Category Archives: Eclectic Wicca
The book The Spiral Dance is considered a classic in modern witchcraft literature. The author Starhawk put this book out at a time when there was little to no information published publicly on Witchcraft and people were starving for information. In the 35 years since the original release of The Spiral Dance many more books have been put on the market, but the Spiral Dance remains on the top of many recommended reading lists.
The one down side to this book is that it does focus heavily on the feminist movement and feminism. At the time the book was written the author was heavily involved in the feminist movement and feminist spirituality, so it makes sense that this book would reflect those interests and activities. This book is one of the reasons that religious witchcraft is considered to be “women’s religion”. The theme and focus throughout the book is the use of witchcraft and Goddess spirituality to reclaim women’s rights and women’s power.
The subtext to the title “The Spiral Dance” reads :”A rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess”. The text is a very apt description for the information that you find within the book. When you combine the focus on the Great Goddess with the feminist movement at the time you have a book that covers feminist witchcraft and feminist spirituality and why its important for the world we live in.
Now Starhawk does talk about why feminist spirituality like the Goddess movement is important to men and what Men can get out of the practice of witchcraft. So while the book is geared towards women and feminist spirituality, there are benefits described for Men and practices of Male witches discussed. The overall tone though is geared towards women and women’s mysteries.
This book is 13 chapters long. Each chapter has a specific lesson that expands on the information in the previous chapter. Within several of the chapters are easy to do exercises and meditations. These meditations and exercises are provided so that a solitary witch or someone seeking witchcraft can learn practices that will allow them to become witches in their own right.
Each chapter starts out with a ritual or a description of the practices found within the chapter to illustrate the lessons and information found within the chapter. Some of these stories are fictional and some of them are from experiences within the authors own coven settings. These personal experience illustrations form some of the most powerful aspects of the book allowing the reader to see what sort of experiences they may have in their own work while not telling them explicitly that these will be your experiences as well.
The first chapter completely discusses witchcraft as a Goddess focused religion. Here is where we first learn the concept of a Great Goddess and of feminist spirituality. The author also goes into the history of witchcraft and what exactly witchcraft is as a religion and a practice. Its a basic starting point illustrating the misconceptions and issues many people have with witchcraft.
The second chapter goes into the worldview of witchcraft. Every religion has a way of viewing the world. Here we re provided with a creation myth for the birth of the God and Goddess within this version of witchcraft as well as the essence of the Great Goddess. Here we are given the concept of the soul/spirit as well as the concepts of energy working and the view on the cosmos.
The third chapter talks about covens. Here we learn about the common structure of religious witchcraft and the way that this structure functions. The author illustrates both same sex covens as well as mixed gender covens and why coven structures work. The comparisson between covens and traditional religious structures provide ways for seekers and students to understand the functional differences between a church and a coven.
The fourth chapter discusses sacred space. One key component in witchcraft rituals is the creation of sacred space. This chapter provides several different ways of working this ritual as well as reasons behind the creation of sacred space.
The fifth chapter is all about the Goddess. This religious witchcraft tradition is Duotheistic meaning it focuses on the worship of a Goddess and a God. In this chapter we are introduced to the Goddess and her roles within the religion. We learn how to call her and how both men and women can relate to her.
The sixth chapter is all about the God. While the Goddess is the focus in the feminist version of witchcraft that the Spiral Dance teaches, the God is still important. This chapter illustrates the relationship between the Goddess and God and how they need each other and work together to be one.
The seventh chapter is all about the use of symbols within magic. Magic works through the use of symbols and directing energy related to those symbols. This chapter in the book has several different spells to try as well as exercises to develop your own understanding of symbols and your own association with symbols.
The eighth chapter is all about the Cone of power. This particular chapter focuses on Coven based workings, but the concepts of raising and directing energy in the shape of a cone is applicable to the solitary student. Here we understand what it means in witchcraft when the concept of energy direction and manipulation is discussed.
The ninth chapter is about trance work. The basic definition of magic given early in the book is the idea and the ability to change ones concious state at will. This chapter explores the use of trance and the reason why trance work is part of witchcraft. Basic meditation and trance concepts are addressed here and there are several different exercises within the chapter for trance work and meditation work.
The tenth chapter of the book focuses on initiation. Solitary witches who read this book will not get as much out of this chapter as a witch who is working for initiation within a coven or specific tradition. This chapter describes what it means to be initiated and provides a coven based initiation ritual as a sample.
The eleventh chapter in the book focuses on esbats or moon based rituals. Within witchcraft the moon is sacred and is revered as a symbol of the Goddess. Moon rituals are typically in many cases working rituals while sabbat rituals are more worship based. Moon rituals can be based on the full or new moons or other moon phases, though full and new are the most common.
