The Passing of an Elder: Remembering Margot Adler

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I want to take a moment to recognize the passing of a very important and influential woman in the modern Pagan movement. Margot Adler was exactly the type of person we as members of a modern-day alternative spiritual movement wanted, and needed, as one of our our spokespersons. Margot was well educated, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, a Masters degree from Columbia University in New York and also a Nieman Fellow from Harvard. She was active not only in the political scene of the 60’s and 70’s but also became a well respected NPR reporter to tell the world of all she did and saw. She reported on everything from the AIDS crisis, when very few were talking about it, to the Ku Klux Klan, and many other cutting edge subjects, as well as being granted the first US interview with J.K. Rowling, author of our beloved Harry Potter novels.

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But in addition to these things, Margot was also a Witch and a very outspoken one at that. Being a journalist with a need to shed light on misunderstood or controversial topics to the public, Margot was very active in the early pagan movement of the 1970’s when she too was looking for a spiritual path outside of the norm. At that time, living in New York, Margot came across the Brooklyn Pagan Way study group, based out of Herman Slater’s infamous Warlock Shop in Brooklyn Heights and came to know Eddie Buczynski who would become her first teaching and initiating priest. Margot was chosen out of the Brooklyn Pagan Way Coven to be initiated into the New York Welsh Tradition in 1973. Unfortunately, due to her keen eye for facts, she realized that the story she was being told as to the origin of the NY Welsh Tradition materials was less than plausible, she had a falling out with Eddie after he wouldn’t admit to the true origins of his tradition. He claimed that it went back to the Stone Age, which it did not, and that if she didn’t believe and trust him, that she could just leave. And leave she did, at which point she started studying with the Long Island Gardnerians, where she was eventually re-initiated and raised to the level of High Priestess and Witch Queen.

As Margot got to know more of the pagan community in her travels to gatherings and other such pagan events, she handed out a questionnaire to those who were interested in discussing their traditions and beliefs. This questionnaire would become the seeds that eventually grew into her seminal book on the modern pagan movement in America, “Drawing Down the Moon”, first published in 1979. DDTM was the first book to chronicle the pagan movement and its origins in the United States from its beginnings with the few hippie groups to the Gardnerians on Long Island and in New York to less known groups like the Radical Faeries, the Dianic Tradition and more. It was the first to explain their views and their workings and also a way to contact them if you were interested in finding out more. A wonderful resource for the academic and the pagan alike, Drawing Down the Moon is still in print today, Margot having revised it every ten years, the most recent version being from 2006. It continues to be a wonderful book to reference a tradition or find a group and it is sad that we were two years short of what would have been another revised edition, knowing how diligently Margot kept herself up with the latest of trends and information on the things she enjoyed and involved herself in.  Below you can see the many incarnation of Drawing Down the Moon over the years.

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I remember reading Drawing Down the Moon in the early 1990’s when I was first learning about paganism and Wicca while living in Pennsylvania. In the summer of my sophomore year of high school, I got a new tent, even though I never went camping. I loved to be outdoors and would set the tent up in the back yard, under the shade of the trees so I could be outside but still have my own little space. I’m a Cancerian and we love to create a nest to get cozy in. I had blankets and pillows and a radio in there and burned candles and incense (of course). I remember those years vividly as the magick and paganism I was reading about was enlivening my world in such new ways. Every time I’d get a new book to read I was taken deeper on the journey on my path to being a Witch. DDTM was a thick book but I took too it with a hunger to see what it had to offer, learning about so many other paths and traditions and how they were similar or different than my own interests. This was before my trips to New York City and I was still searching for a group to work with or a teacher and so DDTM was a great way to see where I might want to go. I remember reading about so many groups and traditions that it filled me with excitement of the possibilities of experiencing some of these things in my own path, as well as having many options. Little did I know then that I’d end up in a coven that was a direct descendant from the one Margot started with and that one day our paths would also cross.

