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

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,455 Ratings  ·  163 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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Del Gaddie I'd suggest picking up a copy of 'Drawing Down the Moon' by Margot Adler. It's just a bit dated around the edges, but is nonetheless a good…moreI'd suggest picking up a copy of 'Drawing Down the Moon' by Margot Adler. It's just a bit dated around the edges, but is nonetheless a good introduction to different styles of Wiccan practice. It's well written if only slightly biased. Adler was a Wiccan priestess and a correspondent for NPR, and the book reflects a appropriate levels of passion with journalistic integrity.

'The Spiral Dance' is a decent read if you're more interested in immersing yourself further into the community. There are some good meditative practices (I felt) and it does go into greater detail into one style and practice of neopaganism than Adler's book, which is more of a collective overview.

Be warned, however - Wiccans can be as elitist as any other community when it comes to evaluating styles. I've noticed that some communities can be a bit 'stand-offish' if they feel you're not asking the right questions.

(Disclaimer - I don't prescribe to Wicca per se - I'm a pantheist. Hope I could be helpful anyway! ;-)(less)
Wicca by Scott CunninghamThe Spiral Dance by StarhawkDrawing Down the Moon by Margot AdlerThe Triumph of the Moon by Ronald HuttonCunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
The Best Pagan Books
2nd out of 286 books — 203 voters
Wicca by Scott CunninghamDrawing Down the Moon by Margot AdlerThe Spiral Dance by StarhawkThe Triumph of the Moon by Ronald HuttonLiving Wicca by Scott Cunningham
Best Pagan Non Fiction Reads
3rd out of 205 books — 173 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 23, 2015 Lee rated it really liked it
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
Jun 04, 2010 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality, 1970s

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
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
Apr 08, 2012 Steve Cran rated it really liked it
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
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
Rachael Stein
Oct 02, 2012 Rachael Stein rated it it was amazing
I give this five stars not because it's a perfect book, but because it's a deeply thoughtful, immeasurably influential book whose author is nonetheless willing to engage in ongoing dialogue about her ideas, and to continually revise them. She walks the walk of participating in the creation of a living, evolving tradition.
Jul 01, 2015 Velvetea rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
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
Oct 25, 2009 Bondama rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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
May 19, 2012 Chris LaMay-West rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
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
Aug 06, 2011 Jean rated it liked it
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
Nov 30, 2008 YoSafBridg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-and-read, godtalk
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 liked it
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
Jun 24, 2013 Julia Glassman rated it liked it
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
Kate E.A.
Dec 16, 2008 Kate E.A. rated it it was amazing
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
Harper Jean
Mar 29, 2014 Harper Jean rated it liked it
Shelves: spirit-mythos
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
Mar 18, 2012 Polly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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
Davin Raincloud
Jul 05, 2015 Davin Raincloud rated it liked it
I finally laboured through this book. I feel kind of uneasy not liking this book as it has become somewhat seminal in a lot of people's lives. Starhawk tries to fix the book in her notes for the tenth, and then 20th edition at the back.

Here is the problem, she wrote this in her twenties. Starhawk is a genius, but she comes across as bossy, so the text reads like a very intelligent 25 year old wrote it, who had very little experience in the world. That's why I couldn't connect with it. It has so
Julie Decker
Jul 28, 2014 Julie Decker rated it liked it
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
Apr 17, 2010 Shannon rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 14, 2010 Katherine Brashear rated it it was ok
Shelves: witchcraft, wicca
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.
Nov 21, 2013 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual
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.
Thom Dunn
My copy says ...Of the GREAT Goddess, 10th Anniversary Edition and a line of the cover reading
RITUALS-INVOCATIONS-EXERCISES-MAGIC. Original copyright, 1979 by Miriam Simos
Nov 08, 2009 Tara rated it it was amazing
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.
Raven Seanchai
Aug 09, 2010 Raven Seanchai rated it really liked it
This is a great book for beginners. It explains alot and gives an example of a beautiful intitiation ceremony~
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
Roza Howton
Mar 14, 2015 Roza Howton rated it really liked it
I'm actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

From an anthropological standpoint the rituals made sense, the deep symbolisms of various aspects of shamanic belief systems reflected a lot of our forebearers hunter gatherer thoughts of the world around them.

she could have used a better editor, and perhaps footnotes suggesting further readings.

much maligned belief system, the Craft. How much were lost in the Burning Times? The tradition of Male Witches roles as brother and rape fighter is
Gabriel Clarke
Feb 12, 2016 Gabriel Clarke rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
Perfect? No. But inspiring and made all the more compelling by the informative and sometimes wry commentaries provided on the original text by her 10 and 20 years-older selves. Yes, the history is a bit dodgy (and her tendency to dismiss anything academic that disagrees with her is annoying) but historicity isn't really the point. Starhawk gives her younger self permission to create myth, a functional, useful practice of myth and belief. And the best test of any almost technology of the sacred i ...more
Aug 11, 2015 Kayla rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in paganism, Wicca, feminism, religoin.
Shelves: feminism, adult-reads
For whoever is interested in paganism and the Goddesses involved, definitely pick up this book. This was what fully introduced me into the religion, and it really caters to women and feminism.
Because I'm taking a few courses in Gender Studies, this was very helpful for me when trying to form my own opinions on things.

Starhawk's writing is fabulous. It's meaningful and humourous, and she really connects well through the text. She makes little jokes, and if you like that sort of thing, it makes it
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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...

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“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.” 5 likes
“Mary Daly, author of Beyond God the Father, points out that the model of the universe in which a male God rules the cosmos from outside serves to legitimize male control of social institutions.” 3 likes
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