Teen Earth Magic
An Empowerment Workbook - Not For Teens Only!
by Luke Hauser - co-created by TEM teachers and campers in the Reclaiming Tradition
Interviews & excerpts from our new book
Foreword: An Interview with Starhawk
Author Luke Hauser and Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk have been comrades and co-agitators since the early 1980s.
In this interview, we look back at how Paganism has evolved from the days when each of us (often as adults) had to discover Earth-based spirituality on our own, through the early days of Pagan parenting, to today’s Reclaiming family and youth camps and communities.
Luke: You grew up Jewish – was that an important part of your younger years?
Starhawk: Yeah. I went to Hebrew schools, and I was Bat-Mitzvah’d. I went to Hebrew high school and after-school programs. If I’d been a boy, I’d probably have grown up to be a rabbi. But in that era – it’s not just that there were not women rabbis – it never even crossed my mind as a possibility.
What led you to Paganism and the Goddess?
I always loved fairy tales. I loved the idea of magic. I especially loved the kinds of stories where ordinary, modern-day kids discovered magic in the modern world. I always longed for magic.
When I got to be a teenager, it was the 60s. It was all sex, drugs, and rock & roll – its own kind of magic! I felt like I was having direct spiritual experiences, especially with nature. Judaism didn’t say much about that, especially at that time. So I began exploring.
My friend Patty and I eventually met some witches who said they believed that the Earth is alive, that the sacred Being is the Goddess, that sexuality is sacred, that women can be leaders. And I was like, yes!
Was this an organized Pagan group?
It was the American Celtic Tradition. We studied with them for a while, then drifted away. At that point in my life I wasn’t very good at following a discipline!
Back then, it was really hard to find out anything about witches. There was very little to read. Sybil Leek, Raymond Buckland. We read Joseph Campbell and other Jungians.
When we met our teachers, Fred and Martha, they recommended that we read Robert Graves’ book, The White Goddess – which is a pretty heavy read when you’re 17.
I was really taken with his idea that there is this underlying Goddess tradition behind all of European culture.
You and I are part of a generation that had to seek the Goddess on our own. Now we see kids being raised as Pagans.
When we started Reclaiming in the late 70s and early 80s, it was mainly young, single people. There were some families, and as the community grew and matured, more people had kids.
But most Pagan parents did not grow up Pagan – it was a break with their family and their traditions.
I felt there was a need for a book about raising Pagan kids, if we want the tradition to carry on, and not just be, "Oh yeah, that’s something my weird parents did back then."
But I didn’t have any kids. Both Diane [Baker] and Anne [Hill] had kids, so it seemed like we would be a good combination to write Circle Round (see page 14).
Witchlets in the Woods started in 2001, and Redwood Magic Family Camp in 2013 – over the years, a lot of Reclaiming kids have been raised on that book.
I’m really grateful that people started those camps. It’s really important for kids to have a spiritual community with other kids who have the same kinds of weird parents!
You’ve worked with a lot of young people in your Earth Activist Trainings and other Permaculture work. What have been your hopes and goals?
When it comes right down to it, I’m a pretty practical person. And Permaculture is the practical side of believing the Earth is sacred – really knowing what to do about it.
I’ve always loved gardening and loved being with nature. And I’ve also been an environmental activist all my life. It seems like Permaculture is the positive program, as Gandhi said. Besides just protesting, this is how we start building the world that we want.
I think young people come through the courses because they are going to have to live in this world, and they’re hungry to find out what to do about it.
It’s very gratifying when I see people take this work and start projects, or work in a relevant field, or transform landscapes – make real changes – I feel like that’s been a huge success.
My hope is always that this is not just about how we entertain or soothe ourselves, but how we really shift consciousness on a larger scale – to understand that the Earth is alive, that we are part of it, and that everything is interconnected.
We have a responsibility to take care of it, to act in its service. And when idiots are destroying it, to do what we can to stop them.
Suppose that in 20 years Reclaiming no longer exists – what are the most important things we can pass along?
If Reclaiming as an organization didn’t exist, but people carry it on or transform it in some way – if there were still people creating rituals that have meaning to them, organizing and taking action with the sensibility that this is not just about a power struggle, but this is a sacred activity and a shift in consciousness – that would be success.
