Posted by: Nyxks | January 21, 2007

Gerald Gardner: Witch

Gerald Gardner: Witch
by J. L. Bracelin © 1999
I-H-O Books (Mandrake Press)
196 pages + Appendix, Bibliography & Ancestry
ISBN 1-872189-08-3
Paperback $17.95 (U.S)
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason

This is a reprint of one of the first books dealing with the emergence of Wicca into the realm of common knowledge. At the time the original was published (1960) there was very little in print regarding the man who same to be recognized, depending upon who you talk to, as “the man who invented Wicca,” “the grand old man of the Craft,” or “the world’s first public Witch.” Today there are dozens of books written specifically about Gerald Brosseau Gardner and hundreds, if not thousands, of websites related to him and his teachings. A man who feared that Witchcraft was on its last legs, he must be amazed by the rapid growth of this religion in the intervening decades.

How accurate the accounts are of his exploits in the East is open to debate, as is the case in any biography. To read his exploits is to read accounts reminiscent of Indiana Jones. But these accounts, while providing a background to the story, are not vital to the main part of the story.

The very short bibliography (thirteen entries) consists mostly of articles written by Gardner for various academic groups and publications. That is not unexpected since the author of this book had access to Gardner himself, and since very little had appeared in print regarding Gardner’s background (although several articles had appeared on the subject of his belief in Witchcraft).

There may be questions about how much Craft material and ritual he “inherited” from his first coven; and his claim to the title of “Doctor” may be called into question; but there are several things which are beyond doubt: First, that he wrote extensively one magical weapons of the East; Second, that he did more to publicize the existence of Witchcraft in the modern world; and finally, that he was a one-of-a-kind man with most unusual interests and few of the expected biases of a man born at the end of the nineteenth century.

Much more than the first half of the book is devoted to exploring Gardner’s life in the East, prior to his retirement and return to Britain. All of that time, from age 16 to age 52, gave him an extensive understanding of the “primitive mind” which would ease his understanding of Witchcraft. There follows a bit about his experience prior to his involvement with the witch cult.

It isn’t until well after page 145 (chapter 13) that we begin to hear about the development of his interest in, and involvement with, the witch cult in England. Although there will be many who will say “why wait so long to introduce the topic?” it is necessary to understand the background before approaching the meat of the matter.

There are numerous, minor, typographical errors (misplaced commas and such) but nothing major enough to detract from the work itself.

I have heard disputes about the accuracy of various parts of this work but, never having met Gardner, I have no way to judge the validity of those statements. One thing which is beyond dispute, however, is the fact that this was the first widely-available biography of one of the most prominent personalities in the field of Witchcraft. It is a valuable historical perspective, whatever its shortcomings may be.


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