This open letter is a statement in the spirit of transparency and openness with the Reclaiming Witchcamp community and the general Pagan community.
*We acknowledge that this statement alone does not repair the harm done. And that the work towards repair and healing is ongoing. We write to you from our own places of learning and growing, as we continue to navigate the rippling effects of camp.*
Non-consensual kink and sexual coercion, gun violence, body shaming, brutality, forced labor, authoritarian violence, reenactments of white supremacy violence and genocide.
Following the events of Wild Maine Witchcamp 2019, we want to be public about the events that happened at WMWC this year, which caused harm to the People of Color at our camp, as well as the poor choices made and inconsistencies in our organizing group that led to the events. We recognize and acknowledge that the tendencies of colonialism and white supremacy reside in our bodies.
Wild Maine Witchcamp 2019 was centered around the folktale commonly known as the Bremen Town Musicians. On the evening of the first full day at camp, we initiated a ritual that we failed to realize would be triggering and harmful to People of Color, and other individuals, at our camp.
The ritual involved roleplaying slave/forced labor in the roles of the animals from the folktale; being given nearly impossible and completely pointless work to accomplish; and some members of the ritual facilitation team roleplaying as the owners/masters from the folktale, improvising statements about those who were roleplaying animals that they would be sold off or killed if they didn’t work better, faster, and harder. There was a sexual/kink component to the ritual, as one member of the team was wearing kink gear, giving orders while holding a riding crop.
Members of the ritual facilitation team also made statements about the campers who were roleplaying as animals being more valuable for their hide than they were for their labor. This further devolved into some people roleplaying the shooting of those who were not working hard enough, including making gun noises with their mouths.
Many people in the room experienced discomfort by the events in this ritual. Many people were triggered by the subject matter and how it was being enacted during this ritual. These themes did not come with a trigger warning or any kind of consent.
Some campers saw that this ritual was causing great distress to several people in the room, especially to People of Color. They called a stop to the ritual. At this point some individuals had left the building in which the ritual was taking place in order to take care of themselves. After a short time, two people who had left the room to support the people being most affected came into the room and stopped the ritual.
In the discussion that followed, it was decided to scrap everything that was planned for the rest of the week, and to focus on addressing the harms caused by the ritual and figuring out as a group how to move forward. Two of the people who were most harmed by the ritual left camp. Later, a third person left camp. The remaining People of Color who stayed stepped into teaching/facilitating roles. There were many hours of discussion and brainstorming. We had one final ritual to attempt to bring closure to the week, but the feeling after camp is that there is still a lot of unfinished business stemming from what happened at camp, and patterns within our organizing team/Reclaiming/ourselves that urgently need to be addressed.
We made bad choices and we are sincerely sorry. We failed to apply a critical lens to the story around which we centered camp and the rituals we organized based on that story.
We failed to take into consideration how this story, and the resulting rituals, might look and feel to People of Color.
We failed to reach out to anyone whose racial experience is different from our own and could have informed our point of view in crucial ways.
We made the crucial error of failing to realize that the story around which we centered camp is a story of escaping slave labor, and that as white people organizing witchcamp we lack an ancestral understanding of the impact of this kind of story.
We acknowledge that a lack of cultural and racial competency led to re-activation of traumas that are both lived experiences and held in people’s bodies. We understand that this impact is ongoing. And is an example of our own whiteness.
We want to honor the ways in which the whole camp community stepped up for one another after this ritual. Each and every person played an important role in the work and magic continuing to happen. This is not easy work and what came after this ritual was a lot of emotional labor, and a lot of care and tending.
We are grateful to all the guidance and labor and support offered by so many at camp; grateful for collective wisdom and tending in the name of liberation.
We also honor that this work is ongoing and that for many people the harm continues and that this did not end after camp. That the forms of oppression that came up during camp are intense daily experiences that so many live with and are impacted by.
What Comes Next
The organizing team has taken the months since camp to process what happened at camp, to talk to each other, and to feel and dream into what comes next. We have come to the conclusion that we cannot both plan a 2020 camp and address the harm and make the changes necessary from 2019 camp.
We will not be organizing a 2020 Wild Maine Witchcamp.
We are committed to continuing to meet as a team to address the harm from 2019 camp. We will do this by:
- Engaging in accountability processes as organizers, teachers and ritual facilitation team members.
