A history: some key gentlemen of the Wicca
- Gerald Gardner 1939
Born in northern England, Gardner grew up in Mediterranean climes for health reasons (lifelong asthma). He spent a 30-year career abroad—Ceylon, Borneo, Malaysia, & Singapore before retiring to England in 1936. Through his Masonic activities, he grow close to a group who later initiated him into the Wica. Gardner believed the group to be a surviving coven of a dying witch-cult, and worked to prevent its disappearance, bringing in dozens of initiates among which were several high priestesses. First called Gardnerian Witchcraft by its detractors, the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca has spread around the world in the 75 years since Gardner’s initiation.
- Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 1954
- Gardner, The Meaning of Witchcraft, 1959
- Charles Clark 1954
Clark lived in Scotland, near a ferry route to the Isle of Man. Clark & Gardner both attended the Manx FATE Club meetings (FATE Magazine published on many esoteric topics). Initiated by Gardner and Donna at their home in Castletown, Clark founded his own coven in Scotland by 1960. It was Clark who first initiated Monique Wilson, though Gardner later brought her to full high priestess.
Note: Carl Weschke (of Llewellyn Publications) wrote to Gardner with a view to publication of Wicca-related material. Gardner soon referred Weschke to Clark, which pair maintained a 20-year correspondence. Weschke’s grimoire-related papers came from Clark with Gardner’s approval. Today they are known in Craft scholarly circles as “the Weschke documents.”
- Jack Bracelin 1956
Doreen Valiente brought in Bracelin to Wicca in 1956. It was Bracelin who introduced Sufi teacher & author Idries Shah to Gardner, at Shah’s request. Shah penned the 1960 biography of Gardner, but published it under Bracelin’s name as a pen name, to prevent confusion among his own Sufi students regarding his interest in a different religion. Bracelin continued active in the Bricket Wood coven for many years.
° Bracelin, Gerald Gardner: Witch, 1960
- Fred Lamond 1957
Lamond was initiated into Gardner’s Bricket Wood coven early in 1957. His interaction with Aidan Kelly in the early 1980s may have lent undue legitimacy to Kelly’s deeply flawed work, Crafting the Art of Magic.
° Lamond, Fifty Years of Wicca, 2007
- Alex Sanders 1962
Alex Sanders (born Orrell Alexander Carter) was exposed to esoteric influences by his mother and grandmother throughout his youth. Sanders worked for a time as a medium in local Sprititualist Churches, and went on to study ceremonial magic, including “the left hand path” before his sister’s cancer death triggered a remorseful return to more ethical practice. Around 1960, Sanders wrote to Patricia Crowther about becoming an initiate of Wicca and was denied. Later that decade, he was initiated into Wicca by a priestess who had left the Crowthers’ coven, and copied his Book of Shadows from hers.Sanders brought a great deal of the ceremonial ritual of his earlier studies into the Wicca he learned from his initiator, and soon founded a coven with his soon-to-be second wife, Maxine. Publicizing himself to the press as “King of the Witches,” along with the sensational (disproven) tale of having been initiated at 7 by his grandmother. Gardner’s death in 1964 left the yellow press a void that he stepped into with enthusiasm. The Alexandrian tradition of Wicca spread from that coven, and is now recognized beside the Gardnerian. In Europe, the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions are considered equally “of the Wicca.”
° Maxine Sanders, Fire Child, 2007
- Ray Buckland 1963
Buckland corresponded with Gardner following the publication of Witchcraft Today, becoming friends over some years. Late in November 1963, Ray and his wife Rosemary flew to Perth for training and initiation from Monique Wilson (Gardner’s last high priestess). Gardner attended the rituals as witness. The Bucklands, who had emigrated to the USA the year before, now founded a coven in Long Island, New York City, known as the “Long Island coven.” They led that coven for a decade before transferring its leadership to their successors in 1972 during their divorce.
