Song 4: Circle Round the Balefire

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© 2016 by Laurie Lovekraft

Am                                G             Am

Circle round the balefire, friends

Am                              G      Am

Circle round, it never ends

Am                      G          Am

All is holy, prayer is song

Am                      G          Am

Spirit rising, you belong

RQ-web-cover-pic-firedancer

History & Lore

Laurie:

I wrote Circle Round the Balefire in 1998 when I was living under the redwoods in the wilds of West Sonoma County, California. It all came out in one smooth flow.

I had been doing a lot of public and private rituals in nature and loved the feeling of circling in community around a nighttime fire – a group of witches and Pagans joining hands in the dark around a glowing bonfire while singing, dancing, and raising energy.

I’m now living in an urban area and when I sing this chant it reminds me of quiet times under the woods beneath the stars (when I could see the stars!).

Hear more of Laurie’s music at <www.Lovekraft.com>

George:

This was a fun song for us to arrange (Laurie’s original version will be on our bonus disk – visit CampfireChants.org).

Paul arrived early for rehearsal one afternoon, set up his conga, and started drumming tumbao rhythm. I fooled around with a Keith Richards’ type guitar figure.

We weren’t sure we had anything until we shared it with the others. Right away a couple of people started dancing – always a good sign on a song about dancing around a fire!

The first time we played this version around a bonfire was at Mysteries of Samhain 2015, as part of a ritual that ended with 30 minutes of dancing. Balefire wasn’t on the set-list, but it seemed perfect. I grabbed my duct-taped campfire guitar, Gwion picked up the rhythm on a djembe, and it fit right into the dance groove.

Thus mote it ever be!

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Photo courtesy of Trillium / RQ Archives

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Song 5: Weave and Spin

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© 2016 by Starhawk

Dm

Weave and spin, weave and spin

C                                  Dm

This is how the work begins

Dm

Mend and heal, mend and heal

C                                            Dm

Take the dream, and make it real

Verse 3:

On the same wheel we spin

Into life and out again

One is many, many one

Brewing in Her cauldron

Descant:

Strand by strand, hand over hand

Thread by thread, we weave a web

History & Lore

Interview with Starhawk by Reclaiming Quarterly

Starhawk: This chant came from a multicultural ritual we did in 1993 at the Hall of Flowers.

RQ: Right, this was one of several Ancestors of Many Cultures rituals co-sponsored by Reclaiming and other Bay Area groups.

Starhawk: We came up with this idea of weaving a basket. We had altars to many different ancestries and different cultures. Each altar had different strips of cloth. You could go to the altar and tell your story or hear a story, and take a strip of cloth.

As part of the ritual we tied the strips together and danced the spiral. We danced into the center and wove a multi-colored basket of our visions.

RQ: This song is really versatile. It can be the first chant you sing at a camp, or the last one – “This is how the work begins,” or “Take the dream and make it real.’”

Starhawk: Yeah, it just kind of fell together that way. I wanted something around weaving.

RQ: What about the other lyrics?

Starhawk: Strand by Strand comes from Powerful Song (on Second Chants). It came out of BC Witchcamp, I think Pandora wrote it, possibly with somebody else. It works really well with Weave and Spin.

RQ: What about the other verse we sing, “On the same wheel we spin”?

Starhawk: That’s something I wrote for the Pagan Book of Living and Dying. It’s the same tune as Weave and Spin – but I tend to write a lot of things to the same tune! It goes with the chant We Are of the Body of the Earth.

RQ: That’s funny – so we paired it with the wrong chant? Were there more verses?

Starhawk: No, just those two.

* * *

George:

This might have been the first song chosen for this album – ever since I first sang it at the 1993 ritual, I’ve wanted to record it.

Weave and Spin pops up regularly at Bay Area rituals. In recent years, it has been the closing spiral dance song at Teen Earth Magic, where the line “Take the dream and make it real” captures our aim – to take our magic back into the world.

