‘An Analysis of Starhawk and the Witchcraft Revival’


Incourage Magazine, Published by Barnabas Anglican Ministries of Canada (An Anglican Essentials Partner)

Volume 2 Number 4, October-December 1988 (17 years later)

by the Rev Ed Hird, Rector of St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver (ACiC)

Starhawk came to my attention a few months ago when I noticed her name listed as a faculty member of a ‘Matthew Fox’ workshop from July 10th to July 15th 1988 at U.B.C. (University of British Columbia).  The leaflet said that this ‘Creation Spirituality Workshop’ was sponsored by ‘Friends of Creation Spirituality Inc., Naramata Centre – (United Church of Canada) Wood Lake Books Inc.  I assumed she might be a native Indian and thought nothing more of it until I remembered her name listed in the significant book by Dr. Donald G. Bloesch entitled ‘The Battle for the Trinity’.  She was described by Dr. Bloesch as one of “the revolutionary or radical feminists who regard Christianity as incurably patriarchal and sexist and who therefore opt for a new religion, one that proves to be a form of nature mysticism.”  I tried to find her book ‘Spiral Dance’ in Christian and secular bookstores without success.  Finally I discovered it at only one store in town:  Banyen Books, the well-known occult/new-age bookstore in Vancouver.

In reading Starhawk’s book ‘Spiral Dance’, I was shocked to discover that she was not just a nature mystic.  She was a self-declared practicing witch.  Starhawk has also written two other books on Witchcraft entitled ‘Dreaming in the Dark’ (1982) and ‘Truth or Dare’ (1987).  The back cover of ‘Spiral Dance’ describes Starhawk as the “...founder of two covens in San Francisco, California.”  Starhawk (original name Miriam Simos) is a licensed minister of the witchcraft church called “The Covenant of the Goddess”.   The book is described on the back cover as a “highly informative, poetic, and extremely readable overview of the growth, suppression, and modern-day re-emergence of witchcraft as a religion with special relevance to the women’s movement.”  The book is listed on the back cover under “Women’s Studies” and in the Library of Congress Cataloguing under ‘Witchcraft’.

Some people are shocked when you describe someone as a witch.  Yet this is a name that Starhawk freely accepts and uses in describing herself.  On the back cover of her second book ‘Dreaming in the Dark’, it says “...in Dreaming in the Dark, Starhawk, the witch, brings her mystic gifts to the burning social concerns of the day.”  On page 135 of the same book, Starhawk says very clearly, “We are witches”.   On page 7 of ‘Spiral Dance’, Starhawk comments: “The word ‘Witch’ carries so many negative connotations that many people wonder why we use the word at all.  Yet to reclaim the word ‘Witch’ is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful; as men, to know the feminine within as divine.”  Starhawk even quotes Malleus Maleficarium: “To disbelieve in witchcraft is the greatest of all heresies” (page 2 Spiral Dance).

In defending the appearance of Starhawk at a supposedly Christian conference, several apologists said that Starhawk is not really so much into witchcraft; rather she is part of the Wicca tradition.  Matthew Fox himself said in the December 1987 issue of the ‘Anglican Magazine (Canada) that “it (presumably Creation Spirituality) is a gift of the wicca tradition”.  Reverend Gary Paterson, Conference Minister for the United Church B.C. Conference, defended Starhawk in a letter to Brighouse United Church by saying that “Reverend for creation is a basic belief for the Wicca faith, and in these times of ecological crises in the church, as it re-examines its own understanding of creation, “having dominion over” stewardship, etc. can be enriched by this dialogue.”  The word ‘wicca’, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is just the old English spelling for the word ‘witch’.  The alternative word ‘wicce’ is the French feminine noun for witch.  To claim a distinction between wicca and witchcraft is either the result of naivety or intentional deception.

Witchcraft and the Church

This Summer of 1988 ‘Matthew Fox/Starhawk’ Conference has been widely advertised in mainline church circles.  I personally have been sent mailouts of the conference leaflet from three different church sources, including twice from the now defunct Anglican Bookshop.  Several people have defended such practices by saying that having an avowed witch as a faculty member of Matthew Fox’s workshop is a form of interfaith dialogue.  The Rev. Gary Paterson of the BC United Church Conference Office holds that such conversations with Starhawk the witch “...hopefully will help us be better Christians.”  Matthew Fox said in his magazine, “Creation” (Volume 1, No. 5 Nov/Dec. 1985): “I have no desire to become a witch but I have no doubt that there is a wisdom to learn from that tradition for I have tasted it in our encounters.”

I believe that the concept of interfaith dialogue has value, when clearly defined, with strict guidelines to avoid interfaith syncretism.  To hide Starhawk’s involvement in Matthew Fox’s workshop behind the guise of interfaith dialogue is to do a disservice to the concept.  At the very least, the conference leaflet should have let people know that she was an avowed ordained witch.  To not do this is to invite people to hear her under false premises.

