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  • M. Macha NightMare Withdraws from Reclaiming Tradition

    On Tuesday, August 6th M. Macha NightMare issued the following press release (excerpted below).

    M.Macha NightMare

     I, M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch, aka Aline O’Brien, withdraw from the publicly recognized organization known as Reclaiming Tradition Witchcraft and hereby dissociate myself from further involvement with the tradition.  I make this statement formally and publicly because I am a public figure known to be connected to Reclaiming.

    I do not make this decision lightly or without forethought and considerations for potential consequences.     [Read the full Press Release]-

    Pagans, both within the Reclaiming Tradition, and independently, are struggling to understand the significance of this departure by a co-founder.  Some say it is insignificant, people and traditions change and grow. Others want to characterize the withdrawal as an indicator of crisis within a tradition. Neither is accurate. Macha acknowledges in a statement to PNC-MN :

    Macha:   …  over the next weeks and months I’ll be exploring and trying to articulate in an understandable but constructive and non-accusatory way the various reasons that led me to this decision.  It’s much more complex than it might seem to someone not part of the community, and to most who even are part of it, especially those who have no knowledge of our history (which is most everyone).

    The Reclaiming Tradition just completed approval of revised Principals of Unity (POU) underway in discussions for several years prior, at the biennial Reclaiming Dandelion Gathering immediately before the release of the press statement of withdrawal by Macha. In a statement from Starhawk, an additional co-founder of the tradition, this change is indicated as a possible cause of the withdrawal.  [The 1997 Reclaiming Principles of Unity can be read here.]

    Starhawk:    Reclaiming is “an evolving, changing tradition”, as our Principles of Unity (POU) state, and sometimes when traditions change, they no longer fit everybody who was originally in them, even their founders.

    A reading of the Reclaiming POU 2012 mentions “welcoming all genders”  and does not appear a radical departure from the direction of increased inclusiveness in worship styles and gender issue sensitivity the Reclaiming Tradition has been moving toward refining over many years.

    Many community organizations, traditions, spiritual groups, and sometimes covens struggle over a balance between strong ethical leadership, decision-making process, inclusiveness, and efficiency at meeting their goals. Popular is a move toward consensus based decision-making, especially within larger activist coalition groups like the Occupy Movement, and Reclaiming in particular.  Consensus process is a learned skill for nearly everyone. It has many facets and forms, and each form  can have aspects that may be foreign to us or appear offensive and disrespectful at times.

    Macha in an account of her Dandelion experience of fully two years ago at a meeting discussing issues of gender :

    Macha: … when I feel the discussion has grown very confusing, I ask a question:  “Can you tell me, is there anyone here who is not here as the result of the union of an ovum and a sperm?”  Impertinent of me, I guess, because I am initially met with silence.  Then one of the transgender activists says to me, in an overtly condescending tone, “You do know there’s a difference between sex and gender, don’t you?”  This person’s remarks are met with loud hissing.  I answer that yes, I do.          [Read Full Blog Post Text]

    The blog post refers to  acquired additions to Reclaiming consensus process designed to aid decision-making efficiency in large groups through signals. Either an audible hiss or a “twinkle” (raised hands wiggling fingers upward)  indicates individuals in agreement with the speaker, without having to restate agreement by further speech. A downward twinkle indicates disagreement. For those expecting a person’s words to be considered silently this can be interpreted as an imposing and disrespectful interruption and indication of what a group is prepared to hear, and less so as an aid to finding group consensus, especially when offering a minority position.

    Donald Engstrom, a respected member of the Minnesota Reclaiming Community, acknowledging not having a personal relationship with Macha,  offered a perspective to PNC-MN.