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Chants15-Booklet-1993-MultiCultural-flyer

Image: Weave and Spin was written for a 1993 multicultural ritual co-sponsored by Reclaiming and other Bay Area groups. Flyer courtesy of Reclaiming archives.

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Song 6: My Soul

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© 2016 by Suzanne Sterling & Jeffrey Alphonsus Mooney

E                                              A                   E

I am breathing, I am open, I am willing

E                                                      F# – B7

I am stepping out into the unknown

E                                                     A                        E

I am walking, though uncertain, I am willing

E                                      A                      E

To listen to the yearning in my soul

E                                                  A                        E

Cuz if my soul says so, I do as my soul says

E                                         F#                       B7

If my soul says so, I do as my soul says

E                                         A                         E

If my soul says so, I do as my soul says

E                                 A                        E

I listen to the yearning in my soul

Chord progression by Magic Brook – see below

History & Lore

Suzanne:

I started writing this chant for a Witchcamp at Diana’s Grove many many years ago. I was with Alphonsus, Dawn Isadora, and Thorn Coyle and we were talking about the myth. I cannot remember dates or themes after all the years of teaching at camps but it must have been about taking leaps of faith and going toward the Unknown!

I wrote the verses, and Alphonsus created the “If my soul says so” line. We added it to the verses… and voilá!

It’s been sung in a lot of different camp settings. I hope that it has helped people to live authentic truthful moments and take risks that speak to their own souls.

Alphonsus:

Sometimes creating a chant for a ritual a good focus. Is your writing relevant for tonight’s ritual?

Maybe a single line is. It’s thinking about how your creativity helps serve the point of the ritual.

Suzanne and I had each had luck writing with the word Soul. She had those beautiful lyrics, and I had this one great line: “If my soul says so, I do as my soul says.”

I didn’t write that line for camp. I was lifting it from my past writing. I had that line, and I tried singing it with hers.

There’s always a nice warm feeling to hear people sing it. When I hear those lines, I feel there’s liberation in them.

But I also feel in my body that I don’t always do as my soul says.

And then there’s the private, behind-the-scenes version: “If my soul says so, you do as my soul says!”

So I go back to what my own soul says. Its scary. In a way it’s a dare. Am I doing what my soul says? How do I know? Sometimes doing what your soul says will kick your ass.

George:

The song began life as a chant around 2000 – a striking version can be heard on Suzanne’s album Wings – see next page – and is part of the bonus disc to this album.

Magic Brook, around 2005, put chords behind the chant and defined it as a song for his album The Great Blues Sea. Brook’s version (also on the bonus disk) is in a jazz idiom – but the underlying bass line lends itself to a folk treatment, and it quickly morphed into a campfire classic.

In 2006-07, I taught at Lorely Camp in Western Europe. The tri-lingual camp welcomed simple, repetitive songs and chants, and the refrain of My Soul became a favorite (along with Let It Be and Get Up Stand Up!).

The first time the Loreley Teens Path sang My Soul, my co-teachers Petra and Anje translated it into German, French, and Dutch – then we all sang it in multi-accented English.

Recording: Our Vocalist’s Latest Avatar

The melody proved challenging for a group effort. Luckily, we had in our chorus Max Ventura, who sang on two previous Reclaiming albums.

Let It Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance (recorded in the early 1990s) features a younger Max sharing lead vocals on the 18-minute title song.

And on Second Chants (1997) she sang a soaring descant for Anne Hill and Starhawk’s song, When We Are Gone, which is perhaps the favorite elements-devocation song at San Francisco rituals. Whenever we use the song in a ritual, a few sopranos sing Max’s part.

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Wings: Simple Chants for Everyday Rituals

W138

New Recordings from Suzanne Sterling

Suzanne Sterling’s songs have been integral parts of Reclaiming’s past three albums: Second Chants, Witches Brew, and now Campfire Chants.

As part of creating this booklet, we asked Suzanne to tell us about her own new chants album, Wings.

I write chants and songs constantly. After creating chants for many Witchcamps over the years, I have released an album called Wings.