Matthew Fox said in the Anglican Magazine (December 1987) that “I (Matthew Fox) am just pleased to be here with my kind of people.  This is to say, a motley crew, like myself – not easily categorized.  Combinations of artists, social activists, feminists, witches, and catholics, protestants, ex-this, ex-that.  This is the kind of grass-roots group where the action is happening.”   Even though Matthew Fox is very popular in certain theological circles, his syncretistic inclusion of witches as part of his ‘grass-roots group’ makes me wonder what happened to Matthew Fox.  In Starhawk’s latest witchcraft book entitled ‘Truth or Dare’ (1987), Matthew Fox publicly endorses this book on the back cover describing it as “...an important contribution to the development of that deep ecumenism which is required if we are to have a spirituality which can speak to the urgent needs of Mother Earth and her children”.  To describe a book on witchcraft as a form of ‘deep ecumenism’ is an insult and setback to true ecumenism.  Ecumenical relations between churches will not be fostered by encouraging the involvement of witches.

The only hint in the conference leaflet of her being an avowed practicing witch was contained in the word ‘thealogies’ next to Starhawk’s name.  Starhawk (page 11) says that the word ‘thealogy’ is “a word coined by religious scholar Naomi Goldenberg from ‘thea’, the Greek word for Goddess”.  Dr. Donald Bloesch noted on page 11 of his book that “Naomi Goldenberg calls for a restoration of the religion of witchcraft, which is more in tune with the cycles of nature.”  Once again we see that possible conference attenders are not alerted to what they’re opening themselves up to.  If Matthew Fox was honest, he would openly admit in his workshop promotional leaflet that Starhawk is an avowed witch.

Liturgical Nudity

It is very trendy among certain United Church and even Anglican people to experiment with so-called ‘interfaith worship’.  I’m wondering how far they may be willing to go a-la Starhawk, in light of Starhawk’s emphasis on liturgical nudity.  In over six different references in her book ‘Spiral Dances’, nudity is mentioned as part of witchcraft worship.  On page 83, Starhawk notes that “witches worship naked for several reasons: as a way of establishing closeness and dropping social masks, because power is most easily raised that way, and because the human body is itself sacred.  Nakedness is a sign that a Witch’s loyalty is to the truth before any ideology or any comforting illusions”.  On page 46, Starhawk describes ritual nudity as ‘skyclad’ ceremonies.  Starhawk notes that it is her private, not public, coven ceremonies that are done naked.  An example of a sky-clad ceremony is given on page 38: “Sixteen howling echoes took up every cry, frenzied, mocking voices that became, in the dim light, the pursing Furies of our own minds, taunting, laughing, screaming, -- then vanishing like wisps of smoke.  By the end we were stamping, shouting – seventeen stark-naked adults, jumping up and down, yelling No! No! No! No! No!”  On page 76 in the ‘Charge of the Goddess’, the Great Mother says: “You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free, you shall be naked in your rites.”

The relationship between nudity and sexuality is alluded to, but never definitively.  Starhawk does not seem to say in this book whether sexual relations actually occur during the witchcraft rituals.  A symbolic expression of sexuality is found on page 163 where “the apprentice is brought back to the altar.  The High Priestess kneels, and gives her the five-fold kiss, on the parts of the body named, saying Blessed are your feet that have brought you in these ways.  Blessed is your sex without which we would not be.  Blessed are your breasts, formed in strength and beauty. Blessed are your lips, which shall speak the sacred names.”  On page 94, Starhawk says that the Horned God of witchcraft is “untamed sexuality – but sexuality as a deep, holy, connecting power.”  Starhawk claims that the Horned God that witches worship is not the devil, for they don’t believe in the devil.  She says that “our God wears horns – but they are the waxing and waning crescents of the Goddess Moon, and the symbol of animal vitality.  In some aspects, he is black, not because he is dreadful or fearful, but because darkness and the night are times of power, and part of the cycles of time.”  Starhawk holds that “The Horned God...is born of a Virgin Mother” (page 96).  On page 1000, she teaches that the Horned God “is the goat – Pan, lust and fear, the animal emotions that are also the festering powers of human life.”  Starhawk writes that “only through that bittersweet realization, through the embrace of Pan whose hairy thighs rub us raw even as they bring us to ecstasy, can we learn to be fully alive.”  From my perspective, if the so-called Horned God is not the devil referenced to in the bible, he’s a remarkably good look-alike.

