Recently the Vatican requested that Father Matthew Fox stop writing and lecturing.  Fox, a priest of the Dominican order, is the author of three books and founder and head of the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College, Oakland, California.  Father Fox has responded with an irate denunciation of the Vatican.

Brother Ratzinger

His feelings are expressed in a “pastoral letter” to “Brother Ratzinger” in the magazine Creation, November/December 1988.  Despite the fraternal address, Cardinal Ratzinger is portrayed as a dumb and evil “Inquisitor.”

Creation spirituality appears to be Father Fox’s branch of the “New Age” movement.  It developed, he says, from his original studies in France where he specialized in medieval mystical writers.  Today he has incorporated into it the American experiences of the last twenty years. These include civil rights issues, Vietnam protests, liberation theology, feminism and homosexuality.  Far Eastern, Near Eastern and native “spiritualities;” and, above all, concern about the environment and Mother Earth.  The purpose of Creation Spirituality is to develop an ever deeper compassion, a compassion of which the current “sin-oriented” Christianity of Rome is said to know little or nothing.

The Vatican

The Vatican’s point is that Father Fox’s amalgam is no longer in touch with authentic Christianity and contradicts some of its basic points of belief.

Father Fox replies that as far has he is concerned written critiques of his position are not merely pieces of “hate literature”  their authors do not merely suffer from “creeping fascism” their sources are not merely “theologically illiterate fanatics who behave like religious thugs” but that the whole construct of the “European” church is sick to its very heart.  He makes it clear that today the only salvation for First World Christianity is by way of American-oriented Creation Spirituality, as taught and developed by Father Fox.


A Canadian follower of Father Fox is Father Stephen Dunn, a Passionist priest and professor of Christian Ethics, St. Michael’s Faculty of Theology, Toronto School of Theology.  His academic field includes “ecological ethics” while his spirituality includes the “Cosmic Mass” and liturgical prayers directed to Mother Earth.  During the summer of 1988, he addressed the Calgary convention of the Catholic homosexual organization, Dignity, on the relationship between the current planetary condition and the health and spirituality of homosexuals.


Among the many diverse sources for “Creation Spirituality” and its attempt to find a New Cosmology for our times is witchcraft.  A devotee of this “spirituality” is Starhawk, who teaches at Father Fox’s Institute Witchcraft provides Creation Spirituality with an emphasis on the sensual, a characteristic which Father Fox finds lacking in the modern world.

The New Cosmology, as Father Fox understands it, is the coming together of “our creation story,” of “mysticism” and of “art.”  The artist “must awaken us through music, dance, dreams, massage, native rituals and current rituals” to the mystic.  Hence, Starhawks, rituals as described below.


Starhawk came to my attention when I noticed her name listed as a faculty member for a Matthew Fox workshop at the University of British Columbia in July.  The leaflet said that this “Creation Spirituality Workshop” was sponsored by Friend of Creation Spirituality Inc., Naramata Centre (United Church of Canada) and Wood Lake Books Inc.  I assumed she might be a native Indian and thought nothing more of it until I remembered her name listed in a significant book by Dr. Donald G. Bloesch entitled “The Battle for the Trinity.”   She was described by Dr. Bloesch as one of the “revolutionary or radical feminists who regard Christianity as incurably patriarchal and sexist and who therefore opt for a new religion, one that proves to be a form of nature mysticism.”

In reading Starhawk’s book Spiral Dance, I was shocked to discover that she is a self-declared practicing witch.  She has also written two other books on witchcraft – Dreaming in the Dark and Truth or Dare.  The back cover of Spiral Dance describes her as the “…founder of two covens in San Francisco, California.  “Starhawk, (original name Miriam Simos) is a licensed minister of the witchcraft church called “The Covenant of the Goddess.”

Some people are shocked when you describe someone as a witch.  Yet his is a name that Starhawk freely accepts and uses in describing herself.  In Spiral Dance, she comments:

“The word ‘witch’ carries so many negative connotations that many people wonder why we use the word at all.  Yet to reclaim this word ‘witch’ is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful as man, to know the feminine within as divine.”

In defending the use of Starhawk at a supposedly Christian conference, several apologists said that Starhawk is not really so much into witchcraft; rather she is part of the Wicca tradition.  Matthew Fox himself says in the December 1987 issue of the Anglican Magazine that “it (presumably Creation Spirituality) is a gift of the wicca tradition.”

Reverend Gary Patterson, Conference Minister for the United Church B.C. Conference, defended Starhawk in a letter to Brighouse United Church by saying that “Reverence for creation is a basic belief for the Wicca faith, and in these times of ecological crises in the church, as it reexamines its own understanding of creation, ‘having dominion over’ stewardship, etc., can be enriched by this dialogue.”

The word “wicca” according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is just the Old English spelling for the word witch.  The alternate word, “wicce” is the French feminine noun for witch.  To claim a distinction between wicca and witchcraft is either the result of naivety or intentional deception.