As long as I am teaching at camps, I will be writing chants for ritual! I have sung some of these chants all over the world.

For many years now, I have been co-creating rituals for connection, community and transformation. I have been blessed to work with incredible colleagues and communities, remembering and reinventing the myths and stories that give our lives hope, meaning and a deeper connection with source. And in each of these numerous and diverse situations, singing and song has been a deeply unifying force.

I have seen thousands of people dance and sing in unified prayer for peace. I have heard voices raised in grief and sorrow, in joyful ecstasy, and in heartfelt devotion. I have sung with birthing mothers and dying fathers. I have sung in garbage dumps in tent cities, with irrepressible children in orphanages, at huge public festivals and in shimmering temples deep in the woods. I know the power of the collective song and I can imagine a world where we remember that singing is our birthright… as natural as breathing.

I created this recording as simply as possible. 25 short chants to be used for coming together, raising energy, invocations and prayer. My hope is that you make them your own and that you sing them with passion!

Thanks to my friends and mentors from the Reclaiming Community who encouraged and supported my first songs and will most likely be there for my last. It was during 25 years of Reclaiming Magic and Activism gatherings that most of these songs were born. My years as Director of the Off The Mat, Into the World Seva Challenge has led me to understand the power of music as a universal language that can transcend differences and change us forever and I am so grateful for that. Thanks to Jacob Nasim and April Taylor for instigating this project, for Chris Krotky for years of musical collaboration and to all who have supported me over the years.

As merry we have met

As merry we have been

So merry may we part

And merry meet again!

Bright Blessings – Suzanne

Wings is available at CDBaby.com, iTunes, and other online outlets

Hear more music at SuzanneSterling.com

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Song 7: The Welcome Flame

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© 2016 by Seed (Calla Unsworth)

Let the fire rise in me, and let it move me

Spark, Blaze, Ember, Ash

Whoa, Whoa, the welcome flame

Spark, Blaze, Ember, Ash

Whole song in Em (or any minor key that works for you) – to sing as a round, don’t change chords

History & Lore

Seed:

The Welcome Flame, also known as Spark, Blaze, Ember, Ash, was written in the mid-2000s. It was first sung in a Reclaiming Elements of Magic class, on Fire night.

I was partly inspired by a circle many years ago in which the group chanted the words “spark, flame, blaze, ember, ash”. I don’t remember who the priestess was, but I would like to acknowledge them here.

As a community, we co-create many classes and rituals exploring the elements; earth, air, fire, water and spirit. There are many wonderful songs honoring the other elements, but fewer about fire. So, for me, this song arose out of a need.

Fire can be destructive, purifying, fearsome. Here, I wanted to invoke fire in its “welcome” aspect. The comfort of the hearth fire, the joy of the bonfire, the fire of our creativity and of our sensuality.

Our lives and emotions, as well as the cycles of nature, seem to flow in a pattern of arising, fullness and release. I hope this song will allow people to embody and celebrate this cycle, and to honor the quieter states of ember and ash as well as the excitement of the spark and blaze.

How often do I write chants? Every once in a while, a song will come to me out of a strong feeling or an intriguing thread of meaning. At other times, a song will arise in response to a specific need, as did this one. After the initial inspiration comes the harder work of finishing them. I’m always glad to receive them. It feels like I’ve been visited by the “song fairy.”

George:

When we think of fire magic, it’s often the blazing, passionate energy we have in mind. But as Seed captures here, fire has a life-cycle of its own. Ash is just as much part of fire as flame.

Kids like this song a lot, and we wove our Campfire Kids Chorus in at the end when we needed a third set of voices. We’ll add a kids’ version on the bonus disk (visit our website for info).

Welcome Flame is fun to sing as a round. Learn the tune carefully so the harmonies work. To end, start singing Spark Blaze Ember Ash over and over, and others will join in. You might raise a blazing cone of power, or you can let it settle into the glowing embers as we do here.

