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winter relapse

The weather forecast has been growing a little less pleasant with each day. Now it's predicting that Saturday's high will only be 64F, and the highest high forecast over the next ten days is only in the mid-seventies. Blegh. May should feel like May, not March.

Yesterday proved to me that I had good cause to fear those notes I'd made during the most recent Daughter of Hounds read-through. Fortunately, I had Spooky here to keep me focused and moving ahead. But it was the very definition of tedium. About 4 p.m., we took a break and drove over to Springvale Park (the setting for Sirenia Digest's "Bridle"). But it was raining, and there were mosquitoes, and we didn't stay very long. A got a Red Bull and headed home again and back to the ms. pages. We were at it until after 6 p.m. And we almost managed to finish with that set of notes. When we finally stopped, only a few things had not been checked off. Unexpectedly, I found myself expanding the last scene before the epilogue, which still has me a little nervous today. Anyway, speaking of today, I'll get to what I didn't get to yesterday and try to get through the old notes from the first read-through back in January/February. Ugh. I haven't abandoned hope that tomorrow can be my last day with this ms., but I still have the appendices to proof.

The best part of yesterday was the mail, which brought a book I'd purchased on eBay. A Snake-Lover's Diary by Barbara Brenner (1970, Young Scott Books). This is the book which began my fascination with herpetology, particularly snakes, and led to a period late in elementary school and early in junior high where I stopped wanting to be a paleontologist and decided, instead, that I would be a herpetologist (much to the chagrin of my snake-hating/fearing family). When I almost stepped on the DeKay's snake last month, I remembered this book, which I'd not read (or even seen) since at least 1979 or so. But I found an ex-library copy cheap on eBay (formerly of the Mission Glen Elementary School, Houston, Texas). Anyway, I scanned the cover:

While we were having dinner, around 7:45, the power went out and was out for an hour or so. An hour at the most. It was kind of nice actually. I lay in bed listening to the rain.

Last night, we finally finished Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshipers, and Other Pagans in America Today. All in all, it's the best book on Neo-Paganism I've read so far, but it is dated and does have its shortcomings. The first few chapters are the best, and then Adler seems to lose focus and the book begins to meander and double back upon itself. She relies far too heavily on quotes. Still, the scholarship is much better than average. Most importantly, Adler's book has reassured me that I can call myself Wiccan and think of myself as Wiccan without having to succumb to superstition and gender polarity, dogma and "magical thinking." I rather liked this line from the epilogue, where Adler is writing of George Mylonas' work on the excavations at Eleusis:

What little we know of the Mysteries [of Eleusis] seems to indicate that these rites emphasized (as the Craft, at its best, does today) experience as opposed to dogma, and metaphor and myth as opposed to doctrine. Both the Mysteries and the Craft emphasize initiatory processes that lead to a widening of perceptions. Neither emphasizes theology, belief, or the written word. (p. 441)

Having finished Adler, we began Ronald Hutton's The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, which promises, I think, to be superb.

Okay. The platypus is a lonely hunter. Time to get back to the pages...


( 14 comments — Have your say! )
May. 11th, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
While I don't recall that book specifically, seeing that photo did remind me of a number of others that I had in the 70s and early 80s that helped nurture my love of reptiles.

As for Drawing Down the Moon, I share your sentiments. It's still the best book out there for an overview on Neo-Pagans. Have you seen Modern Pagans from Re/Search? It's interesting as a glimpse at the variety of neo-pagan experiences out there. Margot Adler is actually featured in there as well.
May. 11th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)

Have you seen Modern Pagans from Re/Search?

I haven't. But I just followed your link to Amazon and shall be adding it to my reading list!
May. 11th, 2006 03:52 pm (UTC)
Ah, I nearly wore out the copy of A Snake-Lover's Diary in my old elementary school library: are you sure that we aren't related? (I had the same problem with snakes: I loved keeping and caring and caring for snakes, but my mother had a very justifiable fear of them, and I was finally able to work through that fear thanks to a beautiful speckled king named Plissken I found when I was 15. I don't have the space for keeping snakes indoors any more, but considering that my garden beds are full of brown grass snakes, I don't lament the loss.)

