This is the religion I wish to follow (almost :) Some of the rituals suggested are a bit theatrical for me, and I do not think I would ever want to be naked in front of coven members, and I disagree when she says magick is best worked with a group. It is not a must-follow - most definitely not - however, I think it offers great insight that anyone would benefit from reading.
After reading this book several years ago, I realized that, despite my best efforts, I was never going to be a pagan.
Her first chapter gives over a history that most society with exceptions with matriarchal and worshiped the goddess.After all she was the one who gave birth. According to Starhawk and Murray, life in Europe and all over the world was matriarchal. Leaving aside the myths and pseudo history this book has some great practical information for the beginning witch or magician. Starhawk also traces her own development she started of like most of us reading books and doing it from there. But she learned and grew out of it. There are several views of magic. Several magicians put forward the view that magic is causing a change in reality in accordance with ones will. Starhawk subscribes to Dion Fortune's view of magic. In the spell section and through out the book she gives techniques on raising energy and directing towards a magical goal. Starhawk is realistic about what magic can do. Witchcraft is also about making things work for you. Most witches work in covens or circles. Speaking of the mind Starhawk uses a modified Freudian/Jungian view of things. The view of witchcraft is one of a transformational model.
And in the chapter text, I can totally get down with what she's talking about: a sex-positive, earth-based, power-from-within rather than power-over spirituality, recognizing our oneness with nature and each other, and valuing that oneness as sacred. What saves the book for me, however, is the fact that she talks about how personal this kind of spirituality is. It's a good book, but to me more of an inspirational example of what works for her and the ladies she practices with, than a guidebook explaining what neo-paganism/earth based religion is and should be.
This allows you to read how Starhawk's thought has developed in the decades since the book was published.
The Spiral Dance itself is as old as time.
That said, even if ancient goddess worship never existed (who knows?), Wicca and other modern day pagan belief systems are no less legitimate for it.
It seems that part of my journey is not only reading this book, but admitting I am a person who read this book.
Starhawk directs Earth Activist Training, (www.earthactivisttraining.org), teaching permaculture design grounded in spirit and with a focus on organizing and activism.