Happy Birthday to Gerald Brosseau Gardner. Born June 13, 1884 to William Gardner and Louise Ennis in Blundellsands, Lancashire, England. He died February 12, 1964.
In 1911 he moved to Malaya and worked as a civil servant. Here, he developed an interest in the local cultures and wrote papers on their native magical practices. After his retirement in 1936, he travelled to Cyprus where he wrote A Goddess Arrives and then moved back to England.
Gerald Gardner was initiated into the New Forest Coven in 1939. He believed the coven to be a “pre-Christian witch cult” and added to their rituals by borrowing from the writings of Aleister Crowley, ceremonial magic, the Kabbalah, and Freemasonry to develop his own form of Wicca.
Gardner was determined to get Wicca into the population, but witchcraft was illegal in England at the time. To get around this, he wrote High Magic’s Aid in 1949, which created a lot of media attention. It was written as a fiction book, but within its pages were hints at coven rituals and teachings. England’s Witchcraft Laws were finally repealed in 1951. Three years later, he wrote Witchcraft Today and in 1959, he wrote The Meaning of Witchcraft.
He founded the Bricket Wood Coven and introduced many High Priestesses to the religion, one of whom was Doreen Valiente. From the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Gardnerian Wicca spread throughout Britain, to the United States and Australia.
Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows originally started as a scrapbook of rituals, spells, and various things he learned from his travels, which he called Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical. Eventually, this book became his coven’s Book of Shadows. In 1953, Gardners Bricket Wood Coven initiated Doreen Valiente into their ranks. She would quickly become his High Priestess and assisted Gardner in rewriting his Book of Shadows to include original material rather than “borrowing” from other sources like Crowley and Leland. Her additions are still used by many covens today. In a Gardnerian group, each member copies the coven’s Book of Shadows as well as adding in their own information.
On February 13, 1964, Gardner was on the S.S. Scottish Prince headed back to England from Lebanon. He health had been deteriorating, so he was vacationing in warmer climates. Unfortunately, he suffered a fatal heart attack during breakfast. He was removed from the ship and buried in the next port of Tunisia. Several years after his death, he was re-interred into another cemetery in Tunis where he still remains. In 2007, a headstone was erected that reads: "Father of Modern Wicca. Beloved of the Great Goddess."
This article merely skims the surface of Gerald Gardner’s life and his many accomplishments. Gardner was a major spokesperson for Wicca and instrumental in bringing modern witchcraft to the pagan community.
Inner Circle Sanctuary would not be what it is without Gardner. The same could be said by many other pagans and Wiccans of any path. Most of our favorite authors were influenced by Gardner directly or by his direct initiates. Many ICS rituals come from Gardner’s Book of Shadows. We even recite Doreen Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess at every single one of our rituals because it perfectly sums up who our Goddess is and what she means to us. We encourage you to read more on our favorite eccentric witch and you will see why he is described as the Father of Wicca.
Sources to check out:
Inner Circle Sanctuary
Inner Circle Sanctuary is a school for traditional style Wicca and holds eight sabbat festivals every year.