Oh, and about the weather, I understand your concern, but I'm actually quite thankful for the break. Here in Dallas, the weather is closer to March than May, but considering that this last March was one of the hottest and driest on record, and that the blue northers are all bringing desperately needed rain (the Robert Howard Days event in Cross Plains is going to be particularly rough thanks to half of Cross Plains burning during the grass fires last December), I'm not complaining in the slightest about the funky weather. The longer the South has to wait before full summer blasting heat kicks in, the happier I think we'll all be.
May. 11th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
are you sure that we aren't related?

Well, you never know. ;-)
May. 11th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
I just recently realized that the Margot Adler who wrote that book is the same one now working as an NPR newscaster.
May. 11th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
I just recently realized that the Margot Adler who wrote that book is the same one now working as an NPR newscaster.

Hmmm. I wasn't aware of that, as I never listen to NPR (no particular reason, it just never happens). Interesting.
May. 11th, 2006 05:26 pm (UTC)
I recommend this: Persuasions of the Witch's Craft; Ritual Magic in Contemporary England; T. M. Luhrmann; Harvard University Press.

It's an anthropological study; done in England by an American.

May. 11th, 2006 07:09 pm (UTC)
this is silly......
is it snakes on a plane......? no--it's much better! why, it's...........planes on a snake!! ;)

May. 11th, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC)
The Adler book really is essential in all sorts of ways. Glad you liked it.
May. 11th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC)
The Adler book really is essential in all sorts of ways. Glad you liked it.

Me, too. I was tired of being disappointed in silly, shoddily written books on Neo-Paganism and Wicca. I went to Drawing Down the Moon primarily for history, but came away from it with a much needed sense that I'm not entirely alone in my partticular beliefs and that there may be more plurality to Wicca than one sees here in Atlanta (which should come as no sort of surprise).
May. 11th, 2006 10:38 pm (UTC)
Adler Scholarship
The Adler scholarship has been attacked pretty heavily in places, mainly in the historical overview and reconstruction of past events. Of course, every book has its critics.

Not having done more than skim in, the most I can offer is: maybe the Elusine mysteries of the Romans emphasized non-written, experiential occurences partly because literacy was not as common, even in Italy, than in the modern world?

I recall reading that Aleister Crowley and company would have petitioners learn to write using their other, non-dominant hand, because it would let the mind absorb new habits easier. (Or "retrain", in his thinking.) I find that to be an interesting concept, and working on the muscle-weaker side of the body does give a different perception...

May. 12th, 2006 12:11 am (UTC)
Re: Adler Scholarship
The Adler scholarship has been attacked pretty heavily in places, mainly in the historical overview and reconstruction of past events. Of course, every book has its critics.


Can you point me towards some of the criticism? I can see where a lot of different groups might take issue with Adler, for one reason or another, but I found no glaring flaws myself. And when I praise the level of scholarship, perhaps what I should say it that I'm praising the fact that, whatever flaws might exist, at least DDtM does have scholarship, unlike the majority of Pagan books published today, which seem oblivious even to the possibility of researching and supporting their claims.
May. 12th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
Re: Adler Scholarship
I went looking for it just now, and nothing immediately popped up. I'm having memory skips at the present from unauthorized SSRI withdrawal, but I remembered something strong attacking it, that I read somewhere reputable. Yet I can't recall by memory, so either my normally excellent memory is fallen like soldiers by the wayside, or the criticism was actually too shoddy to turn up on a quick Google search. I'll keep looking, because I'd like to know which it was.

In the meantime, I found some columns by Adler you might be interested, collected here:


Usually I have a good memory and having been a graduate student, wouldn't pop off about something if I couldn't substantiate it. So this is somewhat frustrating. It's possible I'm misremembering pieces attacking Gardner's reseach, which might be more likely.

May. 12th, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Adler Scholarship
Re: Adler Scholarship

Gardner's reseach, which might be more likely.

I tend to think of Gardner's research more as "creative anthropology" than actual research. ;-)

Thanks for the link!
( 14 comments — Have your say! )