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Starhawk IV On Spirituality & Political Activism

Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Aug. 30, 2004

Pagan Priestess Starhawk Draws Connection Between Spirituality and Political Activism

- Interview with Starhawk, pagan priestess and nonviolent direct action organizer, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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Starhawk is perhaps the best-known pagan priestess in America. She defines pagans as those who understand the earth as a living entity of which all life forms are a part, including human beings. She believes the earth and its inhabitants are under assault largely due to policies being carried out by the U.S. government.

Starhawk's spiritual work is focused on trying to bring about social justice through her writings and participation in non-violent direct action at summit meetings of major political and economic powers, such as the G-8, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus recently spoke with Starhawk in New Haven, Conn., before she spoke at an event sponsored by Democracy Uprising, a march of more than 60 people that began in Boston at the end of the Democratic National Convention in July, and which is due to arrive in New York City a few days before the start of the Republican Convention. The group promotes local activism and independence from the two-party system. Here, Starhawk discusses the relationship between spirituality and political activism and her work on behalf of the non-violent struggle for justice in Palestine.

Starhawk: Before I was a pagan, I was born and raised a Jew, and very much identify with that as a tradition and my ancestors -- very steeped in Jewish culture and history, Jewish love for Israel, the youth group tour to Israel when I was 15. As I became more and more aware of the injustice that was going on in that part of the world, I felt very called to do something. And when I learned about a group called the International Solidarity Movement that was actually doing non-violent resistance in Palestine, and supporting the forces within Palestinian society that wanted to wage a non-violent struggle, that wanted to develop civil resistance. I felt like that was a little ray of light, a ray of hope. So I’ve been over there four times with the ISM in different situations, basically attempting to do things from helping support people who are organizing demonstrations against the wall, most recently -- the wall that Israel is building that cuts deeply into Palestinian territory. I was there in situations in refugee camps that were under siege, trying to be kind of a protective force, walking women to the clinic when they had to go out and there was still curfew and tanks in the street, sitting with people when their homes were being searched, just trying to be a witness and a presence to help lower the level of violence that was going on.

Between The Lines: What kind of impact do you think that work has had? Do you think you were in fact protecting people?

Starhawk: It seemed at times like our presence was helping to de-escalate some of the potential violence. Certainly people there seemed to feel more protected when we were there. I think it’s also very important for them to see that internationals are there, that someone is witnessing this. They would always ask, "Come, take a picture. Go home, tell people what’s happening." They very much want the injustices to be seen.

Between The Lines: Have you appeared at any other point along the way with the Democracy Uprising: DNC2RNC march?

Starhawk: This is the first time I’ve been able to come up here for the march.

Between The Lines: What do you think about the approach they’ve taken and the effort they’re making to raise awareness along the way?

Starhawk: I think the march is a beautiful thing. It’s very impressive that people have the dedication and the commitment to go so far and walk so far. And certainly in this age where everything goes on the Internet and on TV and on sound bites, and done electronically, there’s something very powerful about saying, "We’re going to just walk and talk to people, and raise awareness that way." I think it has a very powerful impact on people.

Between The Lines: Do you have time for one more question? Where do you think the spiritual core is for a lot of people? Do you think that more and more people are coming to see that as an important piece of what would make their lives fulfilling? Or do you think people, in America at least, are getting more and more caught up in survival, or collecting more toys? Do you see it going one way or the other?

Starhawk: I think a lot of people here in this country are really hungry for something deeply meaningful and deeply spiritual, and honest in their lives, and deeply, deeply hungry for community. And I think it’s important that when we’re doing political work that we understand that what we’re talking about is not just which face we’re going to see on TV for the next four years. We’re talking about the deepest values that people hold about what life should be about and how we should organize our lives and how we should be living together and living on this planet. And when we speak to people on this deep level, I think people do respond. When we look at our own movements and say, well, we have to be a community for each other if we’re going to welcome people into a community and into a vision of a world that’s going to offer something better than what we have.

Starhawk's latest book is "Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising," published by New Society. For information on her writings and current activities, visit her website at

Related links:

"The International Solidarity Movement,"


Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( for the week ending Sept. 3, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

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