Information About the Reclaiming Tradition

by Darrell Sennich

Reclaiming tradition is an eclectic tradition of what I would call American Witchcraft. Although it is a tradition that is celebrated globally, the roots grew in California as a group formed that was heavily inspired by these things:

Feminism. The analysis of power structures including privilege, hierarchy, and a thorough questioning of status quo authority and rule. The continued struggle towards equal rights and responsibilities regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or other traits. Empowering ourselves and each other is the goal. We seek power within and power with, and we tend to undermine power over. Eco-feminism follows in the vein that the way that we treat our planet is closely linked to the way we treat each other. We do not worship the Goddess in nature as much as we are all aspects of the Goddess in nature. We must be stewards of our planet and our communities.

Anarchy. Insomuch as we are a tradition of many, no one person is in charge. At the same time, we are all responsible for the well-being of the group. Initiation and other titles are not automatically converted to privilege. The structure is loosely formed cells. The principles of unity are the closest thing to a working definition of what Reclaiming is. You can read those on the Reclaiming site. Anything goes is relatively true except in the case that it undermines or compromises the safety, empowerment, integrity, and sovereignty of ourselves, one another and the planet. Political activism is common among our witches as we perceive the political arena, our community well-being, our personal wellness and the well-being of our planet as interconnected. Prayer, picking up trash, voting, chanting, social work, ritual endeavors, and so on are all seen as crucial elements of magical process, with practical tangible results sometimes seen as more effective. We can pray for world peace, but better if we build our lives and actions towards that end. Our decisions are often made by consensus.

The psychology movement. Our rituals and practices are as much ritual magic as they are theatrical expressions and gestalt dynamics. We are unapologetic in our seeking to do this work.

The Feri tradition. Originating through Victor and Cora Anderson, the deep and powerful Current of Feri flows through our ritual spaces. I would say the artful, poetic and charismatic expressions in our practices are reflections of and derivatives of the many inspired witches who studied with the Anderson’s and who continue to explore and perpetuate the ever dynamic spirituality of the Feri tradition.

Our ritual spaces are as safe and as accessible as we can make them. All of our rituals are clean and sober. There is a strong presence of folks in recovery and following 12 step programs. All genders, races, sexual orientations are welcome. It follows that topics of recovery from addiction, trauma, oppression, and disempowered situations may occur. As well the human figure is not perceived in an unclean or shameful way; our rituals may include nudity, or any other aforementioned subjects which may be considered sensitive (or rated R in muggle speak), although these are mostly uncommon. Still, depending on the consensus of the group and the venue, if you are concerned with such things, be advised.

We are, each of us, our own spiritual authority. We are dedicated to the perpetuation of empowering practices, and shun power over, displays of violence, coercion or other means of aggression and control when they are within our abilities to prevent them.

For more information about Reclaiming, please click here.

Ostara Ritual

Saturday, March 18 at 5 PM – 8 PM

This Ostara we invite ourselves to…

***Reincarnate Love***

Join us this Saturday March, 18th, for Arizona Reclaiming’s 2017 Ostara ritual where we will work spring magic using the ritual tools of storytelling, sacred theater, trance journeying, shared art and energy raising.

Step into a story of love, loss, prayer, choice, change and love. Step into a story of your life.

Please wear clothing that is as skin-baring as you dare… purely with permission and respectful boundaries our bodies may become canvases to the goddess.

Gathering time, open drum circle & labyrinth walk: 6:00pm
Ritual Conspiracy (pre-ritual important talky part): 6:30pm

Please bring the following if possible (all optional):
*drums, rattles, and other music makers, bring extras to share!
*a potluck dish to share (potluck feast immediately following ritual)
*a folding chair
*cash for our donation baskets
*donations of firewood always welcome
*your own potluck blissware – plate/bowl/cup/utensils (we strive for a green potluck aftermath)

The specific address will be sent in a separate message–we’re off of Crismon and Southern in Mesa.

Please note, all Reclaiming events are dry- alcohol and drug free. Let us know if you have any questions at all… thank you!