Maintaining a tradition is hard in this era, when we have so many possibilities. It not like in the Middle Ages where you grew up in a community with rituals and traditions, and those were the ways things were done. Now there are infinite ways things could be done – there are infinite ways you could spend Samhain evening, whether it’s going to a ritual, or staying home and watching Halloween movies.
Let’s talk about Teen Earth Magic, which grew out of your organizing.
Teen Earth Magic is vitally important. Teens are at an age when you’re really wrestling with these questions – what is life about, what happens when we die, what do I believe, what kind of person do I want to be, what are my guiding principles going to be?
It’s really helpful to have a spiritual community to help you face those questions. To be able to do it in a place where other people will support you is very different than having to do it alone or face the condemnation of your community.
Reclaiming is not a dogmatic religion where we give the answers. But I think we have an approach that is of great value. I think there’s strength in the Pagan tradition, in the creativity and the sharing of power.
Teen Earth Magic creates a really supportive community of young people. It’s a beautiful refuge for people who care for one another, who aren’t ashamed to learn from one another and teach each other.
What has TEM meant for Reclaiming as a whole?
It’s a learning ground, where some of the next generation will come from. They can begin to step up and take roles and guide and shape Reclaiming into its next phase.
We elders are getting older! And maybe not as central as we used to be. It’s exciting to see younger people wanting to step up.
What about younger people coming into Spiral Dance or WitchCamp organizing?
It’s great, although now that I’m older, I see the value in Native American traditions that say, "Honor your elders. Treat your elders with respect and care."
Good luck with that!
Yeah. Empowerment is great, but elders actually do know some things, which we’ve discovered through trial and error. Youth don’t need to be condemned to making the same mistakes all over again. They can learn from our experience.
Part of creating the Teen Earth Magic Workbook is passing along lessons and ways of looking at things.
That’s so important. Inside and outside of Reclaiming, young people are grappling with questions around gender, around diversity, all of these issues – trying to contend with not fitting into the roles that society offers.
I think it’s wonderful to empower youth to create their own rituals, their own camp – to give them the skills and tools and see what they do with them. Reclaiming and especially Teen Earth Magic have been a supportive space for that work.
This book is an amazing magical resource for teens – and everyone. I really appreciate the work people have done to gather all of these resources for the next generation.
It’s pretty impressive what people in Reclaiming have done – the number of authors and books, the music and chants and rituals – it’s been a very creative space!
What gives you hope?
Getting to teach young people Permaculture. Seeing the Parkland [Florida] teens start a whole movement following the violence at their school. That makes me feel hopeful.
Young people in Reclaiming give me a lot of hope – seeing them so passionate about things. Even when I’m butting heads with them, the fervor and life force that they bring to bear is beautiful.
Books by Starhawk
• The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess
• Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, & Politics
• Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, & Mystery
• The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, & Action
• The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature
• Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising
• The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (with M. Macha Nightmare)
• Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions (with Diane Baker & Anne Hill)
• The Fifth Sacred Thing
• Walking to Mercury
• City of Refuge
• The Last Wild Witch (picture-book for kids and everyone)
More resources - visit Starhawk.org
Welcome to Teen Earth Magic - An Introduction
Welcome to Teen Earth Magic!
Each year, these words open our camp.
With this book, we welcome you to our circle.
We prepared this book of rituals, exercises, and spells so that you could do the same magical workings we do at our camps – alone, or with a circle in your home area.Reclaiming-style magic can be done in large groups, small circles, or alone.
You’ll find a section of the Introduction below that talks about Circles and Solitaries, and most workings include a Solo section.
Getting Started – Several Ways
Read the Introduction and Ritual chapters. You’ll hear directly from participants in our camps – What is Earth magic? Why and when do we do rituals? How do we take magic into our daily lives? What do we (or don’t we) believe about magic and spirituality?
Jump straight into one of the rituals. The Rituals chapter has several rituals that you can do alone or with a small circle – there’s even a drum-trance ritual guided by Starhawk that you can find online.
Read the Intent for each ritual to find one that calls to you. There’s also a section on how to create your own rituals using workings from this book or ones you invent.
