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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

October 11th, 2004

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11:10 am - Spiraling down. . .
Recently, I came upon a question that seemed extremely pertinent, though you may disagree.

It appears that part of the idea of the Spiral Dance is to emulate the structure of the universe.** If this is the case, then it's lacking something.

Most importantly, the universe isn't really built on a spiral. At least, no one seems to claim it is. There are open universes and closed universes, universes shaped like saddles and like boxes.

So, really, if the Spiral Dance is emulating anything, it's emulating our own galaxy, not our universe.

If that is the case (and we'll ignore the idea that primitive man was unlikely to have a concept of "galaxies" and "universes" that comes remotely close to modern concepts), then is the Spiral Dance a useful construct for worship in galaxies that are not spiral in shape?

I know, it sounds stupid. I realize that people will consider the question moot, as we aren't in another galaxy; but I think we should think about it anyway, if for no other reason than so we can realise what we're tapping into.

Some ideas I was thinking about:

1) If Paganism truly is earth-based, and perhaps bound to this planet, then the point really is moot.

2) I've never seen Paganism as an Earth-centered spirituality, though. I've always seen it as a cosmically-centered spirituality, in which we order the cosmos around us in ritual, and sometimes including a strong sense of certain locative elements, such as the "Great Chain of Being", the "Seven Planes of Existence", or dealing directly with the sun, moon, and stars. If we're cosmically oriented, perhaps the point is moot again, and we create the cosmos in whatever way we see fit.

3) Part of ritual is a recreation of sacred space, and that might very well mean invoking patterns that are familiar to humans. It's easier to work a rite if we are dealing with these patterns. It's entirely possible that humans, being creatures of this galaxy, will only ever see the patterns of the universe as spirals, and so we may be forced to, even when we're several galaxies away, continue to utilize the same metaphors and ritual keys.

4) Invoking a spiral worldview might be a way to connect to the ancestral homelands that Earth will/has become.

5) Perhaps developing alternate views of the cosmos now might inform our Paganism in a new, more interesting way. Should we consider ways of seeing the universe that reflect, say, binary stars, or nebulae, or black holes? Would these rituals be effective on Earth?

At the moment, it's all kind of half-formed speculation and question, but I find it interesting and fun to think about. Honestly, though, if that last question is fully explored, I think we might see an explosion in magical thought.



p. 17, Starhawk. Spiral Dance. "they became aware of the pulsating rhythm that infuses all life, the dance of the double spiral, of whirling into being and whirling out again."

p. 17, Starhawk. Spiral Dance. "The spiral dance was seen also in the sky: in the moon, who monthly dies and is reborn; in the sun, whose waxing light brings warmth and whose waning brings the chill of winter."
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: "Everlasting Moon", -JB

(18 comments Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 08:15 am (UTC)
I've always thought of the spiral the way Phillip carr Gomm describes it, which is the influence of our past and our ancestors on hte present. There's a nice diagram in Druidry (which he edited or compiled or somethign).
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 08:16 am (UTC)
Ooh. I'll have to dig into that. :) Thanks for the pointer.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 08:32 am (UTC)
Huh. I always thought of the spiral dance as more being about DNA (hey, Wicca was founded around the same time the double helix was first photographed, so in my mind, I guess I put the two together). I was thinking it was on a microscopic level of creation, not a macroscopic.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 08:38 am (UTC)
Well, she does talk about a "double spiral", but honestly, this is one of my problems with Starhawk: "Do it; you don't need to know why." All her exercises, while good exercises, don't tell you why they're done that way. From her descriptions, I'm assuming that she does indeed intend it on a macrocosmic level.

Of course, there's also the whole "the microcosm is the macrocosm" argument, and that's a whole other bag o' nails.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 11:23 am (UTC)

Paganism not Earth-centered?

I've heard this before, that some modern Pagans don't view paganism as solely Earth centered. Yet, in my (somewhat limited) study, I've never found any basis in old tales or myths that the gods were anything other than Earth centered, although I've heard modern interpretations of old myths and stories that are quite colored by this (Conspiracy theories on the book of Ezekiel in the OT and alien encounters come to mind here).

