Gerald Gardner (Wiccan) : biography
Return to Europe: 1936–1938
In 1936, Gardner and Donna left Malaya and headed for Europe. She proceeded straight to London, renting them a flat at 26 Charing Cross Road, right in the heart of London.Bracelin 1960. p. 152.Heselton 2012a. p. 150. Gardner meanwhile visited Palestine, where he became involved in the archaeological excavations run by J.L. Starkey at Lachish. Here he grew particularly interested in a temple containing statues to both the male deity of Judeo-Christian theology and the pagan goddess Ashtoreth.Bracelin 1960. p. 149.Heselton 2012a. pp. 149–151. From Palestine, Gardner went on to Turkey, visiting several local museums, and to Greece, followed by Hungary and Germany. He eventually reached England, but soon went on a visit to Denmark to attend a conference on weaponry at the Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, during which he personally gave a talk on the kris.Bracelin 1960. pp. 150–152.Heselton 2012a. pp. 150–151. Returning to Britain, he found that the climate made him sick, leading him to register with a doctor, Edward A.Gregg, who recommended that he try nudism. Hesitant at first, Gardner first attended an in-door nudist club, the Lotus League in Finchley, North London, where he made several new friends and felt that the nudity cured his ailment. When summer came, he decided to visit an outdoor nudist club, that of Fouracres near the town of Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, which he soon began to frequent.Heselton 2012a. pp. 152–154. Through nudism, Gardner made a number of notable friends, including James Laver (1899–1975), who became the Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Cottie Arthur Burland (1905–1983), who was the Curator of the Department of Ethnography at the British Museum.Heselton 2012a. pp. 156–157. Biographer Philip Heselton suggested that through the nudist scene Gardner may have also met Dion Byngham (1896–1990), a senior member of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry who propounded a Contemporary Pagan religion known as Dionysianism.Heselton 2012a. pp. 158–159. By the end of 1936, Gardner was finding his Charing Cross Road flat to be cramped, and moved into the block of flats at 32a Buckingham Palace Mansions.Heselton 2012a. p. 161.
Fearing the cold of the English winter, Gardner decided to sail to Cyprus in late 1936, remaining there into the following year. Visiting the Museum in Nicosia, he studied the Bronze Age swords of the island, successfully hafting one of them, on the basis of which he wrote a paper entitled "The Problem of the Cypriot Bronze Dagger Hilt", which would subsequently be translated into both French and Danish, being published in the journals of the Société Préhistorique Française and the Vaabenhistorisk Selskab respectively.Heselton 2012a. pp. 163–165. Back in London, in September 1937, Gardner applied for and received a Doctorate of Philosophy from the Meta Collegiate Extension of the National Electronic Institute, an organisation based in Nevada that was widely recognised by academic institutions as offering invalid academic degrees via post for a fee. He would subsequently style himself as "Dr. Gardner", despite the fact that academic institutions would not recognise his qualifications.Heselton 2012a. p. 166.
Planning to return to the Palestinian excavations the following winter, he was prevented from doing so when Starkey was murdered. Instead he decided to return to Cyprus. A believer in reincarnation, Gardner came to believe that he had lived on the island once before, in a previous life, subsequently buying a plot of land in Famagusta, planning to build a house on it, although this never came about.Heselton 2012a. p. 170. Influenced by his dreams, he wrote his first novel, A Goddess Arrives, over the next few years. Revolving around an Englishman living in 1930s London named Robert Denvers who has recollections of a previous life as a Bronze Age Cypriot – an allusion to Gardner himself – the primary plot of A Goddess Arrives is set in ancient Cyprus and featured a queen, Dayonis, who practices sorcery in an attempt to help her people defend themselves from invading Egyptians. Published in late 1939, biographer Philip Heselton noted that the book was "a very competent first work of fiction", with strong allusions to the build-up which proceeded World War II.Heselton 2012a. pp. 169–181. Returning to London, he helped to dig shelter trenches in Hyde Park as a part of the build-up to the war, also volunteering for the Air Raid Wardens’ Service.Bracelin 1960. p. 159.Heselton 2012a. p. 183. Fearing the bombing of the city, Gardner and his wife soon moved to Highcliffe, just south of the New Forest in Hampshire. Here, they purchased a house built in 1923 named Southridge, situated on the corner of Highland Avenue and Elphinstone Road.Heselton 2012a. pp. 184–185, 188–189.