Today, 16 April, is the birthday of Margot Adler, Wiccan priestess and author of the influential book about modern paganism Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America according to Llewellyn's 2010 Witches' Calendar.
Margot Adler's book was first published in 1979 as a study of neopagan beliefs and practices in America. Many editions have been released since then with extra material and updated contact details.
The title of the book - Drawing Down the Moon - refers to a ritual used in contemporary Wiccan traditions in which a High Priestess enters a trance and calls upon the Goddess, symbolised by the moon, to enter her body and speak through her - usually to offer words of wisdom or advice.
However, in ancient Greek and Roman times, the act of drawing down the moon had much more risque and dangerous connotations, according to Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebookby Daniel Ogden.
It was often performed for erotic magic - and had a terrible price, because the witch performing the act had to either sacrifice an eye or one of her children. Presumably the cost was considered worth it because the spell was believed to give the witch tremendous power, particularly over men.
When the spell was cast, the moon appeared to turn pale or blood red, which suggests it might have been cast at the time of a lunar eclipse - or blood moon.
In ancient Greece, Thessalian witches were considered to be best at drawing down the moon. This is referred to Aristophanes'play Clouds, in which one character concocts a scheme to avoid paying taxes by getting a Thessalian witch to stop time by drawing down the moon and locking it up in a mirrored casket.
Neil Gaiman used the ancient concept of this ritual in his comic series The Sandman. In the story The Sandman: Game of You, the character Thessaly, the last of the Thessalian witches, draws down the moon to help someone travel to a dream realm, but the rite causes a terrible storm in the real world while the moon is absent, which ravages the city bringing death and destruction.
I have to say I am glad I am a modern witch, because our version of the spell to draw down the moon is so much safer, and no witch today is asked to make any sacrifice. Mind you, I'm not sure that we have really tamed the moon - I think it is us witches who are tamer than those of old.
And, let's face it, there are far easier ways to get a man to do your bidding - and no man is worth losing an eye for.
Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebookby Daniel Ogden is published by Oxford University Press and is available through Amazon. The Sandman: Game of Youis also available through Amazon
Llewellyn's 2010 Witches' Calendar
Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America
Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook
The Sandman: Game of You