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The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  6,617 ratings  ·  146 reviews
The twentieth anniversary edition of The Spiral Dance celebrates the pivotal role the book has had in bringing Goddess worship to the religious forefront. This bestselling classic is both an unparalleled reference on the practices and philosophies of Witchcraft and a guide to the life-affirming ways in which readers can turn to the Goddess to deepen their sense of personal ...more
Paperback, 20th Anniversary Edition, 326 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by HarperSanFrancisco (first published 1979)
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Wicca by Scott CunninghamThe Spiral Dance by StarhawkDrawing Down the Moon by Margot AdlerDemons of the Flesh by Nikolas SchreckThe Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton
The Best Pagan Books
2nd out of 207 books — 146 voters
Wicca by Scott CunninghamDrawing Down the Moon by Margot AdlerThe Spiral Dance by StarhawkThe Triumph of the Moon by Ronald HuttonA Witches' Bible by Janet Farrar
Best Pagan Non Fiction Reads
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Community Reviews

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This was intriguing, and covered a lot of the basic underpinnings of generic modern pagan thought, such as the mortal god/immortal goddess stuff, the maiden/mother/crone stuff, and other stuff. I enjoyed all this stuff pretty well. Mythology is fun, even if it's something new pretending to be something old.

But the last half of the book is actually a spell book, with candles and little knives and visualizing the four winds and who knows what else. This part I just couldn't read. It was just
May 11, 2007 Lee rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all pagans, anyone interested in the 'goddess' movement
The worst thing about this book is Starhawk's version of 'herstory' which she does admit, in her 20th anniversary notes in the index, that it is a modern myth and should be taken as such. I still think this leads to a lot of misconceptions among the fluffier pagans today and only serves to continue to propagate the "oldest religion" myth and all that "burning times" rubbish.

Other than that this book is poetic, and an interesting and wonderful read. I wish this was one of the first books I picked
Cosmic Tree
I borrowed a 1970s copy of this book from a friend. It belonged to his mother - complete with notes in the margins. I absolutely loved this book. Yes, it is in part a product of its time - describing the God as "rape fighter," heavily peppered with social justice statements, heavily feminist oriented. I would be very excited to read the 20th anniversary edition in which the author comments on how things have changed since then. I also know the 'history' presented here is a little romanticized, b ...more
Steve Cran
This book by far is the most influential book on Witchcraft to date. I would venture that every Pagan has a copy. Which is one reason why I hesitated to read it. It is highly feminist which was something I was not looking for. History and archaeology show that most of man's history was patriarchal. Man was in charge, he wanted to control the womb thus control the future. I must say that there were matriarchal societies in the Mediterranean. This was not the norm for all over the world. Her first ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
I read the original back in grad school in the 90's. Even then it was dated. I think there's good information here but it's biased by an assumption that is not known to be true. The "ancient religion of the goddess" is just a hypothesis by anthropologists based on artifacts. There is no proof that such a thing ever existed. Modern witchcraft is very much that: modern. These things are important to keep in mind when studying about modern paganism.

That said, even if ancient goddess worship never e
Chris LaMay-West
Over the last few years, I've become very interested in Goddess-centered religion. I found that, for me, thinking of (and talking to) Her as a "She" helped me develop a connection I never quite had with "Him". This is, of course, because of particular features of my history and makeup, and I don't claim it as any kind of universal truth. Nevertheless, it did get me interested in other people looking at the feminine side of the divine, and this book kept coming up in the course of my investigatio ...more
I first read The Spiral Dance when I was 15 or 16 and practicing with a group of awesome older pagan ladies. In the 15 or 16 years since then, I moved away from this book and the ladies that I practiced with. I forgot about this book. Or, rather, what I remembered about this book was very much a misremembering of it.

