American author, activist and Neopagan
Starhawk (born Miriam Simos on 17 June 1951) is an American writer, social activist and pagan in the Reclaiming tradition.
- I am a witch, by which I mean that I am somebody who believes that the earth is sacred, and that women and women's bodies are one expression of that sacred being. My spirituality has always been linked to my feminism. Feminism is about challenging unequal power structures. So, it also means challenging inequalities in race, class, sexual preference. What we need to be doing is not just changing who holds power, but changing the way we conceive of power. There is the power we're all familiar with — power over. But there is another kind of power — power from within. For a woman, it is the power to be fertile either in terms of having babies or writing books or dancing or baking bread or being a great organizer. It is the kind of power that doesn't depend on depriving someone else.
- As quoted in Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion (1979) by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow
- Much of what is written on the craft is biased in one way or another, so weed out what is useful to you and ignore the rest. I see the next few years as being crucial in the transformation of our culture away from the patriarchal death cults and toward the love of life, of nature, of the female principle. The craft is only one path among the many opening up for women, and many of us will blaze new trails as we explore the uncharted country of our own interiors. The heritage, the culture, the knowledge of the ancient priestesses, healers, poets, singers, and seers were nearly lost, but a seed survived the flames that will blossom in a new age into thousands of flowers. The long sleep of Mother Goddess is ended. May She awaken in each of our hearts — Merry meet, merry part, and blessed be.
- As quoted in Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion (1979) by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow
- The witches, the wise women, and the healers were also always the counselors. It's a whole other tradition of knowledge and learning that has been suppressed because it had political implications.
- As quoted in The Burning Times (1990)
- Each being is sacred — meaning that each has inherent value that cannot be ranked in a hierarchy or compared to the value of another being.
- The Fifth Sacred Thing (1994), p. i
- Any ritual is an opportunity for transformation. To do a ritual, you must be willing to be transformed in some way. The inner willingness is what makes the ritual come alive and have power. If you aren't willing to be changed by the ritual, don't do it.
- As quoted in Infinity in Your Hand : A Guide for the Spiritually Curious (1994) by William H. Houff, p. 151
The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess (1979)Edit
- Spirituality leaps where science cannot yet follow, because science must always test and measure, and much of reality and human experience is immeasurable.
- In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess — we connect with her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all.
- Witchcraft offers the model of a religion of poetry, not theology. It presents metaphors, not doctrines, and leaves open the possibility of reconciliation of science and religion, of many ways of knowing.
- The Trickster represents the quality of randomness and chance in the universe, without which there could be no freedom. In the Craft the Goddess is not omnipotent. The cosmos is interesting rather than perfect, and everything is not part of some greater plan, nor is all necessarily under control. Understanding this keeps us humble, able to admit that we cannot know or control or define everything.
- Any creative work that is truly alive is influenced by a thousand chance factors in its generation.
- When power relations of domination are no longer the norm in society, and when men assume truly equal shares of all aspects of childrearing, perhaps we will be able to fully reclaim the nurturing aspects of the God. Until then, let us hope some men will begin this process by the way they lead their lives.
- One of the great disservices a culture of domination has done to all of us is to confuse the erotic with domination and violence. The God is wild, but his is the wildness of connection, not of domination. Wildness is not the same as violence. Gentleness and tenderness do not translate into wimpiness. When men — or women, for that matter — begin to unleash what is untamed in us, we need to remember that the first images and impulses we encounter will often be the stereotyped paths of power we have learned in a culture of domination. To become truly wild, we must not be sidetracked by the dramas of power-over, the seduction of addictions, or the thrill of control. We must go deeper.
- We need to fully feel and express our emotions without worrying that they are likely to cause harm to another. But intensely and obsessively brooding on one's anger or resentment is not a good thing to do.
- The Conqueror, whose core issue is safety splits us into Conqueror and Enemy/Victim, tells us, "Don't trust!" and generates fear, paranoia, distortions of reality, and the need to annihilate enemies. The Conqueror seduces us by making us feel special, sometimes grandiose and self-righteous, sometimes especially weak and victimized.
- The Judge, whose core issue is our sense of worth and value, splits us into Judge and Subject to be Judged. When possessed by the Judge, we live in a world of comparisons, competition, and punishment, constantly rate ourselves and others, feel jealousy and guilt. The Judge seduces us with the false promise that we can gain value if we obey, perform, produce.
- The Orderer, whose core issue is control, splits us into Controller and Out-of-Control selves, tells us "Don't Feel", and generates anxiety, rigidity, and addictions. The Orderer seduces us with the belief that order can be imposed from without, that the answer to chaos is more rigid order.
- The Censor, whose core issue is isolation and connection, splits us into Silencer and Secret-to-be-kept, tells us, "Don't speak of it; don't see it; you're the only one who ever felt that." Possessed by the Censor, we feel shame confusion, and blame, often for the victim, or we live in denial. The Censor deludes us with the belief that the pain we are in will go away if we don't name it or speak of it.
