Seasonal Salon

By Their Lives: Margot Adler

Should you Google Margot Adler, this is what you may find: Margot Susanna Adler (see Tribute below) was an American author, journalist, lecturer, Wiccan Priestess, and New York correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR).

Wiccan Priestess and NPR correspondent?  Now, if that’s not an oxymoron….

Born in Little Rock Arkansas, Margot grew up in New York City, which was her true home. She received a B.A. in political science at University of California and a Master’s Degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Many of us were informed and enlightened by Drawing Down The Moon, her 1979 book on Neopaganism. A comprehensive examination of modern nature-based religions, created a home for many of us seekers. While many details have become outdated and many groups no longer exist, the basic concepts in Drawing Down The Moon are even more relevant today.

“The real message,” she writes in the Preface to the Revised Edition (1986) “is that the spiritual world is like the natural world—only diversity will save it.” Furthermore, she warns, “The fundamentalist impulse…is, along with nuclear war, the most dangerous peril facing the human race. Most fundamentalists…are at war with the diversity of life and ideas.” 

Margot accepted our invitation in 1999, to be a featured speaker/workshop presenter in the Spirituality Conference of the National Women’s Music Festival, which was on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana. Every one of her presentations was memorable, and star struck as I was,  what I remember most is “hanging on the table” at Mama Bears Pub talking and laughing and discussing everything from politics to motherhood, to all things spiritual. She was 42 that year and was happily celebrating her pregnancy, uncommon in such an “advanced age.” She would successfully give birth to her only child, her son.

Margot takes us into the Dark Side in her second book, Vampires Are Us. Vampires? Really? I confess, I have had no interest in the world of vampires…except for a brief time spent reading Anne Price’s vampire series. However, skeptical as I was, how could I not read Margot Adler’s last book. Vampires Are Us, published in 2014 just before her death, is a personal journey in which she takes the long view and lets us play with death and mortality. As she walked with her husband to the veil, she was inexplicably drawn to vampire novels—more than 270 of them in that four-year vigil, during which she discovered what vampires have to teach us about power and spirituality. “I began to see,” she writes, “that vampires have always reflected the fears and concerns of an age.” Hmmm. Perhaps I need to reconsider what vampires have to say to us…to me in these challenging times.

Margot was not only smart and articulate, she loved to sing…and play! When she presented a “Chanting Workshop” in Chicago, thirty of us women gathered for a weekend. We sang familiar chants and learned new ones, not only from Margot, but from many Midwestern women…all of us faithfully ignoring the bizarre venue…a hotel meeting room with bright fluorescent lights and brown tweed carpet near O’Hare Airport…reminding us that no matter the ambiance, we will sing. And every time we sing the version of Amazing Grace we learned that weekend, we raise our voices in honor and gratitude to an elder who left us too soon. Let’s sing it together….

Amazing Grace, How sweet the earth

That formed a witch like me.

I once was burned, not I survive

Was hanged and now I sing.

‘Twas grace that drew down the moon

And grace that raised the sea

The magic of the people’s will

Shall set our Mother free.

 

When we were fortunate enough to catch one of Margot’s stories on NPS’s “Morning Edition” or “All Things Considered,” we knew we were in for a knowledgeable and entertaining few minutes…whether her topic was geek culture, or the drug ecstasy, Pokémon or the right to die movement. And we would smile and say, “Hello, Margot” because, of course, she had, we liked to think, become our friend. Always approachable, authentic, often funny, ever wise, we honor her place in our lineage of foremothers. She continues to be a bright star in our heavens.


Nancy VanArsdall is an ordained Priestess of the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess. She has completed an historical fiction novel, The Thousandth Telling, based on her suffragist grandmother. She published Coming Full Circle, Honoring the Rhythms of Relationships, in 1996, available through RCGI. She has returned home to Indianapolis with her beloved.

 

Category: Spring Equinox 2018