Monday, August 14, 2006

Priestesses Compare Notes

I'm in shock. Stunned! Nonplussed. I just learned something tonight that probably should have been obvious to me based on my observations of how certain people have regarded other certain people throughout our (Reclaiming's) existence. But not me! I really had no idea. I feel hurt, betrayed, like a stooge, a fool, a dupe. Dismayed, disillusioned, distressed. (The 'dis' my partner Corby used when hearing this is "disgusting.") At the same time, I feel disloyal in feeling that way. Recently I responded to an entry on Anne Hill's blog, saying, "maybe I'm just a slow learner." I feel like that tonight. How could I have missed this?

At the most recent Dandelion Gathering in May when people were calling for the use of the word "action" in the BIRCH statement of intention, I stated that I thought we needed to add the word "reflection." I believe that action without reflection is unbalanced and unhealthy. That magical intent seems to be manifesting. We, meaning those in the greater Reclaiming community who post on lists (specifically Spider, supposedly a WitchCamp teachers and organizers lists, although I am neither), maintain blogs, and otherwise interact in cyberspace, are now actively engaged in discussing our identity; our organization, or lack thereof; our processes, both acknowledged and covert; our strengths and weaknesses; our standards, or lack thereof; our accountability (to whom? to what?); our thealogy; our sacred technologies; our shared values and points of agreement (and disagreement); our ethics. It's not easy.

When Anne posted her first two reflections on the trad, and in particular her unique view of it, I just had to respond. Probably because it has meant so much to me. I was a little uneasy because blogs are so wildly public. Then again, I value transparency in most things, and I'm known for my candor. (In fact, I think that particular characteristic of my personality is what accounts for my shock at the information that was just revealed to me tonight.) Actually, it felt rather liberating talking about all this right out in the open.

Sure enough, though, soon I find my more inflammatory comments quoted on Chas Clifton's blog and on The Wild Hunt.

Anyone interested in following this unfolding may wish to check Oak's Roots Down as well as the above-mentioned Blog o' Gnosis and here from time to time.

Obviously this is an inappropriate medium for me to go into details about the cause of my shock. Besides, I'm still in too much shock to achieve a clear perspective. Suffice it to say that the fact of this distressing situation does not reflect an inadequacy on my part. One thing that is clear to me -- and that was stressed by my informants -- is that evidently my habit of questioning the status quo, or certain individuals, authority or assumptions, threatens some others.


Anonymous said...

I'm not really anonymous...blogger just doesn't recognise my password on a regular basis. Errr!
There is always someone ready to pick out the sentences that best serve their purpose but do not serve the best purposes of the group at large. You may suppose that you don't know me...but, you do know of me. I am one of Pgh.'s 3 Reclaiming witches. Reclaiming chose me, out of a chaos of traditions. What group doesn't have warts? What group doesn't need to take stock every so often?
And yes, as a friend of mine says: *The first person to turn on the lights is the first person to get shot.* You may not have been the first but you spoke in the plainest language. So....
There will always be dissatisfied ones who wish to post only the bits they can twist to their own ends. Thing is, ya gotta take it all. What you like, what you don't like and work with it. Sometimes, it turns out, what I thought would be the bit I hated most or could not do at all becomes the most useful.
Sorry, I do tend to ramble. I am feeling defensive and I don't know quite how to defend what I know except to say that its working for me. I would practice this tradition if it were only me...and it once was...but, I must say, ecstatic ritual is not the same when there is only one participant. Could be that's why I fight so hard. I can and have done it alone. I just would rather not.
I have been to one WC. (MidWest) It was lovely. I very much enjoyed the week. But, it was a 16 hour drive. Yes, there is a closer camp but I could not get anyone to respond to my queries. I have been told this has been remedied.
Reclaiming works but no one ever said it was easy. The easier, softer way is a fantasy that will eventually bite us in the ass.

Reya Mellicker said...

I have a passion for poppies, too.

Hey Macha I've been thinking about how people who are fairly new to Reclaiming - in whatever form they've encountered it - are always so jazzed about the potential, etc. After a few years, people either drop out or get jaded, unless those people are you, Oak, Starhawk, Rose, and a few other elders who have stuck with it while so many others have dropped away.

I believe Reclaiming is a "launching pad" tradition, something that gets people going on a path of self-transformation. Whether the energy of the launch gets people politically involved, or interested in pursuing self-work or going deeper into the Craft, doesn't seem to be the point to me. The second piece, (this part of my theory is never popular) is that at some point, in order to continue to develop in a healthy way, people need to "graduate" from Reclaiming.

Except for a few of you who, for one reason or another, hold all the paradoxes and problematic aspects of the tradition. You've been around long enough that you can't even remember where you put the rose colored spectacles. You get pissed off, shocked or whatever, but you hang in there.

