Gerald Brosseau Gardner
(06/13/1884 - 02/12/1964)
Gerald Brosseau Gardner was born June 13th, 1884 in Blundellands, near Lancaster, England. Gerald was an
English hereditary Witch and responsible for reviving Witchcraft in the modern Western world.
Gerald was one of three sons, and suffered severely with asthma. To alleviate his condition his nurse Josephine
"Com" McCombie convinced his parents to permit him to travel with her in Europe during the winter. She
eventually married a man in Ceylon and took Gerald with her, where he worked on a tea plantation. He later
worked in Borneo and Malaysia.
While in the Far East Gerald became acquainted with the natives and familiar with their spiritual beliefs, which
influenced him more than Christianity. He was fascinated by the ritual daggers and knives, especially the
Malaysian kris; a wavy blade dagger, and wrote Kris and Other Malay Weapons, which was published in
Singapore in 1939. The book established Gerald as the world authority on the kris. It remains the standard on the
subject, and was reprinted posthumously in 1973.
Between 1923 and 1936 Gerald was employed by the British government in the Far East as a rubber plantation
inspector, customs official and inspector of opium establishments. He made considerable money in rubber which
allowed him to dabble in his great interest of archaeology. He claimed to have discovered the site of the ancient
city of Singapura.
In 1927 he married an Englishwoman Donna. Gerald retired in 1936, at the age of 52, and they moved to England. Much
of Gerald's time was spent on archaeological trips throughout Europe and Asia Minor. It was in Cyprus that he saw things
which he had previously dreamed about which convinced him that he had previously lived there in another life.
Apparently on medical advice, Gerald took up naturism on his return to England, and also pursued his interest in the
occult. He and his wife lived in the New Forest region of England, where he was initiated into a traditional Wiccan coven by
"Dafo"; Edith Rose Woodford-Grimes, a member of the New Forest Coven in September of 1939
The coven, including Gerald, joined with other Witches in southern England on July 31 (Lammas Eve), 1940, to perform a
ritual to prevent Hitler's forces from invading England. Five members of the coven died shortly afterwards. Their deaths
were blamed on the power drained from them during the ritual. Gerald, himself, felt his health had been adversely affected.
Through the introduction of Arnold Crowther Gerald met Aleister Crowley in 1946. For a brief number of years, Gerald was
a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), a magical order of which at one time Crowley held leadership. Crowley had
once practiced Witchcraft as Gerald wrote in a letter to his recent acquaintance Cecil Williamson Feb.8, 1950: "By the
way Aleister Crowley was in the Cult, but left it in disgust. He could not stand a High Priestess having a superior position
and having to kneel to her and while he highly approved of the Great Rite, he was very shocked at the nudity. Queer
man, he approved of being nude in a dirty way, but highly disapproved of it in a clean and healthful way. Also he
disapproved of the use of the scourge to release power for the practiced reason if you teach a pupil the use of the
scourge, he can get a mate and do it on his own. If you have a highly paying pupil, if you teach them the
concentration and meditation method they go on paying you for years. But he didn't simply pinch lots of the witches ritual
and incorporate it in his works. He claimed that he rewrote the Rituals for them but I doubt this. He did rewrite some
Masonic rituals, and made an awfull hash of them."
There is speculation that Gerald asked Crowley information about Craft rituals, which he might incorporate into his own,
but this is doubtful as there is no evidence suggesting that Crowley gave him any specific Craft material.
Though it was his desire to write about the survival of Witchcraft, his coven would not allow it because at the time
Witchcraft was still against English law. He published a fictional account of Witches in 1949 under the pen-name Scire,
called High Magick's Aid. The work included rituals which he had learned from his coven, and the worship of the Horned
God, but the Goddess was not mentioned.
In 1953, Gerald initiated Doreen Valiente into his coven. The coven's rituals were virtually identical to those that Gerald described in High Magic's
Aid. Since the material which he inherited from his first coven was fragmentary, Gerald reworked the material. He ‘freshen' the rituals with his own
work, adding quotations and extracts from Crowley's work. Doreen discouraged this, advising Gerald that Crowley's material was inappropriate
because it was "too modern," thus most of Crowley's work was subsequently deleted through rewriting of the material. Gerald and Doreen
collaborated through the years of 1954 to 1957 on writing ritual and non-ritual material. The body of work, or Book of Shadows, became the
authority for what is currently known as the Gardnerian tradition.
In 1954 Gerald published his first nonfiction book about Witchcraft, Witchcraft Today. The book supports the theory of the British anthropologist
Margaret A. Murray, that modern Witchcraft is the surviving remnant of organized Pagan religion which existed during the witch hunts. Margaret
wrote the introduction to the book.
The book's immediate success gave emphasis for new covens rising up throughout England and Gerald suddenly found himself in the spotlight.
Due to his numerous media appearances the press referred to him as "Britain's Chief Witch," a title he did not seek. He was not interested in
exploiting his fame for money and personal glory. In 1959 he published his final book, The Meaning of Witchcraft.
In 1960 his wife died and he began suffering again from asthma. In the winter of 1963 he met Raymond Buckland, an Englishman who had moved
to America. This was shortly before Gerald was to leave for Lebanon. Raymond was initiated into the Craft by Gerald's High Priestess Monique
Wilson (Lady Olwen). It would be Raymond who would introduce the Gardnerian tradition to America.
After suffering a heart attack, Gerald died aboard ship while returning from Lebanon on the morning of February 12, 1964. His burial was
February 13 in Tunisia.
In his will, Gerald bequeathed the museum, his ritual tools and objects, notebooks and the copyrights to his books to Monique. Other beneficiaries
of his estate were Patricia C. Crowther and Jack L. Bracelin, who authored an authoritative biography of Gerald, Gerald Gardner: Witch (1960).
Monique and her husband kept the museum opened for a short time while holding weekly coven meetings in Gerald's cottage. Eventually the
museum was closed and most of its contents were sold to the Ripley organization, which dispersed the objects to various museums.
Doreen Valiente described Gerald as a man "utterly without malice," who was generous to a fault and who possessed some real, but not
exceptional, magical powers.
One of Gerald's missions was to attract young people to the Old Religion. In Witchcraft Today he said science was replacing reliance on the old
"I think we must say good-bye to the witch. The cult is doomed, I am afraid, partly because of modern conditions, housing shortage, the smallness
of families, and chiefly by education. The modern child is not interested. He knows witches are all bunk..."
Gerald broke from the New Forest coven to form his own coven in 1951, the year that the law
against witchcraft was repealed.. In the same year he traveled to the Isle of Man, on which was a
Museum of Magic and Witchcraft which had been established by Cecil Williamson and housed in a
400-year-old Craft farmhouse. Cecil originally named it the Folklore Centre and intended it to
become a center for currently practicing Witches. Gerald became the "resident Witch" and added
his personal substantial collection of ritual tools and artifacts. Gerald purchased the museum
1957 interview of Gerald Gardner by Daniel Farson
The Witches Mill, Castletown, Isle of Man.