Monday, August 06, 2012

A Co-Founder Withdraws from Reclaiming Tradition

I, M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch, aka Aline O’Brien, withdraw from the organization known as Reclaiming Tradition Witchcraft and hereby dissociate myself from further involvement with the tradition.  I make this statement formally and publicly because I am a public figure known to be connected to Reclaiming.

I do not make this decision lightly or without forethought and considerations for potential consequences.  It has been a long time coming.  I no longer feel that its principles and practices accord with my own.  I intend to remain as true as I can to original Principles of Unity released in 1997, and of which I am a co-creator.  Many may assume that the adoption of a revised Principles of Unity soon to be published is my reason for retiring.  However, my unwillingness to accept them is not my only reason.  I have long felt alienated, estranged, and out of sync with how I've seen the tradition devolving.  

The incompatibilities between Reclaiming and me also trace to loose, undefined standards; lack of accountability; uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences; lack of coherent theology; lack of intellectual rigor; and carelessness in ritual and other aspects of religious practice.  

I do this in order to maintain my own standards of honor and integrity.  I need to love and respect the person I see in the mirror.  

I remain a Witch.  I am not renouncing my oath to protect and defend my sisters and brothers of the art.  I intend to remain true to my vows.   I hope to continue to enjoy the many loving relationships engendered in the context of Reclaiming.

It will take me some time to unpack and explore these many concerns on this Broomstick Chronicles blog.  I hope others will join me in this exploration and will contribute their thoughts and feelings as I begin to articulate mine.

I am full of love and gratitude for having had the opportunity to help midwife the birth and growth of Reclaiming in its earlier incarnations, and to have trod the path alongside so many loved ones.


Sunfell said...

It's sad to see the word 'devolving' in your description of Reclaiming. I remember when it was avant garde.

All the best, Macha.

Mari Elm said...

I am so sorry, Aline. I know how tough such a decision is. You must be true to yourself and your ideals. You are an impressive role model.
Mari Elm

Chelidon said...

You have every right to be utterly true to your self, and I honor your choice, and your reasons. And I feel sorrow to see Reclaiming lose one of the very few genuine Elders of the tradition.

Cat C-B (and/or Peter B) said...

Oh, dear... Macha, I'm sorry; I know this won't have been an easy decision for you to make.

I also hope that it will bring you more peace and a sense of renewal; I know that Reclaiming's issues have been weighing you down for some time.

Funny how many women I admire are formerly of Reclaiming.

Tara Brihde said...

"and this above all else, to thine own self be true."

deborahoak said...

I think it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I took one look at the Dandelion waiver (that came directly from our home witchcamp) and knew it was insane for me to be there.

Anonymous said...

Lovely person, if we cannot be true to ourselves first, and foremost, then to whom can we be true. I know from experience such decisions are not reached easily, and wish you Peace on your Path, wherever it may lead you.

Byron Ballard said...

I honor your honesty and clarity. Gratitude to you for all the work you've done and all the work you have still to do.

Anonymous said...

Dear One, We support you in the choices that you have made. You are an inspiration to all who must make choices for their own good even when they hurt. My thoughts and prayers are winging your way. )O(Bless...

happydog said...

Wow. Blessings on you. This had to be tough beyond my words to say, and it took courage. May your way be lighted by wisdom and honor and love.

Clare Slaney said...

In the space of five minutes this morning I've read two pieces from women who've left the spiritual home that they helped create. That sense of exile can be catastrophic - I've experienced it myself and was more or less devastated - not least because, despite earnest meetings signifying nothing, everything carries on as normal. People just want their holiday and status and are willing to cast people who say "Wait, why are you doing this?" as the Evil Witch with no sense of irony. With no sense, actually.
Aline, I hope with all my heart that this doesn't happen to you. Because you're a co-creatrix of a tradition that's valuably informed so much of modern Paganism I would hope that you're offered some respect as a minimum. Please surround yourself with people who will care for you, and there will be many. Much love, many blessings, huge respect. xcsx

Anonymous said...

Echoes of pain. Reading this hurts my heart.

I am sorry.

Helen/Hawk said...

Echoes of pain. Reading this hurts my heart.

I am sorry.

Maggie / NorthLight said...

Reclaiming is losing an Elder of amazing power, dedication, patience (the current decision notwithstanding), and vision.

Though you have been one of the most significant voices of the tradition, the love and respect we bear you, and the contributions you have made, extend far beyond that.

In my own journey there have been several moments of 'time to walk away now' from organizations and ties that I had once regarded as permanent. I know how hard this is, and also I know how much joy arises in the new freedom to be Who You Are without the fetters of a relationship that is truly over.

Many Blessings to you, Dear One, in whatever Path is yours to walk from here.

Along with so much love, light and laughter

Chevaliermalfait said...

I'm not the least bit surprised.
Blessings on your path!

Carol Maltby said...

I'm sorry that it has come to this, Macha. You put so much into Reclaiming. May you find equanimity about your decision, and a smooth path moving forward.

Lady Annabelle said...