The twelfth chapter in the book focuses on the wheel of the year or the sabbats and holiday celebrations of this tradition of witchcraft. Here the author provides sample rituals for ideas as to how to honor the sabbats as well as providing information on the lore and meanings behind the sabbats.
The final chapter of this book is focused on developing religion. Here the author explains the issues that can arrive when religions become based on dogma and established practices and don’t change. The author explains what exactly witchcraft as a religion is and how it has to continue to change and evolve in this modern world. Here we learn the dangers of thinking in strict absolute terms as well as in dualistic terms.
Despite the age, this book is useful. Its a good book for establishing witchcraft as a religion and explaining why religious witchcraft is so different than traditional religions. The book covers the basics and provides enough information that a solitary seeker man or women can start their own practice and create their own relationship with the God, Goddess, and the Great Goddess.
The book by Alexandra Chauran is an excellent book for beginners in Wicca and witchcraft. This book while it focuses on the aspect of working with animal spirits in magic and ritual also covers most of the basic concepts in Wicca. This book overall covers the 8 sabbats, spells, meditation, trance, and spirit work. The only aspect of Wicca that is not covered is deity worship which was not the focus of this book. By eliminating the focus on deity chants and the worship of deities the author was able to touch on basically all Wiccan principles and focus on the work of the book which is connecting spiritually with animal spirits.
One of the definitions of a witch is “One who has a familiar spirit”. In the media there have historically been images of cats, snakes, spider, and bats as witch familiars. Witches and animals who help them in their work have been a part of witch lore for centuries. Often times today modern witches wonder if the idea of working with a pet as a familiar comes from the witch trials or if it comes from an actual historical practice and if one can work with their pets as a magical ally.
The introduction of this book provides excellent insight into what sort of materials you will find within the book. The author first starts off by talking about her personal experiences with animals both spiritual and mundane. The author then goes on and explains what many of the benefits found in the book will be, Finally the author ends with providing a few different real life examples of people who have had experiences with animal familiars. The mixture of history, personal experiences (the authors and other people) and the exercises provide powerful insight to what this book has to offer.
The first chapter of this book covers the history of witches and familiars. The author covers stories from Shakespeare to a few tales of shape shifting in the witchtrials. The author covers here why witches have familiars, what they are, and a few of the forms they can appear in. This is the first time the author mentions the possibility of working not at all with physical animals but animals who may not exist such as Dragons, unicorns, Mythical serpents, and the like. Here we are introduced to the idea that the types of spirits witches can work with are not limited to just those who live and breathe in our worlds.
The second chapter is one that most modern witches and pet owners should really look into. This was the chapter that struck me the most. Like most witches I am an avid pet owner and I have worked some magic with my pets. This chapter in the book gave me new reasons to consider the possibilities of working with my pets within ritual and the home. The key points included in this chapter were things I might not have thought about such as adaptations that a witch may need to make in their practice to have their animals p[resent such as no incense for birds and the need to move altars to places where cats or dogs wont jump on them or knock over the candles and cause fire. The second chapter focused on animals within Pagan homes and how one can work ritual with them. The chapter ends with a simple spell that can be used to find more pagans who are pet friendly considering that some may have allergies and the like.
The third chapter is probably where the reader can most clearly see the Wiccan elements of the book. This is the chapter on actual rituals with pet familiars. Here the author discusses the basic components in Wiccan ritual and how you can work with animal familiars. The circle casting involves animal spirits rather than direct elemental spirits which can be a drastic change for most who practice Wiccan style rituals. After discussing the circle casting the author then provided several different types of spells and rituals that can be performed with pets or other animal familiars.The author then provides two different examples of how wildlife can be used and seen as a focus for the Wheel of the Year. There are sample rituals and concepts provided through out the chapter.
The fourth chapter discusses totem animals and how they can also be considered spirit familiars. The author starts this chapter off with a description of a Marine who got a wolf tattoo after his service. The author provides the story as an example of how as humans we can take on the characteristics of animals both positive and negative. The author the provides a few working examples of how we can use totem animals for strength and courage as well as other aspects we may need to bring out of ourselves in our day to day life. The author then goes into shape shifting as a historical practice and about how we can find our totem animals. Finally the author touches on animals as spirit guides and guardians in meditative work.
The fifth and final chapter in this book is a book on working with wildlife. Earlier in the book the author discussed and mentioned working with incarnate animal familiars. These are animal familiars who we may work with that are not physically present in our lives. Here the author talks about doing meditative practices outside in nature to connect with the animals. The author provides a few examples of how you can work in nature to work with wild animals as familiars and how you can give back to them.
Though this is a very short book each chapter provides significant information for a beginner to get started with. The chapters are concise while providing the needed information. This allows the reader to have a starting point for beginning their journey and allows them plenty of room to have their own experiences and develop their practices from there. This will allow people of any experience level to gain some insight from the book and be able to try new things.
Please comment and let me know if this book review was useful for you or not.