Reclaiming: A Legacy of Activism & Music

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From the 1980s anti-nuclear movement through the 2011 Occupy protests and beyond, Reclaiming activists have taken our spirituality – and our chants – into the streets.

Some of our most powerful songs were written for major actions – We Are the Power in Everyone (Song 9) was written for a 1982 protest at Livermore Weapons Lab. Sweet Water (Song 2) stems from an anti-G8 mobilization in Calgary in the early 2000s.

And one of our favorite magical songs of all time, We Are the Rising Sun (Song 3), was created for a 2003 peace march in Albuquerque.

Occupy Oakland & Beyond

When Occupy sprang up in 2011, Reclaiming folks found ways to plug in – several moved in  at Occupy SF and Occupy Berkeley; some were part of the Interfaith Tent at Occupy Oakland; and dozens marched and risked arrest and teargas at Occupy Oakland, SF, and related bank actions.

The Occupy actions also had their artistic sides, such as the November 2011 General Strike, which included both a disco line and a spiral dance (the latter courtesy of Reclaiming).

Reclaiming musicians hosted singalongs at Berkeley and SF (as well as singing in the streets of Oakland) – see our Occupy Songsheet in the printable PDF version of this booklet.

Keep up with Reclaiming activism at WeaveAndSpin.org

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Photos: General Strike • Occupy Oakland • November 2011

Above: As part of the General Strike, Reclaiming activists organized a spiral dance in the intersection of Broadway and 14th in the heart of downtown Oakland.

Top: Thousands of people marched and shut down the Port of Oakland – a shutdown supported by many port workers and union groups.

Photos by Luke Hauser / courtesy Reclaiming Quarterly archives

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Reclaiming Witchcamps

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Magical intensives around the world

Reclaiming Witchcamps are retreats for the study of magic, ritual, and Earth awareness skills usually held in a campground setting.

Share in Reclaiming-style spiritual culture. Study magic and ritual in a multi-day intensive that includes practices such as trancework, healing, drumming, dancing, chanting, storytelling, guided visualization and energy work.

Participate in rituals that take us into the heart of ancient tales, creating a powerful, transformative energy that builds throughout the course of witchcamp and beyond.

All Levels of Experience Welcome

Newcomers can learn the basic skills of magic and ritual, working with the elements, movement, sound and the mythological and historical framework of the Goddess Tradition.

Advanced paths offer the chance to apply the tools of ritual to personal healing and empowerment, and might focus on taking the craft out into the world, creating public ritual, building ongoing groups, and healing issues surrounding leadership and power.

Some camps are for adults 18-up. Many camps are family- and youth-friendly, offering paths specifically for children and teenagers. Camps are organized in different ways, according to local needs.

As a tradition Reclaiming values diversity, and each WitchCamp has its own policies, structures and culture. Transparency is also encouraged and valued, as is a questioning attitude.

Feel free to ask questions of the varied and diverse camps to find the WitchCamp community that suits you best.

For dates and contact information, visit: Witchcamp.org

Photo by Dawnstar / courtesy of Reclaiming Quarterly archives.

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WitchCamp Council & Contacts

Reclaiming Witchcamps coordinate their work through the WitchCamp Council. Reclaiming-tradition camps are located in North America, Europe, and Australia.

Witchcamp.org – dates and contacts for all Reclaiming camps, and for the WitchCamp Council

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The Spiral Dance: Reclaiming Magic & Music

The Spiral Dance: A ritual to honor our Beloved Dead and to dance the spiral of rebirth

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Listen to the Let It Begin Now playlist on YouTube

The holiday popularly known as Halloween is the time of year known to witches as Samhain. The veil is thin between the worlds of the living and the dead.

In San Francisco we have gathered for many years to remember and honor our ancestors, our Beloved Dead, and all those who have crossed over.

As we mourn for those we love who have died since last Samhain, we also mourn the loss and pain suffered by the Earth, our Mother.

Yet even as we grieve, we remember and honor the sacred cycle of life, death, rebirth, and regeneration. We honor the births of our children born this year and our own vital connections to the Earth and each other, in which we ground our hope.

The first Spiral Dance was held in 1979 to celebrate the publication of Starhawk’s book, The Spiral Dance. Starhawk, a founding member of Reclaiming Collective, wrote the original script which remains at the heart of the ritual, although it has been altered and embellished over the years by her and many others.

Traditionally, the Spiral Dance calls upon the energy and talents of musicians, artists, poets, dancers, crafts people, singers, technicians, priests and priestesses from Reclaiming and beyond, and we are grateful to everyone who helps create this magical experience we all share.

This is a participatory ritual and pageant which has become a central event in the Wheel of the Year for the Reclaiming community and beyond. Hundreds of people join in this observance of the Witches’ New Year, and the event raises funds which support our work throughout the year.

When we dance the spiral as a community, we remember and honor our own past at the same time that we renew our vision and embrace the future.

As with all Reclaiming events, we strive for inclusiveness and diversity. Reclaiming rituals are open to folks of all ages, all genders, people of diverse physical capabilities, people of color, LGBTQ+ folk, Witches, Pagans, non-pagans, activists, seekers, and the curious.

Let it begin now!

ReclaimingSpiralDance.org

Photo by Michael Rauner / courtesy Reclaiming archives.

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Let It Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance

Listen to the Let It Begin Now playlist on YouTube

See next page for this and other Reclaiming music albums.

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Earlier Reclaiming Albums

Available at CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, etc

Click here to listen for free at Spotify and Youtube

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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.

Click here to listen for free at Spotify and Youtube

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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.

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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.

Click here to listen for free at Spotify and Youtube

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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.

All albums available at CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, etc

Click here to listen for free at Spotify and Youtube

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A Ten-Year Odyssey – or maybe twenty…

Listen to Reclaiming albums on Youtube & Spotify

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.

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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.

ReclaimingQuarterly.org

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Recording the Album

Listen to Reclaiming albums on Youtube & Spotify

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.

Equipment

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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