Earlier Reclaiming Albums

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Chants: Ritual Music

This album is commonly referred to as “Chants” – a pretty catchy title in the world of pagan music.

Chants was recorded as a teaching album, and captures the sound of a Reclaiming circle. You’d think it was recorded in the Black Cat House attic, where the songs have been sung and re-sung in countless rituals and classes.

Turns out that Chants was recorded in a studio in the late 1980s. A small chorus rehearsed 19 songs, secured some pro bono studio time, and (according to legend) recorded the entire album in a single afternoon.

The songs are classic. At least 10 are still routinely used in classes and rituals, including: Air I Am; Air Moves Us; We All Come from the Goddess; Kore Chant/She Changes Everything She Touches; Rise with the Fire; The Ocean is the Beginning; and more.

Many songs were written or co-written by Starhawk. We All Come from the Goddess is by Z Budapest. Air I Am – maybe the most popular elements song ever written – is by Andras Corbin Arden.

The music on Chants is Neo-Pagan Minimalism – a dumbek and 8-10 homespun voices. A few descant parts. Fewer harmonies, even where you’d expect them. The recordings aren’t perfect, but considering the one-day recording process, the album is strikingly well-performed.

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Second Chants

Second Chants was released in 1997, and includes popular Reclaiming chants from the 1990s as well as some new songs. Several classics like When We Are Gone and Barge of Heaven are included, as well as a 50-second acapella version of Thorn Coyle’s Harvest Chant (a longer version appears on Campfire Chants – Song 8).

The album is finely produced, and features singers such as Anne Hill, Suzanne Sterling, and Maxina Ventura as well as Magic Brook on guitars.


Witches Brew

Witches Brew: Songs & Chants from the Reclaiming Cauldron, is a compilation of pre-existing tracks by Reclaiming musicians.

Reclaiming Quarterly compiled this album in 2006. A volunteer production team listened to about 20 albums and chose our favorite songs, making this a Greatest Hits of Reclaiming music in the early 2000s.

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Let It Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance

The original 1979 Spiral Dance ritual in San Francisco was the publication party for Starhawk’s book of that name. The ritual was reprised by popular demand the next couple of years, and after three years was declared a Venerable Tradition which has continued to this day (see previous page).

The music was not part of the first ritual, but evolved song-by-song over the next decade. The album was recorded around 1992.

If you’ve been to the Spiral Dance, even though many of the songs have been swapped over the years, just hearing the title song will carry you back to the spiral.

If you’ve never been, the music still works as a personal ritual – learn the songs so you can sing along.

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A Ten-Year Odyssey – or maybe twenty…

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The Backstory

The tale begins ten years ago, or perhaps twenty.

Campfire Chants – the music, not the title – was conceived around 2005.

Back in 1997, Reclaiming released Second Chants, the third in a series of chants cassettes(!) that included Chants: Ritual Music (c. 1990) and Let It Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance (c. 1992).

Among them, the three albums collected many of the chants and songs then current in rituals and classes.

Around 2005, Reclaiming Quarterly (aka RQ – see below) discussed recording a new album of chants from the 2000s. We collected a list of 15-20 possible songs, but recording an album from scratch seemed likely to take a while (little did we know…).

As an interim, RQ curated Witches Brew (2006), a collection of already-recorded “greatest hits” from musicians around Reclaiming. The process involved a volunteer team of a dozen listeners who helped select songs. The result is a beautiful album – but our list of unrecorded chants was untouched.

The list continued to grow for a few years, eventually reaching 30 possible songs. Various people talked about recording an album, but no rehearsals got underway.

Redwood Magic Proposes an Album

In August 2013 we held the first Redwood Magic Family Camp – a spin-off from the over-booked Witchlets in the Woods camp. At our feedback meeting on the final day, we discussed fundraising ideas, and someone suggested an album of chants.

Over the ensuing months, we decided to try to record a “family camps chorus” album, with the kids guesting on a few chants.

