National Public Radio on Tuesday morning confirmed the death Margot Adler, a signature voice on NPR for more than three decades. She died July 28 at her home in New York City. She was 68 and had been battling cancer, according to the public radio consortium.
A granddaughter of famed Viennese psychiatrist Alfred Adler, Margot Adler was a journalistic polymath who joined NPR in 1979 as a general assignment reporter. Her stories, invariably suffused with a humanist bent, ranged from the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic to confrontations involving the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro, N.C., to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Her reporting was singular and her voice distinct,” Margaret Low Smith, NPR’s VP for news, said in an announcement to staff. “There was almost no story that Margot couldn’t tell.”
More recently, Adler reported on cultural affairs and the arts. She landed the first U.S. radio interview with author J.K. Rowling, and recently released Out For Blood, a meditation on society’s fascination with vampires. The book reflected Adler’s longtime fascination with, even immersion into, the occult. She was a practicing Wiccan priestess.
“Margot was not only a brilliant reporter, she was also a Wiccan priestess and a leader in the Pagan community,” Low Smith notes. “That was deeply important to her, and she wrote a seminal book about that world: Drawing Down The Moon. She also wrote a memoir called Heretic’s Heart.”
“The portrayal of witches has been complicated by the very real history of women who thought of themselves as healers and spiritual guides but who found themselves demonized by patriarchal societies threatened by their often unsanctioned beliefs,” the New York Times reported in a story about Wiccan practices in which Adler was quoted.
“Most of the women who called themselves witches were essentially the local herbalist or the local fortune teller,” Adler told the Times, explaining that she rarely refers to herself as a witch, preferring to say she’s “involved in a nature religion,” just to avoid preconceptions. “Witches were healers and midwives, but you almost never see that in any of the supernatural stories about them.”