Reclaiming Quarterly Web Features Back Issues Subscribe Ads/Submissions Site Index Reclaiming Home

Magical Practice

In Search of The Star

by Elka Eastly

While I was drafting my notes for this piece, its working title was "Co-Teaching vs. Solo Teaching." This is what I called the concept when I first discussed it with Reclaiming Quarterly. I was facilitating transformational work, at the time, using these two different models, and they lived for me then as contradictory, competing, and open to criticism by peers in circles that seemed to favor one over the other.

Noticing incongruities between the naming of and the actuality of facilitation within both models in the Reclaiming tradition, my concept's test audience enthused that it would be juicy material for the Quarterly's readership. I thought my exploration of the two teaching dynamics would reveal one to be more effective, revolutionary and liberated than the other. My busy schedule backburnered the article for about a year, and my position — about which model I personally preferred and thought to offer greater benefits to the learning environment as a whole — shifted … not just once, but a few times. Having committed to deliver the article for this issue, and with plenty of time allocated for the process, my writing revealed not a definitive statement, but the same vacillation that stirred the concept's cauldron for a year.

The Star Tarot archetype showed up while I transcribed my first draft of thinking and said, "You're talking about me." Of course, I slapped my forehead, The Star. Yes, let's contradict the Reclaiming status quo and extol the virtues of solo teaching. (How anarchist would that be!) But my analysis and experience couldn't back that up completely. The tone of the presentation was turning derogatory, first of co-teaching, then of solo teaching, as I searched for a singular conclusion. I struggled in my attempt to be persuasive of something! But I myself wasn't persuaded. One frustrated evening, ready to bag the article and beg the RQ cell to run some of my poetry instead, I took a walk to my sweetie's house. Calming my mind under the night sky, I turned my face to the moon. She smiled at me from her mantle of stars, diffused by the San Francisco fog. Ah, stars, I sighed. Beautiful, twinkling, distant suns. I brought my hand to its familiar place of sudden impact. Stars! There are millions of Stars, not just one.

Returning to the text, I decided to shift the magic of its working title. I had set up too much of an opposition between models which each contribute to our collective efforts toward empowerment and the greatest good. Let's examine them both briefly.

Perhaps you've noticed this caveat on Reclaiming Quarterly's classes page: Reclaiming classes are taught by two or more teachers, one of whom must be a Reclaiming teacher. Classes taught by only one teacher, even Reclaiming teachers, are not Reclaiming classes per se. The endorsement of the Reclaiming name is conferred only to those teaching environments which model shared power in leadership.

Sharing power is a powerful requirement of Reclaiming's leadership…our leadership. It's based in a desire to dismantle our inherited hierarchical thinking and acting. Sharing power is a powerful contradiction to institutional imbalances. It is the foundation of Reclaiming as an organized community…our community.

Our community's rule — call it policy or requirement, it is still a rule, for it is not merely a suggestion — Our community's rule offers many benefits within our learning environments. Co-teaching encourages students to be/come their own authorities. With no single authority, students learn to respect the authority of their own experiences. A three-fold teaching team, for instance, might represent three radically different perspectives on, say, the Sex point of the Iron Pentacle. These teachers, in their varied wisdoms, validate students' own personal perspectives. The teachers effectively reinforce the message by demonstrating — which they might also be communicating verbally — that what works for one may be different from what works for another but is just as valid. Part of the magic of co-teaching lies in the revolutionary ideas conveyed through the nuances of presentation and facilitation, not just in class content.

Co-teaching offers much more than a model for sharing power. (There are, after all, good reasons for this rule.) Team teaching offers the teachers a built-in leadership support system; it pools greater creativity and thinking for class planning; it allows the teachers to be more fully present to their own processes and magical workings; it helps weave a stronger web for holding, sensing, shaping and raising energy. It can contribute to a deeper class experience for all.

Sounds great! I hear you say. And I say it, too! Sometimes.

Bear with me while I play The Devil's Advocate. And maybe The Hierophant's, as well. Guidelines are good. They offer consistency and represent sound thinking. But when a recommendation calcifies into a rule, the rule may replace the sound thinking that created it. What starts as an effort to align community education with the ideal of liberation runs the risk of becoming enslavement to the method that once was thought to liberate us. Subordinating one's own authority to the authority of the status quo is The Hierophant's warning.

