Today is Margot Adler Day. Margot Adler (April 16, 1946 – July 28, 2014) was a Wiccan priestess, NPR correspondent, and author of Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America. She was one of the most influential people in the formation of contemporary Neo-Paganism.
Drawing Down the Moon was first published in 1979, and revised editions were published in 1986, 1996, and 2006, with updated material. Margot was an NPR correspondent and so her book is a journalist’s account of the Neo-Pagan community in the 1970s. Margot herself converted to Wicca in the process of researching the book. The breadth of her study is only matched by the appeal of her style. Until Chas Clifton published Her Hidden Children in 2006, Margot’s book was really the only book on the subject.
Drawing Down the Moon was published on same day as Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance, October 31, 1979. The two books are very different: Where Starhawk’s book is visionary and poetic, Margot’s is factual and journalistic. The two books are often cited together as the books having the most influence on the growth of contemporary Neo-Paganism. While Drawing Down the Moon is a descriptive work, it was also to have an important prescriptive effect on the development of contemporary Neo-Paganism for decades after its publication. Margot once remarked in an interview that she was describing Neo-Paganism as she hoped it would be, as much as it actually was.
Margot was the granddaughter of Alfred Adler, who together with Jung and Freud, founded the psychoanalytical movement, and she drew on Jungian theory to defend Neo-Paganism in Drawing Down the Moon. Her book marked a shift in Neo-Paganism away from claims to authenticity based on historical continuity with a real or imagined pagan past to an authenticity based on the universality of Jungian archetypes. Margot described Neo-Pagan polytheism in a way that is consistent with a naturalistic or humanistic perspective:
“The Gods and Goddesses of myth, legend and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower permit us to be more fully human.”
Amazing Grace, how sweet the Earth that formed a Witch like me. I once was burned, but now I thrive, was hanged but now I sing. T’was grace that drew down the moon, and grace that raised the sea, the magic of the people’s will, will set our mother free.
Those who knew Margot were universally impressed by her humility, enthusiasm, and integrity. Margot died last year and her loss was mourned by the Pagan community.