- This is the stillness behind motion, when time itself stops; the center is also the circumference of all. We are awake in the night. We turn the Wheel to bring the light. We call the sun from the womb of night. Blessed Be!
- The tide has turned!
The light will come again!
In a new dawn, in a new day,
The sun is rising!
Io! Evohe! Blessed Be!
Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics (1982)Edit
- Magic is another word that makes people uneasy, so I use it deliberately, because words they are comfortable with, the words that sound acceptable, rational, scientific, and intellectually sound, are comfortable precisely because they are the language of estrangement.
- Ch. 1 : Power-Over and Power-From-WIthin, p. 13
- When we practice magic we are always making connections, moving energy, identifying with other forms of being. Magic could be called the applied science that is based on an understanding of how energy makes patterns and patterns direct energy. To put it another way, at its heart is a paradox:
- Consciousness shapes reality;
- Reality shapes consciousness.
- Ch. 1 : Power-Over and Power-From-WIthin, p. 13
- To live with integrity in an unjust society we must work for justice. To walk with integrity through a landscape strewn with beer cans, we must stop and pick them up.
- Ch. 3 : The Ethics of Magic, p. 41
- Sexual integrity means honestly recognizing our own impulses and desires and honoring them, whether or not we choose to act on them. If we value integrity, we must also value diversity in sexual expression and orientation, recognizing that there is no one truth, or one way, that fits everyone.
Sexuality is sacred because through it we make a connection with another self — but it is misused and perverted when it becomes an arena of power-over, a means of treating another — or oneself — as an object.
- Ch. 3 : The Ethics of Magic, p. 41
- We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.
- Ch. 6 : Building Community : Processes for Groups, p. 92
Bodhi Tree lecture (1999)Edit
- Bodhi Tree Bookstore presentation (December 1999); this contains some passages from her book The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess.
- The Goddess religion asserts that the earth is alive, and that everything on the earth is part of a living being. We believe that you can celebrate life in many different images and forms, that life moves in cycles of birth and growth and death and rebirth, and that the same spirit moves through nature, through the cycles of the seasons, through the birth and growth and death of plants and animals, and through our lives as human beings. There is a multiplicity of images that you can draw upon for understanding and power, but the reason we focus on the goddess is partly to counterbalance the 5,000 years worth of focus on male holy images, and partly to affirm that bringing life into the world is sacred. Our goal is not to get out of the world or to get out of life, but to integrate it, to celebrate it, to embrace it fully, and to embrace all the different cycles within it
- I'm going to end with a vision I have for the winter solstice: There are bonfires everywhere strung along the beaches, blazing on twin peaks on all the high places. In the parks and on rooftops small groups gather around cauldrons. There are no mass meetings, only circles.
- The Spiral Dance is a seed planted twenty years ago. Over the last two decades, the goddess movement has grown from many seeds like a garden of long-life flowers and healing herbs. It's a big garden — I've tended only one corner of it.
- The word witch is related to the root of the word "willow," a very flexible tree. Since ancient times witches have been known as those who can bend or shape fate. We twist the energies. The idea of witch became synonymous with wise woman, and with others who were herbalists and healers and keepers of the old traditions after the advent of Christianity. We were the ones who really knew the land and knew what grew there, and how to use it.
- The god is Eros, but he is also Logos, the power of the mind. In witchcraft there is no opposition between the two. The bodily desire for union and the emotional desire for connection are transmuted into the intellectual desire for knowledge, which is also a form of union. Knowledge can be both analytic and synthetic; it can take these apart and look at differences, or form a pattern from unintegrated parts and see the whole.
- We join together to earth the power of the season and to slip between the worlds, the voices saying to every one of us, "Wake up, you are it, you are a part of the circle of the wise. There is no mystery that has not already been revealed to you. There is no power you do not already have. You share in all the love there is. The goddess awakens in infinite forms and a thousand disguises. She is found where she is least expected, appears out of nowhere and everywhere to illumine the open heart. She is singing, crying, moaning, wailing, shrieking, crooning to us, to be awake, to commit ourselves to life, to be a lover in the world and of the world, to join our voices in the single song of constant change and creation. For her law is to love all beings, and she is the cup of the drink of life. The circle is ever open, ever unbroken.
Toward an Activist Spirituality (2003)Edit
- Online text, from Reclaiming Quarterly (Fall 2003)
- No sane person with a life really wants to be a political activist. When activism is exciting, it tends to involve the risk of bodily harm or incarceration, and when it's safe, it is often tedious, dry, and boring. Activism tends to put one into contact with extremely unpleasant people, whether they are media interviewers, riot cops, or at times, your fellow activists. Not only that, it generates enormous feelings of frustration and rage, makes your throat sore from shouting, and hurts your feet.
Nonetheless, at this moment in history, we are called to act as if we truly believe that the Earth is a living, conscious being that we're part of, that human beings are interconnected and precious, and that liberty and justice for all is a desirable thing.