    Engstrom:     I have heard Macha’s discomfort/confusion when discussions centered around Queer Gender and Queer Spirit have come up. I have heard her discomfort/confusion when discussions turned to the vast range of personal experiences/understandings around Mystery that go beyond monotheism, particularly around the specific term ‘Mysterious Ones’. I have also heard her talk about the lack of respect she experiences in Reclaiming, though I have never witnessed such an event I would call disrespectful. And yes, I have heard her mention Reclaiming Tradition’s lack of intellectual rigor and/or coherent body of theology, but again Macha was unable or unwilling to give specific critique at the time. I have yet to hear any specific critique about any of her issues. …. I did hear her once say that if the ‘Goddess’ was taken out of Reclaiming she would leave.

    Donald affirms that Reclaiming tradition is as diverse in its local manifestations as the people who participate locally through Witch Camp and other tradition experiences.

    Engstrom:     Camp cultures have also broadened to include many different ways of experiencing the multiverse. At one time many of our camp stories and themes were built on a subtext of The Goddess or in other words, all goddesses are one goddess, or the standard Wiccan idea of the Goddess and the God. Currently polytheism and other understandings of myriad sacred possibility are also offered as foundations to our camp stories and themes.

    Starhawk, in turn, describes Reclaiming as:

    …. decentralized, loosely connected, with no central hierarchy or control.  Our Principles of Unity, collectively written in the late nineties after we’d been in existence for more than a decade, are our single unifying document.

    Issues of gender, inclusiveness, decision-making process, and personal ethics should properly be in the forefront of the actions and decisions of a spiritual people. It is a healthy and sometimes foreign process to many Pagans, but such is the Mystery as this struggle for understanding the gift of our Pagan diversity unfolds.

    Nels Linde with notes provided by Diana Rajchel

    Editor’s note: comments are now closed on this topic. Thank you all!

    40 Responses

    1. The link to Starhawk’s full comment doesn’t work.

      Macha

    2. Macha herself has been blogging now and then for a couple of years about her growing discomfort with what Reclaiming has become, and it pretty clearly has little to do with the new PoU or questions of gender, and lots to do with how Reclaiming has come to operate. In her press release (linked above) she says:

      “The incompatibilities between Reclaiming and me also trace to loose, undefined standards; lack of accountability; uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences; lack of coherent theology; lack of intellectual rigor; and carelessness in ritual and other aspects of religious practice.”

      This paragraph seems go me to be the most significant part of her press release, and I am puzzled how almost all commentators ignore it, turning their attention instead to the new PoU — as if that were the only important thing. (It is particularly surprising and disappointing that Starhawk has ignored the cited paragraph in her statement.) So I am making a point of calling attention to it whenever I find a discussion of Macha’s withdrawal.

      • Robert,

        Obviously I can’t speak for Starhawk or anyone else, but I’ve tended to ignore the statement of Macha’s you reference because, right now, it hurts too much to deal with her (again, in my opinion, unnecessary) decision to publicly slap Reclaiming in the face on her way out the door.

        • Eli, that’s a clear reason and a natural reaction, especially at first. But speaking very generally, not specifically about Macha’s statements or Reclaiming . . . sometimes embarrassing or humiliating a group of people in public (slapping them in the face, metaphorically) may be the only way to get them to confront an issue that they have been determined to ignore. Of course such a thing hurts enormously, but the best next step, after the initial pain lessens, may be to drop all of one’s defenses, go back in time, and face up to whatever provoked the “slap.” Best wishes to Reclaiming as it does this!

          • Robert, I know you have your own thoughts on this, but since you mention commenters not addressing this, I wanted to give my few cents’ worth (not, as Macha was kind enough to point out, that I’m anybody)

            *loose, undefined standards; lack of accountability; lack of coherent theology;

            I know these were further apart recently, but they feel like two sides of the same coin to me. I look at these list items and say, “Hallelujah”. When I talk about Paganism, I often use an unwieldy but serviceable cup metaphor, wherein practice is the vessel that holds the beverage of belief. In Reclaiming I feel that we all have roughly the same cup (with slight variations from community to community, but since I doubt we want to appoint a Reclaiming Pope, that seems inevitable), but everyone drinks the beverage that best quenches their thirst. It has always one of the tradition’s main draws for me: there is no official stance on what I “have to” believe, so long as I believe in the PoU. What other Pagan tradition would welcome me, as a naturalistic Pagan, and value my contribution to the work? Given Reclaiming’s roots in anarchist activism, I am peplexed by Macha’s frustration with its lack of order.

