Keeping with the theme of my spirituality and strong women, I have to write about Starhawk.
Now, if I were to pick a favorite occult writer I would have to pick Scott Cunningham, because he gave me Wicca. But, to pick a writer who embodies the woman I want to be in her writing, it would be Starhawk.
She is one of the original voices of the goddess movement from the sixties, and an amazing, self-affirming voice, at that. Her first book, “The Spiral Dance” published when she was in her twenties and beginning to be active in the San Francisco pagan community. It is a beautifully written book on the rebirth of goddess religion in America with information on ways to practice and an overview of beliefs. Not only is it a book of witchcraft, it’s a book of feminism – being proud of our womanhood, celebrating ourselves in the image of the goddess. Starhawk holds a mirror up, forces us to look into it, and affirm, “I am beautiful. I am loved. I am a goddess.”
Favorite quotes from the book: (page numbers from 20th anniversary edition)
“The truth of our experience is valid whether it has roots thousands of years old or thirty minutes old…there is a mythic truth whose proof is shown not through references and footnotes but in the way it engages strong emotions, mobilizes deep life energies, and gives us a sense of history, purpose and place in the world.” p.4
“When you serve your passion, when you are willing to risk yourself for something, your creative energies released. Hard work is required, but nothing is more joyful than work infused by love.” p.11
“The goddess tradition opened up new possibilities. Now my body, in all its femaleness, its breasts, vulva, womb, and menstrual flow, was sacred. The wild power of nature, the intense pleasure of sexual intimacy, took center stage as paths to the sacred instead of being denied, denigrated, or seen as peripheral.” p.14
“True spirituality must also take us beyond the will, down into the realms of mystery, of letting go, of echoing questions rather than resounding answers.” p.19
“You cannot fall away from her – there is nowhere she is not.” p.24
“Witchcraft takes its teachings from nature, and reads inspiration in the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, the flight of birds, the slow growth of trees, and the cycles of the seasons.” p.27
“Certainly, the independent spirit of witchcraft is very much akin to the ideals of the Founding Fathers: for example, freedom of speech and worship, decentralized government, and the rights of the individual rather than the divine right of kings.” p.31
“The word ‘Witch’ carries so many negative connotations that many people wonder why we use it at all. Yet, to reclaim the word ‘witch’ is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful.” p.31
“Witchcraft has always been a religion of poetry, not theology.” p. 32
“The Goddess is not separate from the world – She IS the world, and things in it: moon, sun, earth, star, stone, seed, flowing river, wind, wave, leaf and branch, bud and blossom, fang and claw, woman and man.” p. 32
“Since the decline of goddess religions…women are not encouraged to explore their own strengths and realizations; they are taught to submit to male authority, to identify masculine perceptions are their spiritual ideals, to deny their bodies and sexuality, to fit their insights into a male mold.” p.33
“The image of the Goddess inspires women to see ourselves as divine, our bodies as sacred, the changing phases of our lives as holy, our aggression as healthy, our anger as purifying, and our power to nurture and create, but also to limit and destroy when necessary, as the very force that sustains all life.” p.34
Highlights p.36-37: “Love for life in all its forms is the basic ethic of witchcraft…the world is the manifestation of the Goddess, but nothing in that concept need foster passivity…what happens in the world is vitally important…meditation on the balance of nature might be considered a spiritual act in Witchcraft, but not as much as would cleaning up garbage left at a campsite or marching to protest an unsafe nuclear power plant…justice is an inner sense that each act brings about consequences that must be faced responsibly…Honor is a guiding principal in the craft…an inner sense of pride and self-respect…the Goddess, like nature, loves diversity…sexuality, as a direct expression of the life force, is seen as numinous and sacred…Life is valued and it is approached with an attitude of joy and wonder, as well as a sense of humor.”
“The Male and Female forces represent difference, yet they are not different, in essence: They are the same force flowing in opposite, but not opposed, directions.” p.51
“Creation did not happen once in a fixed point in time; it goes on eternally, occurring in each moment, revealed in the cycle of the year.” p.52
“In a world where the endlessly transforming, erotic dance of God and Goddess weaves radiant through all things, we who step to their rhythm are enraptured with the wonder and mystery of being.” p.56
Beyond witchcraft, Starhawk is also well known for being a respected voice in ecofeminism. According to Wikipedia:
“Ecofeminists argue that a strong parallel exists between the oppression and subordination of women in families and society and the degradation of nature through the construction of differences into conceptual binaries and ideological hierarchies that allow a systematic justification of domination (“power-over power”) by subjects classed into higher-ranking categories over objects classed into lower-ranking categories (e.g. man over woman, culture over nature, white over black). They also explore the intersectionality between [[sexism], the domination of nature, racism, speciesism, and other characteristics of social inequality. In some of their current work, ecofeminists argue that the capitalist and patriarchal systems that predominate throughout the world reveal a triple domination of the Global South (people who live in the Third World), women, and nature. This domination and exploitation of women, of poorly resourced peoples and of nature sits at the core of the ecofeminist analysis.”
Years back, I attended the Wednesday night meetings down at First UU for the CUUPs program. After moving away to Nashville, and then coming home, I haven’t made it back due to my work schedule (though I’d like to). I do try to attend the public rituals there because they’re so beautiful, giving me a sense of community that I don’t always get on my solitary path. Anyway, Starhawk was a part of the movement in Unitarian Universalist churches to have Pagan faiths incorporated. If not for her, we might not now have CUUPs.
In Starhawk’s words, “Reclaiming is an activist tradition.” Brought into existence in 1979 by Starhawk and Diane Baker, it is an “international community of women and men working to combine earth-based spirituality and political activism” (wiki). They work against the destruction of the earth in non-violent ways.
Starhawk’s Mini-Documentary on Reclaiming’s Spiral Dance ritual:
Reclaiming’s website : http://www.reclaiming.org/
Maybe the most feminist collection attached to Starhawk is the Women’s Spirituality trilogy : “Goddess Remembered”, “The Burning Times”, and “Full Circle”, three hour long DVDs of feminism and spirituality directed by Donna Read. Together with my coven trio, Ann and Bev, we watched these over the course of a few weeks and I can’t even put into words how my heart was touched. Much recommended. I’m looking to purchase them myself, and when I do, I’ll write up a review for the blog after watching them again.
For thirty years straight, Starhawk has worked to better the world, not only for women and spirituality, but everybody. We should all strive to care as she does, to work towards a better future.