanks, Shya. You say, "I think it is very important to have flexible structures in place to handle conflict as well as other things."

I'm good with flexible structures and, in general decentralization. But when a trad comes to be viewed as monolithic, as trads are wont to do, how then to assure any kind of accountability? I don't have the answer.

"my local wider pagan community has just started a FB page entitled "City" Pagan Fight Club, perhaps in part stirred by transgendered folk taking ritual roles. At first I thought it was a joke, but sadly no."

Sorry, don't know what a fight club is so I'm not understanding your meaning. Perhaps someone will enlighten this unhip old lady

Sue Young said...

I didn't eiher. But it is apparently a page to air (or muddy) grievances. Not particularly constructive!

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