            *uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences;

            Again, I’m grouping two that weren’t originally together. I know I don’t have the whole backstory that necessitated this comment, but it seems to me to reflect a problem endemic to Bay Area Reclaiming: extrapolating their diffculties to the whole of the tradition. Here in the Midwest, we try so darned hard to be civil, respectful, aand hospitable. Some of online discussion may have crossed boundaries, as is almost inevitable in the Internet, but I am unaware of any suggestions Macha made to address this. Ultimately, the question beomes: Who gets to decide what constitutes any of the behavior she points up and what the restraints or consequences are? Is anyone who disagrees with someone else uncivl or rude? If I, being only human, say something someone perceives as disrespectful (whether I intend it or not), am I to be banned from an email list or subjected to public censure as punishment?

            *and carelessness in ritual and other aspects of religious practice.

            I will just echo my earlier commen above (Bay Area Reclaiming =/= all of Reclaiming) and Teri’s below: I will be looking for Macha’s comments (either forthcoming or previously discussed) about her own practices of carefulness. One person’s carelessness may be another person’s ecstatic connection with Mystery.

            Again, I’m just some random Minnesotan witch, not a big-to-do elder like Macha. But I was “raised” in Reclaiming to believe that, while elders are due my respect, their opinions are not inherently more worthy than my own, and so I offer mine here.

            • Eli, I see that Macha has now put up a number of posts on her blog, as has Deborah Oak Cooper on hers, giving examples to illustrate what she means by “lack of accountability,” “uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences,” and “carelessness in ritual.” Take a look at their posts, please.

              When you have done so,are you really inclined to respond to the *specific* instances of behavior that they described with a hallelujah, or do you truly feel that they all fall under the heading or “no big deal,” or YMMV, or to-may-to vs. to-mah-to? If so, then I have no idea where to find any common ground between us on which to continue this conversation productively. Could it be just a generational thing, a mere difference in rhetoric? (I am too old to count as a “baby boomer,” let alone a member of any subsequent generation.) Or is there more to it than that?

        • Wow. You’re reading this very differently than I am. She’s strongly critical, but I did not read it as an attack. Perhaps my knowing the lady has given me a sense of how much this has cost her?

          You may not agree with her conclusions, but I seriously doubt there is the least particle of spite in them. Members of Reclaiming who are choosing to stay with the organization, indeed, who believe it’s doing great work, should still take her perspective seriously, I think.

          • I am eagerly awaiting hearing what Macha meant by “loose, undefined standards; lack of accountability; uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences; lack of coherent theology; lack of intellectual rigor; and carelessness in ritual and other aspects of religious practice.”

            As someone active in the Reclaiming community, there was no “ah-ha” when I read this. For me, this statement is so wide-open that it isn’t leading me to understand what she means.

            I’m also feel that such discussion would be best “in-house”. No need to have it all over the Web. Like the tumult in Feri (last year? couple of years ago?). Evolution can be a painful process

            • You haven’t been around all that long, Hawk, and you are working in a relatively untainted community. (Ducking rotten tomatoes now.) I refer you to http://besom.blogspot.com/2012/08/back-story-one-of-several.html and http://gnosiscafe.com/gcblog/2007/11/06/how-to-diss-an-elder-the-dead-and-everyone-else/ just for starters. If you don’t see “uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences” there, then I maybe you need to consider corrective lenses.

            • This reply puzzles me greatly. What could possible be unclear about Macha’s words? “Lack of accountability,” for instance, is clear as it gets. Likewise “rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences” These are not subjective things to be dismissed with a “YMMV,” or “you say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ah-to.” They are objective realities.

