Gerald B. Gardner
Gardner was a major founder of the modern-day form of the witchcraft religion that has come to be known as Wicca. He was originally from Liverpool but was descended from a Scottish family who claimed an ancestor burnt for witchcraft in 1610. Other members of his family were also known to possess various psychic powers. Gardner himself administered plantations in Sri Lanka and Borneo for the British Empire while pursuing his amateur interest in archaeology and artistic knives such as the famous "kris" dagger. On his return to Europe he spent most of his time on archaeological expeditions and travel, and discovered a "past life" while on Cyprus.
Back in England, he became involved with Masonry and the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, a pseudo-Masonic group headed by the daughter of Theosophist Annie Besant. A secret inner circle of this group initiated him into the witchcraft group known as the New Forest Coven, on the southern coast of England, in 1939. In 1946 came his fateful introduction to the great British magus Aleister Crowley. Gardner soon became a Third-Degree initiate of Crowley's O.T.O. Gardner also knew and briefly worked with Typhonian magus Kenneth Grant, as reported in Grant's book Hecate's Fountain.
Gardner's crucial book, High Magick's Aid, itself an early inspiration to Mountain Center founder Michael J. Crowley, was published in 1949 under the pseudonym "Scire" due to the British anti-witchcraft law. The success of the book encouraged Gardner to devote more of his time to publicizing Witchcraft, and soon he set off for the Isle of Man to become the "Resident Witch" at the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft housed in an ancient farmhouse. He initiated Doreen Valiente, another modern Wiccan author, in 1953. Gardner's high priestess initiated Raymond Buckland into Witchcraft in 1963; Buckland went on to introduce Wicca to the U.S. via numerous books.
Gardner died on ship from Lebanon in 1964 and is buried in the North African city of Tunis.
Though some have criticized Gardner for his excessive intellectual debt to Aleister Crowley and Masonry (from both of which he is believed to have derived his inspiration for the three-degree organization of modern Wicca, as well as some of its initiatory ceremonies) there is no question that Wicca owes its existence to the literary efforts of Gardner, and to his work to publicize it and bring an ancient tradition into the modern world.
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