In Spring 2014 we sent out a call to the Redwood Magic and Witchlets elists. After some turnover, a consistent chorus of 10 people including a conga player and a guitarist settled in, plus a few others available for instrumentals and harmonies.

The group included three five-year-old Witchlets kids plus four of their parents. The bonds among the kids and parents helped provide the glue for our chorus, and carried us through 18 months of rehearsals and recording.

Rehearsing & Recording

The core group rehearsed monthly through early 2015, gradually honing our list to 17 chants. Our criteria were that the songs were written by Reclaiming folks, that we liked singing them, and there was not already a choral recording available.

We also evolved the “concept” of a circle of people singing around a campfire, and this became the guiding principle for arrangements and instrumental additions – a rough-hewn acoustic mix with lots of choral sing-alongs.

Recording began in March 2015 – a story we’ll share on the following pages.

* * *

Reclaiming Quarterly & Reclaiming’s Archives

Reclaiming Quarterly and its predecessor, Reclaiming Newsletter, published a total of over 100 print issues from 1981 through 2008.

The publication coverRQ#102-cover-fire-NC038ed a mix of grassroots organizing and Earth-based paganism best described as Magical Activism.

Since 2008, RQ has published online – occasional issues, subsections (such as our Pearl Pentacle feature and photo-coverage of major direct actions) – as well as collecting and digitalizing our archives, which include the entire 100 editions plus hundreds of other documents.

The RQ Archives include maintaining the earlier chants albums in CD and download formats. Recordings are available from our website or at CDBaby, iTunes, etc.


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Recording the Album

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A Do-It-Ourselves Journey

We’re a Garage Band

“We’re a garage band – we come from Garageland!” – The Clash

Campfire Chants was produced low-tech and on a limited budget that we hope inspires others to follow suit.

Our goal was to capture the ragged-edged sound and spirit of a bunch of people gathered around a late-night witchcamp fire.

Of course, these songs weren’t actually recorded around a campfire. But neither are they studio recordings. They were done in a converted garage in South Berkeley.

Home recording eliminated studio costs – essential for a do-it-ourselves project with endless weekends of recording.

Of course, it also meant that we had to teach ourselves how to record and mix an album.

Tip Number One – watch youtube!

There are hundreds of how-to videos on every aspect of recording and mixing. Dave Pensado’s Into the Lair episodes are a textbook.


The garage space had lots of harsh echoes, so we got some quilted moving blankets and hung them from the rafters to create a 6-foot-square recording booth.

We used Shure 57 mics for instruments and Shure 58s for voices ($99 dynamic mics – in the future we might spend more on a condenser mic for vocals).

Mics ran through a Presonus bluetube preamp and then into an antique Tascam digital 8-track with real sliders and knobs (quaint, but in the future it would be simpler to skip this hardware and use a $300 Digital Audio Workstation to record direct to computer).

Total equipment cost, assuming you already own a Mac computer – around $1000.

The Guild guitar had a built-in pickup that doubled the Shure 57 mic on all tracks – the built-in pickup added body and reduced mic-hum.

The electric bass was recorded direct. We used EQ and compression to give it a more acoustic sound.

All other instruments are recorded live using a Shure 57. We augmented lead instruments with a Countryman mini-condenser mic that adds a bit of body to the bright Shures. (Several fiddle tracks by Mark Simos were recorded separately – see album notes).

Recording the Album

A shifting group of adults and kids rehearsed once a month for a year. Eventually a small chorus settled in. This group chose the songs, keys, and tempos.

Using a metronome and tuner, we recorded the conga and a simple guitar part. Voices and other instruments were recorded with these parts playing through headphones.

Most chants went through several versions. Over a six-month period, we re-recorded most parts, looking for the best sound we could get from a bunch of people with jobs, kids, and an occasional need for sleep.

We mixed the album on GarageBand, an almost-free and fairly intuitive Mac program that allows remarkably detailed editing and splicing.

Amidst all the cutting and pasting, we tried to keep the sound natural. A touch of faerie delay and natural redwood reverb can be heard on a few songs. Otherwise they are all-acoustic (although rumors abound of electronic remixes!).