Flip through the Workings chapter and find one you like. Each working can stand alone – although you’ll probably want to start off by reading Ritual Skills: Sacred Space: Quick Ways, which shows how to create a magical circle as a container for other workings.
Make up more ways. In Reclaiming we say: "Each person is their own spiritual authority." Each of us creates our own best ritual and magic. The purpose of this book is to share some basic skills and tools and to help you discover what works for you.
Blessings on your work. Welcome to the magic!
What Is Teen Earth Magic?
Teen Earth Magic is a retreat for young people in the Reclaiming Tradition* of magic and activism. Our camp is co-created by teens, young adults, and WitchCamp teachers, and is supported by parents from Witchlets in the Woods and Redwood Magic Family Camp.
TEM began near Nevada City CA in 2008, as an offshoot of the Teens Path at Witchlets in the Woods. TEM weaves Earth-based ritual, empowerment and awareness workings, activism, and community.
TEM is a member of Reclaiming’s WitchCamp Council, and TEM youth participate in Bay Area activist organizing and in events such as the annual Spiral Dance ritual.
TEM teachers and young adults have anchored paths at Witchlets, Redwood Magic Family Camp, Vermont WitchCamp, Loreley WitchCamp, Free Cascadia WitchCamp, Free Activist WitchCamp, and Winter WitchCamp, as well as co-teaching San Francisco Bay Area classes and workshops.
Who Can Attend Teen Earth Magic?
Teen Earth Magic is a retreat for young people from Reclaiming Tradition and their guests. We welcome new folks at our family and all-ages camps – a great place for young people to get involved and meet TEM participants and teachers.
Teen Earth Magic Is Held On Indigenous Land
Teen Earth Magic and most North American Reclaiming events are held on land stolen from Indigenous People.
We participate in a society built on genocide and theft.
In our rituals we acknowledge this debt and participate in the magical deconstruction of this abuse.
In our activism we seek to support Indigenous organizing, and to understand and heal the ways settler colonialism has and is influencing our efforts.
We take time to learn about the Indigenous People whose land we gather on, and how to support their ongoing efforts for recognition, autonomy, and healing.
We are engaged in a continuing process of listening, learning, and practicing.
So mote it be.
Acknowledging Indigenous People in our ritual practice – see Ritual Skills: Honoring First People – page 59 of the PDF.
What Is Magic: Teens Roundtable
Magic is one of those words that means something different to everyone who uses it. Whether or not we “believe in magic” or “do magic” often depends on what we mean by the word.
Here’s what TEM participants think about magic. As you read, you might want to get out your journal and answer some of these questions for yourself.
What does magic mean to you?
Dusky: Magic is intentionally creating your own reality. I don’t mean that in a delusional sense. It’s like if you wake up in the morning and say, “I’m going to be happy today” – there’s a pretty good chance you’ll actually be happy. When I do magic that tries to affect the world outside me, that’s when the lines get blurry. I’ve always struggled with my scientific mind arguing against my magical self – is this real, or is this just me convincing myself?
Meagan: Magic is the ability we have to influence reality in non-linear ways, to generate energy for an outcome and transfer it through non-physical means. It’s intuitive, not rational. It can’t be fully explained. It’s mysterious.
KaeliMo: It’s super vague – it’s a mystery! It’s different for everybody, which is part of what’s cool – it’s a no-pressure way to learn and work things out, to figure out what I’m trying to do in the real world.
Miranda: I think magic is different for every person. Many times it’s within you, mental, or something within your heart, your intuition. It’s not like fairy magic, like a book or TV show. Magic is not going to just make something happen for you. Things will happen, but you have to help it through.
Mykel: It’s the ways that our beliefs and intentions fundamentally change the world. Something about myth/story, and how telling a different story about yourself changes your situation.
Rhys: Magic is energy. I think it exists in everything we do and everything we are. It’s difficult to put into words. I think I’m still defining the word.
What is the link between magic and energy?
Ola’i Wildeboar: To me, magic is the energy of the Earth that flows all around us. It’s the little miracles we experience every day and the good feelings that make us light up inside. We are all capable of magic – from the little voice in our head that tells us right from wrong, to the compassion we feel for a friend in need – it’s all magic. Our living, breathing, consciously loving souls are magic.