The Feminist Subversion

One of the most disturbing links in the book is between radical feminism, gay liberation, and witchcraft.  At first the link appears too shocking to be true.  But on page 141 of ‘Dreaming in the Dark’, Starhawk endorses the vital role gay liberation is called to play in forwarding movements like witchcraft.  She says “that is why the movements for lesbian and gay liberation are threatening – and why they are vitally important for any real movement for change.”  Starhawk claims that “In the women’s movement, Dianic/separatistic Witchcraft has become the fashion...” (page 95)  She claims on the back cover that witchcraft is “...a religion with special relevance to the women’s movement”.  Starhawk comments that “At the present time, there are very few all-male covens; the ones I know of are gay, and more devoted to the Goddess than to the Horned God”. (page 106)

Why is the link between radical feminism and witchcraft so significant?  The reason is because the feminist movement has made such inroads into the so-called ‘mainline churches’, and may unwillingly serve as a ‘Trojan Horse’ in introducing witchcraft rituals into the Christian church.   Dr. Donald Bloesch believes that such radical Feminist theology is “only the tip of the iceberg.  It is only one manifestation of the resurgence of the pre-Christian gods of ancient mythology, the gods of the barbarian tribes, as they seek to make a comeback in a time when our culture languishes in a metaphysical vacuum”. (page 12)

The Battle For the Trinity

To dialogue and learn from Starhawk the witch is to further the current subversion of both the Holy Trinity, and the centrality and uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  Starhawk says on page 101 that “Witchcraft also means losing the Great Man model of spirituality.  Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses and the whole horde of preachers, prophets, gurus, and group leaders who claim to teach in their own names, or the names of secular descendants, lose their halos...in fact there is no more God the Father.  In the Craft, the cosmos is no longer modeled on external male control.  The hierarchy is dissolved; the divinely revealed texts are seen as poetry, not truth”. (page 101) 

Starhawk clearly subverts these basics of the Christian Faith: the Holy Trinity, the centrality of Jesus Christ, the Fatherhood of God, and the Truth and Authority of the Bible.  In particular, the Trinity is subverted in a bisexual Mother/Father polytheistic deity.  Christian feminists need to be aware of the agenda of many radical feminists when they start praying to the mother goddess.  We are dealing with a revival of the goddess religion of the fertility cults of the ancient Near East (Baalism) and the Gnostic goddess of early Christian heresy.  Dr. Donald Bloesch notes on page 9 that “In Christian tradition it was the Gnostics who spoke of God as both Father and Mother and conceived of God as bisexual – the feminine element being the Eternal Silence and the masculine the Primal Depth (Bythos).  In Gnostic speculation, the feminine dimension of the sacred was also represented by the Holy Spirit and Wisdom (Sophia) and the masculine by the Demi-urge, an inferior deity, the creator of our particular world; the last was often equated with Jehovah, the God of Israel.”

Monistic Syncretism

Even more serious than a revival of Baalism and Gnosticism through the feminist/witchcraft link is the introduction of occult Hinduism in its classical monistic form.  C.S. Lewis once said that there are really just two ultimate religions in the world, Judeo-Christianity and Hinduism.  The Witchcraft of Starhawk is deeply in debt to Hinduism, with its emphasis on reincarnation (page 27) and monism.  Starhawk teaches that reincarnation “is seen as the great gift of the Goddess, who is manifest in the physical world.  Life and the world are not separate from the world – she is the world, and all things in it.” (page 8)  And finally in page 2, Starhawk writes: “I am Goddess.  You are God, Goddess”.  To accept such monistic teaching is to signal the end of biblical Christianity.  She is not merely saying that God is in us but that we are God.  As Dr. Donald Bloesch puts it on page 41, “Whenever biblical theism is threatened by philosophical monism, whether this takes the form of pantheism or panentheism, theologians must be vigilant in reaffirming the biblical principle of the infinite qualitative difference between God and the world...and the absolute sovereignty of God over His creation.”

Witchcraft and the Bible

The final defense of Starhawk by certain church people is that she is a ‘white witch’; therefore it’s okay to invite her to an ostensibly Christian conference.  This defense is based upon the fact that Starhawk is an ecumenical, social justice witch.  As Starhawk puts it, “Meditation on the balance of nature might be considered a spiritual act in witchcraft, but not as much as cleaning up garbage left at a camp site or marching to protest an unsafe nuclear plant.”  I am obviously arguing that Starhawk is a Satanist.  But all witchcraft, whether supposedly black or white, is rejected in Scripture as contrary to God’s intention for His creation.  Witchcraft, according to the Bible, may be used for ostensibly good purposes, but witchcraft in all its forms remains repugnant to the God of the Bible.  Here are just a few of the innumerable passages in Scripture defining witchcraft as a sin and repugnant to God. (Leviticus 19:26b, Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 18:10, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14; Zechariah 10:2, Jeremiah 27:9-10, Malachi 3:5, Acts 8:9-24, Acts 16:16-24, Acts 19:19, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 22:14-15).  As Galatians 5:19 clearly puts it, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious”. They include witchcraft (vs. 20).  The Bible concludes in vs. 21 by saying “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God”.

In conclusion, bringing Starhawk the Witch into an ostensibly Christian conference advertised widely in the Christian Church is repugnant to the Word of God and the historic traditions of God’s Church.  I encourage Matthew Fox to reconsider this practice for the sake of the credibility of his own ministry.  As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 5:24).

The Rev. Ed Hird

Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Coalition in Canada


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