We alloted a year for the production process, and used all of it. Recording began in March 2015 and was complete by mid-Fall. Although we’d been doing test-mixes all along, re-mixing took until February.

Final Steps – with community support!

This was pretty much the limit of our DIY capabilities. We could have released the music digitally at this point. However, thanks to advance orders and donations, we engaged professionals to do three final steps.

Mastering: Once recording and mixing were complete, we turned it over to Winter at EMB Studios for mastering – this didn’t change the mixes, but gives the album a smoother and more consistent final sound.

CDs: We wanted physical CDs, which we got replicated at CDBaby, who also handles digital distribution for us.

Album Art: Michael Starkman, who has produced many promo cards and other designs for Bay Area Reclaiming, created the CD cover. See more of his art and photography at michaelstarkman.com

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The Kids’ Chorus


Creating their own magic!

At Witchlets or Redwood Magic, no singalong is complete without magical kids’ songs: Puff, Yellow Submarine, Rainbow Connection…

Sometimes the kids even sing with us!

And now we add our own offering: The Wheel of the Year, from a Teen Earth Magic retreat ( Song 10 and page after).

You’ll hear kids join in on several songs on this album – part of a meandering odyssey that may just be beginning.

We started with the idea that kids would be part of the chorus. But when it came time to rehearse, those present usually opted to run around in the back yard. Go figure!

Then we started recording. The first day, the attendant kids avoided our makeshift studio all afternoon, playing out back and going to a park.

But when we finished and went into the kitchen, the kids suddenly got interested in exploring the recording space.

Did they want to try on the headphones?


Well, maybe.

Did they want to sing a song into the mics?

No way.

Well, maybe one, if they got to choose.

They chose We Are the Rising Sun, a favorite from Witchlets (Song 3). They must have been secretly rehearsing in the back yard, because they had the song down. Once they got used to headphones, we did a take.

Over the next sessions we added their voices to Wheel of the Year and Welcome Flame. A few more kids came over for our community-sing day toward the end of the project, and we wound up with eight young people on the album.

You’ll hear their voices on these three songs, and we’ll add some special all-kids mixes to the Bonus disk – visit CampfireChants.org for info.

Will the Kids Chorus continue? Stay tuned – maybe they’ll get inspired and record the next Reclaiming album!

Reclaiming Family Camps

Witchlets in the Woods & Redwood Magic – and more to come!

Witchlets in the Woods, begun in 2001, gathers in August at Mendocino Woodlands for five days of family and age-specific magic. Redwood Magic (also at the Woodlands) grew out of the overflow of Witchlets and is now an independent camp.

For dates and more info, visit witchlets.org and redwoodmagic.org

Want to start a family camp? We have a do-it-yourselves organizing booklet and are glad to share our experiences. Contact quarterly@reclaiming.org

Photo: Witchlets Newts Campfire. Photo By Alla Irwin.

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The Campfire Sound

Honoring Our Ancestors & Influences

Artists/albums that inspired and influenced the campfire chants sound. Many of these were reference albums as we mixed the album – we’d listen to these artists, then our mixes, and hear where we needed to do more work.

  • John Lee Hooker (early acoustic recordings – these rhythms anchor several of our songs, notably Welcome Flame)
  • Kimya Dawson (clarity and purpose)


  • Nirvana (Unplugged – garage music with passion)
  • Will the Circle Be Unbroken (by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – features Maybelle Carter, Flatt & Scruggs, Doc Watson, and many other old-time artists)
  • The Roots (Things Fall Apart – relaxed, cooperative artistry)
  • Woodstock (the original 3-record album – you are there)
  • The Weavers (did they invent campfire singalongs?)
  • Muddy Waters (early acoustic recordings – classic roots)
  • Indigo Girls (self-titled first album – drive and purpose)
  • Buena Vista Social Club (presence & clarity)
  • Kate Wolf (acoustic purity)
  • Libertines/Babyshambles (Up the Bracket/Albion – ragtag beauty)
  • Ingrid Michaelson (Be OK – natural singing voice)
  • Hot Tuna (1969 acoustic album – live and lo-fi in a Berkeley café)


