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Book Review: Starhawk's The Spiral Dance; A beginner's guide to open-mindedness

The discussion

Throughout our society, there have consistently been two conflicting realms: science and spirituality. A tumultuous discussion that tries vociferously to define our universe; this book delves into the various theories with an angle that invites both academic and concise thought and simultaneously encourages one to disparage any notion of the physical world in which we exist. Opening with a solid foundation that describes the histories behind religion, and bleeding into a thought-provoking analysis of Palaeolithic theories, it creates a gentle passage that promotes an open-minded perspective.


As children, we humans are highly in tune to the right hemispheres of our brain, as we grow, we are encouraged to forgo this attunement for logical process and grounded mentalities, in order to function in a highly grounded civilisation. In every sense of the word, The Spiral Dance takes us back to our roots; from where Palaeolithic theories originated to the moments in our lives in which whimsy, spirituality and openness came naturally. There are biased preachings of Pagan beliefs, and in-depth instructions for practices, however regardless of your faith or religious standing (or lack thereof), the discourse it offers is arguably an essential lesson in personal growth as well as free, creative thought.

A fictitious reality?

The author explores both poetic examples of a creationist story, which it maintains as being entirely subjective, and scientific grounds for the ebb and flow of our universe. The very subject matter of The Spiral Dance leaves its genre, or function, intriguingly ambiguous; based on the reader's personal beliefs this can read as either fiction or factual. Amazingly, the insight it offers is both valid and entertaining regardless of this. While the author maintains a specific spiritual stance, and this is evident throughout the book, it makes no assumptions that this stance is wholly correct or righteous, nor does it allude to any cultural or socio-economic restrictions.

The voice

Giving the reader an interesting perspective as to how oppressive religious rule has shaped our current society; this book provides an empowering message and self image, making us aware of our indoctrination. Some may write this off as a self-help book, a spiritual fantasy guide or a nonsensical assumption of the way our universe works, but to that I will say: because of the narrative, not the content per se, any reader will find it hard to pick apart the discourse and completely disregard the voice behind it. As previously stated, regardless of one's personal perspective, this book has a “little bit of everything”, for those wishing to expand their minds and even simply, learn something new.


The most promising factor in this whimsical short would easily be its undeniable relevance to humanity as a whole; demonstrating that from 35,000 years ago, to today, these components that the author maintains make up our universe, and the societal implications that surround them are highly evident. Comparing the Shamanistic beliefs and practises of Native American cultures to String Theory. With a highly chaotic world of heated discussions, conflicting faiths and antagonising discourses of power, The Spiral Dance poses itself as a little poetic respite, a liberal flow of ideas and exercises, an oasis of open thought and challenges to our indoctrinated mentalities, in which every single being capable of existential thought can garner something.


Starhawk.,. The Spiral Dance. [San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999. Print.

Written by Jennifer Richards


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