When we recorded the song, we did the drum and vocals first, then played around with guitar parts, eventually landing on a John Lee Hooker motif inspired by his signature song Boogie Chillun – a trancey blues rhythm if ever there was one!

Alison added the fiddle in her final session. We didn’t have anything planned, but we had some extra time after recording other songs. We did two takes and wound up using both. You’ll hear a low part enter at the top of the second stanza, and a higher part mid-way through the third.

The canon vocal arrangement is so dense that the fiddle was getting buried. When we got to the end, we rewound the instrumental tracks to the point the second fiddle enters and let it roll again.

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Song 8: Harvest Chant

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© 1997 by T. Thorn Coyle

C                                                   F                   C

Our hands will work for peace and justice

C                                                F               G

Our hands will work to heal the land

C                                          F         C

Gather round the harvest table

C                                    F               C

Let us feast and bless the land

 strike11-SpD-TTC6089

History & Lore

Thorn:

I wrote Harvest Chant for a Fall Equinox ritual, many, many years ago.

A few years later, at a witchcamp, Starhawk wrote a descant to go with the chant. At the time, I believe we also changed “feast” to “dance” for that particular ritual.

Take the gift of love and death

Take the gift of blood and bone

Weave the circle breath by breath

Build the vision stone by stone

Every once in a while, people tell me that they use the chant for ritual. I’m glad it has some longevity. I’m glad people are still doing what they can to work for peace and justice in this world.

These days, however, I’d settle for more justice. Real peace only comes when justice is present.

Find more of Thorn’s music, writings, and teachings at thorncoyle.com

George:

A 50-second acapella version of Harvest Chant was included on Second Chants, and immediately became the “traditional” Fall Equinox song for San Francisco Reclaiming rituals (still being sung as of Fall 2016).

The 50-second version felt like a teaser that begged for a longer treatment. May this be the first of many!

For the instrumental section, we recorded fiddle, flute, and clarinet parts, plus Max and Jaden did an extended la-de-da duet while Meg continued the descant.

We tried various mixes, but none seemed quite right. Finally we dumped all the tracks in together – and voila, it started to sound like a Beltane maypole!

Never mind that it’s a Fall Equinox song – this actually is what the music for a Reclaiming maypole sounds like. There’s always the suspicion that some of the musicians have no idea what others are playing (which was certainly the case with these tracks, done in separate recording sessions) – but somehow it all comes together in the end.

We cut a few extraneous sounds, boosted the repeating clarinet figure (which reminds me of Tennessee Jed by the Grateful Dead – not surprising, as clarinetist dress attended more than a few Dead shows back in the day), dubbed in some firey fiddle parts by Alison – and we had it – the Psychedelic Latter-Day Beltane Meltdown Mix of Reclaiming’s Fall Equinox Classic!

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Photo: Author T. Thorn Coyle leads a spiral dance at the Occupy Oakland General Strike, 2011. Photo by Luke Hauser / courtesy Reclaiming archives.

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Song 9: We Are the Power in Everyone

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© 2016 by Starhawk

Em                      Am           D      Em

We are the power in everyone

Em                       Am                 D                Em

We are the dance of the moon and sun

Em                      Am             D            Em

We are the hope that will not hide

Em                       Am      D          Em

We are the turning of the tide

History & Lore

Starhawk:

This chant was written for the anti-nuclear actions at Livermore Lab* in 1982. We were blockading on Summer Solstice, and there also happened to be a lunar eclipse around that time.

I had written the chant We Can Rise with the Fire of Freedom (on Chants: Ritual Music) for the February blockade (at Livermore) that year. It was meant to be a closeted Brigid song.

So I was looking for another idea for Summer Solstice, and I thought of the dance of the moon and sun.

Sometime in the 1990s I was down in Mexico for a Bioregional convergence. A friend who taught organic gardening invited me to come to her course. At the end of the course she had people sing a song – and it was We Are the Power in Everyone, translated into Spanish. She had no idea I’d written it or where it came from! It was really nice to see it had taken on a whole life of its own.