 

How to Pay it Forward

By M.W. Whitaker

So many people view being kind and charitable as being grandiose. A corporation gives a million dollars to a 501c3 and they buy themselves a bunch of good, free press. However, there are ways to be good to others that don’t necessarily involve breaking the bank. For example, every now and then, when you have spare change, drop it in a drink machine or a snack machine, and don’t buy anything with it. Don’t stick around for any gratification, just go about your business. The next person who comes along gets a drink or a snack on you. They might pay it forward themselves, and buy something for the next person, or they might keep the change, either way, you’ve spread some good.Someone you love needs financial help? Help them if you can, and don’t lord it over them when you do it. Here’s the kicker about paying it forward, though. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you.

Help cheerfully, and what you can do, but don’t let it get to the point where you play the martyr. If you let someone take advantage of you, sooner or later, you will resent them. If you resent them, you will come to view them the way a lot of “charitable” Christian people have viewed others in need: as a burden. When you start feeling that way, stop giving. Why? Because then it isn’t altruism, it is pretty much like a job. The reason altruistic behavior is often so hard to keep up is that people’s egos and emotions overwhelm their compassion.

So remember, it is up to you how you can help people. Give to causes that you believe in, whether or not they are tax-deductible or not. If you can’t help someone with money, help them by listening to them. You might be surprised to find that not everyone wants you to solve their problems. They merely want someone to listen to them.

We all have a finite amount of resources in our lives. So use those resources wisely, and whenever possible find ways to save yourself a bit of good karma in the future. Play it close to the vest, and remember, pay it forward.

Let’s Talk About Love

by M.W. Whitaker

Ah, l’amour.  Love is an emotion that transcends borders, social strata, and even time.  Even someone who seems not to need it, both craves and treasures love.  To give you an idea of how much we value love, over 85% of songs that you hear are about love.  Love is one of the most complex emotions around.  Love is so complex that there are different classifications of love.  There is filial love, which is the love for a friend.   There is familial love, which is the love for your family; and of course, there is romantic love, which probably needs no explanation.

Love is even more complex than you might think.  The way movies cause us to perceive love is a linear flow, where two people fight their feelings for one another, but sooner or later, there is an epiphany, both characters usually run to each other’s arms, there is a stirring romantic score, and we reach for the tissues after they go off into the sunset together.

But love is both wonderful and terrible, harsh and gentle, and even has its own flow and ebb.  It’s not an accident that the ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love was born of chaos.  It is also noteworthy that some depictions of Aphrodite portray her as Aphrodite of the Tombs, almost as a death goddess.  Why?  Well, first off, love for all of it’s beauty has a darker side as well.  Love can motivate people to do things that they would never do for anyone else.  If one falls in love with the wrong person, that love can in turn lead them to their end.   But why do we do it?  Why do we become vulnerable to someone, let down all of our carefully crafted defenses and let that person in our heart and our life.  Well, this video clip from The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) sums it up rather nicely, I think.   While this whole clip is excellent, the most relevant part is from the 3:24 mark forward:

If you have not seen the movie, one of the most important things that the movie also brings up is the importance of learning to love yourself. And that is the real thing to think about on Valentine’s Day, but perhaps a little more than that. Instead of buying someone flowers, gifts, and treating them like someone special for one day out of 365, maybe do that more often. Realize that love always and ever shall be, a gift, and one that is precious and rare. But if it is a gift, who do we give it to, when there is no one willing to receive it, or able to? Then you have to give it to the one person who matters, at the risk of sounding selfish. You have to give it to yourself.

Every chance you can, look at yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself how beautiful you look, regardless of your gender, because the word beautiful is infinitely more powerful than terms such as handsome, good looking, etc. Tell yourself that you believe in yourself. Then with emphasis, say “Now, go out and get ’em.” If you make this a habit, you will find that you have cast a truly powerful spell on yourself. You will find that you approach a lot more situations with confidence, whether that be with a potential date, a new business opportunity, or even a day at work. You have to follow up these expressions of love with real action. Start exercising a bit, and taking care of yourself. Treat yourself as you would like others to treat you, with dignity, respect, and kindness.  After a while, you won’t be just okay with yourself, you’ll be happy with yourself. But what do you do with all that love? Sooner or later, it has to go somewhere, so where does it go? Maybe start showing love for others in small ways. Pay it forward whenever you can, hold open the door for someone coming behind you. Smile at strangers and say hello and good morning every now and then. When we love ourselves and send that love out, the world starts to change around us. There is also, a funny thing to note about the power of self-love.

