“Our tradition honors the wild and calls for service to the earth and the community.”
– from Reclaiming Witchcraft’s Principles of Unity
One of the first things I learned as a witch was the elements.
I turn to Air to feel the wind, to know change and inspiration. I turn to Fire to feel heat and sun, to know transformation and passion. I turn to Water to know blood and tears, to make contact with emotion and depth. I turn to Earth to know ancestors, plants, and animals, to understand rootedness and composting.
I learned their correspondences and ways to call them for a ritual. I sang songs and moved my body to feel what was all around, to invite them to join sacred spaces. What I didn’t understand just yet was how I was still separating myself from the elements, as though I was on the Earth but not of the Earth. I thought I understood the Wild, even as I separated myself from it, calling to it as thought it were far away.
But the Earth is not ‘over there.’ It is here. Right here inside every one of us.
Time & Storytelling
When I was asked to write about my witchcraft tradition, Reclaiming, and environmental activism, I recognized I was not the person to write it. While I am indeed a person who is committed to the environment, I am newer to a tradition that sprung into action and form because of the threats to the Earth. I honor those whose hands have been dirty and whose muscles might still be sore from all those streets, all those actions, and all those consensus meetings.
There are no movements without people, so I turned to the Reclaiming community to help me with “Honoring the Wild: Reclaiming Witchcraft & Environmental Activism.” I wanted to collect stories from as many places as possible and then weave them together to bring a reader into the experience. And if I’m being honest, I was and am still hopeful that the stories will incite actions beyond the places I know.
We begin with a recollection of activism from 1976 to the present day, with the input of those who were there. With the stories of those who were arrested and sometimes hurt, with the stories of those who lost their voices and marched in the streets. Diablo Canyon. Seattle WTO. Nevada test site. G8. G20. Occupy! Anti-nuke. Anti-fracking. Black Lives Matter.
“Many actions and handbooks emphasized ‘environmental racism,’ the disproportionate impact on poor communities and People of Color, who often stand closest to the dangers and impacts of nukes, militarism, and energy production.”
Through stories of being in deep communion with nature, tapping into the energy and emotions of redwood trees, grassroots organizing before the internet and cell phones, and listening to elders, the idea of the personal becoming political and witchcraft being political emerges. It is in the opening of senses and bypassing the confines of societal expectations that we can find new ways, new directions, and new opportunities to save lands and peoples.
I can imagine the earliest witches not thinking too much about doing something to protect the lands around them. They acted because it needed to be done. These magickal workings did not need to be profound or complicated; they did not ask the activists to be perfect or have a certain energy. Magick for protecting the land and people was honest and authentic. It worked with what was present, with different people stepping in at different times and in different ways. You had a talent that could help, so that was your role. Not everyone must march in the streets to do it ‘right.’ There are simple practices. There are quiet ways. And some have worked with Extinction Rebellion and other groups, building connections to tap into what is already happening, growing, and igniting change.
There are also rituals dedicated to the Earth and healing, with the idea of internal and external change. The spectrum is wide enough to hold those who might need a structured ritual and those who might travel to the local watershed to remove the trash. Magick also dances in queerness, beyond definitions and structures, sometimes falling into the world because of a need and inspiration. Honoring the wild has never needed pomp and circumstance. Or it could. It depends on what is needed at the moment, much like magick and much like spellwork. What works is what works. Flexibility is the way of the Witch. From ongoing questions and invocations to making art from the brokenness, giving life back to what has fallen to the ground.
…continued next week…