Witchcraft and the Church

The July Conference was widely advertised in mainline church circles.  Several people argued that having an avowed witch as a faculty member of Matthew Fox’s workshop is a form of inter-faith dialogue.  The Rev. Gary Patterson holds that such conversations with Starhawk the witch “…hopefully will help us be better Christians.”  Mathew Fox said in his magazine Creation (Nov/Dec. 1985), “I have no desire to become a witch but I have no doubt that there is a wisdom to learn from that tradition for I have tasted it in our encounters.”

The concept of inter-faith dialogue has value, when clearly defined with strict guidelines to avoid inter-faith syncretism.  TO hide Starhawk’s involvement in Matthew Fox’s workshop behind the guise of inter-faith dialogue is to do a disservice to the concept.  At the very least, the conference leaflet should have let people know that she is an avowed ordained witch.  Not to do this is to invite people to hear her under false premises.

Matthew Fox said in the Anglican interview:

“I am just pleased to be here with my kind of people.  That is to say, a motley crew, like myself – not easily categorized.  Combinations of artists, social activists, feminists, witches and Catholics, protestants, ex-this, ex-that.  This is the kind of grassroots group where the action is happening.”

Inter-faith dialogue

Even though Matthew Fox is very popular in certain theological circles, his syncretistic inclusion of witches as part of his “grass-roots” group makes one wonder what has happened to him.  In Starhawk’s Truth or Dare, Matthew Fox publicly endorses this book, describing it on the back cover as “an important contribution to the development of that ‘deep ecumenism’ which is required if we are to have a spirituality which can speak to the urgent needs of Mother Earth and her children.”

To describe a book on witchcraft as a form of “deep ecumenism” is an insult and setback to true ecumenism in the twentieth century.  Ecumenical relations between churches will not be fostered by encouraging the involvement of witches.

The only hint in the conference leaflet at her being an avowed practicing witch was contained in the word “theaologies” next to Sharhawk’s name.  Starhawk explains that the word “thealogy” is “a word coined by religious scholar Naomi Goldenberg from ‘thea,’ the Greek word for Goddess.  Dr. Donald Bloesch noted in his book that “Goldenberg calls for a restoration of the religion of witchcraft, which is more in tune with the cycles of nature.”

Once again we see that possible conference attendees were not alerted to what they’re opening themselves up to.  “If Matthew Fox were honest, he would openly admit in his workshop promotional leaflet that Starhawk is an avowed witch.”

Liturgical nudity

It’s very trendy among certain United Church and even Anglican people to experiment with so-called “inter-faith worship.”  I’m wondering how far they may be willing to go á la Starhawk in light of her emphasis on liturgical nudity.  In her book Spiral Dance, nudity is mentioned as part of witchcraft worship.  She notes that “witches worship naked for several reasons: as a way of establishing closeness and dropping social masks, because power is most easily raised that way, and because the human body is itself sacred.  Nakedness is a sign that a witch’s loyalty is to the truth before any ideology or any comforting illusions.”

Starhawk notes that it is her private, not public, coven ceremonies that are done naked.  She describes ritual nudity as “sky clad” ceremonies.

“Sixteen howling echoes took up every cry, frenzied, mocking voices that became, in the dim light, the pursuing Furies of our own minds, taunting, laughing, screaming – then vanishing like wisps of smoke. By the end we were stamping, shouting – seventeen stark-naked adults jumping up and down yelling ‘No! No! No! No!’

The relationship between nudity and sexuality is alluded to, but never definitively.  Starhawk does not say conclusively whether sexual relations actually occur during the witchcraft rituals. A symbolic expression of sexuality is found in The Charge of the Goddess where:

“…the apprentice is brought back to the altar.  The High Priestess kneels, and gives her the five-fold kiss on the parts of the body named, saying “Blessed are your feet, that have brought you in these ways.  Blessed are your knees, that kneel at the sacred altar.  Blessed is your sex, without which we would not be.  Blessed are your breasts, formed in strength and beauty.  Blessed are your lips which shall speak the sacred names.”

Starhawk says that the Horned God of witchcraft is “untamed sexuality – but sexuality as a deep, holy, connecting power.”  She claims that the Horned God that witches worship is not the devil for they don’t believe in the devil. She says:

“Our God wears horns – but they are the waxing and waning crescent of the Goddess moon, and the symbol of animal vitality.  In some aspects he is black, not because he is dreadful or fearful but because darkness and the night are times of power and part of the cycles of time.”

Starhawk holds that “The Horned God….is born of a Virgin Mother.”  She teaches that the Horned God “is the goat – Pan, lust and fear, the animal emotions that are also the festering powers of human life.”  She writes that it is “only through the bittersweet realization, through the embrace of Pan whose hairy thighs rub us raw even as they bring us ecstasy, can we learn to be fully alive.”