I first met Margot in 2004 when I was assisting my good friend and author Michael Lloyd with his research for his own book entitled “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan”. Michael is an initiate of another one of Eddie Buczynski’s traditions – the Minoan Brotherhood – a tradition of Wicca for men who love men. While Michael was trying to simply put together a simple lineage document as to the branches of the Brotherhood, he realized that the task was far larger than he anticipated. Michael is a chemical engineer and is no stranger to hard work and research. He decided to start gathering information to help fill in the gaps in the stories of Eddie’s craft traditions and lineages and began the process of interviewing people. This turned into a project spanning almost 9 years and is actually continuing to this day, as more people are coming forward with stories, pictures and bits of information. Michael’s efforts resulted in the book mentioned above and it is also a very important history of paganism in America because most of the people that started this movement here lived in, or came from, New York City. Of course, in his research it lead him to find that Margot had also studied with Eddie and was an initiate of his and so he contacted her for an interview. Michael traveled to New York from his home in Ohio and had arranged to meet Margot at her Central Park West apartment on a rainy Autumn day of the Halloween weekend that year. Since I lived in New York and was also a Minoan Brother, I offered to be Michael’s escort and tour guide. Not to mention, I was thrilled to get to meet Margot Adler, who to me was a bit of a legend from reading her fabulous book!

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We were greeted at the door by Margot, with her signature long black hair, and invited in. Her apartment was on a higher floor and I remember the view of the tree tops of Central Park that we overlooked. It was truly a spectacular New York City apartment! She was very nice and a gracious hostess, we sat at her dining room table where she produced all sorts of pictures and stories and even showed us pages from her original Welsh Book of Shadows. Many of the photos were ones we’d never seen before and she gave Michael permission to scan them and he put a few of them in his book. I remember her recounting the reasons why she left Eddie’s group and went her separate ways and thinking how her reasoning was valid, as I’d have probably done the same thing. We also took photos with her, before the days of the camera phone. I have my copy somewhere and when I find it, I’ll post it here. At the books completion, Margot agreed to review it and granted Michael the biggest honor of writing its forward. “Bull of Heaven” is a wonderful book not only of history but also of the story of how things got to be the way that hey are today in Wicca, Paganism and the Occult community in America as a whole. A fascinating story that everyone in this movement ought to know.

We had a wonderful launch party for the Bull of Heaven release at 35 W.19th Street in New York City – the former location go Herman Slaters famous Magickal Childe Occult shop.  Here is a photo from that night, including several of the remaining witches from the old days, Margot being in the middle next to the picture of Herman, myself in the lower left in front Of Lady Vivienne and Lady Rhea and Michael lloyd in the upper right with the glasses.

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A wonderful memorial ritual was held that night with the older generation and the new, all present to remember from where, and also how far, we had come.  Margot is at the lower right corner.  I am in the center giving the ancestral invocation with Eddie Buczynski’s own wand.

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I was a lucky one. I had the unique experience of getting to not only meet Margot Adler but I was asked to also give a talk with her about the pagan movement as part of the anniversary series of talks given at the Brooklyn Unitarian Universalist Church in December of 2012. This series was done for the 40th anniversary of the first series of lectures given at the church and sponsored by Herman Slater and the Warlock Shop, which was then, in 1972, only a few blocks away in Brooklyn Heights. Some of the original speakers included Eddie Buczynski who discussed his Welsh Tradition of Witchcraft and also Raymond Buckland who discussed the Gardnerian Tradition at length. The talks were revived in 2012 after the successful publication of “Bull of Heaven” and included several of the modern public figures in the New York Pagan movement of today, including Lady Rhea of the New York Wicca and Minoan Traditions, and others. I was asked by my friends in New York to give a talk with Margot on the history of the pagan movement then and today, and where it might be headed in the future. Margot and I proved to be a great paring, as she talked about her experiences in the early days when book shops and groups were few and far between and how the scene began to emerge and evolve. She talked of how you were lucky to find any group at all, even if it wasn’t necessarily the group you would have wanted to work with, as the picking were slim to none back then.  She discussed the things that lead her to put together DDTM and also her involvement with various other aspects of the pagan movement like environmentalism and goddess centered spirituality. The talk moved on to myself and my experiences in the last 20 years. Of reading DDTM in my teens and all the things I had at my fingertips as compared to Margots experiences 20 years before. We told our stories and talked of how much things had evolved since the early days in the 1970’s and even further still since the 1990’s.  We then went on to discuss the future of the pagan movement and both agreed that it i beyond the labels of Pagan or Wiccan and is more about coming together as spiritual people to help recover the earth.

