Statement from Starhawk

Reclaiming Revises the Principles of Unity

M. Macha Nightmare has issued a public statement withdrawing from the Reclaiming Tradition.  In response, I want to say a few words–not as an official representative of Reclaiming, as we have none, but as a fellow founder, and also offer some perspective on our process of revising our Principles of Unity.

Reclaiming is “an evolving, changing tradition”, as our Principles of Unity state, and sometimes when traditions change, they no longer fit everybody who was originally in them, even their founders.  We honor Macha’s gifts and her many contributions over the years, and will feel her absence while we respect her choice.  Personally, I’ve been Macha’s friend for over thirty years.  We’ve co-authored a book together, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, and I look forward to many more long years of friendship even if our paths diverge in some ways.

Reclaiming is an odd organization—we best fit Ori Dorfman and Rod Beckstrom’s description of a ‘starfish’ organization in their book The Starfish and the Spider—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.  We became aware some years ago that some of the language in one particular sentence imperfectly expressed our intention of being welcoming to people of all genders, and explicitly so to those gender-nonconforming folks who find so little welcome in many other places.  We embarked on a long, thoughtful process of discussion, over a period of more than two years, holding gender salons and many deep conversations about gender, identity, deity and our relationship to it, about whether we see divinity as a unity or a multiplicity or both.  We did our best to listen carefully to the broad range of diversity in our community, and in the end, succeeded in reaching a consensus to change the rather binary statement:

“Honoring both Goddess and God, we work with female and male images of divinity, always remembering that their essence is a mystery which goes beyond form.”


“Our diverse practices and experiences of the divine weave a tapestry of many different threads. We include those who honor Mysterious Ones, Goddesses, and Gods of myriad expressions, genders, and states of being, remembering that mystery goes beyond form.”

This statement is in the context of the larger text, which begins with a quote from the Charge of the Goddess and the statement:

“The values of the Reclaiming tradition stem from our understanding that the earth is alive and all of life is sacred and interconnected. We see the Goddess as immanent in the earth’s cycles of birth, growth, death, decay and regeneration.”

We also added gender histories to our welcome statement which now reads:

“We welcome all genders, all gender histories, all races, all ages and sexual orientations and all those differences of life situation, background, and ability that increase our diversity.”

In our process around this change, we engaged  respectfully  with issues that could potentially be divisive, and came up with a solution that expands our inclusiveness.

We are a diverse bunch of people, women, men, and those of fluid or nonconforming gender, straight, queer, old and young, and we are proud to be part of a tradition which strives to be a force for social justice in the world.

One thought on “Statement from Starhawk

  1. Leigh Blackmore says:

    The problem I perceive with the changes that have been made to the Principles of Unity is that the wider Reclaiming community seems to have been given little chance to participate in whatever discussions were unfolding around proposed changes.
    Certainly here in Australia only those on the restricted Spider e-list were privy to the discussions. Consequently the announcement of these changes comes as a shock to some in the local community here. Do you feel the process was conducted according to the process of consensus? What opportunity might there be for international members of the Reclaiming community to feed back on the chnages, especially for those not on the Spider list. What is the most appropriate forum for them to do so?
    People here, some of whom have carried the flag for Reclaiming principles as expressed in the PoU for over 20 years, are feeling hurt by a lack of consultation, not to mention some of the actual changes in wording of the PoU, and their implications. How does Reclaiming as an international movement propose to address such feelings of concern and hurt (for instance, around the removal of the wording “Goddess and God”?) What can be done to ensure future evolving of the PoU is done in a manner which can solicit contributions from those unable to afford to travel to America?

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