Gerald Gardner (Wiccan)

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Gerald Gardner (Wiccan) : biography

13 June 1884 – 12 February 1964

In 1915 Gardner again joined a local volunteer militia, the Malay States Volunteer Rifles. Although between 1914 and 1918 World War I was raging in Europe, its effects were little felt in Malaya, apart from the 1915 Singapore Mutiny.Bracelin 1960. pp. 63–64.Heselton 2012a. pp. 85–86. Gardner was keen to do more towards the war effort and in 1916 once again returned to Britain. He attempted to join the British Navy, but was turned down due to ill health.Heselton 2012a. pp. 86–87. Unable to fight on the front lines, he began working as an orderly in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in the First Western General Hospital, Fazakerley, located on the outskirts of Liverpool. He was working in the VAD when casualties came back from the Battle of the Somme and he was engaged in looking after patients and assisting in changing wound dressings. He soon had to give this up when his malaria returned, and so decided to return to Malaya in October 1916 because of the warmer climate.Bracelin 1960. pp. 123–124.Heselton 2012a. pp. 87–89.

He continued to manage the rubber plantation but after the end of the war, commodity prices dropped and by 1921 it was difficult to make a profit.Heselton 2012a. p. 95. He returned again to Britain, in what later biographer Philip Heselton speculated might have been an unsuccessful attempt to ask his father for money.Heselton 2012a. pp. 95–96. Returning to Malaya, Gardner found that the Borneo Company had sacked him, and he was forced to find work with the Public Works Department.Bracelin 1960. pp. 64–65.Heselton 2012a. p. 96. In September 1923 he successfully applied to the Office of Customs to become a government-inspector of rubber plantations, a job that involved a great amount of traveling around the country, something he enjoyed.Bracelin 1960. pp. 65–66.Heselton 2012a. pp. 96–98. After a brief but serious illness, the Johore government reassigned Gardner to an office in the Lands Office while he recovered, eventually being promoted to Principal Officer of Customs. In this capacity, he was made an Inspector of Rubber Shops, overseeing the regulation and sale of rubber in the country. In 1926 he was placed in charge of monitoring shops selling opium, noting regular irregularities and a thriving illegal trade in the controlled substance; believing opium to be essentially harmless, there is evidence indicating that Gardner probably took many bribes in this position, earning himself a small fortune.Bracelin 1960. pp. 66–74.Heselton 2012a. pp. 99–102.

Marriage and archaeology: 1927–1936

Gardner’s mother had died in 1920, but he had not returned to Britain on that occasion.Bracelin 1960. p. 125. However, in 1927 his father became very ill with dementia, and Gardner decided to visit him. On his return to Britain, Gardner began to investigate spiritualism and mediumship. He soon had several encounters which he attributed to spirits of deceased family members. Continuing to visit Spiritualist churches and séances, he was highly critical of much of what he saw, although he encountered several mediums he considered genuine. One medium apparently made contact with a deceased cousin of Gardner’s, an event which impressed him greatly. His first biographer Jack Bracelin reports that this was a watershed in Gardner’s life, and that a previous academic interest in spiritualism and life after death thereafter became a matter of firm personal belief for him.Bracelin 1960. pp. 125–133.Heselton 2012a. pp. 104–109 . The very same evening (28 July 1927) after Gardner had met this medium, he met the woman he was to marry; Dorothea Frances Rosedale, known as Donna, a relation of his sister-in-law Edith. He asked her to marry him the next day and she agreed. Because his leave was coming to an end very soon, they married quickly on 16 August at St Jude’s Church, Kensington, and then honeymooned in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, before heading via France to Malaya.Bracelin 1960. pp. 133–137.Heselton 2012a. pp. 109–114.