What is Gardnerian Witchcraft?

If you're not sure what Gardnerian Witchcraft is, you could start off by reading this article written as a handout for the 2005 conference of the Transpersonal Psychology Section of the British Psychological Association. It introduces the main characters involved in the early, Modern Witchcraft movement, and gives a brief history with regards to the Crafts subsequent propagation and diversification.

 

Essentially, Gardnerian Witchcraft is the name given to the spiritual path that initiates of Gerald Gardner follow. Gardner's book Witchcraft Today was integral to this movement and other influences included the work of Dr Margaret Murray, Charles Leland and Aleister Crowley to name a few. Many also influenced Gardner's (and others) development of the 'Book of Shadows' - an online version of which can be found here. This particular version draws heavily on the 'Weschcke Documents'; the name commonly given to a set of documents, typed by Gardner and sent to Carl Weschcke, CEO of Llewellyn, by Charles Clark in 1969. In actuality, there were several different versions of the Book of Shadows around in the 1950s and 60s reflecting the fact that the Book of Shadows was and always is, a work in progress. 

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◉ You can find a lovely article about Witches, featuring a picture of Dr Margaret Murray, taken from Everywoman (November 1963) here.

 

Why Wica with one 'c'?

In his books, Gerald Gardner used the one 'c' form, Wica, to describe the people involved in the tradition of Witchcraft that he was initiated into. If you check out  the newspaper articles on my Gerald Gardner page, you will see him continuing to use the one 'c' spelling in interviews that he gave throughout the 1950s. Similarly, Charles Clark insisted on using Wica and considered the two 'c' form Wicca, to be connected with the members of another tradition associated with the magician and self-proclaimed psyhcologist Charles Cardell. 

 

The term 'Gardnerian' was originally coined in the Witchcraft Research Association's newsletter, Pentagram, in an attempt to derogatorily describe the people that were coming into the Craft via Gerald Gardner. 'Gardnerian' was a never a term used by Gardner himself. Consequently, I prefer to use the term 'the Wica' when talking about Gardnerian Crafters. I give my reasoning below but you go and decide for yourself! Ere remember - that by names and images are all powers wakened and reawakened.

 
Gardner's Usage of Wica versus Wicca 

 

I have looked at the usage of 'Wica' and 'Wicca' in Gardner's writings and it is clear that Gardner mainly used one 'c' Wica. However it should be noted that he used this, almost invariably, as a collective noun for the members of the Witch Cult. He never used 'Wicca' in any form. The word 'Wicca', in modern times, is used to refer to the name of the religion of modern Witchcraft and its adherents are often referred to as 'Wiccans'.

Here is a list of the various occurrences of 'Wica' and 'Wicca' in Gardner's own books:-

High Magics Aid  (1949) - Wica = 0 Wicca = 0

Witchcraft Today (1954) - Wica =  3 Wicca = 0

The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959) - Wica =  17  Wicca = 5 (all instances being used in a section where Gardner is talking specifically about etymology.)

Gerald Gardner Witch (1960) - Gardner's biography written by Idries Shah but attributed to Jack Bracelin. Wica = 21 Wicca = 0.

Gardner's preference for a one 'c' spelling of Wica seems clear and it is also interesting to see its increasing usage by him, over time.

Additionally, when you look at old newspaper cuttings, some of which go back to the 1950's, there is not one incident of Gardner using 'Wicca'. Usually, he refers to himself as a witch and there are a couple of instances where he clarifies this further. In one article he says 'there are men and women witches, each is called a Wica.' (see the Daily Dispatch article under 'Gerald Gardner'). The same is also true of Gardner's personal correspondence, he never used 'Wicca' and tended to refer to the Craft as the 'Witch Cult'. A title almost certainly inspired by the title of Margaret Murray's book, The Witch Cult In Western Europe.

 

  • Read my article which takes a look at how Wica came to be more popularly spelt as Wicca.

  • Here is a useful word document compiled by 'Season' which provides a good guide to things that Gardner actually said about various Craft matters, in his published books. It starts off with some examples of Gardner's usage of Wica. (Season used to have a website but it appears to be no more.)

 

Initiatory Lineage's

Gardnerian Witchcraft is an initiatory tradition and as such there are various lineages. Many years ago, I attempted to make a family tree depicting many of the early 'lines' based on publically available information. This tree also explores possible ways that the Craft left the UK's shores. 

 

  • There is now much diversity amongst the Witchcraft groups of North America, something that has almost certainly been the result of having a much greater population than the UK and something  that I think, also reflects the relatively young history of the modern USA.