The Fifth Sacred Thing by StarhawkThe Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk

The Fifth Sacred Thing


Paperback | June 1, 1994

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An epic tale of freedom and slavery, love and war, and the potential futures of humankind tells of a twenty-first century California clan caught between two clashing worlds, one based on tolerance, the other on repression.

Declaration of the Four Sacred Things

The earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water, and earth.

Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of a Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves became the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws, and our purposes must be judged. no one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.

All people, all living things, are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit flourish in its full diversity.

To honor the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honor the sacred is to make love possible.

To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.

Praise for The Fifth Sacred Thing

“This is wisdom wrapped in drama.”—Tom Hayden, California state senator

“Starhawk makes the jump to fiction quite smoothly with this memorable first novel.”Locus

“Totally captivating . . . a vision of the paradigm shift that is essential for our very survival as a species on this planet.”—Elinor Gadon, author of The Once and Future Goddess

“This strong debut fits well against feminist futuristic, utopic, and dystopic works by the likes of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ursula LeGuin, and Margaret Atwood.”Library Journal
Starhawk, author of The Fifth Sacred Thing and Walking to Mercury, lives with her husband, stepchildren, and Goddess-children in San Francisco, where she works with the Reclaiming collective.
Title:The Fifth Sacred ThingFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:496 pages, 9.18 × 6.08 × 1.22 inShipping dimensions:9.18 × 6.08 × 1.22 inPublished:June 1, 1994Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553373803

ISBN - 13:9780553373806


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magical, Riveting Dystopia Although Starhawk wrote this book some time ago, the future is now and it's not pretty. What is beautiful is the writing, the pervasive sense of hope and some concrete ways to engage in resistance.
Date published: 2018-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Starhawk's book is a breathtaking blend of dystopia and utopia. She creates an America that is frighteningly real when corporations take over and the land is ruined, water is scarce and air is polluted. It is in this world that she gives us hope; a group who fought against the corporate take-over create a utopia in San Francisco where everyone of all walks of life and religion are welcome. The most powerful aspect of this book is the way Starhawk can frighten you and build suspense and then turn the tables and show you beauty, sexuality, and love. This book changed my life in a lot ways. I can't recommend it enough.
Date published: 2015-09-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great piece of fiction There's complex characters in this utopian view of a futuristic world where the practical, magickal, and the spiritual intertwine as a force to be reckoned with. This story dares to delve into the darkest parts of humanity while challenging that very deep stain with the strength and visions of revolutionary hearts so reminiscent of the 1960s. Already a Pagan literary icon, Starhawk once again proves her writing might as a fiction author. "The Fifth Sacred Thing" is a Pagan's pleasure to read, though its not without its own pitfalls. The novel hinges on the infallibility of Starhawk's belief in the power of "passive resistance." Yet, in reality, wrongdoers are never so easily swayed--or even see themselves in the wrong. Still, despite this theoretical glitch, the story is still a gem that has the courage to go places many other authors wouldn't.
Date published: 2009-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing. I've read this book countless times, its just an amazing book. Its given me a new outlook on a lot of things, very very inspiring. I think theres a part in it that relates to everyone, one way or another. I recommend it frequently.
Date published: 2006-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hope for the future This new age fictional story is fabulous. It depicts a place where various cultures, religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations all live together and work together to utilize the scarce resources of the planet. At the same time in another location people live in the same sort of standard we presently are and experience nothing but violence and discrimination. I found it inspiring and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good story let alone a reason to hope for the future.
Date published: 2004-06-03