              They are also things that kill each and every community if they are not recognized and stamped out, all the more so if they are allowed to flourish. Also, if they are not recognized when they do occur, or thought to be just “business as usual,” then the community is already dead — no matter what community we are speaking of. No amount of noble purpose or fervent devotion to a cause can breath life into such a community.

              Are you asking for specific instances to quibble over? That would deflect Macha’s criticism, which she seems to intend in a general way, to apply to Reclaiming’s overall activity. And she *has* given actual instances in various of her past blog posts for several years now. I have read them. Have you?

              As for keeping it “in house,” she’s been raising these issues for some time now, apparently without effect. When in-house discussion fails, especially on a matter that can kill a community, it is good and right to take it public, no matter what the embarrassment. In such a case one does not want to employ or support the tactics of a seasoned abuser, who insists above all else that his victims must never tell anyone — they are our secrets! Sunlight disinfects.

              Many years ago, at my own university, one of my undergraduate advisees was raped at a drunken party. The student who raped her was also the natural leader and the center around whom her group of friends had formed itself. The next morning he realized what he had done and sought not to hide it, but to report himself to the authorities (so my advisee told me). The group of their friends, however, put enormous pressure on him not to say anything, and it shut the victim out of their circle altogether. Her very presence made them ashamed of themselves, and this led to anger directed not at the rapist, but at the victim herself. My university, I am glad to say, offered my advisee counseling and substantial resources that she found extremely helpful as she dealt with what had happened. What it could not do was prevent her group of friends from ostracizing her and turning their anger on her. (That is to say, she was disposable, and the group could go on its merry way without her; her assailant was not disposable, and the group would dissolve without him.) In the end, she decided to leave the university; she returned only after all of her group had graduated. — It is a horrible, sad story, but it makes an important point about groups in general. Almost any group, organization or society will attempt to preserve its own coherence, reputation and identity at any cost, no matter who gets hurt in the process. If there is a single person or a small number of people around whom the group took shape, then these people become almost immune to serious criticism, and they must be protected at any human cost.

              I have never met Macha, but I have read her blog for many years, and I have great respect for her wisdom and character. It is a sad thing when such a person feels compelled by her own conscience to leave a group that she had founded and guided. The magical community can hardly afford such a loss, and certainly cannot afford to gloss over the circumstances, or sweep its embarrassment under the rug. Hence my comments in this and other fora.

        • If you think you’re hurting, Eli, whoever you are, try walking in my shoes.

    3. Thanks for the write-up, Nels. I’m glad to see this being covered from many angles.

      I’m saddened that Macha labels the transgender activist’s tone as “condescending”, while not seeming to realize or own that her original question, “Can you tell me, is there anyone here who is not here as the result of the union of an ovum and a sperm?” is patronizing and, in my opinion, irrelevant to the issue that was under discussion. I acknowledge the heterosexual nature of my conception but, as a queer person, I resist suggestions that I need to honor it above my own experience of sexuality, just as I would resist a suggestion that I need to honor Christianity above Paganism because I was raised Presbyterian.

      • I’d love to see a video of the entire conversation, in order to hear the tone of the speakers. I think it’s pretty tough to understand intention from just reading someone’s words.

        For instance, I have no idea what the dialog was before Macha asked her question, and hence cannot surmise why she asked it; but when I read her question ( “Can you tell me, is there anyone here who is not here as the result of the union of an ovum and a sperm?”), I don’t see how the trans- activist’s reply (“You do know there’s a difference between sex and gender, don’t you?”) is, in any sense, an answer to Macha’s question. It is, rather, a reiteration of the trans- party line. The hissing of approval (a custom taken from the Radical Faeries) which followed that reply supports my theory.

        Something that alarms me in this situation is the fact that collective agreement or disagreement of any kind after someone speaks in consensus process goes against one of the core values of consensus: the importance placed on each person’s viewpoint, without influence from the group.

