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 encouraged. 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. Each 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, or the Reclaiming Tradition homepage at (unfortunately down at the moment)

'Reclaiming Wicca' is a concept that gained considerable ground among the American members of British Traditional Witchcraft shortly after the year 2000. Essentially speaking, 'Wicca' was originally the name of the religious revival which was started by Gerald Brousseau Gardner in England in 1951 after the repeal of Britain's last Anti-Witchcraft laws. To the British Trad Witches (or BTWs), therefore, the label of 'Wicca' applies only to those witches who practice the revival of witchcraft that Gardner and Doreen Valiente codified in the original Book of Shadows. In other words, Wiccans, to the BTW viewpoint, had to be members of one of the initiatory mystery traditions working with the oathbound god names and religious rituals as passed on by Gardner to his lineage through apostolic succession.

In the late 1980's, the eclectic pagan community in the United States began to associate Wicca with the loose connotation of 'white witchcraft'. As such, many of the pagans who felt they were called to a more liberal interpretation or revival of witchcraft began to assume the use of the label 'Wicca', until the word achieved a common usage synonymous with witchcraft or neopagandom in general.

With the rise in popular use of the internet in the 1990's, communication was facilitated between members of various BTW traditions and covens, and a grassroots BTW movement was born to try and reclaim the proper use of the label of Wicca. This has been met with minor controversy as several of the non-BTW witches often seem to equate the BT Witches' attempts to reclaim the word with an attempt to somehow invalidate their claims to be 'real' witches. The BTW position is that they do not care whether someone is a 'real' witch or not, they just want the neopagan community to recognize the origins and proper use of the term 'Wicca' or 'wiccan' as a label to designate the followers of a specific religion with specific beliefs and practices.

The debate also gives rise to an ironic situation, since the so-called Reclaiming Wicca Tradition started by Starhawk and Diane Baker is, by the BTW's definitions, not a tradition of the Wiccan faith and therefore, under their argument, not entitled to a legitimate claim to the term 'wiccan'. Non-initiatory witches have accused the British Traditional Witches of using this as yet another elitist maneuver. The British Traditionalists claim they merely want the proper use of their religion's name back.

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