October 24, 2012

My First Book Report.

Oh it feels like I'm in public school again :D Tee hee. Here's the report from my first book on the ADF booklist, Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon.

Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon is a 30-year-old study of what it means, and what it is like, to be a Pagan in today’s North America. It has been updated several times in its 30-year history to incorporate new groups, methodologies, and general mindsets of Pagan people as they have evolved. It encompasses a large variety of different Pagan groups and viewpoints, and provides very fair and unbiased information about them. Witches, Druids, groups that venerate the Egyptian, Norse, and different Goddess Deities, and even some groups that sprung up as a result of Science Fiction are examined at length in this book. Margot Adler does a wonderful job of approaching the discussion of each group with tact, respect, and reverence.
I feel this book is significant due to the large and varied amount of information. I feel like it was a very good primer for anyone considering or practicing Paganism of any sort. Ms. Adler has spent literally 30 years since publishing, and who knows how many before that, treating the research of the heart of Paganism as her personal mission. The fact that she writes much of the book from her own personal experiences with each of these groups means that she must have been very respectful and innocently inquisitive for them to allow her into their “innermost sanctum”. The book has that “sense” to it, and, although it doesn’t leave a question unasked or a potentially questionable ritual unexamined, I feel like she did it from a place of detachment and honour. It seems obvious why this book was chosen for the ADF’s Dedicant Path booklist: ADF is nothing if not inclusive! It opened my eyes to many different viewpoints, and either added to my personal thoughts on them, or introduced me to them entirely. Although personally none of the groups mentioned appealed to me (other than the section on ADF of course), I can see how this book would be a great tool for someone who was starting to form opinions about Paganism in general. Possibly there is a group mentioned that would very much resonate with the reader to which they would not otherwise have been exposed.
There are many ideas expressed in this book that I had been thinking about myself, but didn’t really know there was a name for it. There are a few quotes in particular I would like to discuss.

“After this vision, I regained my true perspective of a Witch, how a Witch looks at life – as a challenge. It is not going to last forever, and it’s all right on the other side, so what are you going to do?” (Adler 2006, pg. 74)

This is a quote from Z Budapest, a Witch after my own heart, which has totally “gone it on her own”.
This quote is, to put it bluntly, my life’s work as of late. I feel as though I am caught between two generations that think completely differently. There’s the younger generation, which is more willing to search for their heart’s desire and not necessarily needing that much security, financial or otherwise. Then there is the older generation, which wants to “have”, which is not okay with anything less than a perfect 9 to 5 job, and denies their own dreams for the good of their family, or to please others. I’m trying hard to trust the Universe, and myself, and to know that I will be supported as long as I go in the direction of my heart. Although I do not identify as a Witch per se, it was nice to see, in print, that this was a struggle through which others have suffered.

I also found this passage rather striking:

“The priestess of Artemis, or Morragu, or Kali is not going to be a simpering idiot or a Kirche-K├╝che-Kinder sort of woman. She is more likely to be a strong, domineering, combative intellectual. If you find that frightening, go ahead, admit it. But don’t accuse her of being “unfeminine” or of trying to castrate every man she meets… “ (Adler 2006, pg. 214)

I’ve had great personal tragedy as a result of the ideas in this quote, which is so elegantly put. Turns out it was all for the better, but it was intensely painful to withstand. Still is. Long story short, I was someone who worked in the male dominated field of civil engineering, Construction administration to be exact. This means that I would be in charge of a construction site as the eyes and ears of the owner. I was labeled a “bitch” for my assertiveness, and was not taken seriously. I felt like I had to work twice as hard to be proven half as good. I feel like I must have been a perceived threat to them for all the fun reasons that our patriarchal society seems to encourage. All I really wanted to do was to be great at my profession. This quote from Isaac Bonewits is an excellent example of the person I was trying to be: assertive, knowledgeable and someone of great personal strength. It’s an important distinction to make. An assertive woman is not a “bitch” any more than an assertive man is, and it is a complete double standard that there continues to be separation. My desire for this to change is very aptly put in this quote from Sharon Devlin:

“What I want to see the end of is the frustration of the male father instinct, which is being diverted into violence, and the end of the frustration of the female lioness instinct, which is being diverted into bitchiness.” (Adler 2006, pg. 153)

I’d like to discuss another quote from Sharon Devlin, discussing her thoughts

on Aleister Crowley’s beliefs:

“So you think you are helpless. You think all this is just happening to you. Well, that’s bullshit! Because you are not just a son or a daughter of God. To be a son or daughter of God means your are equal to God and you have a responsibility to the One to get it together and make your Godhood count for something, because, other than that, you are just another fuckin’ insect. Now that’s what it means. It also means that if we were all doing what we really wanted to do, we would do it in perfect harmony. Why do people kill and rape each other? This is an expression of the denial of love in that person’s life. Now, I have been attacked, but frankly, I believe in my heart of hearts that the one who kills is enduring greater suffering than the one who is killed and that all “evil” is an expression of ignorance, an expression of the frustration of the Law of the One. And the Law of the One, whoever She is, in all Her many forms, is that we give to each other constantly. I am not talking about giving to the negation of self. I’m talking about giving to the glory of the self. If you were what you could be the best and you did what you loved to do with all your might, you would create such light and such power that it would give pizazz to everybody in your immediate area, and even to those distant, perhaps.” (Adler 2006, pg. 144)

It’s a long one, but I felt it was pertinent. This quote reminds me of Marianne Williamson’s famous quote used by Nelson Mandela, however rough around the edges it seems.
            This has been my desire and hope as of late. If I am not meant for what I used to do, I want to find out “what I could be the best”, and how I could “create such light and such power that it would give pizazz to everybody in [my] immediate area…” This sentiment is something I feel our society is lacking, and the more instances I see of it in books or newspapers or wherever, the more I want to scream about its complete, total, and simple truth. If only more of us could live from this place of being so in touch with our Divine Mission that we radiated light wherever we went. I have a perfectly smooth stone with a lighthouse painted on it on my desk to remind me of this idea. Be like the lighthouse.
            I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, not just those who have just started out in Paganism. I feel that regardless of your level of knowledge, this book would probably have something to teach you about some little known sect, or reinforce your beliefs with the discussion of timeless wisdom. Although I felt it to be slightly “Witch” content heavy, they are probably the first group to really become established in North America, and are probably the biggest. All in all, I found this book to be a highly enlightening and informative read!

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