  • Peter Paul & Mary (Around the Campfire – ‘nuff said)
  • Public Enemy (Fear of a Black Planet – cooperative vocals with drive and message)
  • Doc Watson (a fountain of arrangements and harmonies)
  • Parliament (Mothership Connection – gentle rhythms)
  • Michelle Shocked (Campfire Tapes – showed the possibilities)
  • Gillian Welch (Revival – clarity, beauty, and Maybelle-influenced guitar)
  • Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street – lo-fi blues taped in the basement of their French chateau – almost like us!)
  • Wailin’ Jennys (Live at the Opera House – singing with one voice)
  • Bob Dylan & The Band (Basement Tapes – loose, good-humored recordings)
  • Grateful Dead (American Beauty – our San Francisco roots)

And of course our previous Reclaiming albums – especially these songs:

  • Barge of Heaven from Second Chants
  • Ocean Is the Beginning from Chants: Ritual Music
  • No End to the Circle from Let It Begin Now
  • Who Is the Goddess (by Moonrise) from Witches Brew


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The Chants

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  1. Wake Again (Faerie Prelude) – by Maxina Ventura
  2. Sweet Water – by Starhawk
  3. We Are the Rising Sun – by Ravyn Stanfield
  4. Circle Round the Balefire – by Laurie Lovekraft
  5. Weave and Spin – by Starhawk
  6. My Soul – by Suzanne Sterling & Jeffrey Alphonsus Mooney
  7. The Welcome Flame – by Seed (Calla Unsworth)
  8. Harvest Chant – by T. Thorn Coyle
  9. We Are the Power in Everyone – by Starhawk
  10. Wheel of the Year – by Teen Earth Magic
  11. Come The Night, On – by Maxina Ventura
  12. Body of the Earth – by Starhawk
  13. Let the Beauty We Love – by Jeffrey Alphonsus Mooney
  14. Rising of the Moon – by Starhawk
  15. Cycles of the Moon – by George Franklin
  16. One With the Darkness – by Meg Yardley
  17. Skit: Around the Campfire
  18. Goodnight Sweet Witches – Traditional
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Song 1: Wake Again (Faerie Prelude)

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© 2016 by Maxina Ventura

Wake Again

Wake Again

Wake Again, Life is calling to you

Guitar plays Em throughout


History & Lore


Wake Again is a meditation on finding our way back from the Isle of Apples on Samhain, even as the Faeries try to lure us away from returning to our loved ones back home in the gradual, gentle waking back into this life.

As the Faeries try to lure us from our work together at the Spiral Dance, we sing: Wake Again, Wake Again, Wake Again, Life is calling to you….


We sang this as a gathering song at San Francisco Spring Equinox 2016, right before the album came out. The crowd was naturally in two large clumps, and we got a call/response going.

For the recording, we also saw this as a gathering song – the ritual is over, the dessert dishes are washed, and the faeries are calling us to the late-night bonfire.

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Photo by Alla Irwin / Witchlets in the Woods

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Song 2: Sweet Water

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© 2016 by Starhawk

Em                                              D

We are sweet water, and we are the seed

D                                                                  Em

We are the storm winds that blow away greed

Em                                                 D

We are the new world we bring to birth

D                                  Em

A river rising to reclaim the Earth


Sweet water

Storm winds

New world

River is rising

See Zay’s notes in History section below for additional lyrics

History & Lore


One of my goddess-daughters, Morgan, came to California Camp one year in the early 1990s. She brought us a song that was supposed to be one that the Vikings sang as they went to sea. The men would sing Hey-Oh, Ho-Hey (Em-D, D-Em), and the women would sing this la-de-la la part over it. We found that the low part made a great bass for lots of chants, or when you needed something without words.

The Pagan Cluster’s Living River in Miami 2003. Photo by Ruby Perry / courtesy RQ Archives.