You have made a difficult decision. I know your leadership meant a lot to the Reclaiming tradition. I can see that your leadership is going to go elsewhere, because that is what you give. Though you are heartily strong, please know I send you loving and healing thoughts.


Pagan In Paradise said...


Having been through this I know some will see this diferently than you and I do. We must be true to our own hearts, our Goddess and where she leads.

Love you, your brother in her service,

Peter Dybing

Anonymous said...

I have either met, or known for some time, people who have quietly left Reclaiming for precisely the reasons you have stated. I felt saddened myself to see how Reclaiming had deteriorated upon my first attendance at Spiral Dance where it was seen as more important to record the names of the Beloved Dead and play them back before the ritual than to recite those names with reverence at the appropriate time and to hold space for those who mourn. While I identify with Reclaiming's ecstatic ritual process, I certainly don't identify with the way the Beloved Dead and a few of my friends have been treated. When gifted priestesses such as yourself are moved to leave the tradition, or as Anne Hill called it, Remaining, it's clear there's something very wrong.

Blessings on you for having the bravery and integrity to make this public statement, Macha.

Beth Owl's Daughter said...

Dearest Macha..These statements of support and painful echoes of validation resonate with my own feelings.

But I know your integrity, service, and devoted leadership will stand the test of time, no matter whatever or whoever else may eventually devolve.

With greatest honor and respect. ~ B.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne Hill said...

May your path open up before you.

Many blessings,

rainadelmagick said...

Macha, You are honored and valued in whatever paths you choose to follow. I applaud your brevity in sharing what must be a very life changing decision. I look forward to learning more from you in the future.

Gwion Raven said...

Dearest Macha,

As a current priestess, teacher and student in Reclaiming, this post deeply saddens me. Reclaiming was and is an evolving tradition,and as a tradition I know that the opinions, encouragement and perspective of our elders is very much a core value.

You are one on my dearest mentors and friends and I look forward to many more discussions, debtates and downloads.

May the great works you do in the Interfaith communities continue onward and with much success.

Much love and admiration to you -


Gwion Raven said...

And just a quick aside to Tanith -

The names of the Beloved Dead are read aloud by priestesses at the public Spiral Dance and at many other private rituals at Samhain-tide.
There was a brief period when the names were recorded (I'm not sure why that decison was made) but community feedback, which was much appreciated and vociferous, lead to changing that decision several years ago.


Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan said...

Dear Aline,

Holding you in my heart, in the Light, and in the comforting Darkness.

Blessed be,

Lauren Raine said...

I'm so sorry to hear this, Macha. I shall always remember your encouragement to create masks for the Spiral Dance, and how you yourself brought the Spiral Dance to Tucson so powerfully in 2000. As one of those who I know this must be very painful, but know that your energy and work is enriching other communities.

Aisling the Bard said...

I wrote you earlier today but I wanted to post here as well, just to say that you have been an example and a light to me since I first met you, and I know that your ethics are beyond question. I am Working that you find peace and comfort and healing from this deep hurt, and that your Path opens before you. Love and blessings! xxxxxx

Lady Susan Alabaster said...

I understand your emotional conundrum and am grateful to have a pubic example of how to handle the quagmire which some of us in other places also fall into. Once again you are a role model. My thanks for taking a strong stand. Mighty blessings on your new journey on your faith path.

Yewtree said...

It's always really hard when one finds oneself at odds with one's tradition over really central issues, with no way to resolve them. I sympathise with your position and honour your decision to move on. As others have said above, you are a person of deep integrity, so I know you will not have made this decision lightly. From what I have heard, I think it is the right decision. I wish you many blessings on your path ahead, wherever it may lead. Hugs and blessings. Yvonne

Snooze Hamilton said...

To thine own self be cool. This seems sorta appropriate, even if you already know it:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”

― Dr. Seuss

Dj Connell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sia Vogel said...

You've done a brave and difficult thing in an ethical way. Brava.

I wrote "Dysfunctional Behavior and the Pagan Scene" for The Witches Voice in 2005 after working in the Bay Area Pagan community for many years and thinking deeply about these issues. The article is based on the dysfunctional behavior I saw tolerated, supported and even celebrated in the community among groups active in CA and elsewhere, including Reclaiming.

It's A Mystery: Dysfunctional Behavior and the Pagan Scene

the companion article is

Healthy Pagan Groups and Individuals

Last time I checked, it's been read over 33,000 times and shared throughout the web.

I had hoped that speaking frankly on this issue (and offering practical solutions and examples of healthy behavior) would lead towards change among thinking, committed Pagans. I have yet to see this change in action but seeds can take time to flower depending on the soil, and I still hope it is possible.

I believe that we can support positive change by setting standards, walking our talk, modeling healthy boundaries, teaching about topics such as emotional intelligence, the
Guru Trap, and dysfunctional systems, and speaking the truth about our experience.

Thank you for taking this stand.

Best wishes for Highest Good for both you and Reclaiming,


P.S. Pagans who are looking to become healthier, more aware of these issues, and more empowered will find support from like minded people in the Spiral Steps Support Groups:

The online board is an anonymous, non cross-talk meeting where all are welcome. The link is at the website.

