The Reclaiming Tradition of Wicca is unique in its strong blending of politics and spirituality.
Described as a feminist tradition, though mixed-gender, it is a descendant of Faery Wicca, with
a focus on ecstatic rather than fertility rites. There is a
bias against the use of drugs but also a greater willingness to have
public ritual. There is a focus on being a dynamic and adaptable tradition, with self-improvement
The political consciousness that permeates this tradition has some interesting effects on it --
for instance, a coven is referred to as a cell and Starhawk makes a point of saying she isn't Reclaiming's
leader. The focus on the ecstatic techniques of Faery Wicca, along with the tendency towards eclecticism,
causes some to refer to this tradition as the Pentecostal Witches -- an interesting metaphor.
The chief determination of whether or not any witch is a member of the Reclaiming Tradition is not
lineage, but rather whether or not they follow Reclaiming's Principles of Unity.
Its history starts in 1980 when Starhawk and Diane Baker
decide to co-teach a basic class in witchcraft. From there, more classes are taught and the Reclaiming Collective
was formed in the San Francisco Bay area. Many of the members of the Collective took part in anti-nuclear protests
at Laurence Livermore National Laboratories and other places. When a mission statement was written,
political action was added, a change from most other neopagan traditions at the time. Decision
was through consensus methods learned from the Quakers due to past experiences with politics.
In 1985, the Collective began offering intensive training, referred to as "Witch Camp". These Witch Camps
would have students from many regions, spreading the Reclaiming Tradition within the United States.
Later, the Collective
itself disbanded, being replaced by the Wheel, a group of speakers for various cells.
The Reclaiming Tradition has many features that distinguish it from more authority-bound groups
such as Gardnerian Wicca. The most obvious, of course, is a lack of hierarchy and no High Priestess/Priest.
There is no specific ritual or pantheon, nor an initiatory requirement.
Again, the political involvement is fairly
unique, There is no set liturgy, but rather training in magical principles and ritual structure
that allows those performing to "speak as the spirit moves you". Ecstatic states are cultivated, but customarily
without the aid of drugs. Self-improvement, creativity, self-discovery, and self-empowerment are
emphasized as important to the follower of this tradition. Energy-raising, usually using a spiral dance or
a double helix dance is intensely employed in ritual. They take advantage of the Pentacle of Iron
construct from the Faery tradition as well as its obverse, the Pentacle of Pearl. Pantheism is emphasized over polytheism in the
Principles of Unity.
Another addition, the concept of the Three
Souls, is apparently drawn from the Faery Tradition as well as Hawaiian,
Jewish, and Celtic cultures. It appears in Starhawk's book The Spiral Dance as
Younger Self (the unconscious), Talking Self (conscious expression), and
Deep/God Self (the Divine within).
Initiation, as stated above, is not required to perform ritual roles, but still has a definite process.
The candidate in question will select a group of teachers and ask them for initiation -- it will
never be offered or suggested, and the request might not be granted, or might take many years.
The candidate's initiation involves a customized ordeal.
initiator will give the candidate a challenge, with a rule of thumb being that a challenge
must be something the challenger has already done or would and could do. The challenges
are based on what the initiator feels the candidate to be challenged on to foster growth and
that the person is ultimately capable of - an example given is that a diabetic wouldn't be expected
to perform a prolonged fast. In initiation the focus on self-development is highlighted, but also
the tendency towards consensus process and social consciousness that this tradition highlights.
For more information, check out the Covenant of the Goddess
' page at http://www.cog.org/wicca/trads/reclaiming.html
or the Reclaiming Tradition homepage at http://www.reclaiming.org/
(unfortunately down at the moment)