As a young Jewish girl with an intuitive interest in religion, Miriam chose to go to Hebrew School even into her high school years. On her first visit to Israel however, she decided she was an atheist, taking the first of a long series of steps of rebellion regarding religion, spirituality, sexuality and politics. A number of years later, reflecting on the destructive, patriarchal, power-based relationships prevalent in the modern world, she would write:
“Estrangement is the culmination of a long historical process. Its roots lie in the Bronze-Age shift from matrifocal, Earth-centered cultures whose religions centered on the Goddess and Gods embodied in nature, to patriarchal urban cultures of conquest, whose Gods inspired and supported war. Yahweh of the Old Testament is a prime example, promising His Chosen People dominion over plant and animal life, and over other peoples who they were encouraged to invade and conquer. Christianity deepened the split, establishing a duality between spirit and matter that identified flesh, nature, woman, and sexuality, with the Devil and the forces of evil. God was envisioned as male – uncontaminated by the processes of birth, nurturing, growth, menstruation, and decay of the flesh. He was removed from this world to a transcendent realm of spirit somewhere else. Goodness and true value were removed from nature and the world as well.”1
The Jewish girl, Miriam Simos, had become Starhawk—Pagan, practitioner of “the craft,” witch.
What would you say is your inheritance from your Jewish lineage?
What I take from it, culturally, is all those things that make you who you are: how you talk; the sense of humor; appreciation of intelligence and intellectual freedom; a sense of ethics and justice. Also, that religion is about what you do and not just about what you say or believe. What you do should be about creating a just world. I feel that that got ingrained in me.
Do you feel that your activism regarding Palestine and part of your feelings about it, even though it is also an American and global issue, come from your being Jewish?
Definitely. I’ve felt a special responsibility to the issue because of being a Jew, because so much of that issue is bound up around the question of Israel, the land, and Jews going back to take the land, and what we as a people have done to another people in the name of taking back “our land.”
Everyone is called to step out of looking for only their own interests and really look at the world in a broader way. I feel really strongly that if we don’t do this as a people, particularly around the issue of Israel and Palestine right now, that it will be devastating ultimately for Judaism. The real depth and richness of Judaism will get funneled into this rigid, autocratic, and often militaristic view of what Judaism is supposed to be. Such a view doesn’t have the spiritual heart and depth that a religion needs to survive, and that will lead people to do things that are overtly cruel and unjust.
Starhawk is an author of many works celebrating the Goddess movement and Earth-based, feminist spirituality. She is a peace, environmental, and global justice activist and trainer, a permaculture designer and teacher, a Pagan and Witch.
Books: The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups, The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred Thing.
Videos of talks and latest information on Starhawk’s teaching schedule at: website: http://starhawk.org/