What is Reclaiming?
The Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft is an earth-based, feminist and activist spirituality born out of San Francisco in the early ‘80s. We draw from an eclectic mix of pagan approaches such as feminist Goddess spirituality, Feri tradition, Wicca, Celtic and Norse magical traditions to name but a few. Each of us is our own ultimate spiritual authority, and each of us embodies the divine. As an ecstatic tradition, we embrace the questioning attitude and intellectual, spiritual and creative freedom, and our rituals often involve song, dance and trance or meditation. Central to Reclaiming are its Principles of Unity, which were written by the Reclaiming Collective before it dissolved itself.
What is Vancouver Reclaiming?
Vancouver Reclaiming is a community of Reclaiming Witches based out of the greater Vancouver area. We have always been a part of the larger BC Witchcamp community, a Reclaiming-based week-long spiritual intensive that has been running now for over 20 years. While we are a part of the larger Reclaiming community, the common thread between Reclaiming communities (and individual Reclaiming Witches) is that we align ourselves with the Principles of Unity. There is no larger governing authority in Reclaiming; as each individual Witch is her own authority, so too are the individual communities.
How is Reclaiming different from other pagan traditions?
As an ecstatic tradition, the focus of Reclaiming magic is more often on energy and creativity than on doing something the “right” way. That means that we don’t (generally) have traditional ways of doing things – it is rare, for example, to hear an element invoked the same way twice! We are also non-hierarchical, meaning we don’t have high priests or priestesses – members of the community step into organizing and/or priestessing roles for rituals. Reclaiming is an eclectic tradition as well, meaning we work with a large variety of deities, pantheons and myths as we feel called.
To read Starhawk’s essay “A Working Definition of Reclaiming” click here.
Does Reclaiming have public rituals?
Absolutely! All are welcome – no previous knowledge or experience is necessary. Children are also welcome, but we recommend checking the posting or emailing one of the ritual organizers, as some rituals are more child-friendly than others. Reclaiming public rituals usually happen on or near the 8 sabbats (click
here to see traditional dates and descriptions). Please remember that all Reclaiming events are clean and sober.
What happens at a public ritual?
As Reclaiming is a fluid, evolving tradition, it’s always hard to say for sure, but we tend to purify as people come into the space and then give an introduction and overview of the ritual before setting sacred space. We also usually ground before doing magical work, to remind us to stay in our bodies connected to the earth as we journey between the worlds. After we have finished and devoked the circle, we usually gather to chat and feast before going our separate ways. We are a clean and sober tradition and thus alcohol and drugs are not part of our rituals or other events.
What if I’m not comfortable with something that happens at a ritual?
We encourage ritual participants to take care of themselves and invoke their own personal authority while being respectful of the group – if something happens that you are not comfortable with, it is fine to respectfully sit aside while holding space for the rest of us. If at any time you need to leave, you can simply cut yourself out of the circle or ask someone else to cut you out – it’s generally not a good idea to take all these energies home with you, especially if you’re driving!
What should I bring to a public ritual?
While this can vary ritual to ritual, it’s usually wise to bring something to sit on (cushion or chair) and snacks or drinks for communal feasting after the ritual (no alcohol please). You can also check the posting to see if there is anything special you might want to bring for a specific ritual. We don’t charge to attend rituals, but we do accept donations (no one is ever turned away for lack of funds!) in order to cover hall rental costs we incur over the winter months.
As for what to wear, that’s easy to answer – whatever you’d like! At any given ritual you will often see a range of outfits, ranging from spectacular costumes to seasonal colours to jeans and a t-shirt. It really is up to you.
Can I touch someone else’s magical tools or altar items?
Only with their permission. Most Witches have very specific ideas about who can handle their magical tools, and how, and it’s best to assume a hands off approach until you have their consent. And with so many Hedge Witches amongst us, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s a magical tool and what’s not! A good rule of thumb is, if you want to handle someone else’s stuff, just ask, and don’t be offended if they say no. You can also generally assume that, if an item has been placed on one of the altars, that it’s sacred and definitely shouldn’t be handled without the person’s permission.