        Consensus is not voting. It is meant to interrupt our society’s usual behavior, which turns every disagreement into a version of the Winners vs the Losers, where the people with the most (or loudest) voices gain a victory, and those with less are defeated. That is a model of warfare, not one used by a cooperative community trying to come to an agreement around a difficult issue.

        Even without a video, it seems clear in commentary about this and other incidents, that some people want this situation to be seen as a version of the Good Guys vs the Bad Guys story. In this case, the Good Guys are the trans-people and other queers, because in politically-hip groups such as Reclaiming, victims of oppression are always the good guys who can do no wrong, and anyone who asks a question of these folks is opposing them, and anyone who disagrees with these folks is oppressing them, and therefor deserves to be treated as the Bad Guy she truly is.

        Acting out this story can be very appealing to those who usually find themselves on the oppressed side of society, since, for once –finally!
        — they get to win and have their way. Unfortunately, the Bad Guy in this situation isn’t a Republican politician passing laws against them, and isn’t a fundamentalist christian preacher raving against them in his church, and isn’t a basher waiting for them in the alley with a baseball bat. The woman being cast as the Bad Guy this time is someone who was part of their religious community who was willing to listen and talk to them. There’s a huge difference.

        The collective hissing of agreement is an expression of this Good Guys vs Bad Guys/Winners vs Losers story. We see it all the time at political rallies. (“See? We’ve got more people on our side, and we’re louder than you are. We win and you lose! Nya-nya-na-na-nya-nya!”) It also reads to me as a group ganging up on an individual — which is a common definition of bullying. I know that held-down people often don’t see themselves as capable of such behavior, but that sort of self-righteousness is a dangerous delusion.

        • In my comment above, “therefor” = “therefore.”

          More importantly, the paragraph in the PNC article that begins, “[M. Macha NightMare's] blog post refers to *acquired additions* to Reclaiming consensus process…” contains factual inaccuracies.

          This paragraph lists “an audible hiss” as a practice used in consensus meetings by Reclaiming. However, the hyperlink “acquired additions” (mentioned above) leads to a Wikipedia article describing *hand gestures* used by some *Occupy* groups. It refers neither to Reclaiming nor to hissing as a consensus practice by anyone, as the PNC article implies it does.

          HIssing as approval is not a common consensus decision-making practice. It is a custom taken from Radical Faeries that was introduced at the Spiritual Gathering for Radical Faeries in 1980, near Denver, CO. I attended the meeting during which hissing was proposed and accepted at this event. It was introduced as a practice intended to show agreement and support for what a speaker said, either during or after his speaking, during the meetings called “circles.” It was not intended as a tool for group decision-making at that time, and could not have been, as group consensus process was not used at this event.

          My point is that Macha NightMare was not experiencing a common consensus practice upon hearing the hissing, but rather a very irregular one, used by a small group within Reclaiming — conduct that was completely out of order by usual consensus standards. The fact that this behavior was not stopped by the meeting facilitators is part of the evidence that there was a not-so-hidden agenda at the Dandelion 5 gathering which both promoted the changing of the original Principles of Unity and also gave permission to treat Macha as an enemy of her own religious tradition.

          • Point of clarification: I think, Sparky, you may be conflating the two Dandelions. The hissing incident occurred at D4 in MO. The recent PoU change occurred at D5 near Portland, OR. Gender was the big topic at both Dandelions.

            And to repeat, gender was not my issue. The issues I’d been experiencing came down upon me in an avalanche at D5. I continue to experience unstable grounds, with insights crashing down on my like little landslides. Onward…..

            • Thanks, Macha, for your correction. You are absolutely right. I did make the mistake of combining Dandelions 4 & 5. I apologize for potentially confusing an already complicated situation.

              WIth that in mind (along with my comment below), the end of my comment should read:

              My point is that Macha NightMare was not experiencing a common consensus practice upon hearing the hissing, but rather a very irregular one, used by a small group within Reclaiming — conduct that was completely out of order by usual consensus standards.