The text of Starhawk's chapters is really good. And in the chapter text, I can totally get down with what she's talking about: a sex-positive, earth-based, power-from-within rather
This book was written in 1979, by an author who calls herself Starhawk, actually named Miriam Simos. She was part of what she calls the Religon of Witchcraft in the late 1970's. She knows Vikki Noble and Karen Vogel, who created the Motherpeace Tarot Deck. She has reviewed each chapter at the end of the book, to discuss how attitudes towards women have changed since then, 10 years later, and again 20 years later. The writing itself is mostly about Paganism, and a lifestyle that helps people to b ...more
Witchcraft has always been a religion of poetry, not theology. The myths, legends, and teachings are recognized as metaphors for “That-Which-Cannot-Be-Told,” the absolute reality our limited minds can never completely know.” So says Starhawk in The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (1989); this statement greatly appeals to my agnostic sensibilities.The book is an excellent introduction to what goddess religion (actually what many consider to be a revival of the ...more
Michaela Hutfles
Jul 30, 2008 Michaela Hutfles rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Wiccans, Pagans, Feminists
Recommended to Michaela by: Mom
I read the 10th annaversary edition and it changed my life forever. Reading the 20th anniversary edition remindede me of all the things that I both love & loath about this book.
As an introduction to Wicca with various west coast flavors, it really is hard to get better. Teh looking bakc notes are particularly rewarding to see how her appreciation of faith and craft have evolved over time. Personally I believe that is the most important part of this book, the how things change & stay the
Julia Glassman
I first read this book in college, and decided to pull it out for old times' sake. I don't know how I didn't pick up on the fact that she first wrote it when she was in her twenties, but the arrogance of youth really shows--she relentlessly trashes Eastern religions in ways that make it clear that she hasn't actually researched them, and her vision of the future seems to be one in which there's no religion except witchcraft. (A population composed entirely of witches strikes me as similar to a p ...more
This book is by far the very best book for those interested in pursuing Wicca. Starhawk writes from a strictly Dianic view - basically, emphasis in placed on the Divine Feminine. There are many men involved in Wicca, but for the most part, they are Gardnerians (Ceremonial Magicians.)

The reason for this, as Starhawk explains, is that women are far more connected to the earth than their opposite gender. We give birth and, in the old days, washed the bodies of our loved ones, and prepared them for
Kate E.A.
The book is an excellent introduction to what goddess religion (actually what many consider to be a revival of the most ancient religions), Wicca, paganism whatever you want-to-call-it is all about. It does include exercises, rituals, etc. and that might seem a little odd to those who are not ready to embrace the them or are frightened off by words like witchcraft; but the philosophies presented around these exercises make an incredible amount of sense and are most interesting reading. I believe ...more
I borrowed this edition from the library and enjoyed it so much that I purchased the 20th Anniversary edition. I didn't find the book to be wordy or boring - as others have mentioned - in fact, I found that every sentence was somewhat "poetic" and very wise for a woman only in her twenties.

I enjoyed the 10-year and 20-year "look back" as Starhawk's own path evolved, even if some of her practices don't resonate with me and my own path. I felt "empowered" just because I am "alive on this Earth", a
Julie Decker
This essential neopagan guide to earth religion, goddess-centered spirituality, and group nature worship has been a classic since it was written, and regardless of whether you agree with some aspects of it, you should read it if you are in any way involved in practicing Goddess spirituality. Much of the text discusses the ancient history of goddess-based worship, and though some of it is idealized or based on myths or at least not actually backed up with history, the idea of a mother as a symbol ...more
Loona Wynd
The book The Spiral Dance is considered a classic in modern witchcraft literature. The author Starhawk put this book out at a time when there was little to no information published publicly on Witchcraft and people were starving for information. In the 35 years since the original release of The Spiral Dance many more books have been put on the market, but the Spiral Dance remains on the top of many recommended reading lists.

The one down side to this book is that it does focus heavily on the femi
Excellent first book for goddess/earth based religions. Wish I'd had it back when I was 16, but Cunningham's books still have their place. Consider me a Starhawk fan after this one- good stuff, intelligently written, and well amended in the 20th anniversary edition. Cuz the author decided the differences between age 28 viewpoint and age 48 viewpoint needed to be reflected. I dug that as well.
Katherine Brashear
The only thing bogging down the rating is that it was very difficult to get past all the wordiness. There is very good information in here, and was the first non-fiction pagan book I ever read. Evidently, it didn't turn me off to being pagan, so it must have been good enough. It just took forever to read. I was bored a lot when reading it.
Interesting. A bit misguided on archeological facts, but the ideas developed have a lot of merit. Also interesting to read the notes from the 10th and 20th anniversary editions, and see how her ideas evolved.
Kitty Snaev
What a wonderful book! Not only great feminist literature but also very opinionated. I read Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler, and I really appreciated her way of trying to remain unbiased towards the information she was sharing, even if she did occasionally share her views. But Starhawk? You know full and well what she believes and what she wants. That's just what I needed and loved.
Her views on feminism and the patriarchy were incredibly enlightening, even if it was published back before m
One of my most favorite books of all time. I have read this over and over. So powerful, passionate, poetic. A need to read for all women.
Harper Jean
It seems that part of my journey is not only reading this book, but admitting I am a person who read this book. This is doubtless character-building, since I was initially embarrassed to borrow it, apparently on the theory that its owner would think my desire to read it more laugable than its presence on her own bookshelf. I may hold onto a copy to reference for ideas. (Fair warning: some passages hating on porn, sex work, and kink, and quoting Mary Daly, and one sort of transphobic footnote. Th ...more
Note: I read the 10th anniversary edition of this book (revised in 1989 from the 1979 edition).

