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margot-1

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.

Margot Adler HPS

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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