“Witchcraft is, and was, not… for everyone. Unless you have an attraction to the occult, a sense of wonder, a feeling that you can slip for a few minutes out of the world into the world of faery, it is of no use to you.” — Gerald Gardner
Gerald Gardner was a retired British civil servant. In the 1950s, he devised a set of religious practices, Wicca, which included a form of magical work as part of its worship, witchcraft. There was witchcraft before Gerald Gardner, and there was witchcraft after him. But there’s little doubt that he was the spark that led to the spread of 20th-century Neopagan Witchcraft.
There are many varieties of Wicca: Alexandrian, Faery, Dianic, Eclectic, and so on. This is what distinguishes Gardnerian Wicca from the other varieties:
- “Gardnerian” means a continuity of ritual and practice from what Gardner developed in the 1950s. Despite what the name may imply, Gardnerians don’t worship Gerald Gardner. (Originally the term “Gardnerian” was an insult, like the term “Baroque” music was.)
- Like many Wiccan traditions, Gardnerians have a “lineage”: X was taught by Y, Y was taught by Z, etc. At the top of that lineage is someone who worked with Gardner.
- Gardner said “It takes a witch to make a witch.” He was talking about reincarnation, but in practice it means that only a fully-trained and initiated Gardnerian can bring another person into the Craft. There are Wiccan traditions that recognize the concept of self-initiation, but Gardnerian Wicca is not one of them.
- Gardnerians share a common “language” of ritual practice. If a Gardnerian High Priestess and High Priest met for the first time, after about five minutes of discussion they could start casting a Circle that would be comfortable for both of them and for any other Gardnerians in the ritual.
If you’d like to know more about Gardner, what he inspired, and what inspired him, I recommend the following books:
- The Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton
- Witchfather Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Philip Heselton
- The Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente
For some more details, see the FAQ.