A Working Definition of Reclaiming

by Starhawk

Reclaiming is a tradition of the Craft. (1) To us the Goddess is the wheel of birth, growth, death and regeneration. Therefore we embrace as sacred the living world, the body as well as the spirit, the cycles of nature, sexuality in its diverse expressions, and the elements of air, fire, water and earth that sustain all life. We know that to name these things as sacred is an inherently political act, for what is sacred must not be exploited or despoiled. We also know that action in the world in the service of the sacred is one of the core expressions of our spirituality. Each individual is a living embodiment of the sacred. The divine experience is equally available to all, and each person’s experience of the divine is valid and important. (2) Spiritual authority is located within us. We are each keepers of our own conscience.

Our training, rituals, and spiritual practices are designed to develop personal and communal empowerment, that combination of self-confidence, independent thought, intuition and engagement with the world that enables us to live by our principles and stand up for what we believe in. (3) We see all systems of domination and exploitation, whether based on gender, race, economics, ancestry, beliefs, sexual orientation, physical appearance or capabilities as harmful to individual development and communal harmony. Liberty, equality and social justice are key values in our tradition.

Because we value freedom of thought, we accept no dogmas nor implement any required beliefs. We do, however, have a working model of the universe that includes interconnected realms of matter and spirit. Most of us prefer the term “Goddess” for the weaver of this web, but we also recognize an eclectic pantheon of Goddesses and Gods, each of them particular constellations of power, with whom we are co-creators of change and fate. At the heart of the cosmos is mystery, that which can never be defined nor controlled. Any images we place around that mystery are tools to help us more deeply encounter the sacred. Individuals need the love, support and challenges offered by a strong community in order to survive and thrive. Our definition of community extends to include the dead and the as not yet born, and we honor the ancestors, the beloved dead, the Mighty Ones of the Craft, the Fae, and all the Mysterious Ones. (4)

Our rituals may aim to further personal healing and development, communal bonding, and/or collective transformation. We practice and teach magic, by Dion Fortune’s definition, “the art of changing consciousness at will.” A changed consciousness can effect change in the world. Magic must be practiced ethically. We see the Rule of Three as a good guideline: that whatever we send out returns on us three times over. We cannot do by magic what would be wrong to do in some other way. We cannot ethically use magic to manipulate others. We discourage the use of drugs and alcohol in ritual, especially in public ritual.

Our approach to magic and ritual is experimental: we are constantly learning, growing, trying new techniques, and critiquing the results. Some of the techniques we use include meditation, breathwork, movement, trance, drumming, chanting, visualization, drum-trance, divination, aspecting, anchoring, and others. Our training teaches us how to read and shape the energy of groups of people.

Our style of ritual could be described with the acronym EIEIO:

We could add a few more E's: experimental, eclectic, evolving. We have developed a body of teaching of techniques and mythology, including a system of correspondences for the elements, a wheel of major rituals for the year, a system of psychic energy knowledge, a way of looking at mythology from political and psychological/personal growth perspectives, and trance techniques used in rituals and practice. This body of knowledge has roots in the Faery tradition of Wicca as taught by Victor Anderson but now encompasses many, many sources including direct inspiration. Our practice is alive and growing, something to be constantly extended, refined, renewed and changed as the spirit moves us and need arises, rather than a ‘tradition’ to be learned and repeated in a formulaic manner.

We honor the community-building work of organizing, bookkeeping, phone-calling, e-mailing, xeroxing, gardening, cooking, cleaning, building, fixing, childrearing, and all the behind-the-scenes tasks of ritual making. Our organizational structures must reflect our core values just as our rituals do. We respect authentic leadership and expertise, but we encourage the sharing and rotation of roles and responsibilities. We do not institute hierarchies of power. We make decisions by consensus, as the process most in keeping with our recognition of the sacred within each individual. We strive to treat each other with honesty, caring and respect.


(1) We could say Wicca, Pagan, Witchcraft, whatever–the point is, we’re not just any old new age attitude. I guess this is a line I would draw–that to be in the Reclaiming tradition, you have to identify as a Witchcraft tradition. As an example, Pardes Rimonim, the Goddess-centered Jewish congregation where I go for High Holidays, is strongly Reclaiming influenced, many of its leaders Reclaiming trained. But I would not call them Reclaiming–they’re a Jewish tradition. (Perhaps they’re Reclaiming-style as in Kosher-style?)

(2) I took this directly from Brook and quite a lot of what follows is paraphrased from his post.

(3) This is Anne Hill’s definition of empowerment and I really like it.

(4) This is Donald Engstrom’s term which I also really like.