In 2003, Code Pink was doing a big demonstration in Washington DC, right before the start of the (2003 Iraq) war. Pagan Cluster people went there. We came up with a whole myth and prophecy that was about The River. The last verse was We Are Sweet Water.

For the pageant they had a giant puppet that represented greed, war, and poverty. We threw balls of yarn over it and pulled it down.

* * *


Sweet Water or The Living River chant originated with a peace march in Washington DC on International Women’s Day in 2003 as part of a fable written by Starhawk.

However, I learned it in late 2003 as tens of thousands of people – including over 70 Reclaiming witches – converged on Miami to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial meetings, the latest in the plans to globalize capitalism.

The privatization of water was a key concern to us. If you didn’t know the chant before, you learned it that day on the long march in the hot, abandoned streets of Miami under the oppression of the “Miami model” of police militarization. It kept us going through tear gas and rubber bullets.

Sweet Water became the theme song of the Pagan Cluster, aka the Living River, the current that carried us forward. It was a spell to remind ourselves of what we were doing, of our collective power even at the most hopeless of moments.

To this day when I need strength for a protest, an action, this is what I sing. It reminds me of the deep magic of collective action.

Our hands remember how to spin

We spin freedom on the rising wind

We spin threads of hope, the cords of fate

We spin love into a river that can overcome hate

We spin justice burning like a flaming star

We spin peace into a river that can overcome war

And if you want to know where true power lies

Turn and look into your sister’s eyes

Break the chains that have kept us bound

Weave the web to bring the monster down

In the face of truth no lie can stand

Weave the vision strand by strand

We are sweet water, we are the seed,

We are the storm winds that blow away greed

We are the new world we bring to birth

A river rising to reclaim the Earth!



We’ve used this some years as the closing song at Teen Earth Magic, and it’s a regular part of Reclaiming’s Elements of Magic classes.

In 2015 we sang Sweet Water for the final Reclaiming ritual at Cellspace, an artists’ warehouse in the SF Mission district that hosted our annual Brigid ritual for about 15 years. Cellspace was also home to many of the local artists who helped create Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead in the Mission.

As the Mission gentrified in recent years, pressure increased to make more profit from the land, and ultimately the warehouse was bulldozed to make way for dot-com condos – another nail in San Francisco’s artistic coffin.

The final collective that ran the space, which was known as Inner Mission SF for the last few years, decided not to contest the eviction in return for one final year in the space. In early 2015 we held our last Brigid ritual there, and later in the Spring helped organize a weekend jamboree of performances, music, dance, and one final ritual.

The ritual included a long (and I mean long…) go-round where each person spoke about our history in the space, and those of us from Reclaiming got to see our pieces in the larger jigsaw puzzle of Cellspace.

During the pre-ritual organizing meeting we discussed what song to use for the final spiral dance. Several possibilities jumped out, but the line about the “storm winds that blow away greed” sealed the deal for Sweet Water.

Not to mention bringing a new world to birth and reclaiming the Earth!

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Follow Pagan Cluster and other activist features at ReclaimingQuarterly.org


Photo: Solstice in the Streets 2011. Young folks from Teen Earth Magic helped anchor this colorful day of ritual and activism in downtown San Francisco. Photo Luke Hauser / courtesy Directaction.org

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Song 3: We Are the Rising Sun

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© 2016 by Ravyn Stanfield


We are the rising sun


We are the change

C                                                           F

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and

C        F       C     G

We are dawning, we are the…

The third line of this song is quoted from June Jordan: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”


Anti-war march, San Francisco 2003. Photo by Luke Hauser/DirectAction.org

History & Lore


This song was written in my living room in Albuquerque, New Mexico in January 2003, just before the US declared war on Iraq and invaded the country based on misinformed beliefs that the Iraqi government had “Weapons of Mass Destruction”.

This song was first sung in the streets of Albuquerque, marching down Central Ave to protest the declaration of war on Iraq. It has been sung all over the world for rituals, protests, meetings, festivals, concerts and other events. A friend even called me from Zuccati park during Occupy New York in 2011 and said “Thousands of people are singing your song in the streets!”

