Perhaps the best of the recent spate of books on witchcraft--though that in itself is very qualified praise--a lucid,...


THE SPIRAL DANCE: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess

Perhaps the best of the recent spate of books on witchcraft--though that in itself is very qualified praise--a lucid, appealing, and intermittently convincing survey. Starhawk (a.k.a. Miriam Simos) is herself a prominent witch and feminist, and, yes, publication is scheduled for Halloween, but there's more to this than a defense of the Craft against the usual objections, plus a large supply of do-it-yourself exercises and rituals. Starhawk sketches out a broad philosophy of harmony with nature, of human concord, sexual liberation, creativity, and healthy pleasure, as expressed and celebrated in freewheeling worship of the universe. She makes a good case for this worship as an eminently sane way to live, showing how it blends in with political and social concerns, and how, despite some exotic trappings, it relates to the banal needs and worries of everyday life. Starhawk, unlike some other witches who have broken into print, is sensible, well-informed, and has a sense of humor. But her argument is still riddled with problems. What ""ancient religion"" is she talking about in her substitle? There was no single ""great goddess"" in antiquity, and eclectic attempts to fuse Asherah, Diana, and the Virgin Mary together simply won't work. Witchcraft claims to have a great tradition, but its history is obscure (Starhawk absurdly claims that nine million people have been executed as witches), and its cultural heritage is hopelessly fragmented. Starhawk makes a brave attempt to present it as an organic whole, but, like the various spells and services she offers as models, witchcraft in contemporary America is an essentially artificial farrago of Greek mystery religions, bits of Christianity, European folklore, pop psychology, and Tolkienesque poetry. The moral impulse behind it (in Starhawk's case, at least) is splendid, but the roots look as if they came out of a kit, instead of the ground. Still, the Craft is a movement with a future, and this is a good introduction to it.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979

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