Drawing Down the Moon (book)

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today is a sociological study of contemporary Paganism in the United States written by the American Wiccan and journalist Margot Adler. First published in 1979 by Viking Press, it was later republished in a revised and expanded edition by Beacon Press in 1986, with third and fourth revised editions being brought out by Penguin Books in 1996 and then 2006 respectively.

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today
The first edition cover of the book.
AuthorMargot Adler
CountryUnited States
SubjectSociology of religion, History of religion
PublisherViking Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
LC ClassBF1573

According to The New York Times, the book "is credited with both documenting new religious impulses and being a catalyst for the panoply of practices now in existence"[1] and "helped popularize earth-based religions."[2] Adler was a Neopagan and "recognized witch"[1] herself and a reporter for National Public Radio.[3]

The book is an examination of Neopaganism in the United States from a sociological standpoint, discussing the history and various forms of the movement. It contains excerpts from many interviews with average Pagans, as well as with well-known leaders and organizers in the community.

The first edition of the book sold 30,000 copies.[4] Successive versions have included over one hundred and fifty pages of additional text and an updated contacts section. It has been praised by Theodore Roszak, Susan Brownmiller, The New York Times Book Review and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.[5]

Background edit

Paganism and Wicca in the United States edit

Contemporary Paganism, which is also referred to as Neo-Paganism, is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe.[6][7] The religion of Pagan Witchcraft, or Wicca, is one of a number of different Pagan religions, and developed in England during the first half of the 20th century. The figure at the forefront of Wicca's early development was the English occultist Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), the author of Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959) and the founder of a tradition known as Gardnerian Wicca. Gardnerian Wicca revolved around the veneration of both a Horned God and a Mother Goddess, the celebration of eight seasonally-based festivals in a Wheel of the Year and the practice of magical rituals in groups known as covens. Gardnerianism was subsequently brought to the U.S. in the early 1960s by an English initiate, Raymond Buckland (1934-2017), and his then-wife Rosemary, who together founded a coven in Long Island.[8][9]

In the U.S., new variants of Wicca developed, including Dianic Wicca, a tradition founded in the 1970s which was heavily influenced by second wave feminism, rejecting the veneration of the Horned God and emphasizing female-only covens. One initiate of both the Dianic and Gardnerian traditions, who used the pseudonym of Starhawk (1951-), later founded her own tradition, Reclaiming Wicca, as well as publishing The Spiral Dance: a Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (1979), through which she helped to spread Wicca throughout the U.S.[10]

Adler and her research edit

In 1976, Adler publicly announced that Viking Press had offered her a book contract to undertake the first wide-ranging study of American Paganism.[11]

Synopsis edit

Margot Adler in 2004.

Drawing Down the Moon offers a guide to the Pagan movement across the United States.

Republication edit

1986 revision edit

In 1986, Adler published a revised second edition of Drawing Down the Moon, much expanded with new information. Identifying several new trends that had occurred in American Paganism since 1979, Adler recognized that in the intervening seven years, U.S. Pagans had become increasingly self-aware of Paganism as a movement, something which she attributed to the increasing number of Pagan festivals.[12] One reviewer noted that the alterations made for the 1986 edition "often creates a vivid contrast with events and persons first described in 1979."[13]

1996 revision edit

2006 revision edit

The 2006 edition includes a new section on Greencraft (pp. 127–129), a Wiccan tradition emerging out of an Alexandrian Wicca coven which had been given authority over the Benelux countries[clarification needed], and which features its own rune alphabet and a non-Hebrew form of Kabbalah based on work by Neopagan author R. J. Stewart; it emphasizes the practice of Wicca as a nature religion and as a mystery religion. It also gives a more complete and sympathetic treatment of the Northern European Neopagan revivals grouped under the rubric "Heathenism," which she admits to having consciously omitted from the first edition because of discomfort with the more conservative social values of this form of Pagan revival, and because some far-right and even neo-Nazi groups were using it as a front for their activities at the time (pp. 286–296). And she prefaces her chapter "Women, Feminism, and the Craft," which discusses the emergence of feminist forms of Neopaganism, with discussion of how her personal feelings about such groups have changed, but "decided to leave the chapter pretty much as is, with a few minor corrections, and address the question of feminist spirituality today at the end."

