The Charge of the Goddess

(from The Spiral Dance by Starhawk)

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Ceridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid and by many other names:

"Whenever you have need of anything,
once in the month,
and better when the moon is full,
you shall assemble in some secret place
and adore the spirit of Me
who is Queen of all the Wise.
You shall be free from slavery,
and as a sign that you be free
you shall be naked in your rites.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and love,
all in My presence,
for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit
and Mine also is joy on earth.
For My law is love unto all beings.
Mine is the secret
that opens upon the door of youth,
and Mine is the cup of wine of life,
that is the Cauldron of Ceridwen
that is the holy grail of immortality.
I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal
and beyond death I give peace and freedom
and reunion with those that have gone before.
Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice,
for behold,
I am the mother of all things
and My love is poured upon the earth."

Hear the words of the Star Goddess,
the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven,
whose body encircles the universe:

"I who am the beauty of the green earth
and the white moon among stars
and the mysteries of the waters,
I call upon your soul to arise
and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature
that gives life to the universe.
From Me all things proceed
and unto Me they must return.
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices,
for behold—
all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.
Let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion,
honor and humility,
mirth and reverence within you.
And you who seek to know Me,
know that your seeking and yearning
will avail you not,
unless you know the Mystery:
for if that which you seek,
you find not within yourself,
you will never find it without.
For behold,
I have been with you
from the beginning,
and I am that which is attained
at the end of desire."

The symbolism of the Goddess has taken on an electrifying power for modem women. The rediscovery of the ancient matrifocal civilizations has given us a deep sense of pride in woman's ability to create and sustain culture. It has exposed the falsehoods of patriarchal history, and given us models of female strength and authority The Goddess ancient and primeval; the first of deities; patronness of the Stone Age hunt and of the first sowers of seeds; under whose guidance the herds were tamed, the healing herbs first discovered; in whose image the first works of art were created; for whom the standing stones were raised; who was the inspiration of song and poetry is recognized once again in today's world. She is the bridge, on which we can cross the chasms within ourselves, which were created by our social conditioning, and reconnect with our lost potentials. She is the ship, on which we sail the waters of the deep self, exploring the uncharted seas within. She is the door, through which we pass into the future. She is the cauldron, in which we who have been wrenched apart simmer until we again become whole. She is the vaginal passage, through which we are reborn....

People often ask me if I believe in the Goddess. I reply "Do you believe in rocks?" It is extremely difficult for most Westerners to grasp the concept of a manifest deity. The phrase "believe in" itself implies that we cannot know the Goddess, that She is somehow intangible, incomprehensible. But we do not believe in rocks we may see them, touch them, dig them out of our gardens, or stop small children from throwing them at each other. We know them; we connect with them. In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess we connect with Her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all. She is the full circle: earth, air, fire, water, and essence body, mind, spirit, emotions, change.

The Goddess is first of all earth, the dark, nurturing mother who brings forth all life. She is the power of fertility and generation; the womb, and also the receptive tomb, the power of death. All proceeds from Her; all returns to Her. As earth, She is also plant life; trees, the herbs and grains that sustain life. She is the body, and the body is sacred. Womb, breast, belly, mouth, vagina, penis, bone, and blood no part of the body is unclean, no aspect of the life processes is stained by any concept of sin. Birth, death, and decay are equally sacred parts of the cycle. Whether we are eating, sleeping, making love, or eliminating body wastes, we are manifesting the Goddess.

The Earth Goddess is also air and sky, the celestial Queen of Heaven, the Star Goddess, ruler of things felt but not seen: of knowledge, mind, and intuition. She is the Muse, who awakens all creations of the human spirit. She is the cosmic lover, the morning and evening star, Venus, who appears at the times of love-making. Beautiful and glittering, She can never be grasped or penetrated; the mind is drawn ever further in the drive to know the unknowable, to speak the inexpressible. She is the inspiration that comes with an indrawn breath.

The celestial Goddess is seen as the moon, who is linked to women's monthly cycles of bleeding and fertility. Woman is the earthly moon; the moon is the celestial egg, drifting in the sky womb, whose menstrual blood is the fertilizing rain and the cool dew; who rules the tides of the oceans, the first womb of life on earth. So the moon is also Mistress of Waters: the waves of the sea, streams, springs, the rivers that are the arteries of Mother Earth; of lakes, deep wells, and hidden pools, and of feelings and emotions, which wash over us like waves.

When The Spiral Dance was written, I did not know where the Charge originated. Since then I have learned that it was written by Doreen Valiente, author of many books on the Craft and a colleague of Gerald Gardner. In the summer of 1987, I had the pleasure, with my friend Lauren, of visiting her in her home in England. Like many Witches, she lives surrounded by shelves, stacks, and piles of books. She served us tea and sandwiches and showed us, among other treasures, the original drafts of the Charge of the Goddess.

She wrote a verse version and a prose version. She liked the verse—her coven liked the prose and sent her back to rework it into its present form. I took the liberty of modernizing the language, as the archaic "thou" forms in which she wrote it sound too self-conscious to the American ear.

When I first met Witches in the late 1960s, they read us the Charge. I felt that I was hearing a clear expression of what I had always intuitively believed, and from that moment felt committed to the Craft as my spiritual direction.

Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 2nd edition, 1989), pp. 90-92 and 229.

For more information on the author, see Starhawk's Web site.

See also Invocation to the Four Directions and Blessings from The Earth Path.

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Last modified on April 13, 2005 by Kay Keys (