It is often counter intuitive, but where love is concerned, the more hungry we are for it, the less likely we are to receive it; and when we are okay without it, or even ambivalent towards it, it often appears. I don’t know if you will ever find love with another person. But give a lot of love to yourself. You are worth it.

-M.W. Whitaker
Valentine’s Day, 2017

Other Resources:

“A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love” by Deborah Khoshaba Psy.D, Psychology Today, March 27, 2012. [https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-hardy/201203/seven-step-prescription-self-love]

“What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to Be Good to Yourself” by Banu Sekendur, Tiny Buddha, March 2014 [http://tinybuddha.com/blog/what-self-love-means-20-ways-be-good-to-yourself/]

The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) , Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges.  Available through multiple sources, including the Maricopa County Library District (free checkout)

Why Should I Care About Them? Or Excuse Me, Your Privilege is Showing

By M.W. Whitaker

strike-protest-human-group-collection-many-peopleI am not them, so why should we care about them? Who are they?  See if any of these sound familiar:

“I am not gay, I’m straight.  They follow an immoral lifestyle choice.”

“God I am so sick of hearing about transgender rights.  Can’t they just be  the gender that they’re born?”

“Wah wah, poor refugees have no home. What a shame, but I don’t want any of them in my neighborhood.”

“Women should submit to their husbands. They should not have any life outside of the home.”

“They are in this country illegally. They’re criminals.”

“That’s the way it’s always been. Why should we change things for them?”

“God I hate men, they are such pigs.”

“White people, you gotta love them.”

“You have to respect what they are saying. Everyone has a right to their opinion.”

“Who cares about the whales? They’re animals.”

Whenever we start to judge people that is when people stop being people and become them.  We focus on their differences.  They worship a different god, or worship the same one in a different way.  They are brown, or not quite right.  Whatever the differences someone has, those differences are perceived as a threat.

People are gregarious and often like to congregate with other people that look the same way, think the same way, act the same way. If we’re not careful, we form cliques, exclusive clubs, and worst of all, thought bubbles.  Thought bubbles are safe.  They isolate us from the new and strange and keep us in the familiar and comfortable.  They are ancient, and are one of the things that have divided the world.  When you put anyone into the category of Them, unless they are giant mutant ants from a 50’s B Movie, you are indirectly lumping them into the category of Other.

Othering happens when people see only one part of who someone is. Instead of seeing a fellow human being, they only see someone who likes the same gender, or is of a different belief system than they are.  There are three problems that are the greatest threats to society: ignorance, cruelty, and complacency.  They intertwine and choke off all that is good in the world.

Ignorance is dangerous because when it becomes ingrained, it leads to terrible “ism” behaviors such as racism, sexism, nationalism, fascism, the list goes on and on.

Cruelty takes its lead from ignorance. Cruelty is the lack of compassion.  When people are cruel, their ignorance fuels their behavior.  Cruelty can lead us down paths that aren’t just dark , they’re malevolent and evil.  Cruelty leads to destroyed lives, and perpetual cycles of violence.

Complacency is the worst of the three. Just because a state of being has been doesn’t mean that it is what we are supposed to keep doing.  There is only one constant in the Universe: everything does, can, and must change.

So how do we as witches know what is right and what is wrong? We have no central book to refer to.  It’s really simple.  We need to look at ourselves.  We are Othered by society simply for being witches.  Judging and othering are part of being human.  But instead of denying these behaviors and suppressing it, we need to embrace them and use them to our advantage.

Discriminate against people who define and tell others that everyone must conform to a life based on their expectations. Discriminate against bigots and zealots no matter where they’re from.  Some you’ll be able to sway, but there will be some people you won’t be able to reach, and in this lifetime anyway, they will not be united with anyone that believes the same way that they do.  No platitudes about room for everyone at the table.  No touchy feely. If someone is advocating hatred and violence against someone else for whatever reason, step away from them. Never give into violence. You are dancing to their tune. If someone judges you for being who and what you are, don’t try to change their mind with words.  Don’t change. Show who you are.  Do it by the way you live your life and the way you treat others.  If someone tells you that as a man you should know how to fix things, tell them to fix it themselves.  If someone tells you as a woman that your place is in the home and that you should be married and submissive to your man, tell them you’re going out and you have stuff to do that has nothing to do with them.  Someone calls you a freak for not identifying with the gender that you’re born as, don’t re-masculate or re-feminize yourself to please them. Let your “freak” flag fly.  You are who you are, embrace it.  If someone gets in your face for the color of your skin, the way you worship or don’t, supporting people or creatures that are marginalized, look at your accuser coolly and say, “It looks like your privilege is showing.”

Or to quote Michael Jackson from the song “Man in the Mirror“: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.

Sometimes, It’s All in Your Head

By M.W. Whitaker

Sometimes as witches, we don’t realize that we are constantly shaping the world around us. Our thoughts can literally change existence.  If you find yourself becoming negative, as sometimes, unfortunately, I do and all of us do sooner or later.  Consider this quote:

“The human mind in its capacity the ability to make a Hell out of Heaven, or a Heaven out of Hell

-Francois Rabelais

 

What Are You Afraid Of? It’s Only You

By M.W. Whitaker

Have you ever thought that that reason you don’t do something is that you are afraid? Sometimes our fear is valid. Fear can protect us. Not wanting to swim through a crocodile-infested river doesn’t make you a coward, nor does running with the bulls indicate bravery. Fear can protect us in some cases, and give us the fight or flight necessary for our survival. But what about our other fears? Where do they come from and how do they shape us in our daily lives?

We fear rejection. We fear being alone or of something bad happening in our lives. But worst of all, we are afraid of ourselves. This last fear is one that is instilled in us, whether by others, by diverse religious beliefs or because we learn it somewhere. We are taught to fear and suppress our darker sides. We’re taught that we are born evil and can only be redeemed through Christ, and that our whole life we must deny the darker part of our nature. And that’s the kicker. We’re denying part of who we are.

Dark and light are interconnected and interwoven throughout existence. Consider the Celtic knot, or the yin-yang symbol. Even the Gods have this duality. Amitābha is one of the many incarnations of Buddha and is kind and benevolent, however, he also has a wrathful side: Yamantaka. Shiva is a destroyer god, but his destruction brings renewal and regrowth, just as Sekhmet can for her devotees.  Need  further convincing of how darkness and light are interwoven?  Look at nature.

Great white sharks are terrifying creatures.  The are the size of a good size car or truck, have hard dagger teeth, and can swim far faster than a human being.  They attack from below and underneath  a person who would never see them coming.  However, sharks of all persuasions serve a vital ecological niche.  Look at coral reefs.  A large shark preys on fish like the giant grouper.   If there is no shark to eat the grouper, the grouper will eat the parrotfish which loves to eat algae off of coral reefs, and keep them healthy.  With no predator, biodiversity can collapse, and reefs can die.    Fishermen were killing Pacific sea otters because they were eating some of the salmon, however, while sea otters do like salmon, they also like to eat purple sea urchins which kill the kelp forests that baby salmon mature in.  Fishermen found that when they stopped killing sea otters, their catches improved.  A ladybug looks sweet, but it eats other bugs in a garden.  A sunflower sea star is beautiful, but is also an apex predator on the sea floor.

This plane of existence is the union of opposites.  You cannot have life without death, joy without sorrow, nor light without dark.  Why would you be any different?

Have you ever met your shadow self, or seen the darker side of you? If you haven’t, you might want to introduce yourself, and embrace that part of who you are. Should you let your dark side run everything? Of course not. Sometimes it is more appropriate to work with light. But sometimes, as a witch you have to stare into the abyss within yourself and know that you are being stared back at. Nature is an interwoven tapestry of darkness and light, and so are you. What are you afraid of? It’s only you.

The Importance of Play: Or Embracing the Trickster

By M.W. Whitaker

girl-and-laughing-camel-2Witches should be serious at all times about our craft. With that said, it cannot be stressed how important play is, or more specifically, how important enjoyment, laughter, and play are.

Reclaiming isn’t solemn. It is not supposed to be.  It is ecstatic.  It is the embrace of the natural world, so let’s take a look at what nature is like.