- Offering our mistakes and our learning publicly
- Reaching out to the community; the folks that were at camp as well as the wider Reclaiming and activist communities
- Studying the collective wisdom gleaned from 2019 camp around how to organize better and make structural change
- Bringing magic back into our organizing structure
- Restructuring our organizing practices to address our majority whiteness, to learn better how to truly contribute to decolonizing within ourselves, our group and the camp, as well as to avoid organizer burnout and overwhelm
- Feeling into the spirit of camp itself to see what kind of gathering it wants to be, going forward.
There will be ongoing communication about our process going forward. We welcome all input, and extend our gratitude to the community for holding us in love, patience and accountability.
To Wild Maine Witchcamp attendees:
Invitation for feedback. This includes anyone who participated in camp in anyway.
As part of Jude Elf’s self-initiated accountability process for her role and responsibility in the ritual that caused harm at witch camp, we (Jude’s pod) have opened a space for you to share your experience.
Our intention is to gather information through a form that illuminates the impact and harm experienced as part of Jude Elf’s accountability, apology, and repair process. We understand that some of these harms are a result of white supremacy, leadership communication failures, working without informed consent, and personal responsibility choices.
This information will be used to identify the constellation of behaviors, actions, and events that impacted members of the Wild Maine Witchcamp so that Jude can understand this material and own her part in it.
We encourage specific details about what you observed — behaviors, words, interactions, etc — and how that affected you. This can include any details about ritual planning, explaining the ritual, any part of the invocations and ritual content, what was missing, and what happened during the stop and after. Details can also include what happened after the ritual ended, including that night, the next day, at the healing ritual, and since camp has ended.
You are welcome to include any requests you have for repair. These may be specific things you ask of Jude herself, of the camp community, or the camp organizing team.
When this information is collected and organized, relevant information will be shared with the Wild Maine organizing team and Jude’s accountability pod will work to find additional resources — human and media — to further Jude’s learning, accountability, and repair.
We know that many people experienced harm and significant breach of trust at Wild Maine Witchcamp in 2019. We know that talking about or writing about harm experienced can bring all kinds of emotions and sensations in relation to this experience and others.
We know your participation here is a form of emotional labor and service to Jude Elford, to Wild Maine Witchcamp, and to ending white supremacy in Reclaiming spaces and the broader world.
The soft deadline for story collection is March 30, 2020.
Thank you very much for participating in this accountability process.
You can also reach out through email to CampStory2019@gmail.com.
What is Community Accountability?
This community accountability process is informed by the work of INCITE!, AORTA, and adrienne maree brown, among others. To see more resources, please visit INCITE! And AORTA.
To see more about what pods are and can be, please check this out.
Who is collecting these stories?
Eva Blake. I am a white queer femme somatic sex educator, coach, and sex worker, currently residing in Houston, Texas. I organized and/or facilitated paths Free Cascadia Witchcamp for 7 years (2006 – 2013) and taught core Reclaiming classes and facilitated public rituals from 2013 – 2018 in Portland, Oregon.
My primary work for more than a decade has been in the space of sexuality, intimacy, and relationships, in which I work overwhelmingly with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, teaching erotic, emotional, and embodiment skills to heal trauma, own sexual power without apology, and create more fun, freedom, and fulfillment in the intimate domain.
A critical piece of my work is responsibility and accountability in relationships and community. I have worked with survivors of violence and people who have harmed.
My role in this accountability pod is to gather stories and help organize the information of what happened at Wild Maine Witchcamp to help Jude be accountable for her part, to find additional resources for Jude’s ongoing learning, repair, and leadership work.
Welcome to Wild Maine Witch Camp. Glad that you have found us!
We gather in Wabanaki territory, so called Maine. We honor here that we are on unceded stolen land.
We gather to weave together in community and earth-based spiritual work. We work towards personal, collective and planetary healing.
We seek to create a space that works towards cultural shifting. We abide by a set of values that is explicitly anti-racist, queer and trans positive. A space where we tend to each other and learn from one another. We work towards justice of all forms: environmental, social, political, racial, gender and sexuality, physical ability and disability, financial status and class. We hope to create containers that hold the complexities power, privilege and histories of oppression and trauma. And to honor all of the stories and lived experiences.
We seek to create an environment of curiosity, leaning into our growth edges and radical self care. While we tend to one another and look out for one another it is also a space of radical self care and self governance. We seek to create an ever growing and inclusive range of experiences and backgrounds. Camp is a co-created experience and we invite you to find your place within this web. The times we face cannot be faced alone.