January 31, 2012
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
There were 12 in attendance today, including: Bonnie Reed, Tim Horn, Kat McElroy, David Poppe, Tara, Andrea and Walter Tommy, Virginia Young, Bill Troxel, Maryellen Robinson, and Gary and Christine Shields.
WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson, Tim Horn
PRAYER was lead by Walter Tommy, followed by the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE.
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: There were no changes made.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes were submitted electronically. Christine reports she is having issues opening the attachments. Kat will look into this.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: No guests today.
Reclaiming Traditions: Tara began her presentation by describing a timeline of human experience on earth; she believes that initially humans were hunter/gatherers and practiced animism, with a basic belief that all of the world is sacred. Later, as humans developed agriculture and this shaped their understanding of the world, people began to worship the earth itself and the cycles thereof, and animism shifted to paganism, with people developing various religions based around worship of the goddess, rivers, trees, etc. Over time, and she linked this to the beginning of humans storing food, and the development of so-called civilization, paganism shifted into monotheism, the belief that there is one god, although different people over time have had different ideas of what that god would be. Monotheism became the dominant belief system primarily in cities, where food and power were amassed, although paganism continued to be practiced by rural folk. Then came along the Crusades during which pagan peoples were burned as witches and converted to monotheism. Pagan traditions went underground, being passed down in families by oral tradition.
Beginning in the 1900’s, there has been a push to reassemble old religious beliefs. As in any reassembling process, some traditions have been totally lost, others have morphed over time. Wiccan belief, she said, is very ritualistic, with many practitioners, and many differing traditions. She belongs to a witch tradition known as Reclaiming Tradition. She likened other Wiccan beliefs to Catholic Church, very involved in rituals, while the Reclaiming Tradition group she said are more like charismatic Christians. While they have a set structure, their practice is more individualistic.
Here is a short history from the Reclaiming Tradition web site that speaks to how the organization came into being:
It is impossible for any one person to tell the entire complex and fluid story of Reclaiming – which after all is still unfolding – but here are highlights and basic information which I hope will help to orient those who may be newcomers, and perhaps fill in some gaps even for those who have been around for a while.
The Reclaiming Tradition is a form of modern, feminist Witchcraft which was initially developed in the classes, workshops, summer programs and public rituals of the Reclaiming Collective (1978-1997). A living religion which continues to evolve, it is a belief system and a style of ritual and Magic, not a church or organization with any kind of formal membership that one can “join.”
It is a hallmark of the Reclaiming Tradition that initiation does not lead to any sort of entitlement and there is no formal hierarchy of priests and priestesses. People who share the core values described in the Principles of Unity and who practice Magic in the Reclaiming style can, and do, legitimately identify themselves as Reclaiming Witches.
The Reclaiming Collective was a group of women and men in the San Francisco Bay Area which formed in 1978-80, originally an outgrowth of classes in magic taught by Starhawk and Diane Baker. The Collective was a working group which published a quarterly newsletter; organized and led public rituals for the Sabbats, the eight seasonal holidays of the year; and taught classes from a feminist perspective in Magic and Witchcraft, including week-long summer programs which came to be known as Witch Camp.
Membership in the Collective was an organic process, with invitations to join based on commitment to and experience in the ongoing work of the “Cells,” and there were many social friendships and close personal relationships among Collective members. Women were always the large majority in the Collective, which usually numbered from 10 to 15 people. Many of the early members of the Collective were active in the anti-nuclear movement, some had worked for civil rights and peace in the 1960s, some were active in the Anarchist community in the 1970s and 80s, and some were active in the environmental movement in the 1980s and 90s. Many lived in collective households and a few had children. All were (and are) feminists and advocates of non-violence.
The Collective made all its decisions by consensus process. There was no Chairperson, no Board of Directors, no formal structure at all in the formative years. Money brought in by any Cell was allocated to the work of the Collective. In principle everyone in the Collective was entitled to payment for their work, if there was money, but most donated most of their time. In 1994, after a few years of discussion and reflection, Reclaiming became an incorporated religious organization under state and federal law. At that time the policies and practices of the Collective were described in written By-Laws.
By 1996, it was clear that there were hundreds or perhaps thousands of Reclaiming Witches in many other places, including Canada, Great Britain, and Germany, largely due to the influence of Witch Camps in those places, as well as the influential writings of Starhawk. In the Bay Area the community had expanded exponentially and the work of Reclaiming – putting on rituals, publishing the newsletter, and teaching – was now being done by dozens of people, and classes and workshops were attended by hundreds. 1,500 people could be expected to come to a Spiral Dance. The Collective went on a retreat but could not reach a decision about what its role should be in this new context, or what kind of structure should replace it.
The Collective invited input from the entire community, widespread discussions ensued, and another retreat was held in November 1997. The Principles of Unity is a statement of core values in the Reclaiming Tradition written by the Reclaiming Collective at that retreat. Fundamental value is placed on reverence for the Earth, the natural cycles of life and death, individual autonomy, non-violence, feminism, and responsible activism.
