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The Fifth Sacred Thing

(Maya Greenwood #1)

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4.24  ·  Rating details ·  5,629 ratings  ·  501 reviews
An epic tale of freedom and slavery, love and war, and the potential futures of humankind tells of a twenty-first century California clan caught between two clashing worlds, one based on tolerance, the other on repression.
Paperback, 486 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Bantam (first published 1993)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  5,629 ratings  ·  501 reviews


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Melody
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dystopia, favorites
11/2015 I live in the sweetness of this book, whether I am reading it or not. There are times when I need this book the way I need air. This has been one of those times. I slipped into it the way Madrone slipped into Sara's pool, unable to resist, entirely yielding myself to the narrative. It's prose that speaks to me on the deepest level, and oh, how glad I was to re-immerse myself.

11/2012 I find more to love each time I come back to this book, this time being no exception. I come to this book
...more
Eli
Dec 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Good Reclaiming Witch that I am, I wanted to l-o-v-e this book. But it has issues.
*It honors and accepts every credal system except atheism, which is portrayed as antiquated and unenlightened.
*It denigrates monofidelity and monosexuality (homo as well as hetero). EDIT 10/21/16: I want to clarify that I applaud Starhawk's elevation of bi- and pansexuality and polyamory. However, there was no need to do it while making monofidelity and monosexuality seem less sophisticated, spiritual, enlightened,
...more
Sapote3
Aug 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: crazed idealists
So I had a lot of politics in high school, and I also lived in Wiccantown, The Bible Belt, U.S.A. Therefore, this book resonated rather a lot with me. I still love utopias, and this book is very much a utopia: an idealistic nowhere, but a nowhere that's worth talking about.

Still, I haven't been able to make myself reread this, now that I'm no longer fifteen and no longer believe that 1) magic is an appropriately thorough way to deal with biological warfare 2) polyamorous pansexuality always
...more
Christy
This book has some good passages about nonviolent resistance and about building a community. If it could have set up those issues without depending on New Age-y "science" (e.g., manipulating ch'i, using intelligent crystals for computers that are programmed through advanced visualization techniques, acupuncture, using the brain's natural electronic field to manipulate electronic devices) and magic (e.g., communicating with the dead, communicating with bees, vision quests), it might have been ...more
Tanuja
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book inspired a major paradigm shift for me. Shortly after reading it, I enrolled in acupuncture school, and life has not been the same, will never be the same. I have to reread this book every so often for its crucial reminder: that nonviolence can work and must work and will work to change the world...but we also have to work...we need to heal ourselves and others. I highly recommend this book.
Starhawk
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: 5th-sacred
It's a rare book that changes your entire world.
This is one.
Caty
Nov 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
Couldn't stand it, couldn't finish it. And I usually love radical utopias+ conservative dystopias--the 2 paired together? Whhooooo! But the style was turgid and thick and the sentimentality oozed off the page. Maybe my aesthetic problems with paganism helped, too. The description of the prison and their escape from it was compelling, but that's about it.
Wes
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Where to start? This book is deeply affecting and touched on so many of my passions, it is difficult to know where to start.

First, it is another entry in the large (and still growing) list of what my friend Hobo Lee used to call Northern California Post-Apocalyptic fiction. Do we in Northern California have a cataclysm fetish? Or do we here in this beautiful and fragile place just wisely wish for an end to this society as we know it before it kills us all?

