Reclaiming by Doing: Ecstatic witchcraft in action
For Reclaiming Witches, what we do is the living embodiment of what we believe—about human worth, the holiness of the Earth, and the individual and community relationship with Mystery. Join me as I explore some of the tradition's central tenets and commonly held beliefs through the actions of our members. From soup kitchens to street actions, from guerrilla gardening to gender salons, "Reclaiming by Doing" hopes to illuminate the sacred in ordinary and extraordinary life.
My wife and I spent last weekend at the third annual Paganicon, a gathering of Pagan-identifying folk from the Twin Cities area (and beyond). The Reclaiming presence continues to be small. Apart from my lovely wife and myself, and a couple friends we're slowly pulling into the Reclaiming orbit, I only spotted one person who positively identifies as being part of that nebulous entity known as "Paganistan Reclaiming".
So there we were, a small number of us expected, whether people said so or not, to "represent" our tradition among the swirl of other Paganisms present at the convention. Which, as I've mentioned before, is nigh impossible. I can represent the way I practice Reclaiming, and perhaps the way it's done here in "Paganistan" (a term for the greater Twin Cities area Pagan community), but beyond that, we weave a glorious tapestry of belief and practice that's difficult to easily encapsulate.
Yet I keep getting called upon to do it. I didn't seek out this work, but it seems to have come to me. It's so important, this work of intrafaith communication. If nothing else, our fellow Pagans need to know we at least exist! When I submitted my presenter bio for a panel I co-moderated at the first Paganicon, the convention's programming coordinator, who's been active and a leader in the local Pagan community for years, remarked, "I had no idea there was a Reclaiming presence here." That's a sad statement, especially in relation to a tradition that prides itself on transparent process.
And how many times have I heard someone, sometimes new to Paganism, sometimes not, ask, "Isn't everyone Wiccan?" This question is no simple matter of etymology and lineage; these are folks who honestly don't know that modern Paganism includes ecstatic traditions, Druidic traditions, reconstructionist traditions--or indeed anything other than becovened, High-Priestessed, athame-A-into-chalice-B Wicca. I keep finding myself in positions where I have an opportunity to talk about Reclaiming to someone who's never heard of it before. My elevator speech needs work, but I rarely turn down the opportunity to sing the praises of this tradition that's fed my spirituality so richly over the years.
That's one of the reasons events like Paganicon and its Autumn cousin, Twin Cities Pagan Pride (and Pagan Pride events worldwide) mean so much to me. Certainly interfaith outreach helps our communities immensely. The more the rest of the world knows who Pagans are and what we do (and also who we aren't and what we don't do), the more we can alleviate fears and misconceptions, avoiding modern-day witch hunts and discrimination. But I've often found that, at these events, we do more educating of those who have already entered the Pagan fold but perhaps haven't realized that the pasture involves a lot more than what's going on in their own flocks (sheesh, I tell ya, the conceits I whip up for these entries!)
Why does it matter? Why is it important to know what other "flocks" of Pagans are doing with themselves? So long as everyone's being safe, sane, and consensual, why do I need to know if there are Luxembourgian Reconstructionists or fundamentalist Pastafarians? A few reasons come to mind:
- Curiosity! Learning new things about the world around us and the people who inhabit it is the bee's knees! For folks who are learning sponges, fellow-travelers on the Pagan Road make nice pools to jump into.
- Casual conversation. Not putting our feet in our mouths is awesome. The next time you're talking in a roomful of Pagans, you don't want to say, "Every Pagan always puts Water in the west," when the Luxembourgian Recons put it in the north, or "Nobody takes the Flying Spaghetti Monster seriously!" when you're standing next to His Most Devoted Meatball.
- Interfaith relations. Though not always the case, sometimes intrafaith communication can be a stepping-stone to interfaith outreach. In several groups I'm active in (and which you're sure to hear more about in future entries), I've become the "token Pagan" who often gets called upon to explain my tradition to non-Pagans (I didn't go looking for that, either, but I seem to have drifted into it). I frequently begin my elevator speech with the caveat, "This is how we do things in my tradition, but Paganism encompasses a lot of different beliefs and practices." I'm far from an expert on every Pagan tradition, but even just knowing our tree has a lot of different branches helps me represent us more conscientiously.
So! To sum up:
- Your area may well have a Reclaiming presence, even if we're not the greatest about letting people know about ourselves.
- We talk a lot about being "called" to particular work or seeking it out, but we're not always the Saints of Volition. Sometimes we get pulled into things or drift into them without much conscious effort.
- Learning about other Pagan traditions and engaging in intrafaith outreach can be very worthwhile and rewarding for all involved! We're all up this tree together; let's get to know the folks in the other branches.
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