From my perspective, if the so-called Horned God is not the devil referred to in the Bible, he’s a remarkably good look-alike.

Feminist Subversion

One of the most disturbing links in the book is between radical feminism, gay liberation and witchcraft.  At first the link appears too shocking to be true.  But in Dreaming in the Dark, Starhawk endorses the vital role gay liberation is called to play in forwarding movements like witchcraft.  She say, “That is why the movements for lesbian and gay liberation are threatening – and why they are vitally important for any real movement for change.”

Starhawk claims “In the women’s movement, Dianic/separatistic Witchcraft has become the fashion …She claims on the back cover that witchcraft is….a religion with special relevance to the women’s movement.

Starhawk comments:

“At the present time, there are many all-women covens devoted to the practice of Women’s Mysteries.  There are very few all-male covens; the ones I know of are gay, and are more devoted to the Goddess than to the Horned God.”

Why is the link between radical feminism and witchcraft so significant?  The reason is because the feminist movement has made such inroads into the mainline churches, and may unwittingly serve as a “Trojan Horse” in introducing witchcraft rituals into the Christian church.  Dr. Donald Bloesch believes that:

“…such radical Feminist theology is only the tip of the iceberg.  It is only one manifestation of the resurgence of the pre-Christian gods of ancient mythology, the gods of the barbarian tribes, as they seek to make a comeback in a time when our culture languishes in a metaphysical vacuum.”

To dialogue and learn form Starhawk the witch is to further the current subversion of both the Holy Trinity and the centrality and uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  Starhawk says in The Spiral Dance:

“Witchcraft also means losing the ‘Great Man’ model of spirituality.  Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses and the whole horde of preachers, prophets, gurus and group leaders who claim to teach in their own names, or the names of secular descendants, lose their halos…In fact there is no more God the Father.  In the Craft, the cosmos is no longer modeled on external male control.  The hierarchy is dissolved; the heavenly chain of command is broken; the divinely revealed texts are seen as poetry not truth.”

Starhawk clearly subverts these basics of the Christian Faith: the Holy Trinity, the centrality of Jesus Christ, the Fatherhood of God, and the Truth/Authority of the Bible.  In particular, the Trinity is being subverted in a bisexual Mother/Father polytheistic deity.

Christian feminists need to be aware of the agenda of the radical feminists when they start praying to the mother goddess. We are dealing with a revival of the godless religion of the fertility cults of the ancient Near East (Baalism) and the Gnostic goddess of the early Christian heresy.

Even more serious than a revival of Baalism and Gnosticism through the feminist/witchcraft link is the introduction of occult Hinduism in its classical monistic form.  C.S. Lewis once said that there are really just two ultimate religions in the world, Judeo-Christianity and Hinduism.  Starhawk’s witchcraft is deeply in debt to Hinduism with its emphasis on reincarnation and monism.  The Spiral Dance, Starhawk teaches that reincarnation:

“…it is seen as the great gift of the Goddess, who is manifest in the physical world.  Life and the world are not separate from the Godhead; they are immanent divinity;”  Earlier in the same book, Starhawk teaches that “The Goddess is not separate from the world – she is the world, and all thing in it.”  And finally, Starhawk writes, “I am Goddess. You are God, Goddess.”

To accept such monistic teaching is to signal the end of biblical Christianity.  She is not merely saying the God is in us but that we are God.

Witchcraft and the Bible

The final defense of Starhawk by certain church people is that she is a “white witch” and therefore, it’s okay to invite her to an ostensibly Christian conference.  This defense is based upon the fact that Starhawk is an ecumenical, social-justice witch.  As Starhawk puts it, “Meditation on the balance of nature might be considered a spiritual act in witchcraft, but not as much as would cleaning up garbage left at a campsite or marching to protest an unsafe nuclear plant.”

I am obviously not arguing that Starhawk is a Satanist.  But all witchcraft, whether supposedly black or white, is rejected in Scripture as contrary to God’s intention for His creation.  Witchcraft, according to the Bible, may be used for ostensibly good purposes, but witchcraft in all forms remains repugnant to the God of the Bible.

Here are just a few passages in Scripture defining witchcraft as a sin and repugnant to God: Leviticus 19:26B, Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 18:10, 1, Chronicles 10:13-14, Zechariah 10:21, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Malachi 3:5, Acts 5:9-24, Acts 16:16-24, Acts 19:19, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 22:14-15.

As Galatians 5:19 clearly puts it, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious.”  They include witchcraft (v.20).  The Bible concludes in verse 21 by saying, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

In conclusion, bringing Starhawk the witch into an ostensibly Christian conference advertised widely in the Christian Church is repugnant to the Word of God and the Historic traditions of God’s Church.  I encourage Matthew Fox to reconsider this practice for the sake of the credibility of his own ministry.  As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.” (Matthew 5:4)