In any case, Starhawk has taken all
...more
Cathy
Dec 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed this book (but not the sleep it cost me when I stayed up too-late reading it) -- I've heard of Starhawk, and this makes me curious to read more of her stuff. It's good to get a dose of utopia set in SF, and the writing is compelling. Her characters are complex as are the ways she's envisioned society (and threats to it), and I appreciate the way she wrestles with questions of non-violence vs armed rebellion, though at times the plot asked me to make jumps that didn't actually flow.
Pam Baddeley
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a dystopian versus utopian novel with a difference because it is not straight science fiction - at least, the story relies upon the use of alternative medicine and manipulation of ch'i/qi, the body's energy field, by people who have psychic abilities. But I decided to treat it as a blend of science fiction and fantasy and just accept it. There is a very serious polemical intent behind this book: it is quite prophetic in its warning - published in the early 1990s it shows a California ...more
NormaCenva
This is truly a visionary novel. One of the best depictions of non-violent protest and rebuilding of society on Her (Goddess) principals. The book really spoke to me in so many ways. I struggle with the ideas of non-violent protest and productive non-cooperation, they are concepts that are difficult to me to grasp. In this story a good number of examples are given for, how both of these strategies can be successful. As well as the sex-positivity in the novel is very nicely done and is very well ...more
Pam Nath
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is perhaps the most inspiring book I've ever read about the struggle to create a better society than the one that we have. It provides beautiful imaginings of how we might work for the healing of all, be courageous, build community where we are accountable to one another, expect things of one another, but are still compassionate and forgiving when people fail at living up to our own ideals (and thus we are encouraged to respond the same way to ourselves -- to learn from our mistakes, to ...more
Matt McLean
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
The Fifth Scared Thing might have made a pretty engaging short story or novella if it focused on and committed to examining its major themes (sustainability, non-violent resistance, etc). Instead, we get pages and pages of healing visualizations and characters going in circles in their own minds. If you like stories where you are totally in a character’s head I guess you might like this more, but generally I found it took too long for things to happen. Spoilers ahead...

Stuff I liked:
- Maya is
...more
Tammy Eaton
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My first introduction to "ecofeminism." Extremely close to the end of the book so I will reserve judgement on the ending, but I am extremely impressed with Starhawk's ability to draw me into her world and keep me there. I felt attached to the characters and experienced so many emotions along with them. The description of the grandmother ripping the safety latches off her kitchen cabinets had me crying... it is so true that no matter what we do to protect them, they grow up and insist on doing ...more
Jeremy
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This utopian "new age" vision of San Francisco in the not-so-distant future, written in the early mid 90's by STARHAWK, could have been a series of deep eye-rolls that permanently damaged my vision; But the novel was well written and the narrative enticing enough to keep me invested.
I actually found myself ready to read this type of idealistic "social-science' fiction if you will...
Walking around the city now, I can actually see the San francisco described in these pages in my minds eye and
...more
Nomy
Dec 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
this book kind of blew me away. i finished it a couple months ago and i keep meaning to write my review of it. what i really loved about this book was the way she describes the characters' internal processes, i felt like i really knew what they were feeling, i could feel it too and travel with them in their minds. there were parts of the book that were kind of too scary for me, i felt it too much, took it on in my body, which is not good for me. i had so many things to say about it when i read ...more
Nitya
Feb 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Maybe not the best writing, but this book made me think long and hard about planetary resources, our current squandering of them, and how things might be if we continue on. it takes place in 2050, and resources are few. Water is scarce and precious, oil even scarcer. In San Francisco, the people have learned how to survive, thrive, even, by cooperative community.But of course, there are greedy bastards trying to control and hoard the resources at the deprivation of everyone else. That we, the ...more
Jen
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
I am reading this book for the third time. I identify with the main character, even though I thought she was a brat the first time through....; )

Look--if you care about the Earth or your freedoms when it comes to clean water and pure food, then read this book. It's a quick read because you won't be able to put it down. The characters are likable, their relationships refreshing.