              The fact that this behavior was not stopped by the meeting facilitators is quite puzzling, and can feel like evidence that there has been, for some years now, a not-so-hidden agenda among certain members of Reclaiming, that gives those with the inclination permission to publicly treat Macha as an enemy within her own religious tradition

          • I definitely over spoke when I wrote:

            “The fact that this behavior was not stopped by the meeting facilitators is part of the evidence that there was a not-so-hidden agenda at the Dandelion 5 gathering…”

            I don’t know if anyone has any hard proof for this assertion. It is more accurate to say:

            “The fact that this behavior was not stopped by the meeting facilitators can certainly feel like evidence that there was a not-so-hidden agenda at the Dandelion 5 gathering, which both promoted the changing of the original Principles of Unity and also gave permission to treat Macha as an enemy of her own religious tradition.”

    4. It’s my understanding, from reading her complete blog and not targeted snippets like in this article, that she had already been treated badly before she asked the question.

    5. I have also mentioned that when a spiritual group moves more toward society and gender issues and away from spiritual themes of personal growth, some of those whose path is more focused on the divine may need to make personal decisions that will better fit their lives.
      Having been a founder, or co-founder, simply disappearing or stepping away is not a viable option because people then believe every rumor that someone will start. Making a clear-cut statement, such as Macha did, is nearly always targeted by those who cannot simply accept Macha’s reasons for leaving. Hence, Macha is almost forced to explain the history of why she came to the decision… which folks will like even less, probably.
      The statement I read had more to do with lack of respect towards an elder, and snotty attitude, than personal bias toward any gender-based prejudice.
      As an older leader, I have experienced the same lack of respect from those who are new to the spiritual path or are power hungry.
      The fact that no one addressed the lack of respect issues is one of the main issues, I believe, and one that makes me long for the return of face-to-face teaching of students and not the incomplete pseudo-training offered by the authors of popular occult books.
      My 2 cents.

    6. As I have read the various press releases regarding Macha’s decision to withdraw from Reclaiming, quotes in this article, comments, and blogs, I need to bring up the fact that no one yet knows the complete back story, emotions, or even conversations behind the scenes that occurred as she struggled with making a decision that felt right and healthy for her. All we are getting is little word bites here and there to either justify one side or another. And that’s not to say these word bites aren’t valid and important to discussion and reflection. It’s just a fact that we are not getting the whole picture and probably never will.

      What I do feel I know is that the decision that was made was not out of a discomfort over gender, but over how people are treating each other over this topic. There is much going on regarding gender identity, and inclusion but to make this the reason for her withdrawing is a very grave error. What I have personally experienced is a person who is compassionate, and eager to educate and learn all she can to clarify, bring balance and right action and inclusion regarding this topic.

      As far as the decision being over words in a document, that I don’t know for sure, but in reading both the original and the changes, it seems to me the original was very inclusive. That doesn’t mean, however, that you let a document codify in stone. I feel we can take pride in that we re-examine ourselves, our growth and our changes from time to time (which the document also expressed was one of it’s core values) and make changes if necessary. We can take pride in that we are not a dogmatic tradition. That said, when a person makes a choice to withdraw, based on their own feelings of what is healthy and right for them, why do we feel it necessary to find fault with their decision and say there must be something ‘bad’ with them. As painful as it is for everyone involved, including the one making the decision to withdraw, even that document says it is okay to reflect, grow and move on if necessary.
      Back to the document – I don’t know the background regarding changing that document, but I do question how much strife and stress was caused or occurred and was it necessary? Maybe it needed more clarification but maybe it didn’t as well.

      I’m thinking the withdrawal decision had more to do with there has been an ever growing trend over the years across the community to not treat people with respect and gentleness when it comes to explaining points of view or educating a person on a topic. There is also a trend of not being firm in holding people accountable for their actions and words.

      A last trend in the community is one based on perception. This is hard to explain, but it’s kind of like this..just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you, but being paranoid doesn’t help you in how you view the world and live in it. If it helps, I was told this phrase by my psychologist when I was seeking some counseling for a time. In essence, there is the situation, the action, and then there is how you take it in, perceive it and spin it.

