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Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-worshippers and Other Pagans in America, comp. revised and upd., New York- Toronto – London: Penguin Books, 2006 [19791, 19862].

I had the 1986 edition borrowed from a friend a few months ago, but didn´t finish reading it. I remember feeling slightly lost in what seemed to be outdated information. With amusement I read about Isaac Bonewits, who has “just started to organize something”. Also, seven years after publishing of Hutton´s ground-breaking historical work the whole debate about Wicca felt sort of funny.

The 2006 revision finally returned this book where it belongs in my opinion: to every Pagan´s bookshelf. Reading it from the perspective of a young Pagan convert and, possibly, a prospective religious studies scholar, I was both amused, annoyed and caught in some fascinating mind trips at times.

The places where Adler employs a characteristically apologetic style of writing were the sources of my irritation. It may be because I am an intellectual myself, or that I don´t find the forms of Neopaganism I´ve been confronted with particularly representative, but actually, despite my occasional raised eyebrow and furious mental dispute, I think the apologetic value in this book is what makes it so remarkable. This being said, I personally felt that she repeated the same points throughout the first few chapters (i.e. the defence of validity of polytheism, Paganism, witchcraft, ritual and magic).

Now, onto the highlights. I found very useful the outline of the contemporary Wiccan traditions. I appreciate a lot Adler´s contribution on the topic of the so-called “hereditary” or “family tradition” witchcraft. Her conclusions resonated with my own experience.

Unlike some other Dedicants (was it because they were male?) I have thoroughly enjoyed chapter three where she examines the upsurge of Dianic Witchcraft and the impact of Second Wave Feminism upon Neopaganism, which has been immense. The confrontation of the Gardnerian circles and the new, politically conceived Craft, while unfriendly at first, has created a new stream and ultimately transformed the whole Neopagan movement. In the addendum to this chapter Adler returns to the text after more than 30 years. She weights the history and concludes that the spirit of the 1970´s (“the time before Reagan, Bush and a host of other changes” - p. 229) was different from that of the contemporary. Pagan women of today have little knowledge about the feminist fights of their foremothers and little sense for that type of spirituality. Perhaps it is because “Women´s spirituality is now all over the place: books, workshops, rituals, and music. Some of this has nothing to do Paganism or Wicca. – ibid.” I cited this chapter a lot in my recent paper I submitted for the issue about men´s and women´s spirituality we were making in Dingir.

The discussion about trends in Asatru was very well done – and audacious, I must add.

As a scholar I was absorbed in the discussions on the institutionalization of the Neopagan movement and the rise of Pagan studies as a marginal, yet vital discipline.

The appendix itself is worth buying this book, so I would consider networking to be the second prominent value of Adler´s work. Even though it is U.S. based, the magazines listing, for example, is unmatched. Talking cultural biases, it occurs to that certain amount of my initial confusion from this book might come from its coverage. It covers movement unheard of in Europe, like Feraferia, Sabaean Order or Church of the Eternal Source while it doesn´t mention at all many remarkable Europe based organizations, like the Fellowship of Isis or British Druid orders – not to mention the varieties of Neopaganism in the Eastern Europe (though, to be just, Adler provides excellent summaries of many Pagan organizations in the appendix). Looking back at the book´s subtitle more closely, it seems to me though that this minor grievance of mine is actually irrelevant.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
Anybody else was irritated by certain Margot´s statements? ;-)
Dec. 3rd, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
How much did she add/revise the most recent edition?
What I find DDtM useful for is as a retrospective, since I wasn't around in the community until the late 90's when Wicca/Paganism was having a publishing boom and becoming more popular and "out of the closet". She is pretty upfront about it's focus on the U.S.
All the groups you mentioned (Feraferia et al) are no longer in existence, or if they are I haven't heard of them. I would be very interested to see a book surveying Pagan movements in Europe, as well as Canada and Australia/New Zealand. I am curious about the differences.
Dec. 4th, 2008 11:57 am (UTC)
She revised it substantially, the list of changes can be found in the prologue I believe.

She discusses the recent history of Feraferia, COAW and other groups that used to be prominent, from my reading it seems none of them are dead but perhaps have gone through crises (BTW I'd be very interested to get to know something about the 1975 crisis in LayVey's Church of Satan).

I have recently been to a European conferece about New Age+Neopaganism and it was very interesting though I seriously doubt scholars will have a good overal view of Europe's Neopagan movements in near future. It's too young, decentralized and differs considerably from country to country.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )