Reclaiming means recovering what we have been separated from, but not in the sense that we can just get it back. Recovering means recovering from the very separation itself, regenerating what this separation has poisoned. The need to struggle and the need to heal, in order to avoid resembling those we have to struggle against, are thus irreducibly allied. A poisoned milieu must be reclaimed, and so must many of our words, those that—like “animism” and “magic”—carry with them the power to take us hostage: do you “really” believe in…?
I received this word “reclaiming” as a gift from neo-pagan contemporary witches and other US activists. I also received the shocking cry of neo-pagan Starhawk: “The smoke of the burned witches still hangs in our nostrils.” Certainly the witch hunters are no longer among us, and we no longer take seriously the accusation of devil worshipping that was once levelled at witches. Rather, our milieu is defined by the modern pride in being able to interpret both witchery and witch hunting in terms of social, linguistic, cultural, or political constructs and beliefs. What this pride ignores, however, is that we are the heirs of an operation of cultural and social eradication—the forerunner of what was committed elsewhere in the name of civilization and reason. Anything that classifies the memory of such operations as unimportant or irrelevant only furthers the success of those operations.