    7. I’m a fan of both Nels and Diana (a personal friend) and I don’t want to be overly critical, but I find the tone and slant of this article confusing. I look to PNC for news, which is what the name Pagan Newswire Collective implies I will get. But this article reads somewhere between journalism, speculation and an opinion piece.

      Two particular areas catch my eye. First, the claim that a consensus-based process has become “popular” among Pagans. How popular? Says who? I’d expect a news article to either cite a hard study or have a quote from a Pagan leader. If it’s stated as fact there should be an attribution.

      Then the final paragraph is an editorial. This is a much bigger problem to me because it is presented in what’s otherwise a news article. Personally, I agree that “Issues of gender, inclusiveness, decision-making process, and personal ethics should properly be in the forefront of the actions and decisions of a spiritual people.” HOWEVER, that doesn’t make it appropriate for a journalist to opine.

      Here in particular, the subject of the article is portrayed as having reservations about gender inclusiveness, or perhaps feeling that only a male-female dichotomy properly represents her mystery tradition. The reporters’ job should be to present her view and Reclaiming’s view in as balanced a way as possible and let the reader make their own decision. By ending the article with this editorial paragraph, the authors essentially take sides and say that M. Macha is wrong and Reclaiming is right.

      That would make a fine blog post, but it’s not what I come to PNC for.

      • I am perplexed at how Macha’s decision to leave Reclaiming is being painted as about her having issues with things she has not said she has issues with: gender identity, consensus process, or the Principles of Unity. I understand that she intends to write more fully about the reasons for her leaving her tradition, but none of the reasons she’s named thus far are the ones being discussed in either the article or the comments here.

        What’s up with that, people? This is premature–and more of a Rorschach test of our preoccupations than coverage of a news story.

        For that, the authors of this article might consider contacting the woman herself.

        • I agree. I don’t think that a conclusion about her thoughts on gender identity follows in any way from the quotes attributed to her in the article.

        • Thanks for your comments Drew. This was a difficult article to write as the ‘news’ is already relatively old and Dianna did the basic research.

          A basic understanding of consensus process is important to the context of this article, as it was mentioned in the source documents. It was not meant to imply Pagan worship circles demonstrate its popularity, but within diverse community and activist groups, AND some spiritually based Pagan groups it is often used in some form, based on my personal experience.

          The summary paragraph was not meant to assign cause, or motive, or define any issues involved. The principals of the story are trying to clarify that for themselves. The issues referred to are referenced in the source documents, quotes, and links, and their relationship, if any, to this press release is not known or assumed. The intent was to reference serious issues faced in the Pagan community in general, specifically without trying to speculate, outside the source documents, on any relationship to this story.

          Macha was contacted personally by PNC-MN, and the second article quote is from that contact. PNC-MN also requested an interview with Macha. As her statement to PNC-MN reflects, it is perfectly understandable that an interview may not be appropriate at this time.

          Thank you Macha for the clarifying statement below!

          • I appreciate the difficulties involved, Nels, as well as your detailed reply. I will say it still reads with an op-ed tone to me.

            You wrote: “The issues referred to are referenced in the source documents, quotes, and links, and their relationship, if any, to this press release is not known or assumed.”

            That would be clearer if the article finished with an open-ended statement. By ending with a “should” statement (“Issues of gender, inclusiveness, decision-making process, and personal ethics should properly be…”) it really felt like taking sides – implying that Issues of gender, inclusiveness, etc are indeed what the press release is all about, and making a judgement on the appropriate way of viewing them.

            • Hi Drew! From my perspective, this is not op-ed because neither PNC-News nor PNC-MN is taking a specific position on a highly personal departure. Nor is it intended as speculative. I concede that it reads as a human interest feature – which tends to be softer edged than hard news – but I disagree with your evaluation of it as op-ed. It does have a lot of opinion in it, because the people contacted for this story have distinct perspectives on the matter, and this is one of those cloud situations where the more solid facts can only emerge over time, long past the time that this item would ordinarily be newsworthy.

