Starhawk (1951– ) American Witch, feminist, and peace activist whose popular books have influenced thousands of people to discover their inner power and spirituality and to join Witchcraft and Paganism. Starhawk is cofounder of reclaiming, an activist branch of Paganism.

Starhawk holds a master’s degree in psychology from Antioch West University. She was taught Witchcraft while she was a student in college. most of Starhawk’s awakening and spiritual knowledge came in shamanic fashion from her own dream and trance experiences.

Starhawk had a Jewish upbringing (her grandparents were Orthodox Jews) that emphasized intellectual freedom. By the 1960s, she saw no future for women in Judaism—there were not yet any women rabbis. In the late 1960s, while attending college, she undertook an anthropology project on witchcraft. She met women who practiced Celtic Witchcraft and realized that Witchcraft reflected her own beliefs.

In 1975, she moved to San Francisco, where she met Victor Anderson, founder of the Faery tradition, at a Covenant of the Goddess meeting. She asked to study with him and later was initiated by him into the Faery tradition.

She practiced as a solitary for years before forming her first Coven, Compost, from a group of men and women who attended a class in Witchcraft that she taught at the Bay Area Center for Alternative Education in the San Francisco area. After organizing, the coven performed a formal initiation ceremony.

She formed another coven, Honeysuckle, comprised entirely of women. rituals for both covens were based on the Faery tradition. Though feminist, her rituals included men and led to an increasing contact between feminist women and men in Witchcraft and Paganism.

Starhawk has taught at several Bay Area colleges. From 1993 to 1996 she was a lecturer at the Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College in Oakland, run by a Dominican priest matthew Fox. In 1988, Cardinal Joseph ratzinger attempted to have her ousted from the faculty as part of the silencing of Fox for his nonconformist views on creation spirituality.

Starhawk campaigns for a new political agenda for sacred values: peace, a community that honors diversity, family unity, self-determination, sound environmental practices, and social justice. She lives part-time in San Francisco and part-time in Sonoma County, where she practices permaculture (permanent agriculture). She travels internationally to lecture and give workshops. With Penny Livingston-Stark and Erik Ohlsen, she coteaches EAT, Earth Activist Training, a seminar on permaculture, political activism, and Earth-based spirituality. She sees environmentalism as vitally important to Paganism, which celebrates the sacred embodied in the Earth and the human community.

Her first book, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (1979), was based on the Faery tradition and was widely acclaimed throughout Paganism. Special editions were published for the book’s 10th and 20th anniversaries, in which Starhawk discussed the evolution of the broader Pagan movement and compared it to similar traditions among Native Americans, African-Americans, and indigenous peoples.

Her other published nonfiction books are Dreaming the Dark (1982); Truth or Dare: Encounters of Power, Authority and Mystery (1987), which won the media Alliance meritorious Achievement Award for nonfiction in 1988; Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Tradition, with Anne Hill and Diane Baker (1998); The Twelve Swans: A Journey to the Realms of Magic, Healing and Action (2000), coauthored with Hilary Valentine; and The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature (2004). Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising (2003) is a collection of her political essays that won the Nautilus Award from the trade association NAPrA in the year it was published. She is a contributor to the anthology The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (1997).

Film and documentary credits include her work as a consultant for Goddess Remembered and The Burning Times, and coauthorship with Donna read of the commentary for Full Circle, all produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Starhawk and read formed their own film company, Belili Productions. Their first film, Signs Out of Time (2004), featured the life of archaeologist marija Gimbutas.

Her fiction credits include The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993), winner of the Lambda award for best Gay and Lesbian Science Fiction in 1994, and Walking to Mercury (1997). In addition Starhawk has recorded several CDs based on her teachings. She has written songs and chants used by others in Rituals.

Further Reading:

  • Hopman, Ellen Evert, and Lawrence Bond. Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans and Witches Today. rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 2002.
  • Starhawk official Web site. Available online. UrL: https:// Downloaded November 2, 2007.


The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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