Don't get me wrong. I love rules — when I've tested my own thinking around them and see their solid foundation. I've thought about this teaching rule, as have many wise people. I see the value. What does your best thinking tell you?

Have you ever participated in a Reclaiming class where it was clear that there was a senior teacher or a dominant personality? Did the class leaders share power?

This is not a criticism of leaders with enough skill, dedication, charisma and energy to facilitate groups on their own when support is not available. Being in your own power and sharing your gifts when the need arises is critical in moments of transition, conflict, strain, desperation or even celebration — any time a group would be well-served by the focusing of energy toward a specific intention. At an action, a single Witch in an affinity group can help the group unify. At a family gathering, she can shift the group dynamic away from a disempowering pattern.

Consider The Star, pouring forth her energy to ignite the night and inspire the world. She is a bright and powerful guide. Now consider your impressions of someone striving to be a star — the star of the show, of the class, of your family. Do you envy their ability to stand up in front of a group and shine, wishing it was yourself offering your gifts to an appreciative audience? Are you supportive, aware of the challenges inherent in such a bold act as stripping off the layers of self-deprecation and forced humility to let one's divinity shine? Are you critical, with judgments about attention-hogging drama queens? Are you yourself the star?

What journey has The Fool made to look in the mirror and see The Star? The innocent has claimed his tools of intellect, of will, of love, of groundedness. He has been guided by the heart of his feminine wisdom. He has birthed. He has shaped. He has challenged his assumptions about society and discovered himself to be his own authority. He has integrated the divergent parts of himself. He has moved through his darkest fears toward personal victory. He has found the source of his strength. He has braved solitude to search for his own truth. He has acknowledged that there are forces beyond his control. He has committed himself to what is right. He has released his illusions and attachment to outcomes. He has dissolved limitations within himself to face the deepest of transformations. He has arrived at balance. He has dissolved his belief about the limitations of the world around him. He has been shaken and fully awakened. And now he has discovered within him a desire to communicate without holding back. He has arrived at the part of himself that is The Star.

And as The Star, he has an abundance of energy and inspiration to share. He wants to contribute to the bettering of his world, the benefit of his community. What a wonderful energy to be and be led by.

I have witnessed the powerful transformation that stepping into leadership brings. It is an act of owning The Star-self, of allowing oneself to shine. This is an empowering act for women who have been enculturated to take up little space, for young people who must always seek permission, and for people of color whose voices are frequently unheard. Leading is an effective way to dismantle racism, sexism, and ageism. Sharing what ones know in the context of being the visible leader validates the very notion of leadership itself for whatever identity groups leader belongs to. This is even more powerful if a person in a culturally dominant identity group — a middle-aged white man for example — is the visible assistant to the lead teacher. His support comes not by being there to catch the teacher if she stumbles, but simply by beaming love and encouragement and absolute faith in the fact that she's completely capable. This kind of support shifts our collective consciousness by offering an alternative to the attacks and chronic criticisms made on our leaders.

Further, being the sole individual responsible for conceiving a class plan and conducting it demands that one develop one's own thinking and skills. In a co-teaching environment, a newer teacher might hold back or lean on her co-teachers instead of daring to be the bold leader her class — and the world — needs her to be. Yes, needs her to be. When we can all see ourselves as leaders, we all recognize our need to take some responsibility for and lend a hand toward solving our collective conundrums.

Solo-teaching provides a potent cauldron for leadership development. It also allows an accomplished facilitator enough space to guide a group efficiently toward its goal. Strong leaders give strong direction, inspiring others with their visions. The Star effectively encourages us all to be Stars.

If we turn our eyes heavenward, we see that the glorious night is illuminated by the fire of a million Stars, not just one. There is room enough and need for us all to shine and share our visions. Sometimes we will guide like the bright North Star. Sometimes we will dance in constellations, aware of our unique contributions to those divine roadmaps we both define and refer to as leaders in our stellar community.

Elka Eastly still teaches in both models. She is learning to value her embodied contradictions.