Gerald Gardner (Wiccan) : biography
Though having bequeathed the museum, all his artifacts, and the copyright to his books in his will to one of his High Priestess’, Monique Wilson, she and her husband sold off the artefact collection to the American Ripley’s, Believe It Or Not organisation several years later. Ripley’s took the collection to America, where it was displayed in two museums before being sold off during the 1980s. Gardner had also left parts of his inheritance to Patricia Crowther, Doreen Valiente, Lois Bourne and Jack Bracelin, the latter inheriting the Fiveacres Nudist Club and taking over as full-time High Priest of the Bricket Wood coven.
Several years after Gardner’s death, the Wiccan High Priestess Eleanor Bone visited North Africa and went looking for Gardner’s grave. She discovered that the cemetery he was interred in was to be redeveloped, and so she raised enough money for his body to be moved to another cemetery in Tunis,The Rebirth of Witchcraft, Doreen Valiente, page 44 where it currently remains. In 2007, a new plaque was attached to his grave, describing him as being "Father of Modern Wicca. Beloved of the Great Goddess".
In a 1951 interview with a journalist from the Sunday Pictorial newspaper, Gardner claimed to be a doctor of philosophy from Singapore and also to have a doctorate in literature from Toulouse.. Later investigation by Doreen Valiente suggested that these claims were false. The University of Singapore did not exist at that time and the University of Toulouse had no record of him receiving a doctorate. Valiente suggests that these claims may have been a form of compensation for his lack of formal education.
Valiente further criticises Gardner for his publicity-seeking – or at least his indiscretion. After a series of tabloid exposés. some members of his coven proposed some rules limiting what members of the Craft should say to non-members. Valiente reports that Gardner responded with a set of Wiccan laws of his own, which he claimed were original but others suspected he had made up on the spot. This led to a split in the coven, with Valiente and others leaving. She recounted many years after his death:
Gardner only married once in his life, to Donna, and several who knew him made the claim that he was devoted to her. Indeed, after her death in 1960, he began to again suffer serious asthma attacks. Despite this, as many coven members slept over at his cottage due to living too far away to travel home safely, he was known to cuddle up to his young High Priestess, Dayonis, after rituals. The author Philip Heselton, who largely researched Wicca’s origins, came to the conclusion that Gardner had held a long-term affair with Dafo, a theory expanded upon by Adrian Bott. Gardner was a nudist, taking up the hobby on doctor’s instructions after getting a bad cold. Those who knew him within the modern witchcraft movement recalled how he was a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of sunbathing. He also had several tattoos on his body, depicting magical symbols such as a snake, dragon, anchor and dagger.. In his later life he wore a "heavy bronze bracelet… denoting the three degrees… of witchcraft" as well as a "large silver ring with… signs on it, which… represented his witch-name ‘Scire’, in the letters of the magical Theban alphabet."
According to Bricket Wood coven member Fred Lamond, Gardner also used to comb his beard into a narrow barbiche and his hair into two horn like peaks, giving him "a somewhat demonic appearance". Lamond thought that Gardner was "surprisingly lacking in charisma" for someone at the forefront of a religious movement.
Gardner was a supporter of the right wing Conservative Party, and for several years had been a member of the Highcliffe Conservative Association, as well as being an avid reader of the pro-Conservative newspaper, the Daily Telegraph.
Gardner’s family were wealthy and upper middle class, running a family firm, Joseph Gardner and Sons, which described itself as "the oldest private company in the timber trade within the British Empire." Specialising in the import of hardwood, the company had been founded in the mid-18th century by Edmund Gardner (b. 1721), an entrepreneur who would subsequently become a Freeman of Liverpool. Gerald’s father, William Robert Gardner (1844–1935) had been the youngest son of Joseph Gardner (b. 1791), after whom the firm had been renamed, and who with his wife Maria had had five sons and three daughters. In 1867, William had been sent to New York City, in order to further the interests of the family firm. Here, he had met an American, Louise Burguelew Ennis, the daughter of a wholesale stationer; entering a relationship, they were married in Manhattan on 25 November 1868. After a visit to England, the couple returned to the US, where they settled in Mott Haven, Morrisania in New York State. It was here that their first child, Harold Ennis Gardner, was born in 1870. At some point in the next two years they moved back to England, by 1873 settling into The Glen, a large Victorian house in Blundellsands in Lancashire, north-west England, which was developing into a wealthy suburb of Liverpool. It was here that their second child, Robert "Bob" Marshall Gardner, was born in 1874.