It's the only fiction piece (as far as I know) by Starhawk. Research her work.
Hanna
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'd give this book 2.5 stars. I was really uncomfortable with the author's special focus on penetrative sex (she really seemed to like having long discriptions of it) even to the extent that she felt like she needed to describe penetrative intercourse of bees (blagh!). I also didn't like the focus on 'group sex'. The book was interesting most of the time but wasn't compelling or very thought provoking.
Becky
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
I'm having trouble choosing a rating for this book, or thinking of how to review it. For the first 100-200 pages I was pretty dubious. The concept had intrigued me and it was recommended by a friend, but the presentation was a bit off putting. However now having completed it, I know that was by intent - it set the stage for the events that happened particularly in the final portions of the book. This is not a comfortable book to read. At the risk of sounding dramatic, in our current political ...more
Kristen
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, fantasy
Oh...California utopia! I read The Fifth Sacred Thing years ago and had forgotten so much of the woowoo embedded in the story. I remember the days when I actively shopped for Wiccan literature and paraphernalia, chanted to the Goddess a-la Charlie Murphy in the recording Burning Tmes, thought mandalas were magical symbols...I'm afraid becoming a social scientist makes me feel silly about a lot of the activities that took up my time in those days. But I DO believe that humans should do a better ...more
Dodie
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: witches
I have never read a book like this before. Set in the mid 21th century in San Francisco, the land has been reduced to hard barren landscape. In San Francisco there are people who have learned how to survive by having a community that works together no matter races or creed. They value the four sacred, Earth, fire, water and air. Of course there are people that are bound by fascism, dictatorship, brutally and motivated by fear. Themes through out the book were a earth centred spiritually and ...more
Margaret Cummings
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this story of a near future utopia based on the principles of earth based spirituality and social justice. The combination of the well thought out details of how daily life would look in a post-capitalist society, combined with the rich description of the various locations across California where I grew up, made for an emotional read for me.
Nancy McInerney
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Apocalyptic yet prophetic book of a very possible world. I am going to start reading it again. It was many years ago that I read it and I am seeing so much that is very much here and now.
Kathy
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
Problematic author but a very engrossing story.
Katy
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The amount of hope and love infused into this book is staggering. I really loved it.
April
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book made me want to learn magic and to learn to heal. Starting with myself first. I want to see the weavings of ch'i. I want to learn how to mend energy or release it when it's blocked. I wish I could do it for my own body because I need it. What a gift it is to have people who are able to heal others through energy from the Source.

Even though this is fiction, so many pieces of this story resonate with me. I love the communal living and the idea of loving so many--even though I
...more
Briana Nervig
Dec 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dystopia lovers, people who love to frequently read about group sex
So far quite interesting. Written by an eco-feminist, wiccan/pagan activist so, of course, there are alot of politics involved. This is her first fictional novel. (Sounds like your type of book, doesn't it, Aaron? hahaha)

Centered in California, mid-21st century. Regarding society's lack of consciousness and appreciation of the "Mother Earth's" resources, and the "Four Sacred Things": Water, Fire, Earth, Air. The once lush California landscape has been reduced to hard, unfruitful land from fires
...more
Katherine Burrell
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
For me, this book wasnt a 'page-turner' but I read it avidly none-the-less. What brought me back to the bookmarked page day after day was the profound ideas inter weaved throughout the book. This book heralds not only spirituality, environmentalism and mythological symbolism but also social change, civil disobedience and revolution. For this reason, this book was inherently different, and exactly my cuppa-tea. It was my scholarly and spiritual minds transformed into fiction.
The characterisation
...more
Lori
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of peace and goodness
Ever thought about tearing up the concrete and turning our streets into living gardens?
How about having seven old women running things by dreaming answers from a retreat up on the hill by Stow Lake (at 8th ave in GG Park)?
How about the prospect of running out of a little thing called water? Or having to blow up the bridges to stop the south from invading us for our water?
All these things happen and SO MUCH MORE in this thrilling tale of the rebirth of San Francisco, in an apocalyptic world of
...more
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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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Other books in the series

Maya Greenwood (3 books)
  • Walking to Mercury (Maya Greenwood, #2)
  • City of Refuge (Maya Greenwood, #3)
“The brush that is tinder dry from decades of drought, the warming of the earth's climate that sends the storms away north, the hole in the ozone layer. Not punishment, not even justice, but consequence.” 5 likes
“That is exactly what nobody seems to grasp about this karma business. It’s not a simple matter of cause and effect, reward and punishment. It’s a question of what’s available. You see, as long as life for the majority of souls on this planet is just a long round of starvation, misery, torture, and early death—and believe me, outside this fortunate watershed that is an apt description of the state of affairs—as long as only a few live in comfort while the masses scrape along in want, then all us returning souls have to take our fair share of shifts among the hungry. You think this life you’ve lived was tough? Let me tell you, it was just R and R between the ones where you never get a solid meal two days running or you die before your first birthday from drinking bad water.” 2 likes
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