I'm very interested in the concept of Reclaiming elders since I don't think the trajectory of Reclaiming is sustainable. I believe this is one reason it's such an ecstatic trad, why so much energy can be raised at rituals, etc. It's exciting, but fireworks like that can not last.

Thoughts? I'm loving this conversation, sprinkled all over the internet.

Reya Mellicker said...

Also wanted to say, action without reflection is exactly what Reclaiming is all about. It's a bursting, wood-like trad (wood as in Chinese medicine element).

I remember asking Tana, who came to WC a few times, who was a high priestess in an Alexanderian trad for 20 years before she became interested in Reclaiming. I called her once to ask her opinion about how to reverse a candle spell. I said, 'I was taught how to undo other kinds of spells; i.e. you take the packet apart and back out of the ritual, scatter the ingredients, etc. But - how do you reverse a candle spell?"

There was a long pause before Tana said, "I always forget what a big rush you Reclaiming people get in to do your magic. In my tradition, we were taught to reflect and be certain before casting a spell. That way, you don't have to reverse it."

I laughed out loud.

Broomstick Chronicles said...

I think there's something amiss if good people drop away. Reya, your perception of Reclaiming's being a launching pad is shared by many. And if that is truly the case -- which I don't think it is, or at least it needn't be in the best of worlds -- then some of us are pretty retarded. ;-)

Rather than 'graduating' from Reclaiming, why not just make it deeper, richer, fuller? I thought that's what people were supposed to be doing in various classes and retreats. Then again, I've not been involved in them, in large part due cause of to the distressing shock I'm currently processing.

It's the sustainability issue that concerns me, and why I (and we) have been putting forth all these ruminations. Memes (or institutions, if you will) cannot survive when those who've propagated them, or have participated in their creation, abandon them. Were I to view it otherwise, I'd have to consider the better part of my adult life wasted.

Your observation about spells is *exactly* what I mean when I use the terms sloppy and accountability and standards. Not to mention ethics. Many Reclaiming Witches *are* reflective and do consider the potential consequences of their actions, and therefore embark upon them with a clearer -- purer, if you will -- sense of purpose. Unfortunately, there is no standard and no system of accountability. In a better Reclaiming, I would see this oversight remedied.

steward said...

"...I'd have to consider the better part of my adult life wasted."


It seems to me that if the universe doesn't necessarily take your ingredients to make things turn out the way you planned, that that's necessarily bad or a waste. Your work has helped to teach over a generation of Witches - including, I would guess, people who never considered themselves Reclaiming-identified - to be self-empowered, to reach out for things on their own, to not be bound by traditions that no longer serve them.

Even though the vehicle you largely worked through was Reclaiming, is the continued existence of the organization, per se, so important? Are there not other avenues you can pursue your work in, without dealing with the continually rehashed problems in Reclaiming?

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm not sure something needs to be amiss because people move on. After a few years, it's appropriate to graduate from college and get on with life. After a love affair, it's appropriate to pick up your toothbrush and move on, right? When a child reaches a certain age, every parent is ready for their darling babies to grow up and get out, yes? Everything has a lifespan. I believe Reclaiming's lifespan is rather brief, theologically and in terms of how long people stick with it, except for the few of you I think of as the true elders of the trad.

How can the lifespan of Reclaiming be lengthened, or deepened, when there is no core theology, no foundation to build upon? When each person interprets the trad in any way they want to?

The Principles of Unity are so beautiful, so idealistic, so impossible. As a foundation they don't really work, though as ideals floating up there in the sky, they are gorgeous.

Fun to talk about this!

Anonymous said...

My biggest baby in the bathwater is the network of friendships and working relationships I have with other fine priests and priestesses. There I do still get to experience exhilarating ritual and all the other stuff I associate with the best of Reclaiming trad. The irony is that almost none of this occurs within the typical Reclaiming venues--witchcamps, public rituals, private classes, actions. It is all about life--weddings, funerals, rites of passage, seasonal get-togethers. I'm still trying to understand this seeming paradox.

I second Steward's comment that even if we choose to leave, none of that time has been wasted. We're here to learn, after all, right?


Marjie said...

Funny, that. About reversing a candle spell. I was taught to carefully reflect before casting a spell IN RECLAIMING!!

Anonymous said...

Reya's comment that Reclaiming is a 'launching pad' resonates with me, but I have to say my own experience was of being pushed off the pad - or plank - rather than choosing to leap off.

I felt unjustly treated, maligned and shut out of a walled enclosure in which individuals continue to this day to peddle the myth of non-hierarchy when there are sheep and shepherds, albeit many of those shepherds don't take to that role with relish and in fact may well really dislike it but wonder what they can do. There are others, however, who do enjoy the shepherding role and draw personal power from that.

Since my involvement with British Reclaiming was terminated following what I still insist to be a series of injustices against me, I have gone on after a period of nursing bruises to build on what Reclaiming is for me at its core, albeit as a solitary practitioner in many respects. So yes, it is a starting point - at least for me - but I would rather it had been possible to continue to feel part of a specific tradition in full as well as a generalised pagan community.