At the 1997 retreat the Reclaiming Collective dissolved itself, creating basic suggestions and guidelines for the structure of Reclaiming in the Bay Area which exists today, consisting of the Wheel, various working Cells, and the Advisory Council. Reclaiming Witches in other places organize themselves (or not) as they will. There is no central authority and all Witch Camps are autonomous.
The Wheel of Reclaiming today holds the legal identity of Reclaiming as a tax-exempt religious organization. Its members are chosen by the working groups, known as “Cells,” who do various projects in the name of Reclaiming. For example, the Cell that publishes the Reclaiming Quarterly, the Cell that teaches core classes, and the Cell that works on special, one-time projects each have a representative on the Wheel.
The Wheel makes decisions by consensus and is empowered to act in the name of Reclaiming in a legal context, to make policy decisions, and to recognize new Cells. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has spent its first two years keeping things running and beginning to address many basic questions of policy, structure, and finances.
Reclaiming Cells now include: Administrative, Community Building, E-Cell (website), Inside (prison ministry), Quarterly Magazine, Spiral Dance, Special Projects, East Bay, North Bay, and San Francisco Ritual Planning, North Bay Teachers, San Francisco/East Bay Teachers, and Youth. Some Cells are sometimes inactive.
Tara explained a few of the basic tenets Reclaiming Tradition. She used the example of a pentangle, a five point star, which she likened to a representation of the circle of life. The top point, she said, would represent Spirit, The Divine Within, that is each individual’s highest authority. The next point working clockwise would represent Earth, it is the north, it is what everything grows out of, it is the center or that solid place inside each of us. The third point is Water, the west, and represents tears, the ocean, the flow of emotions that humans experience. The fourth point is Fire, in the south, represents the Sun, which keeps us alive. It is our ability to make fire, our courage and our passion. The fifth point is Air, the East, without which we would die. South of the equator, she noted, these concepts are worked counter-clockwise on the pentangle.
She gave examples of two different pentangles used frequently in Reclaiming Tradition. The first was the Iron Pentangle; the points of this are sex, power pride, passion and self. Typically one would spend a full season (a total of one and a quarter years) meditating on each concept. The next pentangle she explained was the Pearl Pentangle, the points of which represent love, knowledge, wisdom, law and liberty. “Magic,” she explained, “is the act of changing consciousness at will.” She read to us the Principles of Unity, which along with other information about the Reclaiming Tradition can be found here: http://www.reclaiming.org/
Principles of Unity
“My law is love unto all beings…”
The Charge of the Goddess
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. Our practice arises from a deep, spiritual commitment to the earth, to healing and to the linking of magic with political action.
Each of us embodies the divine. Our ultimate spiritual authority is within, and we need no other person to interpret the sacred to us. We foster the questioning attitude, and honor intellectual, spiritual and creative freedom.
We are an evolving, dynamic tradition and proudly call ourselves Witches. 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 community rituals are participatory and ecstatic, celebrating the cycles of the seasons and our lives, and raising energy for personal, collective and earth healing.
We know that everyone can do the life-changing, world-renewing work of magic, the art of changing consciousness at will. We strive to teach and practice in ways that foster personal and collective empowerment, to model shared power and to open leadership roles to all. We make decisions by consensus, and balance individual autonomy with social responsibility.
Our tradition honors the wild, and calls for service to the earth and the community. We value peace and practice non-violence, in keeping with the Rede, “Harm none, and do what you will.” We work for all forms of justice: environmental, social, political, racial, gender and economic. Our feminism includes a radical analysis of power, seeing all systems of oppression as interrelated, rooted in structures of domination and control.
We welcome all genders, all races, all ages and sexual orientations and all those differences of life situation, background, and ability that increase our diversity. We strive to make our public rituals and events accessible and safe. We try to balance the need to be justly compensated for our labor with our commitment to make our work available to people of all economic levels.
All living beings are worthy of respect. All are supported by the sacred elements of air, fire, water and earth. We work to create and sustain communities and cultures that embody our values that can help to heal the wounds of the earth and her peoples, and that can sustain us and nurture future generations.
There followed some questions and answers and general discussion. Tara said she initially became interested in the Reclaiming Tradition reading various books including Earth Path and Dreaming the Dark by Starhawk. She said she was attracted to it because it is an activism based tradition which encourages people to find that which they feel is sacred and to defend and promote that.
WELLNESS THOUGHT: There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a (person) in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation. Herbert Spencer
Meeting this afternoon at Nenana Native Council, 4 PM, about Alaska Native Education Basketball tonight at NCPS, 6 and 7:30 PM.
Nenana Invitational Tournament begins Thursday with games at 6:30 and 8:00 P.M.
Freecycle and Chili Cookoff Friday, February 10th.
ADJOURNMENT: 2:00 P.M.