Reception edit

Academic reviews edit

Writing in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Mara E. Donaldson of the University of Virginia commented that Adler's book provided an "extensive study of paganism" that "demythologizes" the movement "without being sentimental or self-righteous." Considering it to be a "serious corrective to common misconceptions" propagated in the media, Donaldson stated that it was "worth reading" despite what she herself perceived as "neopaganism's weaknesses", namely the movement's lack of "historical-traditional-cultural memory" and a lack of "sensitivity to the Western problem of evil".[14]

"Drawing Down the Moon is unmatched in its sweeping survey of Neo-Pagan culture and for the historical perspective it provides on the emergence of various small groups within the larger movement. More a report from the trenches than rigorous analysis, Adler's straightforward account of these groups is not an attempt to justify their existence or to explain them away. Her examination of the meanings that individuals make out of their lives through the encounter with and construction of Pagan culture is a welcome shift away from the focus of sociologists on questions of "deviancy" and "conversion" - all concepts defined from outside."

Sarah M. Pike, American sociologist, 1996.[12]

In a 1996 paper discussing the various sociological studies that had then been made of Paganism, the sociologist Sarah M. Pike noted that Drawing Down the Moon had gone "a long way towards answering the question" as to "what makes these [Pagan ritual] activities valid and viable to those who engage in them". In doing so, Pike believed that Adler's work was an improvement on earlier sociological studies of the movement, namely that of Nachman Ben-Yehuda, which Pike felt had failed to answer this question.[15] Noting Adler's position as a practicing Wiccan, and the impact which this would have on her study, Pike however felt that the book was "less defensive and apologetic than sociological studies conducted by many supposedly objective "outsiders"."[15] Summarizing Drawing Down the Moon as being "unmatched" in its "sweeping survey" of the Pagan movement, Pike notes that in providing an overview of the subject it failed to focus on "detailed examination of specific issues and events."[12]

Other reviews edit

Writing for The Women's Review of Books, Robin Herndobler praised Adler's "clear, graceful prose", and the manner in which she had written about Paganism "with interest and compassion."[13]

Influence edit

Pagan community edit

Writing in his later biography of Eddie Buczynski, the Pagan independent scholar Michael G. Lloyd noted that Adler's book was a marked departure from earlier books dealing with Pagan Witchcraft which continued to equate it with either historical Early Modern witchcraft or Satanism.[11] In her 1999 study of American Wiccans, A Community of Witches, the sociologist Helen A. Berger noted that Drawing Down the Moon had been influential in getting many Wiccans to accept the non-existence of a historical Witch-Cult from which their religion descended.[16] Along with Starhawk's Dreaming the Dark (1982), Adler's book politicized practices of Paganism and witchcraft by emphasizing their radical and feminist aspects, and as a result drew many radical feminists into their orbit.[17]

Academia edit

In her sociological study of American Paganism, Loretta Orion, author of Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revisited (1995), noted that she had "benefitted" from Adler's study, believing that it contained "insightful reflections" on those whom it was studying.[18]

Editions edit

  • Original edition 1979, hardcover, ISBN 0-670-28342-8 (Viking, New York)
  • Original edition 1979, paperback, ISBN 0-8070-3237-9 (Beacon Press, Boston)
  • Revised edition 1986, paperback, ISBN 0-8070-3253-0 (Beacon Press, Boston)
  • Revised edition 1996, paperback, ISBN 0-14-019536-X (Penguin, New York)
  • Revised edition 2006, paperback, ISBN 0-14-303819-2 (Penguin, New York)

References edit

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ a b Goldscheider, Eric. Witches, Druids and Other Pagans Make Merry Again in the Magical Month of May, The New York Times, May 28, 2005.
  2. ^ Ramirez, Anthony. Another Hit Could Give Witches a Bad Name, The New York Times, August 22, 1999.
  3. ^ NPR. 2006. Margot Adler, NPR Biography, NPR website, accessed August 27, 2006 [1]
  4. ^ Orion 1995. p. 130.
  5. ^ 0807032530 – Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler – 9780807032534
  6. ^ Carpenter 1996. p. 40.
  7. ^ Lewis 2004. p. 13.
  8. ^ Hutton 1999 pp. 205–252.
  9. ^ Clifton 2006.
  10. ^ Hutton 1999.
  11. ^ a b Lloyd 2012. pp. 235
  12. ^ a b c Pike 1996. p. 363.
  13. ^ a b Herndobler 1987.
  14. ^ Donaldson 1982.
  15. ^ a b Pike 1996. p. 362.
  16. ^ Berger 1999. pp. 21-22.
  17. ^ Epstein 1991, p. 170.
  18. ^ Orion 1995. p. 7.

Bibliography edit

Academic books and papers
Book reviews
  • Donaldson, Mara E. (1982). "Review of Drawing Down the Moon". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Vol. 50, no. 2. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 303–304.
  • Herndobler, Robin (1987). "Review of Drawing Down the Moon". The Women's Review of Books. Vol. IV (12). p. 16.
Other sources
  • Lloyd, Michael G. (2012). Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan. Hubbarston, MAS.: Asphodel Press. ISBN 978-1938197048.

Reviews edit

Interviews edit