This recorded version is different that what I wrote originally, other people have changed the tune. It’s a true folk song.

I believe that humans singing in the face of adversity and oppression is one of the most revolutionary things we can do. I am inspired by All Those Who Have Sung in the streets, in the churches, in the fields, on the railroad, in the hospitals, in the schools, in the factories, in the rituals, in the forest, in the births and deaths of those we love. Singing heals us and gives us resilience. That is why I keep writing chants.

Sometimes we face terrible loss and a long, painful night of the soul. We have no idea what happens next. It all seems to be going downhill and there is nothing we can do to stop it. But the sun will always rise. And after entropy and death, comes dawn and regeneration. This is true. This is my religion. We are meant to sing ourselves back to life.


Rising Sun must have made its debut at CA Witchcamp in Summer 2003. It became an instant classic, sung repeatedly through the week and ever since.

When I first heard the song, it sounded like a seamless loop. I couldn’t figure out where the start of the verse was, or where to jump in. Once I learned it, I was surprised how few words there were.

As we compiled this album, we noticed how many of our songs feature the words “We are” in prominent spots. This song helps run up the tally!

Someone once said about Rising Sun: “This should be the first song in a new folk songbook – the way This Land Is Your Land was when I was a kid.”

I was talking with another songwriter who wondered why a particularly heartfelt song of theirs had not become a “pagan anthem.” Obviously there’s no formula for an anthem. But Rising Sun seems to boil it down to its essentials. Take four concise, uplifting, poetic slogans – weave them into a simple, major-key melody that recalls older spiritual songs – travel around and teach it to a bunch of energetic people who can’t wait to share it with others – and voilá – instant anthem!

The Clarinet Orchestra

Our clarinet orchestra was performed by dress, longtime stalwart of the Bay Area’s Brass Liberation Orchestra and featured soloist at many a witchcamp fire circle. When you’re straining the memory cells to recall the umpteenth verse of American Pie, it really helps to be able to say “take it, dress!” and catch your breath.

On the same night we taped the long, melancholy clarinet break on Cycles of the Moon (Song 15), we recorded the sparkling fragments featured on Rising Sun. The inspiration for the cascading fanfares was Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli.

Kids & The Dawning Song

Of all songs on this album, We Are the Rising Sun might be the kids’ favorite. There are kids’ voices in our mix, and we’ll include a kids’ version on the Bonus disk.

Sometime in the mid-2000s, Rising Sun became the closing spiral song at Witchlets in the Woods. When Redwood Magic Family Camp started in 2013, it adopted the song. Perhaps it will become the standard at all family camps.

The intensity of the final spiral at any camp or retreat anchors the song deep in our hearts. As adults, it’s bittersweet to know we are parting for at least a year, maybe much longer.

For little kids, this future-parting isn’t so real. What is real is the jubilation and ecstatic power of dozens of people singing and dancing to this song.

No surprise it’s a huge favorite with the kids, including some who can barely speak.

Here are two stories:

A parent told me her young kid asked, What does “dawning” mean? The mother explained, It’s like starting.

So the kid thought it was fun to sing the final line as We are starting…

But then they reflected (this was a very young kid): If I sing it that way, will people know what song I’m singing?

The mother agreed this might be a problem, and the kid decided it was better to sing “dawning.”

Speaking of dawning:

At Redwood Magic 2015, a camper who was under three years old signed up to sing the song in the talent show. This was a kid who didn’t really speak in full sentences yet. But she loved this song.

Paul played conga, I strummed the guitar, and with her mother onstage with her, the kid led the camp in a vibrant version of what she called The Dawning Song.

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Witchlets in the Woods and Redwood Magic are all-ages family camps, where adults, teens, and kids have their own magical paths. Teens tend to form a sub-community within the main camp. Visit witchlets.org and redwoodmagic.org. Photo by Alla Irwin.

Family & Youth Camps




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