All About Wicca

Biography of Gerald Gardner, Father of Modern Wicca

copyright 2013 Pythia

by Pythia

Known today as the father of modern Wicca, but what was Gerald Gardner's life like before he launched this new religious movement? Here is a brief biography of Gerald Gardner and how he got connected with Wicca.

He was born in Blundellands, England in 1844. His father was the local justice of the peace and he had 3 brothers in his family. Interesting family connections bring him closer to the world of witchcraft as well. An ancestor of his was burned for being a witch in 1610, and even his own grandfather was married to a woman believed to practice witchcraft.

His childhood was spent travelling through Europe with a nurse due to his asthma. He developed a keen interest in other cultures and religions due to all of this exposure to other ways of living. He eventually settled in Ceylon with his nurse, when she got married. At various points as a young adult, he worked and lived in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), Malaysia and Borneo.

Throughout his years in Asia, Gardner spend a great deal of time learning about the local folklore, their indigenous beliefs and archaeological history. The first book he ever wrote was on the ritual daggers of the Malay people. His varied interests led him to many different careers, including a customs official, an inspector and a rubber plantation laborer. He eventually married and returned to England. His wife was Donna Rosedale, a woman he met through his psychic medium.

Gerald Gardner was still unable to completely settle down. His travels and explorations continued, and he came to have experiences that showed him of a past life in Cyprus. His discovery of this inspired him to write the fictional novel, "A Goddess Arrives" in 1939.

Shortly after that point in his life, he was introduced to a local coven of hereditary witches who he contacted through his Masonic group, the Fellowship of Crotona. The New Forest Coven claimed to have rituals and practices from their ancestors, dating back to the Middle Ages. The High Priestess was Old Dorothy Clutterbuck, and Gardner was initiated into the coven in 1939. Proof today of Clutterbuck's existence seems scarce and there are some questions about the legitimacy of this part of his history.

Seeing as the practice of witchcraft was technically illegal in England, Gardner was unable to openly share what he had learned about the witchcraft group. So he used the pen name Scire and wrote a "fictional" novel that was heavily based on the practices of his coven. The book was called "High Magic's Aid", and is a sought after rare book these days.

After 1951, when the laws against witchcraft were repealed, Gardner became more public with his practices and founded his own coven that he named the Bricket Wood Coven. Doreen Valiente was an initiate into that coven, and she is just as famous as Gardner for her work with early Wicca.

The first non-fiction book on witchcraft that Gardner wrote was "Witchcraft Today", in 1954. It's considered the cornerstone for all future Wiccan practice and the basis for the Gardnerian tradition of witchcraft. Due to the unique nature of his work, he acquired a notable amount of fame and was crowned the "Chief Witch" for Britain. He never enjoyed the spotlight and didn't encourage additional publicity on the matter. He then wrote his next book, "The Meaning of Witchcraft" that expanded further on the subject.

On an overseas trip to Lebanon, Gardner fell ill and died at sea in 1964. He never saw the impact that his work would have on religious practices and how the world of Wiccan grew from his origins.

This short biography does little justice to the diverse and exciting life that Gerald Gardner lived. For a more detailed look at his life, try reading "Gerald Gardner, Witch" by Jack Bracelin or "Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner" by Philip Heselton.