Samhain '14: Remembering Margot Adler

Today is the memorial for Margot Adler, author, NPR radio journalist, Witch and good friend!  Below are the words I wrote for her service.  Today, on Halloween when the veil is thin and the living and dead are in communication, we can remember her:

MargotadlerFor Margot Adler

Margot and I were friends for many decades, although we lived on opposite sides of the country and to my deep regret, had far too little time to spend together. But she was an inspiration, a colleague and an ally, at times a challenger, at other times a refuge for me, and I miss her dreadfully.

We both wrote books in the early days of the Goddess revival, that came out on the same day of the same year: October 31, 1979. Drawing Down the Moon was hugely influential, because Margot had done the research, the interviews and the documentation of the growing Pagan revival, at a stage when it was still, in reality, very small. But she held up a mirror that let us see ourselves as the nucleus of what could become a larger movement, one that might have an important impact on the world.

Margot never sugar-coated her research. She looked at the world through her journalist’s eye for facts and documentation, and through the intellectual, sophisticated New Yorker’s slightly cynical lens. When it came to New Age mysticism or wild flights of Pagan fancy, she was no true believer. Always witty, never witless, Margot nonetheless was a very spiritual person. And while as a writer she was fearless, honest and self-revealing, I believe that her own deep sense of connection to Goddess was ultimately very private and personal. It manifested in her unbounded love of life, of singing, chanting, dancing, and exploring every aspect of the many stories she investigated for NPR.

Margot was a life-long political activist, committed to making the world more balanced, free and just. She went to Cuba with the brigades in the Sixties, marched and demonstrated, and most of all, reported on movements and mobilizations and issues throughout her life, first at WBAI and then at NPR. Strongly as she believed in the values of the groups she reported on, she was able to maintain that journalistic detachment and take a critical view, at times, of the tactics and assumptions. She was far too smart ever to be pulled into fanaticism or unexamined beliefs, and she retained her heretic’s heart even when she cared deeply about an issue. I remember when I was immersed in one of our attempts to bring art and ritual into protest, she told me the story of being part of the Seneca Falls Women’s Encampment back in the ‘eighties, and coming out of the camp filled with art and puppets and street theater and going into the local town. The locals, she said with a laugh, were utterly mystified by what was going on, and completely confused.

Margot was witty and funny, with a sense of humor that carried her through many hard times. But she was never mocking nor mean. Her humor was self-reflective, a way of stepping back and laughing at the hard truths of life.

She was not afraid to ask hard questions of herself and her friends. Once, when we co-taught a Goddess workshop together, she asked me a question that truly changed my life. She was the Crone, stationed in a grotto we had designated for her cave, and when I approached, she looked me in the eye and said, “Why haven’t you been in a serious relationship since your divorce?” Without thinking, I replied, “Because I keep settling for what I don’t really want,” and that question set me on a new path that resulted in profound changes in my own life.

Margot herself was a devoted partner to John throughout their lives. She dearly wanted a child, and had almost given up when Alex arrived. I know how much he meant to her, and how important his love and support were through the terrible losses of John’s death and her own illness.

I’ve know Margot for thirty-five years, but in the last years of her life, I saw her immense strength and courage emerge, as she faced the loss of her beloved husband and her own struggles with cancer. Margot maintained her optimism and love of life in the face of it all. Just a few months before her death, when we met for dinner, she was still walking seven or eight miles a day, carrying on her job and her work and her social life, still able to enjoy a dinner with friends, a good gossip session and a good laugh.

But I think it’s Margot’s immense courage as a writer than I most admire. As a journalist, she had a piercing eye for truth, and she was willing to turn that on herself as a memoirist and essayist in her autobiography, Heretic’s Heart, and her vampire reflections in Out for Blood. She took her pain and heartache at John’s death into a wildly original look at popular culture. Along with her profound reflections on death, she writes with unflinching honesty about her own fantasies, her sexuality, and her fears, and her own confrontations with mortality. I keep the book on my phone, so I can dip into it at odd moments and connect again with her voice, her humor, and her wise insights.

In her own words: “We are all part of the life cycle. Like a seed we are born, we sprout, we grow, we mature and later we decay, making room for future generations who, like seedlings, are reborn through us. This is all part of nature’s dance. To everything there is a season as the old psalm goes, and that should be enough.”

Margot seemed immune to worries about what people would think about her or how they would judge her. She followed her own creative spirit and walked her own path, with warmth and generosity and a perpetual willingness to laugh at the ironies of life. She took the words of the song she so loved to heart:

“My skin, my bones, my heretic’s heart,

Are my authority.”

I see her now, running through Elysian Fields with the Greek Goddesses who were her first love among the Gods, her long black hair whipping in the wind, her bright smile flashing.

May the wind carry her spirit gently,

May the fire release her soul,

May the water cleanse her, and the earth receive her,

May the Goddess rock her in loving arms,

And may the wheel turn and bring her to rebirth.

I was in Glastonbury when Margot died. I went to Chalice Well and sang to her spirit, and made an offering for her at the top of the Tor, the ancient land of Avalon. Tomorrow night, we will honor her with an altar at our Spiral Dance, our ritual to celebrate Samhain, the time when the veil is thin and the beloved dead walk among us again. As she takes her place among the Mighty Dead of the Craft, she becomes even more fully what she has always been: an ally, a friend, a wise guide, a challenger and a refuge.

In love may she return again.

Left to right: Z Budapest, Margot Adler, Selena Fox and Starhawk at Pantheacon '13.

Left to right: Z Budapest, Margot Adler, Selena Fox and Starhawk at Pantheacon ’13.


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