As for myself, I don't think it really matters - the gods are real, and I experience them here, on Earth. But I am interested - what is your basis for believing that Paganism isn't solely Earth centered?
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 01:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Paganism not Earth-centered?

Basically, I believe that the rites and rituals surrounding Paganism are not about making the earth sacred. . . it already is. They're not about connecting with the earth. . . we tend to believe that we cannot be extracted from it and from nature.

Rather, the rituals are about ordering (or dis-ordering, in the case of certain Pagans) the cosmos.

We deal with "Great Chains of Being", which are, if you want a creative visualisation, like big chains that hang down from the planets, and they run up through the spheres, and we pull on those chains in order to affect things on earth.

We deal with the "7 Planes of Existence", in which you move something on another plane, and it ripples through the cosmos with various intensities.

We work in a constant awareness of heavenly bodies and their influences on the earth, not the earth's influences on the bodies.

We point to places that are not of this earth, Otherworlds and Underworlds from whence we derive knowledge and power. These aren't really a part of Earth, they're completely other realms within the cosmos.

And when we're doing magic, we're working on re-shaping our total reality, which includes the entire cosmos, in order to manifest our will.

I've never, ever met a Pagan who claimed to believe that their "power" or magic was derived solely from the earth. Listen to them talk about what ritual does and how magic works, and you'll find them talking about the cosmos, not the earth.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 02:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Paganism not Earth-centered?

I think it depends upon what you emphasize in your expression of Paganism and your point of view - are you emphasizing the working of magic or worship? I also think that the working of magic is not solely the realm of Pagans, though other traditions may call it something differently (anyone who has attended a skillfully done Catholic Mass and not experienced the magical currents in the air is clearly not paying attention, IMO).

While I think that the working of magic taps into universal currents that transend this Earth (and I agree with you on this point), worship or commune with diety is an entirely different thing. As I understand Druidic ritual (and ADF ritual specifically), rites of worship seem to speak to reconnecting to our ancestors or to the gods of specific pantheons, both of which seem to be local to the Earth. They are also very definite about reconnecting modern man with the Earth. The eight festivals we celebrate are Earth bound, at least according to their meanings as I understand them, being harvest festivals or marking the passage of time of a lunar year. What would the marking of a lunar year mean to a being not on the Earth? What would a god of the harvest mean to a being that gains nourishment in an entirely different way? What would a goddess of music mean to a being without the ability to hear?

I concede that various dieties may manifest themselves differently to beings on other worlds, but my own experience with diety, my rites of worship and interactions with them are bound to me being a human being on earth. So, while the working of magic is universal, the experience of worship and commune with diety would be local.

Of course, I could be completly wrong - but it's an interesting line of thinking.
Date:October 11th, 2004 01:34 pm (UTC)
pleased to meet you. while i believe there are certain cosmic things, they are like way out there in the cosmos. any power or magick i have or do comes from my own energy and the energies i can actually connect to, which would be the earth and any related energies (water, fire, etc.)

i'd love to be able to draw down energy from the pleiedes, but since i can neither spell it nor even really see them, i'll stick with mama earth.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 01:53 pm (UTC)
Does your work only affect earth? Does it move into, say, an astral plane, or even an other world? I'd suggest that those involve cosmos, not the earth.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 03:55 pm (UTC)

Astral vs Cosmos

I'd argue that the astral plane is separate from the physical universe, rather than being equivalent to the "cosmos".