In some ways it’s not so great as a power-raising chant. She Changes Everything She Touches (on Chants: Ritual Music) is so simple, you can pile on the harmonies. We Are the Power doesn’t work quite that well.

* – RQ Note – Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco is one of two US nuclear weapons design labs. Civil disobedience actions have been organized there for years, with a total of about 3000 arrests between 1982-85, and hundreds more since then.

The dozens of affinity groups for Livermore and other actions of this period included pagan groups that helped create Reclaiming.

Anti-Nuclear Activism and the Birth of Reclaiming

Reclaiming was born in the alchemy of Earth-based, Goddess oriented spirituality and grassroots activism.

In the late 1970s, anti-nuclear protests on both US coasts began to create a new political culture based in consensus, feminism, and small group (“affinity group”) process.

On the west coast, huge direct actions at Diablo Canyon power plant (1979 and 1981), Livermore Weapons Lab near San Francisco (1982-83), and Vandenberg AFB (1983) led to thousands of arrests and fed a thriving activist/artistic culture that endures to this day.

People who helped organize Reclaiming in these years took part in these actions, some as part of pagan affinity groups such as Matrix. The actions were formative for Reclaiming’s culture.

The story of these early 1980s actions is recounted in Direct Action: An Historical Novel, by Luke Hauser. Get a copy of the book or download a free PDF (plus many other activist resources) at DirectAction.org

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DA-cover-blue-front

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Song 10: Wheel of the Year

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Lyrics © 2016 by Teen Earth Magic

D (C)

The wheel of the year goes round and round,

A (G)                                  D (C)

Round and round, round and round

D (C)

The wheel of the year goes round and round,

A (G)                       D (C)

All through time

Verses

Brigid is the time of the cauldron fire

Spring Equinox means colored eggs

Beltane is the time of the maypole dance

Summer Solstice is the longest day

Lammas is the time we bake our bread

Fall Equinox means harvest time

Samhain is the time we spiral dance

Winter Solstice is the longest night

Chants15-Booklet-Pic-AmokehSabbats
Amokeh and Jaden created this mnemonic chart to help the kids record the eight verses.

History & Lore

George:

This song was born at a Teen Earth Magic retreat (see next page for more on TEM) – although it’s never sung at TEM.

No, we don’t sing nursery rhymes with the teens. In 2011, we did a weekend workshop in the basement of the Oakland Peace Center. It was midnight on Saturday, following an all-day workshop and all-evening ritual. At least one teacher recalls already being in their sleeping bag.

Some teens were still running around and singing, and somehow the chorus of this song emerged (you can picture the “round and round” part, with the teens dancing in the middle of a gymnasium that has a big 11-circuit labyrinth painted on the floor).

Pretty soon verse ideas were popping up. The earlier-referenced teacher got out their flashlight and a pen and paper and started jotting down lyrics. By the time the energy ebbed, we had most of the song.

We sang it that year at a San Francisco ritual, and kept honing the words. Some of the verses changed as we did the recording – parents in the chorus pointed out that more visual, active lines worked better than reflective ones, so we changed “Brigid is the time we make our pledge” to “Brigid is the time of the cauldron fire” – the sort of detail a five-year-old is likely to remember!

The song comes complete with sabbat-coordinated hand motions – hopefully someone makes a youtube! Naturally it’s a kids’ favorite, and you can hear them singing along on the refrains.

A note on terminology: Bay Area Reclaiming uses neo-Celtic names for the cross-quarter holidays, but mostly uses the neutral terms Equinox and Solstice for the quarters, to honor that these are holidays of the planet and all peoples, not just one culture.

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Teen Earth Magic

TEM10-LiftUp2974

A Reclaiming Youth intensive

Visit TeenEarthMagic.org

Teen Earth Magic is Reclaiming’s first witchcamp for young people – an intensive retreat weaving magic and Earth activism.

Begun in 2008 as a short retreat for teens from Witchlets in the Woods family camp, TEM has expanded to a full witchcamp for teens age 13-19, and for young adult mentors ages 18-25.