Lucy: Magic is the energy created when thought or time or practice is put into something. I believe that everything we do, say, or think sends out vibrations and energy into the universe – to me, that is magic. Practicing magic is the focus on exactly what energy you are sending into the universe and why.
Ingrid: What I call magic is moments in time – the quality of the day, walking down the street and it’s perfectly sunny and warm, a slight breeze – I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m pretty sure everyone knows what I mean, and has felt like that. It’s a feeling of, to be completely cheesy, “wholeness” – why isn’t there a better word? More than just the moment – all-encompassing.
How does magic work?
Meagan: Magic creatively changes individual or group consciousness. By being present with an intention in ritual, a situation and desired outcome are dramatized, which opens up new ways of relating to the situation. It frees up brain cells and makes new neural connections, which allow for ideas and solutions that wouldn’t otherwise be thought of.
Mykel: For me, magic is something you do, a process – but it’s also a thing that just exists in everything, without us “doing” anything. Part of doing magic is opening up to that – that magic is in everything.
Max: Magic entails knowledge and use of science, universal laws, art, and mystery. Magic is wisdom and love woven into an art form of personal development and transformation.
Dusky: It’s making an intentional choice, then constantly reaffirming and renewing that choice – also sometimes having some little ritual you work around it. It’s like self-hypnotism in a way. That’s probably the main way I practice magic – intentionally telling myself how I’m going to experience the world. It really changes things.
Ola’i Wildeboar: It’s something that happens within the thoughts and emotions, and the energy within us. It’s slower, more internal – not something that can be seen so easily with our eyes.
Talise: I think that magic is about self-reflection, and reflection in general. There are a lot of ways to do that, like meditation, or working through things in a ritual – focusing on something and thinking about how it is in your life or in the world and maybe making a specific change. Magic is actively manifesting change.
How is magic different from things like meditation or seeing a counselor?
Miranda: In meditation, you get to know, like, this is a part of me I didn’t know, or this is something I want to change. With magic, it’s more like making charms, spells, rituals – it’s making the change itself. Meditation shows you what you might want to do. Magic can help you on the journey.
Talise: Yeah, magic helps you make change – not just to realize what needs to be done. You do an exercise and start the change.
How have your ideas about magic or spirituality changed?
Rhys: When I was a child, I thought of magic as a physical power. As I got older I realized that it exists more within myself and what is around me. It cannot be held, but felt.
Ola’i Wildeboar: When I was little, I thought if I worked hard enough I could learn to fly or shoot lightning out of my fingertips. And I thought that with whatever spell I was doing, the results would be immediate. I realize now that although some magic can be visible or physical or immediate, that’s not all magic is, and that is not usually how magic works.
Lucy: For me, the realization that most magic doesn’t produce a result in a day. Some of the most powerful work I’ve seen and done is long-term. Thinking of magic as a journey has helped me progress as a spiritual being.
Ingrid: I used to like being identified as a Pagan or a witch. I was happy to have these basic guiding Reclaiming principles. Lately, I just want to love nature – it’s all I care about. Seriously, I’m sure I believe there’s something larger, deities and such. But the idea of deities has been less important to me. I’ve been exploring interacting with the natural world, figuring out how to integrate my daily life so I can be out in nature more – in the forest, the mountains.
Dusky: Over the years, I have been able to incorporate magic into my inclined-toward-science mind. That’s powerful to me, that I never have to choose between magic or science – it could be both. Magic is the science we haven’t yet “scienced,” that we haven’t yet been able to quantify.
What is “Earth” Magic?
Sequoia: It’s funny – I have this reaction that we’re on our hands on the ground, we’re directly in contact with the Earth, and we’re speaking the names of plants. It’s a visceral type of magic that immediately comes to mind. It’s so easy to get into this esoteric world of spells and song and poetry – I think Earth magic is specifically rooted in things that we can see and touch and speak to. Even when it appears in esoteric ways, it’s grounded, quite literally, in the real world.