And I don't think you can make any universal statement about whether modern pagans are Earth-centered, though I think most are.
Date:October 12th, 2004 06:51 am (UTC)
as far as i know it only affects earth, or the people thereon. if it does any of that other fancy-shmancy stuff, cool, but i'm largely uninterested in that.

i'm borderline interested in astrology, i'll admit, but only because 1. it's fun, and 2. i found a cool way to merge that and a tarot reading for personal insight. i'm way heavily skeptical about it though, and since i tend to be rather Jungian in my approach to these things (your favorite, i know :) i tend to believe its the symbols speaking to my subconscious rather than any grand messages or influences from on high. (hm...maybe i'll describe that for a future Oak Leaves?)

the only other 'cosmic' thing i bother taking into consideration might be phase of the moon and sun, but even that is more for timing than any kind of influence thing.

i'm pretty damn practical earthbound neo-pagan hippie hoodoo heathen druid :) i need something shorter to say though....PEN-PHHHD?
(Deleted comment)
Date:October 12th, 2004 07:43 am (UTC)

Re: planet-centered

Mmmm. Sweet, delicious worms. When we discuss Reconstructionist religions versus plain old 1950's inspired Neo-Paganism, I think we're going to find that it's always going to be earth-based. We, our gods, and our ancestors, are integrally a part of Earth, and there's no changing that. We were born here, and unless the scientologists are right (snerk), we originated here. Regardless of where we go, we'll always be "earth people."

If we were to migrate to other planets, we'd have a whole new set of things to learn. If there weren't other 'gods' there would at least be a new set of land spirits to get acquainted with.

Regarding the Astral nitpicking.... It could be that there are nine worlds for nine planets; it could also be that the nine worlds (coming from a Norse perspective) exist as alternate plains of existence which are of earth but definitely aren't a part of the physical world.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:October 12th, 2004 07:58 pm (UTC)


Hasn't a tenth planet been discovered by now?
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 09:37 pm (UTC)
Starhawk's The Spiral Dance, and the exercises therein, are mostly inspired by the Faery/Feri Tradition as taught by Victor and Cora Anderson circa the late '70s, when Starhawk was trained and initiated. A lot of the "whys" to the exercises are pretty self-evident once you do them -- they're about experiencing the divine and reaching ecstacy.

Victor focused a lot on the universe being the body of a living being -- the Star Goddess; universe and galaxy were probably used interchangably. There was also a focus on there being a connection to the human DNA strain with this spiral imagery. There are no "seven planes of existence" in Faery lore/metaphysics, so Starhawk would not have any inclusion or ritual focus with this. And I'd definitely say that within the context of the Spiral Dance, Paganism is an Earth-centered spirituality, as well as cosmically centered.

I should also mention that when Starhawk wrote The Spiral Dance she released what was considered at the time pretty protected material, and that made a lot of Faery initiates very uncomfortable and some outright angry -- but Starhawk apparently did it innocently/unintentionally.

Faery student
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2004 10:27 pm (UTC)


Interesting; reading Spiral Dance I always felt like I was missing the backstory of just what Faery Wicca actually is. I think I got more of that answer from your three paragraphs than from the entire book.

The part about experiencing the divine and reaching ecstasy reminds me that the most powerful ritual I've ever experienced was put on by the Reclaiming group that Starhawk co-founded.
[User Picture]
Date:October 12th, 2004 09:10 am (UTC)

Re: Faery

I should also point out that the Faery tradition is by no means Wicca. It is what Victor calls "Witchcraft before Gardner got it all wrong."

Here's a short essay by an initiate of the tradition pointing out why and how Wicca and Faery Craft are not the same: http://feritradition.org/witcheye/feriandwicca.html
Date:October 12th, 2004 12:27 pm (UTC)
i always thought the spiral dance was more about going inward and then outward (like a labyrinth, kinda). In to the deeper mysteries of life or whatever one is seeking, then back out. i never had a cosmic or other connection to it.
Date:October 12th, 2004 04:34 pm (UTC)
Interesting question. I was wandering the other day whether we would find Kindred on Mars and Venus, and how we would interact with them.

To me, Paganism is very much about interacting and appreciating the world around you. So I think that if I lived on another planet, it would be very different.

There's practical considerations, as well. Different seasons would mean you may need different celebrations. And my well wouldn't be too effective in a zero gravity environment.

A friend of mine once wrote this story where human religions had gone into space, converting the natives. I remember the evangelist who the story was about accidentally condemned same sex relationships, on a planet inhabited by hermaphrodites. Soon after they all converted to Wicca. This isn't relevant to anything, but now I'm imagining Druids in space.

There's never a spaceship around when you need one.

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