- When we founded Reclaiming two decades ago, our intention was to bring together the spiritual and the political. Or more accurately, some of us for whom the spiritual and the political were inseparable wanted to create a practice and community that reflected this integration.
Now, with the Bush forces pushing into an aggressive war, with horrific environmental and social problems left unaddressed, the need for activism is stronger than ever. The stakes have never been higher, and the sense of urgency is palpable.
- Spirituality and ritual are not something removed from the world, but are deeply embedded in it.
Reclaiming is founded on Earth-based spirituality, which rejects the split between spirit and matter, and claims nature and the physical, material world as equally sacred with the spirit.
- We don't ideologically believe in the separation of spirit and matter, but in practice, we still tend to think that things that are too material, too real-life, are somehow not as spiritual. So a trance to Faery is perceived as "spiritual," whereas a trance to a Brazilian favela slum is not. We can argue about the reality of Faery, but the favela is undeniably real. If we truly believe that our spirituality is about deep interconnectedness, maybe it's more important for us to grapple internally with the reality of the favela than to dance with the faeries.
- Much of our magic and our community work is about creating spaces of refuge from a harsh and often hostile world, safe places where people can heal and regenerate, renew our energies and learn new skills. In that work, we try to release guilt, rage, and frustration, and generally turn them into positive emotions.
Safety and refuge and healing are important aspects of spiritual community. But they are not the whole of spirituality. Feeling good is not the measure by which we should judge our spiritual work. Ritual is more than self-soothing activity.
Spirituality is also about challenge and disturbance, about pushing our edges and giving us the support we need to take great risks. The Goddess is not just a light, happy maiden or a nurturing mother. She is death as well as birth, dark as well as light, rage as well as compassion — and if we shy away from her fiercer embrace we undercut both her own power and our own growth.
- There are times when it is inappropriate to feel wholly good. Now is one of them. As the saying goes, "If you aren't angry, you aren't paying attention."
This doesn't mean that we need to be in a constant state of rage or irritability or guilt. It means we need to use our magical tools to face the stark and overwhelming realities that confront us, acknowledge our feelings, and transmute them into the energy we need for change.
- Everyone has the right to their own opinion about a ritual, and to their own aesthetics. There's generally at least one invocation in every ritual that I could personally do without.
- The water we hold sacred is not some abstract image or fantasy of Water, but the real stuff that we need to drink and bathe and grow our gardens, that provides the crucial habitat for fish and plants and thousands of other creatures, that is the Earth's literal life blood.
- Another common, unspoken assumption is that spirituality is about calm and peace, and conflict is unspiritual. Which of course makes it hard to integrate the spiritual with the political, which is all about conflict.
In New Age circles, a common slogan is that "What you resist, persists." Truly spiritual people are never supposed to be confrontational or adversarial — that would be perpetuating an unevolved, "us-them" dualism.
I don't know from what spiritual tradition the "what you resist, persists" slogan originated, but I often want to ask those who blithely repeat it, "What's your evidence?" When it is so patently obvious that what you don't resist persists like hell and spreads all over the place. In fact, good, strong, solid resistance may be the only thing that stands between us and hell. Hitler didn't persist because of the Resistance — he succeeded in taking over Germany and murdering millions because not enough people resisted.
- On some deep cosmic level, we are all one, and within us we each contain the potential for good and for destruction, for compassion and hate, for generosity and greed. But even if I acknowledge the full range of impulses within myself, that doesn't erase the differences between a person acting from compassion and love, and another choosing to act from hate and greed. Moreover, it doesn't erase my responsibility to challenge a system which furthers hate and greed. If I don't resist such a system, I am complicit in what it does. I join the perpetrators in oppressing the victims.
- I am often astonished at well-meaning, spiritual people who advocate beaming light toward world leaders, who scold activists for expressing anger toward authorities or police, who define compassion as loving the enemy — but somehow lose sight of the need to love our friends, our allies, and those who suffer at the hands of the perpetrators. I really don't feel much call to beam love and light at Bush or Cheney or the directors of the International Monetary Fund. Whether or not they suffer from lack of love is beyond me. From my perspective, they suffer from an excess of power, and I feel called to take it away from them. Because I do love the child in Iraq, the woman in the favela, the eighteen-year-old recruit to the Marines who never dreamed he was signing up to bomb civilians. I can't love them, or myself and my community, effectively if I can't articulate the real differences in interests and agendas between "us" and "them" — between those who have too little social power and those who have too much.
- Systems don't change easily. Systems try to maintain themselves, and seek equilibrium. To change a system, you need to shake it up, disrupt the equilibrium. That often requires conflict.
To me, conflict is a deeply spiritual place. It's the high-energy place where power meets power, where change and transformation can occur.
- Our magical tools and insights, our awareness of energies and allies on many planes, can deepen and inform our activism. And our activism can deepen our magic, by encouraging us to create ritual that speaks to the real challenges we face in the world, offers the healing and renewal we need to continue working, and a community that understands that spirit and action are one.