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    The Goddess Tradition: Where We Fit In

    Excerpted from
    Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions
    By Starhawk

    The theology and practices described in this book are those that arise from the Reclaiming community in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Reclaiming is a community of women and men who have been working together, teaching and creating public rituals, for almost two decades. We encompass many different circles and covens, and over the years we have created our own evolving tradition. We have several roots: in the Faery tradition of Wicca as taught to us by Victor and Cora Anderson, in nonviolent direct-action politics of groups such as the Abalone Alliance, and in the ongoing experimentation and creativity of our community.

    The Goddess tradition itself is composed of many circles that may overlap but are not identical. Here is a brief overview of these intertwined strands, and our relationship to them:

    Feminist spirituality includes people who range from initiated Witches to Christian ministers and rabbis. All share a concern with the role of women in religion and with the role religious images play in shaping our possibilities and opportunities as women.

    Earth-based spirituality includes people drawn to traditions of the sacred that put the earth at center, ranging from Native American elders to Witches to creation-centered Christians, including most of the indigenous peoples on the planet.

    The New Age/human-potential movement is concerned with expanding the narrow definition of reality to include not only what is quantifiable but also possibilities of consciousness that move beyond the rational. It often draws from the insights of Eastern religious traditions as well as indigenous traditions worldwide.

    Paganism is the term for the revival of the earth-based sacred traditions, particularly of Europe and the Middle East. One of those Pagan traditions is Wicca or Witchcraft, which itself has many branches. (Witchcraft is sometimes referred to as the Cratt.) We are Witches; that is to say, we have each made a deep, lifelong commitment to the Goddess, been initiated into our tradition, and serve as her priestesses.' We identify with the line of women and men martyred in the Burning Times and with the traditional healers and practitioners of magic.

    Shamanism is a word that originated with the indigenous healers of Siberia and has come to be broadly used for anyone exploring wider dimensions of consciousness with some guidance from an indigenous tradition. The Witches were the shamans of Europe. We prefer not to lay claim to this word, and rather reserve it for indigenous healers working within their own communities and intact traditions.

    The twelve-step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous and so on) have been a big influence on our community over the last decade. As we have become more aware of the pervasiveness of addictions in our culture, we have moved away from the use of wine or other forms of alcohol in our rituals. Aside from caffeine, chocolate, and herb tea, we do not use any mind-altering substances in our magical practice and certainly do not recommend doing so when children are present.

    The native peoples of this continent have thousands of years of experience in living on this land. We have received much from them-many of our major food plants, for example. Many people of European ancestry are attracted to the practices and teachings of these indigenous traditions.

    We want to state clearly that we are not Native Americans, nor do we teach any Native American traditions or ceremonies or make any claim to do so. Our rituals originate from native European roots and our collective creativity and experimentation. They have some similarities of form to many Native American traditions-for example, we all work within a sacred circle and honor the four directions. We share with indigenous peoples everywhere a strong commitment to protect the earth and her sacred places and to support the rights of indigenous peoples to their own lands and to self-determination.

    Note: The word theology is rooted in the Greek theos, the male form for God. We use thealogy, from thea, Goddess.

    Families in Goddess Tradition

    Who are we, these families raising our children to love and revere Earth and Goddess? First, we're people who have enough faith in the future and enough stability in the present to bring children into the spiral of life or nurture children who are not born to us. In this, we join everyone who has raised children before us, all who have connected deeply to a child. Second, we are people conscious of the complex web of which we're part, who feel the vibrating wholeness of life and call that Goddess. Finally, we're people caught up, or ground down, by the daily routines of living as we move through each day, each cycle.

    We don't look any different from any other people in our culture, unless we choose to do so. Like most families, we typically don't discuss religion with neighbors or casual friends. Our homes might show our religious orientation, if at all, through a simple symbol or a small altar tucked in some corner. Visions of haunted houses, complete with spider webs and esoteric symbols, belong to our detractors, not our supporters.

    No census includes "Pagan" or "Goddess worshipper" among its categories, but we estimate over 500,000 people in the U.S. identify with some aspect of earth-based spirituality. More of us are women than men, hut we do include many men and boys. We are all ages, from newborn to very old.

    Our tradition is of European origin, so we naturally attract people of European ancestry. But our community includes and welcomes people of all races and many different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Our occupations range through the economic and educational spectrum.

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