Matthew and Margot 2012

Listen to Matthew and Margot’s lecture here – media player at bottom of page:

http://newyorkpagan.podbean.com/e/nyp004-evolution-of-modern-paganism-who-and-where-we-are-today/

It was a very special night and I loved being there on stage with Margot. Her speaking style was so matter of fact but also friendly. I enjoyed how remarkably clear her she was and I still enjoy listening to recordings of her talks when I find them available online. Margot was a wonderful woman, priestess and also friend to of the Craft as a whole. Her influence is seen in all the other people like myself who were able to further their search for our fellow witches by being able to read her book. She was a wonderful and respected voice in our community when we truly needed it most and helped to get us the respect we deserve as a valid spiritual movement.

We will miss you Margot, but we know you are never far away, and we will remember you each time we Draw Down the Moon.

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The Magnificent Maleficent!

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Ask any of my friends who my favorite Disney character is and they will immediately reply “MALEFICENT!”  So, I thought I’d take a moment and offer my take on the new Disney film, starting Angelina Jolie.  If you are expecting me to dig in to the nitty gritty, or to analyze it psychologically, I’m not – I simply loved it too much to nit-pick.  I, like many of my magically inclined, comic book geek, and other assorted Disneyphile friends, have long anticipated the release of this film. Previews started showing over two years ago and we have been waiting with bated breath. Finally the day had come and I was treated to the film by a long time Craft friend of mine who was visiting New York from Los Angeles. Excited was hardly the word to describe as we sat and the lights dimmed…

I won’t recount the entire film here of course but I will mention some highlights. First off, it was so visually stimulating it was awe inspiring to say the least. Obviously in this digital age, most of the film was CGI and it was extremely well done. The costumes were incredible- Maleficent especially- but upon further inspection of any of the characters, the details were well thought out and beautiful. Maleficent’s various looks were all better than the next. She wore an assortment of various cloaks and head dresses which looked to wrap her long beautiful hair underneath yet still ensconced her fantastic horns. One tidbit of detail I read before the film came out was that there were something like 15 sets of horns used and the costume department had recruited leather and fetish gear makers to craft them, some having to be held on her head with magnets, and others weighing so much that she could only wear them while shooting scenes standing still as they otherwise wouldn’t stay on her head.  Another interesting tidbit I read was that she cast her own daughter as the young Aurora because she was the only child who wasn’t afraid to look at her in costume!  And her severe cheek bones?  Yes, they WERE inspired by Lady Gaga’s recent use of the same for one of her video looks.  I also love the haunting rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” by Lana Del Rey, who was hand picked by Jolie to sing the song, her smokey dark voice being perfect for the vibe they wanted to create.  And it worked well, especially as the credits rolled, leaving us with that haunting magical feeling to take home with us.

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The visuals aside, the film’s story was a bit controversial to critics, claiming that they ruined the original story and took too many liberties.  This is of course something Disney does in strides as their retelling of these classics are what we have all come to know and love as our own versions of the fairy tales.  I never listen to critics as I always like to form my own opinions of things that I want to see.  The story here, told from Maleficent’s point of view was actually very well pieced together and I think it played well in the retelling of the classic tale.  Disney probably understood that many fans were going to be comparing it to what they knew from the original 1959 classic “Sleeping Beauty” film and I think they filled in the blanks accordingly.  We learn of Maleficent’s origins as a Faerie, how she lost her once magnificent wings, and how she came to have a Raven as her familiar.  We learn of a love story between Maleficent and King Stephan and understand why she originally had such hatred for Princess Aurora.  And we see that in the course of the 16 year curse that she lay upon Aurora, it was actually Maleficent herself who cared for her, the bumbling Faeries that she was left to not having the first clue as to how to care for a baby.

