Drawing Down the Moon (book)

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Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today
Drawing Down the Moon.jpg
The first edition cover of the book.
Author Margot Adler
Country United States
Language English
Subject Sociology of religion, History of religion
Publisher Viking Press
Publication date
1979
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)

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 sociologist, 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.

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]

Since the original publication of Adler's work, a number of other books on the subject have been published, such as the sociologist Helen Berger's A Community of Witches (1999).

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-), 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 come to 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]

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]

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.[17]

Editions[edit]

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. ^ Orion 1995. p. 7.

Bibliography[edit]

Academic books and papers
  • Adler, Margot (1979). Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America. New York City: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-28342-2. 
  • Berger, Helen (1999). A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-246-2. 
  • Berger, Helen; Ezzy, Douglas (2007). Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self. New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers International Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-4021-4. 
  • Carpenter, Dennis D. (1996). "Emergent Nature Spirituality: An Examination of the Major Spiritual Contours of the Contemporary Pagan Worldview". In James R. Lewis. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany: State University of New York Press). pp. 35–72. ISBN 978-0-7914-2890-0. 
  • Clifton, Chas S. (2006). Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Oxford and Lanham: AltaMira. ISBN 978-0-7591-0202-6. 
  • Hutton, Ronald (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820744-3. 
  • Lewis, James R. (2004). The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements. London and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514986-6. 
  • Magliocco, Sabina (2004). Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-paganism in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-3803-7. 
  • Orion, Loretta (1995). Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revisited. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press. ISBN 978-0-88133-835-5. 
  • Pike, Sarah M. (1996). "Rationalizing the Margins: A Review of Legitimation and Ethnographic Practice in Scholarly Research on Neo-Paganism". In James R. Lewis. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany: State University of New York Press). pp. 353–372. ISBN 978-0-7914-2890-0. 
  • Salomonsen, Jone (2002). Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-22393-5. 
Book reviews
  • Donaldson, Mara E. (1982). "Review of Drawing Down the Moon". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 50 (2) (New York: Oxford University Press). pp. 303–304. 
  • Herndobler, Robin (1987). "Review of Drawing Down the Moon". The Women's Review of Books. 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]