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

Descant

Sweet water

Storm winds

New world

River is rising

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

History & Lore

Starhawk:

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.

RQ#93-Miami-LivRiv-RubyPerry
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.

* * *

Zay:

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!

***

George:

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 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!

Listen free on Spotify & YouTube!

Follow Pagan Cluster and other activist features at ReclaimingQuarterly.org

Chants15-pol-SolsticeDA-March4357

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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