Overall, the film was not only a great story, it was also funny and very heartwarming.  There is a twist (that I won’t reveal here incase you still haven’t seen it) that proved to be quite emotional for me.  The fact that the ones who truly love us are the only ones that really matter is the take away lesson from this film.  As well as the fact that things aren’t always as they seem, and we should probably realize that some people who are thought to be evil have much larger battles of their own that we don’t quite realize or even know about.  But as the story goes “In the end, its not the Hero or the Villain that saves the day, it’s BOTH.”

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I know I need to see this one again!

Venus in Taurus – a perfect Friday for LOVE MAGIC!

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At this most voluptuous time of the year – the beginning of summer, where the days are not only growing warm, the breezes are soft and caress your skin and the sun’s warmth is finally making us forget about that long awful winter. And best of all – LOVE is in the air!  As soon as it gets warm everything is renewed, everyone is so alive and, well, horny!  The juices of life are flowing and prompting us to get our groove on!  Well, if you are at the point where you’ve had your fun, sown your wild oats and maybe want to find something a little more serious, The time is RIPE for doing love magic! When the planet of Love and Romance ventures in to the sign of the sensual Bull, she is  at home.  She becomes very possessive and this is a good time to open yourself up to a long term relationship.  It is a time to seek the stability and security that Taurus is known for, and with the help of Venus, you might be looking at happily ever after.  WE have a strong desire for pleasure (i.e. LUST) and we seek out that pleasure wherever we can, whether it be in beautiful clothes, delicious food or just plain hot rocking sex.  Taurus is very sensual and Venus craves that passion – when better than to perform some love magic to draw it into your life, or even strengthen the love you already have?!

Add to that the fact that we are currently in a waxing moon phase with the moon in Cancer, the mother and nurturer, this is a perfect time to work on a committed relationship spell, that will only grow and blossom with the growing tide of the moon.  It will allow for an emotional awareness in your relationship which will deepen it, whether it be a new relationship or an ongoing one.  The timing is ideal for crafting a spell to bring you the love that you have been waiting for if you are single, or to deepen the emotional ties while romancing your existing lover.  How delicious for a late spring weekend!

So, what to do?  Well, My first inclination is to do candle magick and so I’ll help you out there with a little spell.  I’ve been burning candles for magic for over 20 years.  I do find that they are easy and also effective.  The nuances of candle magic can (and will) be another post all together, but for now – just follow my lead…

Get yourself a nice pink candle – in a shade that appeals to you – I’m going to suggest a deep pink so that there is some more red in it – this will add more heat and passion to your romance, but in general any pink candle will suffice.  It truly IS all about intention here so if you only have white or want to use soy or beeswax, go right ahead.  Next, I’d like you to get a fresh clean piece of paper and on it, in RED Ink, I want you to write out some qualities in a lover that are important to you.  DO NOT VISUALIZE or otherwise CONJURE a specific person.  Trust me – if you are single, let the universe surprise you.  Do not do magic on someone specific if you are truly looking for something true and long term.  To decide that you know better than Fate in choosing your partner is a big mistake that too many people often make – and then live to regret.  If there is someone you want to have a fling with and want to attract to you for that purpose – fine – but that’s another type of spell so like I said, follow my lead here.  Limit yourself to 9 traits for your lover or you’ll end up worrying that you’ve forgotten something and have a list 10 pages long.  Remember the KISS (keep it simple stupid!) rule!  Don’t make it too complicated.  Who wants a complicated relationship anyway?  Just go with what makes you happy and let the rest be decided by the unique personality of the person drawn to you!  Some basics I think are important is that your lover need to love you for who you are, be able to communicate with you and yes lets be honest, they need to be attractive to you. The other details, of which I left you six, are up to you – choose wisely. ,-)

