The Strange Bird Comes Home to Roost.
Imagine Britain in 1940. France has fallen and what remains of the British army as managed to escape across the channel from Dunkirk. The nation is nervously poised. Winston Churchill is trying to bolster the nation for the expected invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany. In the air, the RAF is in a desperate conflict to thwart the ambitions of a ruthless enemy. The Royal Navy is fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic against the submarine Wolf Packs. On the ground, the Army is trying desperately to re-arm itself. In the New Forest on the South Coast of England, a patriotic and loyal group of Witches are preparing a devastating spell to thwart the Nazis too.
The world is a strange place. There are so many different beliefs and religions. Some of us call them cults. What is the difference between an ideology, a cult, or a religion? Who gets to decide such things?
During the mid-1930s, England was full of many eccentric people. I don’t suppose much has changed on this basis. It was a time when many Brits were asking searching questions of themselves. In the New Forrest area of Hampshire, England, an eccentric middle-aged man named Gerald Gardner began to attend a local gathering of occult-inspired people. This man was regarded by many in society as an oddball character. He looked strange with his wild and thick white hair. It stood up like a whipped ice-cream on a cone. His goat white beard and moustache were also very striking.
He was born in 1884. A time of Empire. As a young man, he had travelled and worked in Ceylon and Malaysia. During his pastime, he often attended tribal gatherings of the local population. He enjoyed watching extraordinary things. Tribal ritual and customs were his passion. He found inspiration from the many meanings behind all pageantries. He kept notes of the many peculiar things he witnessed.
A clip of Gerald Gardner on TV
How Do They View the World.
When I say peculiar things, I mean from the average perspective of a western educated person’s perception. Gerald Gardner was a searcher. A seeker of strange religious beliefs. Especially old and obscure faiths. He was a person of a romantic disposition. He was a man on a quest.
Please try to imagine the world order from the viewpoint of a person wanting to resurrect an old pagan belief. Visionaries, fantasists or, perhaps dreamers, who were trying to find answers from a different stance. Mister Gerald Gardner had found such a group in Hampshire, England. Perhaps the answer to his quest?
He was 52 when he bought his house and began strange practices within the confines of his grounds. He gained a reputation for running an enclosed nudist colony. He had a large back garden that was well fenced off and isolated. However, the town’s folk of conservative-minded England knew of these activities. Visiting tradesmen gossiped about such things. The local authorities had taken an interest. Public nudity was illegal.
From One Group to Another.
Mister Gerald Gardner had retired to this way of life in 1936. His interest in the occult caused him to try all manner of things. Armed and enriched by the tribal ceremonies he had witnessed in remote areas of the planet. He continued his studies and devoted much of his time to writing about the occult.
He seems to have been tolerated by the local authorities with his nudist community because it was practised in the confines of his home and out of sight from the British public. Therefore, only the odd postal worker or milkman might accidentally see such mildly humorous things. Perhaps the amusing distractions were later related in a public house to the local folk. Word spread and the strange and eccentric figure of Mister Gerald Gardner was privately mocked with glee as he went about town.
Witchcraft was ruthlessly put down throughout Europe in the past. People had been tortured and persecuted for being suspected of such things. By 1936 some of the old witchcraft laws still remained. Though extreme measures of policing such things had long gone. The old laws remained because many had not bothered to change them. Old nations have such ancient laws that linger in obscurity because no one needs to use them anymore. Pre-Christianity periods had many myths and legends of all kinds of natural spirits. As Mister Gerald Gardner began to develop his interest from home, he had come across many likeminded people. His past travels had taken him to so many interesting places and he often gave seminars on ancient weaponry. He was a keen amateur anthropologist and archaeologist.
His strange endeavours had attracted the interest of a witches cavern close by. This came about via a knock on effect. He had joined another strange group and within this party were an inner circle that would present a more gratifying fruit. He had first joined the Rosicrucian Theatre group who believed in many strange and fanciful things. Most of the fanciful doctrines amused Gerald Gardner. He was very sceptical of the speakers at this strange theatre group. The Rosicrucian sect believed their founder to be the reincarnation of several people from history. Such people, the founder was believed to have been, were; Pythagoras, Cornelius Agrippa and Francis Bacon.
Gerald Gardner was a romantic searcher, but not a gullible man. However, he did notice another and more interesting occurrence among the strange theatre group. Within the ranks were some less engaged members. Ones not so loud but more followers than leaders. Gerald Gardner developed an affection for them. Or perhaps they were more likely to listen to his ideas and beliefs. One member of this happy little marginal group was named Edith Woodford-Grimes. She would introduce Gerald Gardner to another mysterious lady named Dorothy Clutterbuck.
The Attraction Wicca Grows.
The Every Day Lady.
To all about her, Dorothy Clutterbuck was a practising Christian. She attended church and looked the part of an English country lady of good morality. She was from a well to do family and lived in a large house. Her father had served in India, where the wealthy Dorothy was born in 1880. Gerald Gardner went through an initiation ceremony before the lady and her gathering. He was made to strip naked as the initiation proceeded. He heard the word ‘Wicca’ and knew he was in the presence of a witch’s coven.
On this occasion, Gerald Gardner was taken in by the gathering. He had knowledge of the dark art and firmly believed that those about him were a small group of descendants. Surviving relations from the persecuted witches of old. Kin of those that had escaped the Witch Finder Generals and all manner of Christian oppression from the past. The people before him were the off-spring who had secretly continued the knowledge of Wicca or Witch Craft. In reality, the group was most probably founded when Dorothy returned to England with her father from India.
And so, Gerald Gardner became a Witch under the head of the New Forrest Witch’s Coven led by the high Witch, Dorothy Clutterbuck. It was good timing for in September of 1939 Britain had just started the war with Nazi Germany. The nation was in crisis and the New Forrest Witches Coven would be needed to help the War effort in any way conceivable. Gerald Gardner, Dorothy Clutterbuck and the fringe elements of the Rosicrucian Theatre group would not be found wanting. Their secret craven would cast a spell against the Nazi War Machine.
Gerald Gardner had already given his services to a section of the Home Guard. He loaned some of the ‘Dad’s Army’ soldiers some of the old style weaponry from his archaeological collection and he showed them how to make petrol bombs. However, the more secret devotion to the cause would exclude the Home Guard. Only the witch’s craven could help in the more secretive weaponry reserved for the enemy across the channel.
As Spitfires and Hurricanes spat their bile at the enemy air force in the skies above the gallant British Isle, and while Bletchley Park had its devoted code breakers deciphering the German Enigma codes, Operation Cone of Power also put forth a war effort of devoted intent. In the darkness of night in 1940 and deep in the New Forrest, our patriotic witches marked out a magical circle. Then the attendants of the ritual began to dance about singing and chanting magical spells towards Berlin and the Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
Towards the end of the evoked spell, the Wiccan dancers began to chant, “You cannot cross the sea, you cannot cross the sea, you cannot come, you cannot come.”
This spell was meant to enter the mind of Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler. The seed of hesitation would force him to postpone his plan of invasion. Such spells, according to Gerald Gardner were evoked on two previous occasions. In 1805 against Napoleon Bonaparte and in 1588 against the Spanish Armada. Like the last two planned invasions, the 1940 spell was a dazzling success. If you believe in Gerald Gardner’s Wiccan ideology.
From this patriotic effort, Gerald Gardner would bring the Wiccan belief forward into the mainstream public’s view. He would move to London when certain old witch laws were annulled. He was even interviewed by the well-known Panorama TV programme in 1958. His writings and doctrines would spread across the globe. He would die in 1964 just shy of his 80th birthday.
© 2017 colin powell