From 2006 to 2010 I wrote a series of blog posts about Reclaiming, the organization I’d been a part of for over 20 years. The Baby and the Bathwater is a deeply personal chronicle of my involvement in this Earth-based spiritual tradition formed by Starhawk and others in 1980: a reflection on the inspiring ideals that helped Reclaiming spread around the world, as well as the challenges that caused me to leave the tradition.
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Interview about The Baby and the Bathwater on Pagan Musings Podcast:
On May 5, 2012, I spoke with the Pagan Musings podcast team about some of the incidents I wrote about in The Baby and the Bathwater. I also related some lessons learned about music and culture through running Serpentine Music, and my hopes for a younger generation of Pagan writers and observers. Listen to it right here:
Recent reviews of The Baby and the Bathwater:
A fascinating account of Anne’s musings on what led her to move beyond Reclaiming. I read it at the same time that I’ve been reading bits and pieces of Starhawk’s latest book: The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups. Both women have something important to say (hint: Starhawk is still in favor of consensus decision-making while Hill is less enthusiastic) about how we go forward. Hill’s book is an important contribution to the history of a genuinely American religious movement.
Of all American Witchcraft traditions, Reclaiming seems to be the most prone to self-criticism. Perhaps that is because, as Anne Hill writes in her brief blog-memoir, The Baby and the Bathwater, there was always much conflict over different visions for Reclaiming…Hill, one of the original group’s long-term members, writes things that only an insider could say…The Baby and the Bathwoter sees an up side to Reclaiming too, as Hill visits groups seeded in other areas and savors their enthusiasm.
Excerpts from the book:
One of the many things I have learned is that once we are touched by a tradition, or a powerful moment in time, it stays in our DNA. Growth and maturity, if we are fortunate enough to achieve them, largely consist of coming to terms with and embracing all the influences that make us who we are.
—From the Introduction
The Reclaiming Tradition has benefitted from the input of many brilliant people over the years, some who know a lot about a little, and others who know a little about a lot. But there is a breaking point, when the network of communities and individuals becomes too large to run on the infrastructure we have traditionally used to support it.
—From “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda”
Can it be true that what started as a grand experiment in creating a spirituality that was Goddess-centered, egalitarian, politically and socially radical would have absolutely nothing to show for itself 25 years after the fact? Could it be that a community and religious movement which has been at the center of my identity for over two decades consisted all along of nothing but our intense willingness to believe our own promotional language?
—From “The Baby and the Bathwater”
The power of that moment was that our liturgy had gone beyond the banks of Reclaiming and entered the culture at large. The song was its own boat, unstoppable, wending its way through the landscape to so many new communities, touching the lives of more people than I could hope to know. One expects that of anthems, of songs launched with big money and bigger popularity, but to hear one’s own chant sung in a non-ritual venue by people one has never met feels pretty miraculous.
—From “A Peak Experience”
Reclaiming is not an end in itself, it is a network of people we can learn from and listen to, in order to pick up some great skills we can’t really get anywhere else. And at this point, the best thing wecan do is to take those skills and use them in the world at large— figure out how to translate them into our jobs, our childraising, all of our interactions. My vision of the future of Reclaiming is people everywhere who act like regular magical human beings, recognize Mystery when they see it, and know how to respond for the greatest good in those fabulous moments of opportunity.
—From “Whither Reclaiming”
I think abolishing hierarchy is stupid and a waste of time. If you are interested in equality at all costs, you should never have gone looking for your power in the first place. Holding authority with integrity is more important than making others feel good.
One of the first things we learn from our teachers is discernment: the ability to tell truth from fiction, to know when we have lost our center and how to find it again. Discernment is also one of the last things we learn, when we feel our paths diverge and we must separate from our mentors in order to stay true to ourselves.
—From “The Ones We Leave Behind”