Reclaiming (Neopaganism)

Reclaiming is an organization of feminist modern witchcraft, aiming to combine the Goddess movement with political activism (in the peace and anti-nuclear movements). Reclaiming was founded in 1979, in the context of the Reclaiming Collective (1978–1997), by two Neopagan women of Jewish descent, Starhawk and Diane Baker, in order to explore and develop feminist Neopagan emancipatory rituals.[1]

Today, the organization focuses on progressive social, political, environmental and economic activism.[2] Guided by a shared, "Principles of Unity, a document that lists the core values of the tradition: personal authority, inclusivity, social and environmental justice and a recognition of intersectionality".[3]


Reclaiming originated in 1979 in the San Francisco Bay Area, blending the influences of Victor and Cora Anderson's Feri Tradition of Witchcraft, Dianic Witchcraft as taught by Z. Budapest, and the feminist, anarchist,[4] peace, and environmental movements.

Researcher Rachel Morgain writes:

Founding members of Reclaiming drew from earth-based pagan and magical traditions and from a growing feminist spirituality literature signalled by the publication of works such as Mary Daly's (1978) Gyn/Ecology and Christ and Plastow's (1979) Woman-Spirit Rising, melding this with the anarchist politics and methods of participatory democracy of the direct-action movement to form a unique tradition of Paganism bent on radical social transformation, despite a broadening membership base that has diluted some of its more revolutionary foundations. The focus on social change remains central among many core practitioners, while the activism, books and writings of Reclaiming's most famous priestess, Starhawk, continue to draw in layers of new members from earth-activist and other radical political communities. Central to this Reclaiming focus on social transformation is their theology of 'immanence' which teachers see as very different from the emphasis on 'transcendence' in major world religions, particularly the Judaeo-Christian tradition. For reclaiming teachers, immanent theology places sacrality primarily in the material world, particularly in the natural world and in human beings.[5]

Influences and teachings

Reclaiming's spiritual approach is based in the feminist Goddess movement and matriarchal religion. On some levels Reclaiming has much in common with Wicca, and the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess is commonly utilised; part of it is quoted in Reclaiming's core agenda, known as "The Principles of Unity". However, given its focus on dismantling and resisting structures of power and domination, Reclaiming uses consensus process and non-hierarchical structure in its covens – there is no High Priest or High Priestess as there would be in an Alexandrian or Gardnerian witchcraft coven. Reclaiming members are encouraged to take an active part in co-creating group rituals.

Theologically, Reclaiming is very diverse and inclusive. The common thread is an active honoring and defending of the Earth, and a support of the Gaia hypothesis. Teaching and rituals, which are often focused on shamanic techniques such as guided meditation, trance work, shapeshifting and ecstatic dance (as in the Spiral dance, an iconic group dance often performed at rituals and at protest rallies), is empowering the individual and the community to take action. Reclaiming often uses chant as part of its rituals and has released numerous recordings of chants used in the movement. The embodiment of myth and fairytale in dramatic rituals (often done with spontaneity, a quality highly valued in the movement) which enact the cycle of the Seasons or the lessons of particular gods and goddesses are important in Reclaiming.

Reclaiming rituals are designed to encourage a spiritual way of life that blends respect for the earth and other livings beings with a fuller sense of personal well-being and alignment with spiritual values. Starhawk and Valentine's handbook Twelve Wild Swans involves instructions for interpreting the tale of the book's title through both the 'inner' and 'outer' paths of personal and social transformation, the two paths being seen alike as necessary facets of the same overall project. Without a focus on healing the self, Reclaiming members believe people are certain to perpetuate the social ills they have internalised through the damage done by modernity. Their ritual work is thus focused as much on personal healing and transformation as on social justice.[5]

Among the tradition's teachers are Starhawk, author of The Spiral Dance and several other books; T. Thorn Coyle, author of Evolutionary Witchcraft; Diane Baker and Anne Hill, co-authors of Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Tradition (1998) and M. Macha Nightmare, co-author of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying.


Today, Reclaiming has several dozen affiliated communities across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. Weeklong intensives called "Witchcamps" bring Reclaiming people together in about a dozen regions. Classes such as "Elements of Magic", "Rites of Passage", and specific meditative and magical techniques such as the "Pearl Pentacle" and the "Iron Pentacle" assist participants to share practical skills in personal empowerment and group process. Reclaiming has also produced several CDs of Pagan chants and songs, and publishes the magazine Reclaiming Quarterly.

See also


  1. Salomonsen (2002:1)
  2. Starhawk (1995). The Five-Point Agenda. Reclaiming. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  3. Witch's of East Van (2014). Cultural Appropriation in Spirituality: How deepening our understandings of settler-colonialism, race and privilege can help us reland our practices with humility, accountability, and reciprocity. Witch's Union Hall.
  4. Reclaiming Quarterly, the organization's main publication.
  5. 1 2 Rachel Morgain. (October 2012) "On the Use of the Uncanny in Ritual". Religion, 42:4, 521–548.

Further reading

External links

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