I was personally and I believe spiritually betrayed by certain high-ranking (yes, hierarchical terms apply!) people within British Reclaiming. I maintain friendship with Oak, who I met in 2004, because she is real and honest and solidly open to different perspectives besides her own. I have never known Oak to judge and from reading across the world of blogs, sense - though I cannot say for certain - that she is not the only long-term Reclaimer who is capable of approaching things with humour and respect, love and compassion. Other than Oak, I have great respect for Rook and Thorn, both of whom I have only met once but they seem truly open and, again, share that sense of humour and grounded approach which so many seem to lack and instead become bogged down in personal power quests. I call such people spiritual careerists, and they would be better served in their aspirations, such as they are, by joining established monolithic religions than in working to make Reclaiming just the same.

I most sincerely hope the outworkings of Reclaiming can be reformed; the core beliefs are so beautiful, so resonant for me, that I hate to think that their aims continue to be scuppered by approaches which are at best misguided and at worst deliberately exclusive and unjust.

You're right to indicate something is amiss when good people leave, and I would add that this is even more so when they leave under attack and persecution, nursing hurts and grievances which are ignored and shrugged off simply because those responsible for those hurts think they can get away with it without causing long-term damage to the cause of Reclaiming. But hurt one person, they tell ten, who tell another ten... All actions, negative and positive, have consequences for a tradition which is supposed to be open, non-exclusive, non-hierarchical and honest but, in practice, proves time and time again it is anything but. x

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Andy, I'm sorry you had the experiences you did.

Anyone who knows me has heard me say that Reclaiming is not non-hierarchal. I don't think hierarchy is inappropriate. It occurs throughout Nature. It's a good way to organize things. But hierarchy can be badly done. Even worse, in my opinion, is unacknowledged hierarchy, and that's exactly what you've observed in Reclaiming. I think that's one of Reclaiming's heaviest clay feet.

Sometimes I feel like Cassandra saying Reclaiming has an unacknowledged hierarchy. But it does, it does.

I cannot speak to British Reclaiming, having never been there, so I don't quite understand your personal experience. But I do know that the syndrome exists within the whole of Reclaiming.

I also know -- and this is no reflection on you, since I don't even know you -- that some people are unsuited to Reclaiming. Some people should not be welcomed. They do damage, cause problems, hurt people, disrupt harmony. They take the role of antagonist and constantly tear everything down. As I like to put it, they are shit-disturbers rather than cauldron-stirrers. Cauldron-stirrers also can disturb the status quo, but it's an important job. I sometimes consider myself to be one.

I've never known any way to get rid of them. Usually they eventually discover that they're not getting whatever it is they feel they need and they leave. Then everyone who didn't deal with it, and/or those who were scapegoated to deal with it on behalf of the whole group, breathes a sigh of relief.

Anonymous said...

Yes Reclaiming has a hierarchy.
Everyone should say that 10 times before they go to bed and break the bubble.
I get what broomstick c. said to Peter and if he was a one off I would agree. Myself and Urs were thrown out of British Reclaiming...they do not agree to that definition, but it is the only one that works for me. It seems we have groups that just act the way they want. Of course starhawk intervened and we had mediation..and they all sat and agreed i could actually be involved...ever so nice of them...however the very next time i saw them on a demonstration they ran screaming across 4/5 lanes of heavy traffic to get away from me. i did not feel like i could really go back!!!!
we need a group for reclaiming people who cannot be part of their local reclaiming!!!!!!!
still stirring the cauldron!

Broomstick Chronicles said...

trying to get into my blog

deborahoak said...

Macha, thank you so much for getting that word "reflect" into the intent of BIRCH. It changes everything. I think it's making a difference. You are mighty. Really.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know I wasn't the only one to experience that from British Reclaiming; it's kind of encouraging to know there are more people out there. Yes, a group for people who are Reclaimers but for whatever reasons are not part of Reclaiming, British or otherwise... I like the sentiment while recognising it's an indictment of how things are at the same time.

This has proved a wonderful discussion to follow. I agree about the difference between those who stir the shit and those who stir the cauldron; without the cauldron ever being stirred, the soup goes stale...

It's funny, I now think my online nick of spicycauldron and my choice of The Spicy Cauldron for my blog title kind of reflects something of that, and I've never considered it before now. Sometimes spice and other new ingredients in the mix are beneficial and to be encouraged. But at the same time, big personalities - no matter how well they interact and contribute - are innately threatening, I guess.

The only way for answers to come is by discussing the problems, meaning I find following this thread enormously useful in my own meditations on this.

Like the respondent above I remain a Reclaimer outside British Reclaiming working with the tradition and keeping its values real and alive in my heart and actions, as much as any of us can. I do hope one day to see the cliqueyness slacken off; it's detrimental in the long run. x
Thank you. x