Pagan Paths

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.

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The Solstice Ritual

We stand in a circle beside the enormous maple branches that lie across the road, a sort of honor guard to a fallen land Wight. Claire, on whose lot the maple stands, greets each newcomer by name; Susan, who lives across the road and has a gas stove, offers coffee to folks without power.

Scarlett informs us, with a seven-year-old's precision, that the kids (seven at last count, though the number fluctuates as neighboring families walk or cycle past, witnessing our changed landscape) have collected ten earthworms. They've all been presented to us as holy offerings before being released back to the greater Mystery that is the rain-soaked boulevard. Summer has arrived with a bang.

The previous night--Solstice night--the metro area shook with storms. Streak lightning started two fires. Straight-line winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour snapped limbs from hundreds of trees or uprooted them completely. Low-lying streets flooded to the wheel wells. 500,000 homes lost power. Nature's fury spent, we slept in profound darkness and woke to a world of reverent hush, where humans turned from their screens for a moment and marveled at what Gaia can do.

A truck from the Urban Forestry division arrives to survey the damage on our block. Claire's husband Joel has a few quiet words with the driver. The truck leaves; Joel tells us, "He says it might be three or four days before they can clear it." Without a word, Susan's husband Arnold walks away and returns a moment later with his chainsaw. A few minutes later, Tim from three houses down joins us with his own chainsaw. Susan, Joel, a few of the older kids, and I haul pieces out of the road. My wife Leora, recovering from recent health problems, and Claire, nursing her one-year-old daughter, hold space at the circle's edge. Within fifteen minutes, in a rising flurry of energy, the block has been cleared. Susan rakes the remaining small debris to the roadside. We survey our handiwork, tell everyone to stay safe, and drift back toward our dark, quiet homes.

Photo by Leora Effinger-Weintraub 2013 via Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

A friend's text alerts us that, due to storm damage at the ritual site, our community Solstice ritual has been cancelled. Looking around, I think about a phrase in the current Paganistan Reclaiming values statement: "working to integrate daily life, spiritual practice, and earth-based activism". I realize: we've had our ritual, right here in the street. We gathered in circle, acknowledged the mighty powers of Nature, shared sacred stories and honored fallen green-blooded community members. We raised energy, and, in the building and strengthening of connections between neighbors, we made magic.

This is how it happens sometimes. Magic and reverence and ritual are wherever we find them--wherever we make them--and not always in the expected places. We in Reclaiming work hard to be open to those possibilities. May we all continue to be open to the sacred in all things.

Happy (belated) Solstice.

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Eli Effinger-Weintraub practices Gaian Reclaiming-tradition hearthcraft in the Twin Cities watershed. She plants her beliefs and practices in the living Earth and her butt on a bicycle saddle. Previous works have appeared in Witches&Pagans, Circle, and Steampunk Tales, as well as at the Clarion Foundation blog, Humanistic Paganism, and I’m From Driftwood. Eli writes the "Restorying the Sacred" column at No Unsacred Place, a blog of the Pagan Newswire Collective. She shares her life and art with her wife, visual artist Leora Effinger-Weintraub, and two buffalo disguised as cats. Eli's personal blog lives at Backbooth, and she tweets as @AwflyWeeEli.

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