Read from the Book

In the dry time of year, the dangerous time, the risk time, an old woman climbed a hill. Like most people in the southern part of the city, she called the season El Tiempo de la Segadora, the Time of the Reaper. The hills were dry, the gardens dependent on the dwindling waters of cisterns, the rains still weeks away. A time of ripening, but not yet of harvesting, when nothing was certain.   She climbed the hill as she had once climbed mountains, one step at a time, planting her stick firmly in front of her and letting it bear her weight as she hoisted herself up. She was ninety-eight years old, born at the midpoint of the twentieth century. Two more years, and she would see the midpoint of the twenty-first. In her day she had climbed many things: Sierran peaks, pyramids, chain-link fences, the way back from despair to hope. And this hill, looming up above the southern corner of the city, rising like a pregnant belly above the green patchwork of houses and gardens and paths and the blue waters of San Francisco Bay. By Goddess, she could still make it up this hill!   Maya stopped to catch her breath. Around her was a moving throng of people, dressed in the greens and golds of the season, gossiping happily or chanting solemnly according to temperament. They carried baskets of offerings: bread and fruit and cheese, fresh vegetables from the gardens.   Below stretched a panorama of sculpted hills crowned by toy houses, cradling the aging skyscrapers that rose from the low ground beside the bay. The city was a mosaic of jewel-like colors set in green, veined by streams and dotted with gleaming ponds and pools. Seen from above, blocks of old row houses defined streets that no longer existed. Instead, bicycles and electric carts and the occasional horse moved through a labyrinth of narrow walkways that snaked and twined through the green. Above the rooftops, gondolas like gaily painted buckets swung from cables, skimming from hilltop to hilltop, moving between high towers where windspinners turned. To the northeast, Maya could see a long train moving across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge, bringing early grain to the central market. Beyond, the blades of the wind generators atop the Golden Gate Bridge seemed suspended in midair, their supports invisible under a gray shroud of fog.   Beautiful, Maya thought. She had adored the city ever since her first glimpse of it in the Summer of Love, more than eighty years before. She had been seventeen then, enchanted by the fog concealing and revealing mysteries like the veils of an exotic dancer, delighted by the crowded streets where people seemed to be perpetually in costume: gypsies, pirates, Indians, sorceresses skipping down the sidewalks to the strains of the Beatles singing “Love, Love, Love.”   You have been my most constant love, she told the city silently. Not monogamous but never unfaithful, sometimes a bit tawdry but never boring. And you haven’t gone and died on me yet, like the others.   “Love is all you need.” The song played in her mind. But the Beatles misled us, she said to the air, thick with the ghosts of her own dead lovers. It wasn’t all we needed. We wanted to love, freely and without barriers. We had to remake the world in order to do it.   Sighing, she continued up the steep incline. The truth is, she admitted, this is a hell of a climb for an old hag like me. I could have spared my strength, let Madrone visit the shrines.   The shrines to the Four Sacred Things encircled the base of the hill at the cardinal directions. Maya had made a laborious circuit. She left seeds of rare herbs at the earth shrine, feathers of seabirds and roosters at the air shrine. At the fire shrine, she gave white sage and black sage and cedar, and at the water shrine, she’d left a jar of rainwater saved from the first storms of the previous autumn.   But Madrone probably wouldn’t have time. I know how it goes, Maya grumbled. She’s probably up to her elbows in blood and vernix, lucky if she can dash up the hill at the last minute. I’m fussy in my old age. An Orthodox Pagan, I like these rituals done right: a leisurely visit to each shrine, a walk up the processional way, time to meditate, contemplate, trance out a bit.…   The path wound its way above the small reservoir dug into the side of the hill. Now she could hear the little stream that tumbled down a sculpted watercourse to feed the gardens along her own street. There were so many more gardens, these days. By necessity, now that the Central Valley farmlands were baked to rock by the heat and the fires.   Look at it! Maya paused again, breathing heavily. The city was a place of riotous flowers and clambering vines and trees, whose boughs were heavy with ripening fruit.   It looks so lush. She took a long, deep breath, then another. You’d think we had plenty of everything, plenty of land, plenty of water. Whereas we’ve simply learned how not to waste, how to use and reuse every drop, how to feed chickens on weeds and ducks on snails and let worms eat the garbage.   We’ve become such artists of unwaste we can almost compensate for the damage. Almost. If we don’t think about the bodies mummifying in mass graves over the East Bay hills. If we ignore the Stewards’ armies that may be gathering, for all we know, just over the border.   Well, we made our choice. She started uphill again. We chose food over weapons, and so here we sit, lovely but as unarmed as the Venus de Milo.   As she neared the crest, the path wound across the west side of the hill. In the distance, she could see Twin Peaks, poking above a patch of fog like two brown breasts sticking out of a milk bath. They reminded her of Johanna.   “You hear that, Johanna? Twin Peaks remind me of your breasts.”   Johanna, dead, did not answer, but thinking of her breasts made Maya think again of Johanna’s granddaughter. Madrone works too hard, Maya thought. All the healers do. But since Sandy’s death, she’s hardly stopped. She’ll be sick herself if she doesn’t get more rest. I wish she’d taken the day off, like she said she would, but then something always comes up.… Goddess, I hope we’re not in for another epidemic! Please, Mama, you wouldn’t do that to us again? We’re on your team, remember? We’re the good guys.   Where was Madrone?

From Our Editors

Here is an unforgettable epic that brilliantly dramatizes the choices we must make in order to insure the survial of our selves, our society, and our planet. This powerful novel of ideas and the future of human life itself is written by the bestselling author of The Spiral Dance

Editorial Reviews

“This is wisdom wrapped in drama.”—Tom Hayden, California state senator“Starhawk makes the jump to fiction quite smoothly with this memorable first novel.”—Locus“Totally captivating . . . a vision of the paradigm shift that is essential for our very survival as a species on this planet.”—Elinor Gadon, author of The Once and Future Goddess“This strong debut fits well against feminist futuristic, utopic, and dystopic works by the likes of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ursula LeGuin, and Margaret Atwood.”—Library Journal