Since it’s first publication in the late 1970’s, Margot Adler’s Drawing Down The Moon has been viewed as one of the most comprehensive and honest books on the revival of Neo-Paganism. With painstakingly detailed research and practical experience, Adler pieces together a surprisingly unbiased look at not only the revival, but also the conception and (in some cases) the invention of reconstructionist religions and traditions.
Drawing Down The Moon opens with a preface discussion on it’s own evolution. I found this essential to my mindset, as, in a lot of cases, the conflicts being covered in the following pages were issues belonging to the generation before mine. There were annotations and addendums to the original text which were very helpful with making Drawing Down The Moon useful as both a historical account as well as an updated resource. Following the preface, Adler went with an overview of Paganism and a discussion on how an ancient, earth-based religion fits into a modern world. I found her approach to this admirable; her information compiled from hundreds of interviews to offer a well-rounded look at Neo-Paganism instead of based solely on her own thoughts.
Following the section entitled Background, Adler delved into the Witchcraft/Wicca revival. Much of this section rang unabashedly true. As a former Wiccan, much of what I was taught in my early 20’s (and have since come to view as a stepping stone and nothing more) was expectantly, albeit bluntly, rebuked. Many in the Wiccan community still view the work of Margaret Murray and Robert Graves to be historically accurate, and Gardner’s tradition be divinely delivered; Adler delved deep into the accuracy of claims of such authors and tried to set the record straight. However, the distinction made between accurate historical records and inspired fantasy writing was greatly appreciated. I’ve often felt that in the search for finding out “what the Druid’s really did” many have overlooked beautiful fiction/invented ritual because it wasn’t used 2,000 years ago. We need to encourage and preserve myth of any age.
Also in this section was a look at Magic and Ritual. I found this section short and inconclusive. While there were some interesting accounts of ritual work for specific groups, I found the conclusions drawn as to the purpose of rituals to be a little narrow. This section was included under the banner of “Witches,” which could account for the inconclusiveness, but a broader look at ritual and magic would have been very welcome.
Adler concluded the section on Witches with a look at feminism in the Craft. It was informative but lacking the juxtaposition of militant feminism with the often-overlooked soft aspect of the Goddess. The women she interviewed for this section were political and at times came across as aggressive or dogmatic in their views, which ended the section on Witchcraft on a negative note; not every feminist is angry, not every Goddess worshiper a lesbian. One can be a strong woman without the exclusion of men.
Other Neo-Pagan religions were covered next. Some were so obscure I hadn’t heard of them, while others, more well known organizations and ideas were barely touched on. I was quite disappointed that for a book claiming Druidry as one of the main topics, it didn’t receive a lot of attention. I found the section on Heathenism especially interesting, as not many Asatru/Norse groups are willing to discuss the perversion of their religion by the Nazi’s, of which Adler did and it filled in quite a few blanks for me.
Following the content of Drawing Down The Moon, Adler included an extensive appendix offering resources and contacts for any looking for groups, covens, camps, etc… within the Pagan community. This was a lovely touch, regardless of the geographical restrictions and the expiration date on such lists.
In conclusion, while I enjoyed aspects of Drawing Down The Moon, I’m not sure how applicable it was to my path or Druidry in general. Beyond the historical information given for the Neo-Paganism revival, this book dealt mostly with Wicca and offshoots of Wicca. While Adler included many quotes from Bonewits, they were mostly pertaining to his pre-ADF/Druidry days, and therefore directed more towards Neo-Paganism and Wicca, and not to his later views and development of ADF. However, I am glad this book was on the reading list, as I would not have read it otherwise.