When I came into Reclaiming in the late 80’s. I’d already worked in transition houses for many years. I liked the political focus of Reclaiming. It fit with my life and my passion for social justice, and as a feminist, I felt I was connected to the witches of the burning times who I imagined were the activists of those times.
In the early years, the magic of camp was much more focused on the environment. I was burning myself out in my day to day fighting for systemic changes in violence against women and supporting women and children. I had very little left over for making further commitments for the environment. Although I was aware that everything is connected I had nothing more to give and relied on that the pieces I was working on would contribute to the whole. Over time my work changed to be anti-oppression and custody and access in intimate relationships that were abusive.
I did a lot of coalition building, organizing, lobbying, and brief writing. Still, our language and ways of working were being increasingly co-opted by the systems themselves as a backlash against feminism and political correctness was taking hold and the changes we had fought so hard for were being retracted. I was considered a dinosaur in the work where staff frequently burnt out in a couple of years, I burnt out numerous times. But whereas I had always managed to remain tactful and persistent working with systems I was beginning to feel like lunging across the table and was tired at always having to say the hard stuff and everyone acting as I farted in the room. It was time to go.
Now my body is much older and in chronic pain. I am really limited to what I can do. There are so many things I want to support, like protesting against the pipeline, Indigenous activism, rallies against racism, and I am seldom able to physically get there, much less walk. I do believe we must respond to what’s happening and show our support for social justice, but I have come to believe that art is more likely to change hearts. My experience has been our facts and lobbies are frequently turned against us. I think social movements are more likely to be aroused through, songs, art, ways of speaking to people’s hearts about justice and possibility. And when you get down to it magic is an art.
In fact, it is the art of changing consciousness at will. I believe we can not only change our consciousness, but we can use magic to change our collective consciousness.