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

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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  9,221 ratings  ·  243 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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Edith I agree with Del Gaddie. I'm rereading this. I read the first edition in 1984, so I wanted to see what Starhawk has to say after 20 years had passed. …moreI agree with Del Gaddie. I'm rereading this. I read the first edition in 1984, so I wanted to see what Starhawk has to say after 20 years had passed. It's the 40th anniversary of the book this year, and I wonder if she'd update it, but I haven't seen any news of that. "Drawing Down the Moon" is a good overview of different Neo-Pagan practices in the US, though it is dated. Margot Adler died five years ago, so it's unlikely it will be updated. Reading that should give you a basic idea of what's out there, and the bibliography would give you an idea of what to read next to learn about any traditions that catch your interest.

I also agree with Del Gaddie's assessment about some Pagan groups being "standoffish" if you don't ask the right questions. Arm yourself with knowledge first before you seek out a group in your area, if that's something you wish to pursue. (less)

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Rosemary Bloom
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Michael
Jul 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality, 1970s
Huh.

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
...more
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
Kathleen
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
...more
Bondama
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
...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
...more
Laura
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.
John Burns
Mar 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No-one
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
Heka
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
...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
...more
Harper Jean
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
Karen
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.
✨Sumi'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.
Emily
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
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
...more
Ashleigh
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,
...more
Megan
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
YoSafBridg
May 24, 2008 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
Jean
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
Velvetea
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
...more
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
Michaela Hutfles
Jul 30, 2008 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 same ret
...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
Katherine
Dec 16, 2008 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
Polly
Mar 06, 2012 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
...more
Shannon
Apr 04, 2010 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 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.
Rachael
Oct 02, 2012 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.
Amber
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great resource! Everything I had been reading wasn't satisfying the femininist part of me. (And the parts of those books I did like seem to be first proposed in this text) in addition, there's a lot to work from.

I've highlighted several sections and feel I will be returning to this book, over and over.
Tara
Nov 08, 2009 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.
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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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Last year, Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen struck a chord with her viral article “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.”...
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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.” 14 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.” 10 likes
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