Michael Howard is a foremost expert on Witchcraft and Wicca, himself and initiate and practitioner of Gardnerian Wicca has written a book with an insiders look at the craft from it’s inception all the way to it’s evolution of the present day. Mr. Howard has written well over twenty books on Witchcraft and Magick.
It was in the early 1950’s that Gerald Brossaugh Gardner founded Modern Wicca or Witchcraft. Since it’s inception both the founder and the movement have been subject to controversy. Some would describe Gardner as eccentric, perverted, untruthful and publicity hungry. Others would describe him as quick witted, humorous and very talkative.
Debate goes on to this day as to whether Wicca is Gardners own concoction or whether it is an ancient witch cult that has survive since prehistoric times. Following the theory of Dr. Margaret Murray who proposed that the Witch cult is a remnant of an Ancient Fertility Goddess religious cult that was spread world wide. Many in the academic community have since debunked her theories. Isaac Bonewits has also said that Gardner’s religion is not an ancient one but rather a relgion that was born in the 1950’s yet is still valid. Gavin Bone echoed similar sentiments.
As a child Gardner was rather sickly having been afflicted with asthma. In order to improve his health Gardener’s care taker used to take him to warmer climates. During these travel he was exposed to different pagan historical sights. Such travel would eventually take him to India where he was able to learn about Ancient Indian Religion. The Kris was an Indian Knife it was used to in rituals and sometimes in combat. It was believed that the knife contained a spirit. Gardener ended up living over there for a while. He returned and ended up living in New Forest.
In terms of religious practice and belief Gardner was some what of an eclectic. He was a Mason, belong perhaps rather briefly to Crowley’s OTO organization, was a naturist, belonged to a Druid Order and belong to the Celtic church ( definitely Christian). While living in New Forest he was exposed to a what was lead to believe was a coven. They used to gather in a Rosicrucian theater and the member were also Rosicrucian’s. Gardner was initiated into this order by the High Priestess Dorothy Clutterbuck . Some reports say that someone named Dafo initiated him. After his induction he wrote several fiction book. Most of the rituals came from Mather’s Lesser Key of Solomon. He did not want to reveal too much supposedly.
In the early 1950’s he went public. There are serious speculations that Gardner had Crowley wrote parts of Gardner’s Book of Shadows. Parts were definitely plagiarized. Gardners relation to Crowley was rather ambiguous. Some say that Gardner called Crowley a Charlatan. Other maintain that Crowley though Gardner a little crazy. The two met for a few days and Gardner was supposed to head up Crowley’s OTO chapter in Britain. Gardner never pursued it and he made the claim that his ill health prevented him.
The book point to a common denominator between Crowley’s material and background and that of Gardner’s. Apparently at different times both were affiliated with a coven system run by George Pickingill. It seems as if Pickingill had a coven running in New Forest. . This was reported in Cauldron Magazine by some one named Liddel.
One of the big shots to enter Garder’s circle was Doreen Valiente. She would later rewrite many parts of Gardner’s book of Shadows. Charles Cardell would also become a major player in Wicca. He would start his own movement based primarily on Gardner’s Book of Shadows. His God would be Atho.
After living in New Forest Gardner and his wife moved to Bricketwood. In Bricketwood Wicca and witch craft would be exposed to negative publicity. The Wiccan would try to counteract that and several advised keeping a low profile. Gardner was constantly seeking publicity. Power struggles and publicity stunts would serve to divide the group. During this time period Alex Sanders would get involved. Those that met him at first did not think to highly of him. Alex would make false claims and cal himself the King of Witches. He started his own branch. Doreen Valiente would leave Gardners fold and then join Alex Sanders group. In time she left that and went with Robert Cochrane.
As time goes on and Gardner passes away Wicca evolves, It moves away from Coven based and becomes more festival and book based. The primary authority become authors who publish books. Wiccans can eventually self initiate and become solitary practitioners. Wiccans become feminist and involved with the environments and organizations spring up that unify Wicca with other Pagan movements. These organization help protect Pagan rights. Wicca is now on it’s way to becoming a major world religion.
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