Gardner, Gerald Brosseau

(1884-1964)
   A flamboyant and assertive personality, he was a seminal figure in the creation of modern paganism. He had developed an interest in anthropology and the occult while working in Malaya as a tea and rubber planter and a Customs officer, and on retiring to England in 1936 he made this his prime preoccupation.
   In Hampshire in 1939 he joined what he claimed was a witch coven preserving unbroken medieval traditions, and from 1951 onwards he publicly promoted a fertility religion of the type now called *Wicca. He recruited members into an organized initiatory cult of several grades, for which he composed rituals and spells under the title A Book of Shadows; his system shows similarities to Freemasonry, and to ceremonial magic as practised by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, and others in the early 20th century. His Witchcraft Today (1954) is the foundation of Wicca; he also set up a Museum of Witchcraft at Castletown (Isle of Man). He always insisted that he had learnt about witchcraft through initiation, not from books, but both his theories and his rituals are clearly influenced by earlier writers, including Margaret *Murray (Hutton, 1999: 225).
   His work has been assessed by Ronald Hutton (1999: 20552).
   See also the accounts by Doreen Valiente (1973, 152-8; 1989, 35-62), and J. L. Bracelin, Gerald Gardner: Witch (Octagon Press, 1960).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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