Hilary: It’s the idea of Earth as divinity, the energetic engagement with this being that we reside on. It’s the connection to the mystery of the bones of the spells.
Dusky: What I believe is that the Earth and everything alive on it is connected, and there is some greater consciousness existing through that – something greater than the sum of its parts.
Hilary: It’s a wisdom that we both know and don’t know. It speaks to our bodies – to our energy bodies and our community bodies, our collective bio-diverse experiential bodies – it’s that web of connection, that interweaving of deity and plant and animal and mineral and unnamed mysterious cauldron – that’s what makes it “Earth” magic.
Sequoia: Earth magic is about recognizing the life and magic in the plants and animals we’re interacting with, and recognizing it as collaborative and interactive magic.
What do you mean when you say that Earth magic is collaborative?
Sequoia: There’s an older idea of magic as control over the elements – it’s a manipulative type of magic. In Reclaiming, we talk about the concept of power-over versus power-with – Earth magic is very much a power-with experience, allowing our concept of sentience to spread across beings that we can’t share words with.
Hilary: If you are invoking a deity, you are invoking the stories of the people who created them, the fragments of the stories that are lost and are held in the rocks and the drops of water at that place. If you invoke a tree, you invoke the idea of a tree, but you’re also invoking what the tree has to say, beyond metaphor. Even science – you look at a leaf and see that there’s not enough water, the edges are dryer, and you know what that means for the ecosystem of the forest – that’s also Earth magic. It’s not just imagining and personifying Butterfly or Bee or Salmon – it’s listening to what their Earth-bodies are telling us.
A living relationship with the Earth, you could say?
Hilary: I can’t help thinking about the chant we just sang in ritual:
We must let the land shape us
Let water carve canyons in us
Let the wind build and break us
Let fire remake us*
The song speaks to what Earth magic is – a dialectical relationship. It’s not “mastery over.”
It’s about learning skills of interaction and skills of community. It’s not like, ”I now have taken Elements of Magic, so I get to level-up!”
It’s about collectivity.
* – song by Nicole, Lindsay, & Clarice / Free Cascadia WitchCamp.
What Do We Call Ourselves - Teens Roundtable
How do you refer to your spiritual involvement? Are there names you use?
Ingrid: Up till a few months ago I would have labeled myself “Pagan.” Recently, my favorite expression is, “I find myself in nature.” I could go on for hours and hours trying to explain it, but if there’s one phrase that says what I feel right now, that’s it.
Dusky: I’ve been trying to find a word for the entirety of my spiritual existence. I even fluctuate between whether I refer to myself as a spiritual or religious person. Finding a concise word is not easy. I’m usually like, “I’m Wiccan-ish, I’m Pagan-ish.”
What about ‘witch’?
Mykel: I love the word “witch.” I like that it’s about being a powerful, purposeful person instead of being attached to any one religion. I don’t identify as a Wiccan because I associate that word with more theologically-rigid traditions that emphasize the gender binary.
Ingrid: I like “witch,” although it requires more explanation, and a lot of people look at you and do this weird smile.
Dusky: I like “witch,” even if I don’t literally believe what witches believed when the word first came into being. But I really identify with witches.
What does ‘witch’ mean to you?
Dusky: Being a rad, bad-ass feminist. Witches are spunky chicks. Witches weren’t afraid to be different, and that’s a really big part of my self-identity – that I’m okay with being weird and wackadoo and all that stuff. It’s part of my spirituality to be weird.
Mykel: The word “witch,” to me, means that a person practices the art of doing magic, instead of focusing on any particular theology.
Were you raised in a spiritual tradition?
Ari: I was raised Christian, and taught that using magic was evil. But I was allowed to check out other religions. My dad was a Pagan and with him I attended rituals and Witchlets, where I began to look into Paganism. Both parents had a respect for each other’s religions and never put them down.
Ola’i Wildeboar: My mother was raised strict Catholic but chose Native American and Wiccan practices in her early adulthood. My dad’s family was agnostic but occasionally practiced magic. Wicca especially resonated with me, so I chose to go deeper.
Damien: I was born into Reclaiming and went to rituals and camps when I was young. I created an altar on my bookcase and followed my own path in my early teen years. I enjoy our traditions and some of the practices. I’ve bought many tarot decks, magic stones, and pendulums.
