The origins of Gardnerian Wicca – or at least, the story Gardner told of them – are well known. He was supposed to have made contact with a coven of genuine witches in the New Forest, and was initiated by them into the Wicca ‘cult’, as he referred to it. Among these were the old witch Dorothy Clutterbuck, and the young Dafo, who was Gardner’s own High Priestess. It was Dafo who wrote to Gardner late in his life to rebuke him for seeking publicity – a statement taken by many to mean Gardner’s decision to open the Craft up to a wider audience.
Since then, many people have endeavored to find out the truth behind Gardner’s account, most recently Philip Heselton in his book ‘Wiccan Roots’. Heselton seems to take the view that Gardner was telling the absolute truth, and that he really was initiated into a surviving coven; Wiccan Roots is a brave attempt to find facts to fit the theory, and certainly goes much further than any other attempt, though it is somewhat disappointing to find that the diaries of Dorothy Clutterbuck reveal her to have been a perfectly ordinary if nature-loving Christian. The trouble with Gardner’s core story, though, is that if he can be shown to be lying about some of the key elements. With that in mind, I intend to demonstrate once and for all that not only is Wicca a completely modern construct, but to indicate for the first time in print why Gardner invented Wicca in the first place.
The rest of this article by Adrian Bott, which was published in White Dragon at Lughnasa 2001, can be read on the White Dragon website.