The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess by Starhawk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 chapter gives over a history that most society with exceptions with matriarchal and worshiped the goddess.After all she was the one who gave birth. The earth or the womb of the planet was where we returned to when we died in order to be reborn. She basically recycles or restates Margarette Murry's thesis albeit with simpler words. Her mythos, which she readily states is just that mythos meant to convey a truth. It is not fact per se. This too me is a strong point in the book. The use of mythos used as a tool to get the witch into a proper frame of mind.
According to Starhawk and Murray, life in Europe and all over the world was matriarchal. Everything was peaceful and fine with absolutely no violence. Men hunted and magic was discovered by dancing in circle and visualizing success in the hunt, as drawn by pictures in caves. This gave the hunters better success. As humankind grew older they domesticated animals and became farmer. Their rituals became agricultural and fertility oriented. They developed rituals for the solstices and equinoxes. Then came the Indoeuropean invaders from the east. As they stormed across Europe they brought with them a militaristic way of life and worship of male warlike gods. The original inhabitants fled to the hills and stayed hidden. They would have their rituals in secret. In time there would be some intermarriage between the conquerors and the conquered. The conquered people became known as faeries or Pixies after the people name thee Picts.
A complimentary mythos which I have never seen written anywhere else before was penned by Starhawk. Miria the star goddess is the primal creator she sees her reflection and falls in love with it and decides to create an other. The others starts out close and then slowly moves away. First he is the God of the hunt and then god of the crops. His intention is to reunite with the stargoddess. Miria has many connections. Marian is the sea goddess in Robert grave's work " White Goddess" There are a few other connections as well.
Leaving aside the myths and pseudo history this book has some great practical information for the beginning witch or magician. There are a gazillion exercises for both covens and solitaries to use. The range is from meditation, trancework, rituals, spells and group bonding exercises. These alone make the book very valuable to the beginner. Starhawk also traces her own development she started of like most of us reading books and doing it from there. She formed her own group , The Compost Coven. As leader she really got into the leadership role and sort of hogged it all. But she learned and grew out of it. She then went on to learn the Feri tradition from Victor and Cora Andersen. This is her primary model of spirituality. Starhawk would later found the Reclaiming movement.
There are several views of magic. Several magicians put forward the view that magic is causing a change in reality in accordance with ones will. Dion Fortune posited that magic is altering consciousness at will. Starhawk subscribes to Dion Fortune's view of magic. In the spell section and through out the book she gives techniques on raising energy and directing towards a magical goal. She gives techniques on making poppets and how to charge them. Starhawk is realistic about what magic can do. It will will not work miracles for you. Magic has limitations. Limitations are based on how much energy is required to reach a goal. Other energy currents which may hinder the reaching of a goal. Magic used as a transformation agent which forces our evolution seems to be the most realistic and effective magic.
Witchcraft is also about making things work for you. Tweeking it to meet your individual and group needs. Practical down to Earth leaving no room for a central or absolute authority to come in and tell you how to do things. Most witches work in covens or circles. These small groups are intimate, cozy, nourishing and involved. Witchcraft is not a passive religion. Gaining access to the divine is based on reaching states of ecstasy to alter your consciousness. Speaking of the mind Starhawk uses a modified Freudian/Jungian view of things. There is the Talking Mind which is our everyday conscious, the younger mind or our unconscious and Deep mind which functions as our higher self or connection to the divine. Accessing the deep mind via the unconscious mind is what magic is about.
The view of witchcraft is one of a transformational model. We transform our selves, our environment and our world.Starhawk is a staunch feminist and environmentalist. She uses her magic to change the situation. This comes through as she traces through the autobiographical elements of her life. The beginning witch or just the casual reader should enjoy reading this book. If you wish to go further I would advise reading the back and delve into the bibliography and suggested reading.
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