Peter: At birth I was a multitude of stitched-together spiritualities. I attended Sunday school, led by my mother, at a small Methodist church where we would watch the Sun rise on Solstice. I was baptized over a Mayan fire for peace and unification of the Earth. As I grew older we settled into Reclaiming and the Red Road.
Meagan: I was raised by a mom who used to pray for hours a day, pouring her woes to Jesus and saying Amen ten times at the end. She also taught me about astrology, and she avidly believed in reincarnation, seeing family members in every animal we came across. Now I attend a Quaker church. Quakers advocate “no dogma,” and offer many interpretations of traditional Christian texts and myths that are more resonant with my current worldview.
Mykel: My friend was involved in the Unitarian Church and they have a Pagan Interest Circle that does moon circles. I’d come along, and I was super into that from the beginning. It still feels good and natural to do that. I don’t think I have another part of my practice and identity that has stayed with me as long as this has.
KaeliMo: When I was young, our dad took us to a bunch of different traditions. We’d go to UUs (Unitarians) one week, then go meditate in a yurt, then the next week we’d go with our friends to a Catholic service. For a while in high school I practiced Orthodox Judaism. Partly because I’ve experienced a lot of different traditions, I kind of identify as an agnostic, Unitarian type of person.
How is it to follow in your parents’ tradition?
Peter: I always followed in my mother’s spiritual path because it felt right. I loved the empowerment of the Reclaiming community, and value the ethics and manners and the recognition of equally valuable traditions from the Red Road.
Ola’i Wildeboar: Both my parents are open to all religions but especially to Earth-based ones. My parents have supported and taught me what I needed to know.
Lucy: My parents felt very strongly about raising me so that I would be free to choose any spiritual path, including none at all. While I am immensely thankful for that decision and the opportunities it has presented, I remember being very confused as a child.
What specifically was confusing?
Lucy: Most of my friends were Christian and I remember having a lot of struggle with being taught about the unknown, particularly about life after death. Fearing death as a child and fearing it being the end of everything has shaped my personality in a positive way and given me a really thankful feeling toward every day of life.
What has drawn you to work with Teen Earth Magic and Reclaiming?
Miranda: Teen Earth Magic is a camp where a bunch of teenagers get to hang out, do a lot of different types of magic, learn about each other – and have a lot of fun. You learn a lot about how others do magic. And everyone was so welcoming. By the end, I really knew everyone and was completely part of the group.
Ingrid: I appreciate the activism, and the inclusive nature – wanting to accept and value being diverse. I love that about Reclaiming, that we make space for and value diversity in every sense.
Maeve: One of the things I remember about Witchlets is when I was eight and got to have a ritual role, and got to be around a bunch of other people who were doing roles, people of all different ages. I got to learn by watching and being treated like I was on the same level as the others.
Dusky: When I’m in a Reclaiming camp or group, I don’t feel like I have to be any one way. I initially thought I was supposed to be super magicky, super spiritual. But I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t the case, that there would be someone in the community that would want to join me in whatever goofball activity I wanted to do.
Sequoia: My first year at Witchlets, I was eleven, and I was finally getting to learn from people who knew about magic! Now I’m 25. In some ways that sense of mysticism is so normal for me now that I take it for granted.
What keeps you coming back?
Natasha: A big part of what brings me back is the people. They’re my family, people I’ve grown up with. It’s something I feel really lucky and blessed to have.
Sequoia: The experience of being a co-creator.
Maeve: The same for me. My first year at Witchlets I was three. It was new and exciting and unexpected at every turn – it was completely magical. Part of the role I now see myself in, as a Weaver and ritual planner and student teacher, is creating that magic again. There’s a different kind of magic that comes from being behind the scenes. But also keeping that spontaneity and unexpectedness and discovery for people who haven’t had the chance to experience this. It’s one of the most gratifying things, to pass on that sense of wonder and excitement even as I move on and go deeper with it.
Charlotte: I love having a space for young people to do magic in nature, people who are there for the same reason, who want to do Earth magic. There’s only so many teenage witches in your life!