[The following is a guest post from Abel R. Gomez. Abel R. Gomez is a student, community organizer, writer, and ritualist dedicated to collective empowerment and ecstatic ritual. An initiated Shakta Tantrika through the SHARANYA Devi Mandir, he is also a priest and witch in the Reclaiming Tradition.]
Reclaiming the Myriad Forms of Divinity: Revisions to The Principles of Unity
Reclaiming is an American grown tradition of Witchcraft with roots in Feri Tradition, ecofeminism, anarchist politics, and the psychology movement. The Principles of Unity document is one of the only unifying threads that define Reclaiming communities internationally. Along with a general Reclaiming style magical practice, acceptance of the Principles of Unity is the single prerequisite to identify as a Reclaiming Witch. The document was originally written in 1997 when Reclaiming was collective. After the document was written the collective structure subsequently dissolved in favor of a working group/spokes council. In addition to discussing what made the tradition unique, the group chose to state explicitly that all genders are welcome, which differentiated Reclaiming Tradition from groups like some Dianic lineages.
As an organic, living tradition, Reclaiming strives to be flexible to the changing needs of the community. One of the structures to address those needs has been the creation and facilitation of BIRCH (Broad Inter-Reclaiming Council Hub), a meeting open to representatives of all Reclaiming communities during the Dandelion Gathering. Concerns around language in regards to non-binary gender and Deity in the Principles of Unity were addressed at the fourth Dandelion Gathering in 2010. It was decided that community leaders would discuss the issue with their home communities and return to the Dandelion Gathering in 2012 with a possible resolutions. Specifically, the group endeavored to revise the following sentence in the original Principles of Unity:
“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.”
Conversations about theology are complicated, and in a community like Reclaiming where beliefs and experiences of the Sacred can vary so widely, this is especially true. I believe another complexity that is important to acknowledge is that our theology cannot be truly divorced from our commitment to social justice. Referring to the Goddess as the embodiment of the natural cycles, for example, is both a theological statement and a political statement. It is an expression of the living cosmos and a form a resistance against all the ways the feminine has been denigrated throughout history and in the world today.
The political and theological values of Reclaiming, along with a desire to include representation for those in our community who identify as transgender, genderqueer, third gender, or other non-binary gender played a major role in our discussion during the BIRCH meeting held August 2nd and 3rd at the Fifth Dandelion Gathering near Portland, Oregon. My experience has always been that Reclaiming acknowledges the divinity of all people, simply because they are alive. I believe the only real issue that we dealt with during the BIRCH meeting was finding the language to fully articulate this. As an embodied tradition and a community that honors the fierce courage needed to identify as a non-binary gender, it felt particularly important that these members of our community be also mirrored in our vision of divinity. After hours of intense conversations, including moments of passionate debate and compromise, the entire group gathered reached consensus to revise the original sentence to the statement below:
“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.”
Our revision included the Mysterious Ones, which refers to deities and spirits that can take many forms, including gods, goddess, and deities of multiple and no gender. We added “states of being” to include divinity that can take the form of various species and forces of nature. Many believed it was also important to include the last statement, that our experience of the divine can take many shapes and patterns, but the essence of all divinity is boundless, not limited any single form. While gathered, it felt important that we revise an additional sentence in the document to reflect that we honor “all gender histories”, that is, we honor all who have transitioned gender identity and welcome them as valued members in our community. The additional revision 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.”
Reclaiming is a community of Witches of many genders, orientations, and identities willing to rise to the challenge of further inclusion and celebration of diversity. To me, our ability to gather together and make decisions for the betterment of the larger community is an indication that we are growing as a tradition. Using consensus process to make decisions, especially when there are over a hundred people in a meeting and particularly when the issue is so sensitive, makes the fact that we are able to reach a unanimous agreement quite spectacular. I see the revised document as a new spell we are collectively weaving, one which will open the way for stronger inclusion and greater dialogue, leading us one step closer to the world we are so deeply yearning for.