              • Thanks for the reply Di, and I appreciate that it is a human interest story about a controversial topic, but not the opinions in it are not just in the quotes. The last paragraph offers an opinion on what role certain topics should play in the Pagan community and what is healthy for Pagans, and states it as fact with no attribution – that is about as far from objective reporting as this writer can imagine.

                Please know that I mean this primarily as constructive criticism, because I believe in PNC and want it to remain a source for high quality objective information. I don’t mean anything personal by it and my respect for you remains high.

              • Haha, yes – I’m mid-journey right now! And intend to have internet the whole way :)

    8. I did not leave because of discomfort over gender identity issues per se, but over a pattern of increasing disrespect and lack of accountability, and a lot more reasons too complex to address in this reply.

    9. I did not leave because of discomfort over gender identity issues per se, but over a pattern of increasing disrespect and lack of accountability, and many more reasons too complex to get into in this forum.

    10. Thanks for the article. Thanks to Macha for responding to people in this intense and highly personal situation. I appreciate when leaders allow us a glimpse into the struggle of leadership and respect Macha for that.

    11. I look forward to reading Macha’s descriptions of how she practices accountability, giving constructive feedback, and respecting others. I’m starting to get a picture of why she thinks Reclaiming is not good at doing those things and wonder what her practices are. I’ve been in the Reclaiming Tradition for a while now. I’ve taught in my community, at Witchcamps, I’ve organized Winter Witchcamp and I was at this last Dandelion. I am proud of the process we displayed at this last Dandelion. Conflicts and misunderstandings do happen. I believe leaders have a responsibility to model methods of creating solutions and understanding. I acknowledge that is not an easy thing to do. I fail to live up to my own values all the time. But experiences like Dandelion, contrary to Macha’s experience, inspire me to keep trying. Thank you, thoughtful Pagans! The topics of accountability, constructive feedback, and respecting others are very important. I know many of us have struggled in all sincerity with them. And we keep trying!

    12. I left Reclaiming years ago because of similar issues which also had nothing to do with gender. In a nutshell: hidden agendas, hidden hierarchies, cliques and cabals, abuses of the consensus process, and a clear sensation that Reclaiming was being co-opted by a small group of power-hungry individuals facilitated by their ambitious followers.

      My dilemma at the time was – do I stand my ground and fight back? Do I get down in the mud with them and do what I’d have to do to “win” this conflict?

      I decided to leave instead, as did many others in my community, and I have had no contact with Reclaiming since. I only became aware of this most recent blow-up because a friend forwarded me Macha’s statement and this link. And it is with great trepidation that I find myself drawn back to this conflict – not because I have any interest in the dysfunctional institution that Reclaiming has become, IMHO, but because the voices of those who have left tend to be marginalized, maybe even forgotten. And speaking truth to power is the only thing that can remedy that.

      Lastly, the perhaps unwittingly condescending remark that the issues Macha raises are merely a Bay Area thing and that the friendly folks of the Midwest are so much more civil and courteous should be put to rest immediately. The fist may be cloaked in velvet, but it is a fist nevertheless. I resonate very strongly with Robert’s comments about blaming the victim. Yes, that is what happens in groups, over and over again. Maybe it is just the human condition. But for those who are already fragile because of the stress of being victimized in the first place, the blaming and ostracism that follow can be truly traumatizing.

      Good luck to you who choose to continue the battle for accountability, respect, and intellectual honesty within this institution.

    13. [...] yourself to the bad manners of the Calvinistic Pagans. One good example of this is what happened to M. Macha NightMare, and I’m glad she didn’t stick around to be hissed at. (And I have heard the [...]

    14. [...]  M. Macha NightMare Withdraws from Reclaiming Tradition   I, M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch, aka Aline O’Brien, withdraw from the publicly [...]

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