(quoted from the back cover) "THE SPIRAL DANCE is a brilliant overview of the growth, suppression, and modern-day reemergence of Witchcraft as a Goddess worshiping religion." The author, Starhawk, is a peace activist, teacher, author and leader in the feminist spirituality and eco-feminist movements of America and Europe. She travels widely, lecturing and giving workshops. This book gives background h
It's good to finally delve into a spirituality that has always deeply interested and mystified me, and where better to start than with "the original book that brought the Goddess tradition to the public eye".

Her words and lessons seem to come to her as naturally as breath~ peaceful. It was insightful, and helped to answer some of the mysteries in my mind surrounding this ornate ancient tradition. In my exploration, details of rituals and meditation seem to differ from every source, which made m
At first I wasn't really into the book, it seemed pretty process oriented, and very coven centric, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, I just found it boring. I also didn't really connect with the suggested meditations or ritual work. But I found that the notes from the 10th and 20th anniversary editions provide a lot of valuable insight into the change of someone's thoughts, and ultimately how it would change their practice. I really liked how Starhawk came off humble and with it enough t ...more
I read this book the first time about 10 years ago. Back then, I started to be fascinated by this kind of spirituality and I thought the book was very well written and interesting. Reading it now, with a different perspective over life (probably more cynical), I find it a bit superficial.
It is a bit too self confident in asserting what is the truth or the historical truth around the modern witchcraft and in the comparison with the other religions.
Also, although there is a clear pattern in the d
I have mixed feelings about Starhawk in general, but there are things which are infinitely adaptable and practical about her view of Paganism and the divine. One of them is NOT her view of the "matriarchy." One of the most well-known proponents of the myth or a matriarchal prehistory, Starhawk also perpetrates of of the most egregious rewritings of history I have ever encountered among Neo-Pagans, perpetuating the notion of "The Burning Times." I am certain there is a more sociologically accepte ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Basically, I'm an atheist and thoroughgoing rationalist, but one that not only seeks to better understand spirituality but wishes I could find a way to express myself within it rationally. I thought a form of paganism might do, since it seeks to root spirituality within the earth, ie reality. So I bought this book, wanting to learn more about Neopaganism, since I had read this was the classic in the literature.

I'm afraid I found that there isn't much of a line between this kind of "spirituality"
Susan Klinke
I found this 10th anniversary edition at a used store. After reading it I am interested in reading the most current 20th anniversary edition for Starhawk's latest insights.

I think I've been headed or drawn toward a Pagan path since my mid-twenties when I went through a couple years of Hakomi therapy. I feel extremely lucky to have chanced upon this kind of therapist. Hakomi is a body-centered therapy that validates the felt language and experience of the body. This seems quite in line with Pagan
Jul 28, 2012 Mydyen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the subject of Wicca and Paganism.
Shelves: witch-classics
I did not think I would like this book. My endeavours into generic Paganism have only reached as far as participation in public rituals, but I was very surprised to find for myself why this work is a classic of modern witchcraft.
The thing about Spiral Dance is it defines what we now call generic Wicca. This book sparked a revolution in Women/Wymyn's spirituality so intense, we are still feeling the shock-waves. Starhaw's poetic language and inclusive eco-feminist thought still appeals to the c
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Starhawk (born Miriam Simos) is an American writer, anarchist activist, and self-described witch. She is well known as a theorist of Paganism, and is one of the foremost popular voices of ecofeminism. She is a columnist for both and On Faith (the Newsweek online forum on religion).

Starhawk currently lives in San Francisco, where she works with Reclaiming, a tradition of Witchcraft th
More about Starhawk...
The Fifth Sacred Thing (Maya Greenwood, #1) Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over Walking to Mercury (Maya Greenwood, #2)

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“Amory Lovins says the primary design criteria he uses is the question “How do we love all the children?” Not just our children, not just the ones who look like us or who have resources, not just the human children but the young of birds and salmon and redwood trees. When we love all the children, when that love is truly sacred to us in the sense of being most important, then we have to take action in the world to enact that love. We are called to make the earth a place where all the children can thrive.” 2 likes
“The Goddess falls in love with Herself, drawing forth her own emanation, which takes on a life of its own. Love of self for self is the creative force of the universe. Desire is the primal energy, and that energy is erotic: the attraction of lover to beloved, of planet to star, the lust of electron for proton. Love is the glue that holds the world together.” 2 likes
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