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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  10,309 ratings  ·  271 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 September 22nd 1999 by HarperOne (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 introducti…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)

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Rosemary Bloom
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Jul 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality

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
Steve Cran
Apr 08, 2012 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
Kate Savage
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ok so who's in on the coven?

If you read this book, I highly recommend getting the 20th anniversary edition. This allows you to read how Starhawk's thought has developed in the decades since the book was published. The two introductions were some of my favorite parts, highlighting her changed thinking on gender, political engagement, and other issues. I love to see a wise old witch remain open to learning new things, queering her old beliefs.

And I'm also a sucker for all her wild and weird ritual
This is a hard book to rate. I read The Spiral Dance spread out over about 8 months, with a small online group reading it together -- it was my first time reading it but for quite a few folks it was a re-read. Prior to this the only Starhawk I'd read was her fiction. I am really grateful to have read this in the way that I did because we had some really fantastic discussions.
I will get out of the way that I definitely have some problems with The Spiral Dance -- quite a bit of the commentary on
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
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I have very complicated feelings about this book. I have always been very interested in witchcraft and feminist spirituality, so this book has felt like a must read (both in terms of subject matter, but also its influence). There were parts I loved and reading them made me feel like I was an instrument harmonizing with a tuning fork. Her understanding of the connection between spirituality and politics, the nature of magic etc was wonderful. In many ways, I think she is deeply admirable in the s ...more
Oct 25, 2009 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
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I struggled most with the historical presumptions of this book. I realize that, at the time the first edition was written, Starhawk was referencing history as proposed by other authors. However, I read the 20th anniversary edition and I was disappointed that glaring historical inaccuracies were not called out until the last two chapters of the book, which were appended with later editions. Her version of events paints a pretty story but it's painfully incorrect.

I honestly found the majority of t
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that made me realize that I wasn't a Christian anymore. It had a huge impact on college Laura. ...more
John Burns
Mar 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Easily the most bogus of the three Wiccan books I've read. Scott Cunningham's book does a better job of understanding that the laws of Wicca are very much made up by individuals as they go along and explains the principles behind the practices in psychological terms. I guess Starhawk tries to do the same here but she also gets buried in lengthy descriptions of her own esoteric rituals and she is, let's face it, not an expert in any of the fields that this book touches on (besides witchcraft itse ...more
Julia Glassman
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jeannie Miller
Mar 29, 2014 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
Katherine Brashear
Oct 14, 2010 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. ...more
Nov 21, 2013 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.
✨Bean's Books✨
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great beginner's book to help get you off your feet LOL. Easy to read and rituals are easy to follow. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone new to the craft. ...more
Benjamin Uke
Sep 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: religion
An introduction to the religion of wicca. I already get confused by religion (strikes me as watered-down philosophy), add magical symbolism and things just get frustratingly confusing.
Moon rituals and the like? There's also an exercise about 'grounding the tree of life'? Maybe it's combining jungian symbolism to form some type of meditation, only with physical rituals involved?
Very... VERY confusing.
I do not understand what is going on.
Nor do I have the drugs necessary to possibly understand
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: occult
It's become a classic. Starhawk's groundbreaking work was well received when first published, as a useful introductory work on witchcraft.
Although commonly read as a book on Wicca, The Spiral Dance is distinguished by its visionary mysticism and ecstatic experience, and by its emphasis on women and the Goddess (with a lesser emphasis on the God, unlike most forms of Wicca).
Starhawk trained with Victor and Cora Anderson, founders of the Feri Tradition of witchcraft, and with Zsuzsanna Budapest,
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it
I would actually give this book a 3.5 stars if I could. I enjoyed much of the information in it. The history was interesting and I found the writing style poetic in a lot of places. I am always looking for good books on the subject and Starhawk is one of the better authors I have found. On the negatives for me, I did find this book a bit heavy on the feminist history for me, which I realize is the point of the book, but I found myself kindof slogging through parts of it. I found it information h ...more
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love the title. The hint to energy moving around is just perfect for the book. The book itself is a majestic well of information on witchcraft. It talks about the craft, but it also highlights the most important aspects of the religion. It covers the main points of it through chapters, but it clearly states on which parts of the concept it will keep focus on. If you are interested to read about Wicca, and learn more about it, this book is perfect. There are loads of exercises to help you in ke ...more
Andrea Bussinger
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Great introduction to the concepts and practices of modern Wicca. Good for anyone looking for a primer, she includes a lot of references about Wicca as well. Some negative statements about other religions which tainted it a bit for me.
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I feel like I should read it again. I liked it and I related to it, the process were ones that I was going for and it felt reassuring. I plan on trying the rituals when I reread it
Oct 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lauren Dixon
Jun 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I mean, it's Starhawk. Of course I'm going to give it five stars. But, this definitely centers around covens so if you're a solitary witch, this may not be for you. Unless you're ready to join a coven and are lucky enough to have one near you. The language is still pretty inclusive sans the pronouns "they/them." I absolutely love the ten-year and twenty-year updates in the back and how sometimes she laughs at her younger self. It's empowering and still an essential book to any witch's library. ...more
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cathoused, 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
Jul 27, 2011 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
Jun 27, 2014 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
Lord Beardsley
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I arrived to the Starhawk party fairly late. I've been pretty entrenched in witchcraft since I was a teenager, but for some reason I didn't get around to checking out her work until now.

This is really what I've been needing in order to further explore feminist politics/activism in a pagan context. It is vital to read this book with the 10/20 year anniversary commentary by the author. As this was originally written in 1979, the original text is very much orientated towards the 70s feminist vocabu
Chris LaMay-West
Apr 17, 2012 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
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Something Witchy: Chapter 5 - The Goddess 1 2 May 17, 2022 07:22AM  
Something Witchy: Chapter 1 - Witchcraft as Goddess Religion 3 2 May 15, 2022 07:53AM  
Something Witchy: Chapter 2 - The World View of Witchcraft 2 2 May 15, 2022 05:17AM  

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Starhawk is an author, activist, permaculture designer and teacher, and a prominent voice in modern Goddess religion and earth-based spirituality. She is the author or coauthor of thirteen books, including the classics The Spiral Dance and The Fifth Sacred Thing. Her latest is the newly published fiction novel City of Refuge, the long-awaited sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing.

Starhawk directs Earth

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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.” 20 likes
“But the final price of freedom is the willingness to face that most frightening of all beings, one’s own self. Starlight vision, the “other way of knowing,” is the mode of perception of the unconscious, rather than the conscious mind. The depths of our own beings are not all sunlit; to see clearly, we must be willing to dive into the dark, inner abyss and acknowledge the creatures we may find there. For, as Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding explains in Woman’s Mysteries, “These subjective factors … are potent psychical entities, they belong to the totality of our being, they cannot be destroyed. So long as they are unrecognized outcasts from our conscious life, they will come between us and all the objects we view, and our whole world will be either distorted or illuminated.” 15 likes
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