Remembering Margot Adler

margot_adler-e1334076940996There will be a lot written about Margot Adler over the next several weeks, and deservedly so. Everything written about her will share one trait: it will be overwhelmingly positive. I have never heard one bad thing about Margot Adler in all my twenty years of Paganism. She was universally beloved and respected, just an extraordinarily good person.

My first introduction to Margot was Drawing Down the Moon, one of the five most important American Pagan books ever written. When I read it at the beginning of my Pagan journey it was a revelation. I had never before read a book like Moon. It was something more than a “how to” book, it was a portrait of American Paganism, a Paganism that was far more diverse and imaginative than I had ever imagined. Eye opening doesn’t quite capture just how much of an effect Moon had on me as a Pagan.

There are a lot of Modern Pagans in the United States, but in some ways we are still a very small movement. Meeting your favorite writers isn’t all that difficult to do, but it can still be a bit intimidating and nerve-wracking. That’s especially true for me because I’m a huge “Pagan fanboy.” Some people freak out when they meet an actor or a rock star, I kind of freak out when I meet a Big Name Pagan, but I didn’t get the chance to act that way when I met Margot.

I only tell this story because I think it illustrates the kind of person Margot was, completely humble and non-assuming. I met her at the San Jose airport on the Monday after the PantheaCon festival. Most of us living in the Midwest or the East Coast were all booked on the same flight and as I was waiting to check my bag a middle-aged lady came up to me and introduced herself. She said something along the lines of “Hi Jason, I was at your Led Zeppelin workshop and really enjoyed it. I just wanted to say hi and introduce myself, my name is Margot.” My brain slowly began putting one and one together and my eyes got very big. I replied with “You’re Margot Adler!?!? I should be introducing myself to you!” She laughed and waved my fanboyness off . . . . . I will never forget that moment as long as I live. I’ll also never forget how gracious, kind, and patient she was with my dumbstruck self.

Seriously, when you read about how nice Margot was over the next few weeks believe every word of it. She really was like that, and she certainly didn’t have to be. It’s also why I think of her as simply “Margot.” I only got to talk to her a few times in this go ’round the Wheel, but every time it felt as if I was talking to just another Pagan-person. In my mind she was always “Margot Adler of Drawing Down the Moon and NPR-who has seen all sorts of wondrous things I can only imagine,” but talking to her she was always “just Margot.”

drawingdownI’m rather sure I bumped into Margot at PantheaCon this past February but it was a fleeting moment. My last real memory of her was at the Sirius Rising Festival in Western New York (state) in 2013. She was speaking on a panel about the “Future of Paganism” and she was marvelous. Nearly everything she said was brilliant and spot-on. Unlike a few of the other Pagans on that panel she was clearly not someone living in the past. She felt just as plugged into Modern Paganism as she had been plugged into the Paganisms of Moon. I knew about her cancer diagnosis by that point, but she was so full of energy for those two hours that I had trouble believing it. Every time I ran into her she felt like a force of nature, even after having passed on I think that feeling is going to remain each time we bring up her name.

Listening to NPR will never be the same in my wife and I’s house (or most likely car). Hearing her on the radio was always a special thrill for us and a lot of other Pagans out there too. Here was someone from our tribe, on the radio like it was no big thing. When she came through on the airwaves we’d both get quiet and turn up the volume . . . I don’t want to say it was like listening to The Beatles or Led Zeppelin, but it was like listening to Led Zeppelin or The Beatles.

While at my mundane job this morning a co-worker asked if I had “heard about NPR’s Margot Adler.” This person was not a Pagan, and didn’t even know that Margot was a part of our community, much less the author of Drawing Down the Moon. It’s just amazing to think of all the lives she touched as a reporter. Reading about Margot’s passing this morning was heart-breaking, hearing about how many lives she has touched over the years (both in and out of Paganism) was heart-mending.

Margot’s loss is a big one for our community, but my heart really goes out to her son and close friends. Jason Pitzl-Waters over at The Wild Hunt often ends his remembrances with “what is remembered lives” and that will certainly be the case with Margot. In two hundred years Pagans will still be talking about Drawing Down the Moon and Margot Adler, and even on the other side of the veil she will still be an influential voice in our Pagan world.

Thank you Margot, for everything.

Stay in touch! Like Patheos Pagan on Facebook:
About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.