I made yet another video about this book! It’s such a great read!
Instead of simply reviewing the book, I decided to make a quick summary. The book has tons of information so it’s good to have a copy for reference.
5 Lessons from Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
Summary and Quotes
1. What is Neopaganism? ⛤
It is hard to define but the one thing that most neopagans have in common is polytheism, the belief in or worship of more than one god. Quoting the book:
“A polytheistic worldview makes self-delusion harder. (…) Deities are seen on a more symbolic and complex level”
Neopagans tend to be tolerant and open-minded. Polytheism may be a cause of this: “The diversity of the Gods commands a deep commitment to human diversity”.
Pagans remain antiauthoritarian and Earth-centered (preserving the Earth ). Neopagans are equally comfortable with the scientific discourse and magic ritual.
2. What is Witchcraft and Who are Witches?
Witches are divided over the word “witch”. There are many definitions and none is final.
In 1921, Margaret Murray published the book The Witch Cult which described an ancient organized religion of witches. Some of the main aspects of this religion were the concept of covens, sabbat celebrations, and worshipping a Horned God.
Authors Robert Graves and Charles Leland contributed to this view, bringing it into Neopaganism. According to historians, there was never a unified European-wide Old Religion.
The stereotypical Witch was inspired by very old folk beliefs and exalted during the witch trials in Europe. This is the witch who:
- Flies on a broom
- Practices in incest, cannibalism
- Causes harm by occult means
But because the inquisition took “confessions” under torture, it’s likely that most stories about witches back then were fabricated.
“Today there is no such thing as an unbroken tradition of Witchcraft in Europe.” However, Margot Adler identified these general types of witches:
- Neoclassical: Uses magic, divination, herbology, and extrasensory perception without much regard for religion. 55%
- Neopagan: Influenced by Wicca (according to Bonewits, Adler) 15%
- Feminist: Dianic and Goddess-centered 10%
- Ethnic: Voodoo, Amerindian, etc. 10%
- Neogothic: A reversed version of Roman Catholicism, including pacts with the devil. 2-3%
3. Dogma in the Craft?
A few quotes from Drawing Down the Moon:
The Classical Craft has no elaborate initiations, minimum ritual, and is mostly oral. The influence of High Magic is fairly new in the Craft.
“It doesn’t matter whether your tradition is forty thousand years old or whether it was created last week.” “Most people join the Craft and not a tradition”. “Dogma is the worst thing you can have in the Craft”
“The detail of form doesn’t matter, but the spirit and whether it works”.
In 1974, the American council of witches attempted to define Witchcraft, mostly to dispel the sensationalist image pushed by the media. The problem was that it involved a degree of Centralization.
The conclusion was that:
- The Craft is not a single entity
- Each coven is autonomous
- Different covens have different:
- Gods and Goddesses
- Rituals and requirements
“That’s why Wicca is flexible, it’s religion without the middleman”.
4. The Goddess Aspect
Most Wiccan traditions honor both female and male deities. The female aspect of the divinity is just as essential as the male aspect. However, it’s important to mention the Dianic tradition and its influence.
The term comes from M. Murray, who described Witchcraft as “The Dianic Cult”. A religion focused on Diana or Aradia, derived from supposed rural Italian folk practices. While these claims have been refuted by historians, the legacy lives on. Today “Dianic” means any tradition with an emphasis on the Goddess.
Dianic Wicca by Z Budapest was the first Dianic group. Meaning that there is one Goddess who contains all goddesses, from all cultures; she is seen as the source of all living things and containing all that is within her.
This was controversial for a couple of reasons:
- It was Monotheistic: It only differs in gender from the religions most modern pagans have rejected. As mentioned before, polytheism is one of the strengths of the Craft.
- It was for women only: Some of these groups don’t accept men and/or transgender women.
The second wave of feminism reinforced the idea that Witchcraft is a religion and a practice rooted in rebellion. This shows that the Craft can be political and spiritual at once.
Today much of cultural feminism has been assimilated by mainstream Pagan groups, and there are many traditions that welcome men but still exalt the feminine.
5. Ritual Magic
What is Magic? Is it a supernatural thing? Apparently not.
“Most Witches and Neopagans do not link Magic with the supernatural”.
There are many definitions of magic, but it works by alternating faith and skepticism. It’s ever-evolving and dynamic: “All faiths and dogmas represent a point where Magic stopped”.
Magic can be defined as “the development of techniques that allow communication with hidden portions of the self, and with hidden portions of all other islands in this psychic sea.”
A ritual of Magic is a sequence of events (not dry, formalized or repetitive), but where emotion is aroused, increased, built to a peak (rising energy), then aimed and fired at a goal.
The purpose of rituals is to put us in an altered state within which we have access to and control over our psychic talents. And also to end alienation from Nature and from each other.
The Craft is a dynamic place of visionary art, which is:
- Demands creativity
- Lacks dogma
- Ritual is first, myth is second
- “You can worship, even without believing”