After you have prepared your list, take the candle and dress it with some olive oil (an sacred oil since ancient times) to which you’ve added a drop of pure rose oil – you can find it at a health food store or even Whole Foods.  It’s not cheap but its always good to have on hand and a little goes a long way!  The Rose oil represents the happy, healthy, open HEART!  It prepares your heart to recognize the energy of an appropriate mate and attracts the open heart of another.  You’re going to put the olive and rose oils in the palm of your left hand (a drop about the size of a dime) and you are going to rub from the middle up to the wick – sending your request up, petitioning the heavens.  Do this three times.  Then from the center down – so that your request manifests here on earth – again three times.  Now sprinkle your candle with a little bit of cinnamon powder. Cinnamon is ruled by Mercury and will help you to have good communication with your partner as well as to heat things up and keep them spicy.  Now, place this candle in an appropriate holder for the size candle you bought.  A taper really should be fine, as you want to light it once and allow it to burn until it goes out. (If you should need to put it out – snuff, don’t blow – then relight when you are ready.)  But try to let it burn all in one go. But don’t light it just yet…

Once you have the candle in the holder, take up your list and hold it in one hand while you hold the candle in the other.  Read the list aloud to the candle so that you set the intention clearly right off the bat.  In your minds eye, visualize yourself with a partner, feel their soft loving energy.  Envision their frame and their build.  But, when you get to the face, I just want you to see an outline of light – no eyes and no one recognizable.  If you like your man to have broad shoulders and a square jaw, fine!  If you want your girl to be voluptuous or whatever you like, see and feel that in your minds eye.  Remember – no faces!  Now that you’ve read the list aloud to the candle, feel and see your lover by your side one last time.  Hold that image as you draw in a deep breath to the depths of your lungs.  When you’re ready and you know it to have solidified in the other world, exhale that “breath of life” onto your candle.  Take the list and fold it three times in half, always folding towards your heart and turning clockwise between folds.  You will have a nice compact rectangle which you will then place under the candle holder and in a special place.  A place that it can safely burn, undisturbed until it goes out.

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Choose a time of the day when you will be settled and not distracted when you perform this operation.  When you are ready, give it a light.  Now, let it burn.  Try to make sure it’s not in any draft or high traffic area.  Watch how it burns – is it burning fast and dripping a lot?  That means you’ll probably want to review your life situation and see what you need to work on before trying it again, that or your lover is right around the corner and the candle just needed to draw them in.  If it burns slow and steady and right down to the socket, it means that the prayer is heard will be granted.  You should not look but just be aware for new people coming into your life.  If it goes out or burns strange, see what that is also maybe trying to tell you?  Is your life really read for a love spell?  Check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Give the spell an entire month to work and as they say – don’t look for it!  Just let yourself be surprised – but I promise, you will see something!  And I hope it’s WONDERFUL!

*Feel free to report back with results or questions!*

“When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” -Maya Angelou

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Hello and welcome to my page.  I’m Matthew Sawicki and I’m a practicing Witch living in New York City.  I thought this would be a fun way to reach out and see who shares the same passions for things as I do.  I hope to share some fun tidbits and thoughts with you as I walk my magical path in life.  There is magick all around us if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  All of the mysteries are hidden in plain sight and we must train ourselves to look between to find them.

In recognition of the passion of author and brilliant sage, Maya Angelou, I’ve named this first entry after one of her quotes.  One of the most amazing things to do is to know something well enough that you are confident to teach it to others.  I have been teaching magical subjects for several years now and I must say, it is one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done.  Teaching is not only the way that I can give back to the community but also a wonderful way to challenge myself and see just how much I know about the subjects myself.  Students will ALWAYS challenge you and that forces you to keep up to date and continue learning for yourself, and about yourself.  I look forward to get back to teaching soon, here in New York City.  I hope some people will join me along the way!