Are the rituals kid-friendly?
While most of the rituals in Vancouver are not designed specifically for children at this time, you are generally welcome to bring your children to rituals (we often find that kids enjoy rituals outdoors while getting bored with indoor ones). If you’re not sure if a particular ritual is child-friendly or not, just email the organizer and they’ll let you know.
Can I come to a ritual and just observe?
No – our rituals are sacred rites, not performances. If you come to a ritual, you will be expected to participate! That said, if there are particular things in the ritual you are not comfortable with, you are always invited to invoke your personal authority and stand aside until you feel comfortable rejoining.
Can I take pictures?
No – again, our rituals are sacred rites, not performances. If you want to take a picture at a social gathering, you need the consent of everyone in the picture. Not everyone is out of the “broom closet,” so privacy must be respected.
Do I have to be a Reclaiming Witch to attend rituals or events?
Absolutely not! We often have guests from other pagan traditions and sometimes other spiritual faiths who attend our rituals. Our public rituals are open to all those who are interested in respectfully participating in them.
If you have questions about Witchcraft in general, have a peek at Vibra Willow’s Introduction to Witchcraft.
What happens at Witchcamp?
BC Witchcamp is one of many Witchcamps that have sprung up all over North America, and Europe as well. It is a week-long spiritual intensive in the Reclaiming tradition. Over the course of the week we usually work with a particular theme or myth, which is woven into our evening rituals; during the day campers choose a “path” (think Witchy class) to follow for the week (Elements of Magic, our introductory class for Reclaiming-style magic, is always offered). Like all Reclaiming events, Witchcamps are clean and sober.
To visit the main Witchcamp site, which lists all Witchcamps currently running and their websites, click here.
Who makes up the Vancouver Reclaiming community?
Reclaiming is a tradition that celebrates, not tolerates, diversity. Our community is made of up people of a variety of ages, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. All are welcome!
Is there a mailing list?
Yes! Subscription to our mailing list is open to anyone who has attended a local Reclaiming class, ritual or other event, and/or BC Witchcamp. If you are new to Reclaiming and want to learn more before attending a ritual or class, please visit our forum www.witchnet.ca which caters to the wider BC Witchcamp community (including Reclaiming Witches from all over BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and beyond). Check out our
Resources page for more info.
How do I get involved?
There are a number of ways to acess the community – you can go to rituals, take a class, chat on the forum, attend BC Witchcamp… the most important thing is to show up and get to know people! We’re always looking for volunteers to help out with rituals (and the website too), so if you’re interested please let us know!
What is a coven?
Reclaiming doesn’t have a particular coven hierarchy or structure; generally speaking, a coven is a group of Witches who gather together to practice magic at agreed on times (often, but not always, associated with the moon cycle). Being in a coven usually indicates a degree of commitment to the group itself, as opposed to a circle which can be less committed. Covens will often (though not always!) work a particular thread of magic such as a myth, theme, or book.
How do I join a coven?
There’s no set structure to join a coven in Reclaiming (and not all covens are open, or open all the time). Covens can often form from a class, such as Elements of Magic, or from open circles. If you want to join or start a coven, let people know – show up to events and rituals and get to know people. And remember, covens are not the only way to do magic with other Witches – you can initiate an open circle and invite people to come, or join in on one that is already happening.
How do I get to the fairy mound?
The Faerie Mound (known in the mundane world as “the Plains of Abraham”)
is in Pacific Spirit Park, just past Spanish banks.
Drive along MW Marine Drive past almost all of the parking lots along the beach. Pass the last concession stand on your right (Spanish Banks West) and turn into the next arking lot.
The parking lot is across from the Protected Salmon Stream on the left,
where our trail begins. Follow the trail to the right of the information board
(the only trail) up hill for 100 meters and turn at the first wooden gate on your right, follow the trail up the hill. You will come to a latge field, this is the Faerie Mound.
Please note that the Faerie Mound is neither wheelchair accessible nor accessible by public transit (unless you’re okay walking for quite a while . . . )