TEM is an opportunity to explore our relation to the Earth and to one another. We practice ritual creation and group facilitation, hone community and magical skills, bond with people facing many of the same joys and challenges, and find out about ourselves as we head into the world in ever new and more adventuresome ways.

As campers return and join our Mentors path, people tap into what each has to offer from our hearts – which might be leadership and service, mentoring younger folks, skill-sharing, kitchen-witching, or something unexpected and mysterious – to help create our camp.

Our camp is based in Northern California, but campers and teachers from a number of communities around the Reclaiming network have taken part. Group-building and trust exercises are part of our work, and we aim to create lasting connections among Reclaiming’s young people.

Teen Earth Magic is strongly supported by parents, who help with cooking, transportation, and in-camp support.

Teen Earth Magic Through the Years

Teen Earth Magic began in 2008, when teachers, parents, and campers from Witchlets in the Woods family camp decided to organize an Earth-based teen retreat.

The first year, twelve teens worked with the legend of Savitri and Satyavan, visited the Yuba River, did rituals and magic, and built group bonds.

In 2009, 24 teens and young adults focused on the life-story of the salmon, native inhabitants of Northern California’s rivers and creeks.

2010 again drew two dozen teens and young adults for the Pentacle of the Great Turning, inspired by the work of Joanna Macy.

Recent years have seen 25-30 teens and young-adult mentors follow the Journey of the Bard, the Life of the Butterfly, and Sweet Magic of the Beehive.

Contact teenearthmagic@gmail.com

Teen Earth Magic: the Workbook!

Teachers from Teen Earth Magic have created a workbook featuring dozens of exercises, ritual outlines and ideas, and guidelines for starting a family camp.

This book is for all ages – a complete compendium of Reclaiming-style magic and activism!

Many exercises include Solo Working sections that people can do on their own or with a few friends.

There is no better introduction to serious Earth-based magic than the TEM Workbook!

Order a print edition – or download a free PDF – at teenearthmagic.org

Photo: We will lift each other up – literally and magically, teens learn to support and lift one another – a stark contrast to the competitive put-down culture most of us grew up with. Photo courtesy Reclaiming archives.

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Song 11: Come the Night, On

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© 2016 by Maxina Ventura

Gm

Come, come the night, on

Gm

It is a time of growing

Gm

It is a time of changing

Gm

Come, come the night, on

Chants-BlackLivesMatterSinging-1857

History & Lore

Max:

A year after my youngest child Blake’s birth on the Winter Solstice in 2001 (our midwives told me later he crowned at the apex of the change to Winter, and was fully born three minutes later), I was awash in the magic of each of my children’s births: first Ingrid, next Andy, and finally Blake (our pet baby, as we called him – who’s now six feet tall).

Each was different, and reflected some of my children’s ways in the world, and perhaps their interactions between the worlds.

This song is invoking the beauty of Night, when we commune with the quiet times of birth, and our place in the processes of the cycle of conception to growth and change in us all, leading to birth, to life, to death, and to rebirth, once again.

Singing as a Round – to singstephengpocock@gmail.com as a round, you can add a new part after “Come, come the” or after “Come, come, the night, on.”

When I was singing it with a trio, one of the guys said “what the heck timing is this thing?” We figured out it was in 13/8. He noted it instead for us Westerners in 1/2 (think of swaying palms). Let go and enjoy!

George:

This was a difficult song to arrange, as the lines are different lengths.

Our idea was to have David play a steady droning rhythm on the jaw harp as the voices wove together.

This is possibly the first neo-pagan song ever to begin with jaw harp. We wondered whether we were the first pagan band to feature this instrument, period. But a bit of internet research turns up the European band Faun who include it in their lengthy list of instruments.

Faun’s list of instruments also includes a hurdy-gurdy – we’re seriously jealous!

Photo: Reclaiming singers carol in downtown San Francisco for Black Lives Matter – Winter Solstice 2014. Photo by George Franklin / courtesy Reclaiming Quarterly archives.

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