° Buckland, Witchcraft from the Inside, 1971
° Buckland, The Complete Book of Witchcraft, 1975
- Stewart Farrar 1970
As a journalist, Farrar attended a 1969 premiere (Legend of the Witches) on which Alex & Maxine Sanders had acted as consultants. Sanders “was impressed” with the interview as published, and invited Farrar to attend an Alexandrian initiation rite, after which Farrar began study with them. This study led to Farrar’s first book about Alexandrian witchcraft (What Witches Do, 1971), a term he coined during its authorship; he was brought in to the Sanders’ coven early in 1971.Farrar actually met his future wife & priestess Janet Owen in the coven; they went on to found their own coven after reaching suitable degree together. Janet & Stewart Farrar’s works Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches’ Way remain available but are better known today as the compiled A Witches’ Bible Compleat. After their relocation to Ireland in 1976, they founded a coven there, and today it’s estimated that as many as 75% of initiates in Ireland trace to them.
- Farrar, What Witches Do, 1971
- Janet & Stewart Farrar, Eight Sabbats for Witches,
- Janet & Stewart Farrar, The Witches’ Way
- Don Frew 1985
Frew, who has been active in occult study and magical work his entire life, was an elder of the NROOGD tradition of witchcraft when he was intiated into the first Gardnerian Wiccan coven in the San Francisco Bay Area. An independent scholar and researcher, Frew has blazed trails in law-enforcement education (debunking the late 1980s “Satanic Panic”) and works tirelessly in both Pagan non-profits and interfaith efforts from local to global, attending and presenting at the World Parliaments of Religion over the past dozen years. He is now a member of the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative. Frew presents frequently on Craft history topics; here are a handful of instances (it’s a long list):
- “Gardner & Crowley: the Overstated Connection”, PantheaCon 1996
- “Ye Bok of ye Art Magical: A presentation of pages from this early Craft document”, PantheaCon 1997, 1998
- “Gardner, Crowley, and witchcraft: A Presentation and Discussion of the Evidence” – revised & updated, PantheaCon 2003
- “Images of Our History: Early Gardnerian Texts & What They Tell Us”, PantheaCon 2007
- “What is Neoplatonism & Why Should I Care?”, PantheaCon 2010
- “Gardnerian Wica as Theurgic Ascent”, TheurgiCon 2010
- Frew, Crafting the Art of Magic: A Critical Review
- Isaac Bonewits 1988
Bonewits joined the Reformed Druids of North America in the late 1960s while UC Berkeley, where he is famous as the only person ever to achieve an accredited degree in Magic (1971). Known foremost as for his work in Druidry (he founded Ar n’Draoicht Fein in 1983, a religious Druid organization that he led for 13 years, and remained ArchDruid Emeritus until his death), Bonewits was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca during his decade-plus relationship with respected author Deborah Lipp.Bonewits’ contributions are largely to the wider Pagan community; his titles include:
- Bonewits, Real Magic, 1971, 1979, 1989
- Bonewits, The Pagan Man: Priests, Warriors, Hunters, and Drummers, 2005
- Bonewits, Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca, 2006
- Bonewits, Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism, 2007Note: Of especial value to the entire Pagan community is a tool of his invention, the “cult danger evaluation frame.” He published it in Real Magic in 1971; today it is available online as the “Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame” at http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html
- Philip Heselton ?
Philip Heselton wrote extensively on geomantic subjects: ley lines, earth mysteries, tree magics…A Gardnerian initiate of unknown date, Heselton is the foremost researcher and biographer of Gerald Gardner and the individuals who made up the New Forest Coven that initiated him in 1939. He has published three major biographical works:
- Heselton, Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival, 2000
- Heselton, Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration: an Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft, 2003
- Heselton, Witchfather: a Life of Gerald Gardner, volume 1: Into the Witch Cult, 2012
- Heselton, Witchfather, a Life of Gerald Gardner, volume 2: from Witch Cult to Wicca, 2012