The second section of Drawing Down the Moon concerns Wicca and is by far the largest section of the book. This is, perhaps, fitting given the author’s involvement with Wicca and given Wicca’s predominant position within neo-Paganism. However, as the audience of this review is expected to be Druids, I will not dwell long on the this part of the book here except to say that it is a refreshingly honest report by Adler upon her own path. It manages at once to dispel romantic notions that modern Wiccans are carrying on a tradition kept secret but unbroken since the Inquisition, while at the same time validating Wicca as a modern spiritual and magical path. This is a lesson which should not be lost on ADF dedicants!
I should note that within this second section, the most relevant chapter to ADF members is likely that on Magic and Ritual. I will perhaps return to and explore this chapter more in a future blog posting.
The third section of the book concerns all of the other Pagans. In 70 less pages than she spent on Wiccans, Adler takes us through a whirl-wind tour of every other significant path; Hesperian, Sabaean, Kemetic, Asatru, and Radical Faeries amongst others.
After the deep plunge into Wicca, this section disappoints for several reasons.
The first and foremost reason is that Adler focuses on the history and major players within the paths rather than what it means to walk the path. As an example, in the ten pages she devotes to the Kemetic path, Adler writes almost exclusively about the history and founders of the Church of the Eternal Source and says next to nothing about what it means to be a member. What do they believe? What are their rituals like? The book says next to nothing.
The second reason this section disappoints is that Adler dwells at length on paths that may have been interesting and potentially had an impact on modern neo-Paganism but which are considered really very ‘fringe’ these days. The most obvious example here is the entire chapter spent on the Church of All Worlds which by the 2006 revision of Drawing Down the Moon was clearly no longer considered a valid spiritual path by most Pagans.
Still, even the pages spent on groups like the Church of All Worlds would not be so disappointing if, in context, the ‘living’ paths were given at least equal treatment. Unfortunately, this is not to be. Asatru likely makes out the best with perhaps 14 pages, but Druidry – despite getting second mention in the books sub-title “Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and other Pagans in America” – has only about ten pages. Even worse, it is included in the chapter titled “Religions of Paradox and Play”. While such a chapter is an appropriate place to discuss the Reformed Druids of North America, it relegates the much more serious efforts of Ár nDraíocht Féin into the same bucket. Of course, given that only given two out of the ten pages on Druidry is devoted to ADF, this is perhaps understandable if not entirely forgivable.