Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing

Starhawk’s 1993 novel The Fifth Sacred Thing has been on my to-read list for a long time. One of the biggest names in the Pagan community, her nonfiction works The Spiral Dance and Dreaming the Dark were some of the earliest Pagan works that I read back in the late 1980’s and they really opened my mind. Her vision of an inclusive, feminist, environmentalist, body-positive magic was deeply appealing.

The Fifth Sacred Thing takes many of her spiritual and social ideas and gives them life in a post-apocalyptic near-future. She also wrote a prequel and more recently, a sequel City of Refuge.


So, here is where I admit being a little bit lazy. Most of my “day job” involves reading. It has sucked some of the fun out of pleasure reading, so I don’t read nearly as much of my to-read list as I would like to. One way around this is audiobooks – I can listen to them while I drive or while I am cooking or cleaning. It is a wonderful way to “read” without the eye strain.

So I was thrilled when it was announced that The Fifth Sacred Thing was (finally) coming out on audio. It is wonderfully read and professionally produced. And at last, I have experienced The Fifth Sacred Thing

I have to admit it was a slightly rough start for me – and this is no reflection on the book. After the election, I was in a grim state of mind, and the book opens following a brainwashed prisoner and a healer battling in the depths of an epidemic ravaging her city. It was not helping my mood or my view of the world, and I did pause a few times. But I kept up with it – and I’m so glad I did. The richness of the world, the resilience of the people, the searching after justice and magical transformation were ultimately exactly what I needed in this current climate.

Specifically, the ideas of principled, creative resistance are beautifully illustrated. And this is something that is so inspirational just now. The story also has satisfying characters and plotting, so don’t worry that it’s all world-building and high concepts.

According to news reports, City of Refuge will also be produced on audio, so I am very much looking forward to more. In the meantime, I recommend The Fifth Sacred Thing in whatever format you prefer.

Starhawk’s website

A recent article on The Wild Hunt on The Fifth Sacred Thing.

This is a video created to promote a project to make the book into a movie. More recent news indicates that it may be a television series.