An article about this group is up at The Witches Voice. It is called Making a Sea Change: The Spiral Steps Support Groups:

Unknown said...

I'm sorry it's come to it, dearest Macha, but, as others have said, you must remain true to your heart and your path. Know that you are loved, supported, and continue to be an inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Your personal integrity and no-nonsense words & presence made a big impression on me way back when, and I do not doubt those very qualities will continue to light your new path. Many blessings to you.

Caroline / Honeycomb said...

The only thing worse than recognizing a painful truth is not recognizing it.

It's an honor to witness your integrity and strength, and such sadness to see the pain involved. Thank you for sharing both so honestly and openly, and for leaving with truth rather than anger.

I am sorry for the sadness and sickness and pain you have felt and may still be feeling. May the road rise up to meet you.

Wishing you joyful blessings and a sweet harvest.

Anonymous said...

Change takes courage. But it also opens new vistas. Blessings.

Reya Mellicker said...

Happy graduation. You are so classy, Macha. I look forward to reading about your experience of unwinding.

I'm still unwinding after several years. We practice reading each other's minds and connect ever more closely through ritual which makes the unwinding seriously tricky. I know you will become wiser, kinder and more compassionate as a result.

I've seen a couple of the revamped principles of unity - they didn't seem that different to me, but what do I know? What was the waiver?

Onwards and upwards! Shalom.

Unknown said...

Love and Light to you Macha. You have always been an inspiration to me and I feel priveledged to know you. I understand, and have been through somewhat similar circumstances. It's hard to withdraw from something you helped to create, but you have to stand strong for yourself, not for others. You have taught me more than you know, and while people may come and go, and traditions wane ad wax, you are a cornerstone for many. Much love and blessings to you.

Thom said...

I have noticed what you are describing over the past 10 years. There is no authority and there are so many layers for seekers to penetrate or make sense of to develop a personal practice or grow with a community of practitioners.

I think reclaiming has become an institution, rather than a living tradition. Everyone sort of knows the drill and works to maintain the status quo rather than moving energy and staying present to what's needed now.

Nora Bee, who has been training as a priestess in the Reclaiming tradition, recently seeded a pop-up ritual at the Palace of Fine Arts. That was a nice ritual, sincere and technically proficient with an engaged and well-trained group of practitioners and initiates. And it felt fresh.

I was trained in the Third Road Tradition and that is essentially my practice that is informed by a lot of other influences and interests in mysticism and magic and the Feri system. I feel an affinity for Reclaiming as it exists on paper, but my personality has made it more difficult for me to connect in a significant way with any of the people of Reclaiming. Because I like to keep things moving. I think "the formula" and especially initiation, mean that you are now open to ALL the possibilities, not that you have been inducted to the country club.

nwlorax said...

Dear Macha: It can be sad when one was present-and heavily involved with-the founding of an active Spiritual paradigm with feet. The expression can develop away from what a founder intended, becoming something unrecognizable, stratified and even stifling.

I have had this experience with CR, and wish you continuous creation, discovery and hope you will share some travelling tales with the rest of us on your journey. If you are ever up in the Kitsap Peninsula, you have a place to stay-and a private list of the best espresso stands in the area. Blessings, Gordon Cooper/nwlorax

Storm Faerywolf said...

Thank you for speaking your truth. I know it has not been easy for you, but rest assured that the Craft is served by your fierce honesty. Here is another example of why you are a respected Elder. IO Evohe! Blessed be.

Sam Wagar said...

I'm sad to read this, and to read Ann Hill's comments elsewhere earlier today. Not because I disagree with what you say - these tendencies have been in Reclaiming in my experience for at least fifteen years.

But so many people, especially but not exclusively women and people of minority sexualities and a left-wing bent, have gained a great deal from the Reclaiming Tradition. I hope the cultishness and other issues do not result in marginalization again in other factions of the Pagan communities.

Elinor Predota said...

Dearest Macha, I have never met you, but your writings and influence from afar I have always valued. Thank you for your openness and courage in this decision; your public stand is helping me to think more clearly about whether Reclaiming is a tradition with which I want to remain connected, and if so on what terms.
many blessings

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information. We talked at Sacred Harvest Festival a few years back. Check for my pic @marlene freeman on your fb friends. We talked then about some of your challenges with Reclaiming. I was one of the founders of Harmony Tribe, worked for ten years on creating the festival. I endured increased opposition and character assassination from some people in the tribe over those years. The tribe had so many turnovers in personnel that I tried to stay involved hoping for an easier situation. In 2010, I was asked to come back and help to save Harmony Tribe from being disbanded. I stepped back in but after the crisis was over, I again faced severe problems with certain people. I again felt ineffective and did not want to spend so much of my energy on needless push/pull tactics while fulfilling my job duties. I formally stepped down. In Harmony Tribe, I have observed that a few want to control the group for their own purposes. The original working group that we created was council of nine making the decisions. I think three people now who head the tribe. I feel the grief of losing my Aquarian type of organization.
I have so much respect for you and your work and received healing through both human and written interactions. Reading about your experience has been a healing for me. Thank you so much for sharing. don;t feel so alone and since you warmed my heart, I am sending that warmth back to you.