Gerald Gardner: “Britain’s Wicca Man” and “Witchfather”

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 7, 2012 — 33 Comments

I have two Gerald Gardner-related news items for you today. First, “Britain’s Wicca Man,” the first documentary to focus exclusively on this foundational figure within Wicca, now has a trailer out.

“Britain’s Wicca Man tells the extraordinary story of Britain’s fastest growing religious group – Wicca – and of its creator, an eccentric Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan studies, Professor Ronald Hutton, explores the unlikely origins of modern pagan witchcraft and experiences first hand its growing influence throughout Britain today. Gardner’s story and the story of Wicca itself is a bizarre one. Born of a nudist colony in 1930s Dorset, Wicca rapidly grew from a small new forest coven to a worldwide religion in the space of just 70 years. Its a journey that takes in tales of naked witches casting spells to ward off Hitler, tabloid hysteria about human sacrifices and Gerald Gardner himself appearing on Panorama. The film tells of a peculiar man who saw that the world was ready for a new religion based on magic, sex nature and ritual – and gave it to us. In doing so, he created in Wicca, the UK’s first religion, one that has taken on a life of its own and is today counted amongst one of the fastest growing faith groups in the world. Through interviews and encounters with Wicca followers, experts and these who knew Gardner, Professor Hutton delves into this unusual world and the story of how its eccentric founder created a religion that is today increasingly seen as a valid alternative to the more orthodox faith groups.”

As noted in the promotional text, the hour-long documentary is hosted by historian Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft,” and deeply knowledgeable on Gardner, the history of Wicca, and the climate in which modern Pagan Witchcraft arose. Also promising is the fact that Philip Heselton, author of “Gerald Gardner And the Cauldron of Inspiration: An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft,” appears in the documentary. So it appears that this special couldn’t have better source material to work with. “Britain’s Wicca Man” was commissioned by Channel 4 in Britain, and is scheduled to be aired sometime in 2012.

The second item, is that the aforementioned Philip Heselton has just released a two-volume biography in ebook format on Gardner entitled “Witchfather: Into the Witch Cult” and “Witchfather: From Witch Cult to Wicca” (you can also pre-order printed copies).

“From the author of the highly acclaimed “Wiccan Roots”, this is the first full-length biography of Gerald Brosseau Gardner (1884-1964) – a very personal tale of the man who single-handedly brought about the revival of witchcraft in England in the mid 20th Century.”

Ronald Hutton calls the biography: “humane, intelligent, compassionate, shrewd, and based upon a colossal amount of primary research,” so it looks like it will quickly become a must-own for scholars, Wiccans interested in the roots of their religion, and anyone curious as to how Gardner helped jump-start the modern Pagan movement.

So it looks like 2012 is shaping up to be a year of revived attention to, and interest in, Gerald Gardner. I’m looking forward to both this documentary, and the biography. I anticipate that both will be lasting contributions towards understanding the importance of this figure in our collective history. I’ll be featuring updates, and hopefully reviews, of both in the coming months.

Jason Pitzl-Waters