Ravens and crows are black, and in some cultures they are considered creatures of ill omen, just as witches are. But what can ravens teach us about our world and ourselves as witches?  Well, for one thing, ravens are very intelligent creatures, and like all intelligent creatures they love to play.  Sometimes ravens have been observed playing around in areas with a lot of wind.  At first, biologists thought that they were doing mating dances, or territorial displays but then it was discovered that they were playing.  They were essentially doing the avian equivalent of surfing, or skateboarding.

Dolphins and whales are curious, inquisitive, and will often come into the shallows to interact with people and other animals. They also love to race ships at sea, and like their distant cousins the humpback whales, they love to jump out of the water.  It was originally thought that dolphins and whales were doing this as a way to stun fish or plankton, however, it was later noted that after breaching, the whales  and dolphins were not feeding, nor were they being territorial.  They were jumping out the water for the simple enjoyment of it.

Dogs and cats like to play, and it isn’t just leftover hunting behavior. How many times have you seen a dog romping with his or her owner, and doing activities that dogs normally don’t do?  Briards are dogs well known for their ability and desire to play and to learn new things.  Cats also love to play, and it isn’t just squeaky toys.  Sometimes, they love to climb and jump for the sake of climbing and jumping.

Consider the joy and the laughter you experience dancing around a maypole or a bonfire. Did you ever have a teacher who was funny, and marched to the beat of her own drum?  I bet it would surprise you to know how much you learned from her, and how much you remember.

Laughter releases endorphins in our systems, and since we often laugh when we are surprised, it clears the fog around us, and makes us focus on what someone else is saying. Laughter can be an effective way to teach someone, just as genuine joy and happiness can.

Tricksters are often maligned. They bring mischief to calm and chaos to order.  Yet sometimes, the trickster can teach us something.  She can teach us to enjoy life a bit more, and maybe not take ourselves or the world seriously.  He can teach us ways to overcome adversity by not struggling continually with a problem but to face a bit of the absurd and to laugh at a non-sequitur completely unrelated.

So remember, She herself said “All acts of pleasure are my rituals.” Sing.  Clap your hands.  Laugh at yourself and the world every now and then. Be serious when it’s absolutely necessary.  Just don’t forget to laugh.  When you do, you honor yourself, and the trickster god or goddess in us all.

Songs to Make You Think: Or a Playlist For the Interconnected Witch

By M.W. Whitaker

Music is one of those universal pleasures that regardless of where someone is in the world, they likely enjoy some sort of music.

Here are some songs that to me, sum up what it means to be a Witch:

  1. Age of Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In-The 5th Dimension/The Flesh Failures  Great sing along, mystical, and from a musical that ties into Reclaiming nicely: Hair.
  2. Heal the World-Michael JacksonThis song makes me remember that we are not apart from this world, we are a part of it.
  3. What the World Needs Now-Jackie DeShannon. We all need love in this world, even the people who seem to deserve it less.
  4. Put a Little Love in Your Heart-Jackie DeShannon.The lyrics, the upbeat melody and yes, it’s Jackie DeShannon.
  5. Crystal Blue Persuasion-Tommy James and the Shondells. Makes me sigh and long for this in the world.
  6. Give a Little Bit-Supertramp
    Sharing, smiling, and giving to each other.
  7. Man in the Mirror-Michael Jackson “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.” Nuff said?
  8. Colors of the Wind-Vanessa Williams  You don’t get much more pagan than this, and hey, it’s Disney.
  9. I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing-The New Seekers  If you’re over a certain age, this will probably make you want a Coke. Still though it’s a nice song and it does make you want to join hands with someone.
  10. Better Make it Better-Swing Out Sister  We are only here a short while. Do what we can to make the world a better place than when we got here.
  11. Bless the Beasts and the Children-The Carpenters-.  Karen Carpenter’s haunting voice, great song, and a bittersweet movie.

This is not a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of who I am as a witch. What about you? What songs make you think and feel?

Disclaimer

Reclaiming Arizona reveres the Goddess, the Earth, Healing, Self-Empowerment, Change, and Justice. We proudly claim the word 'Witch' and practice in the Reclaiming Witchcraft tradition.