Gerald Gardner: Book of Shadows

(ca. 1953)

The Wiccan Book of Shadows is often attributed to the British author Gerald Brosseau Gardner. Gardner declared that in 1939 he was initiated into a coven of witches in Highcliffe, England, who claimed to be followers of an ancient faith that had preserved pre-Christian pagan religion. This “Old Religion” taught a magical worldview and worshipped the gods of ancient times. It was called Wica (pronounced “witcha”) and had survived over millennia, despite being driven underground during the witch hunts of early-modern Europe. Gardner sought to publicize his newfound faith and soon began to gather interest from the press; he found that people were keen to learn more about this “craft of the wise.” Gardner began to train people and gave them a short book that contained the practical rites, spells, and ceremonies of the witches. This book was to be copied by hand, in candlelight, and never let out of one’s possession. It was called the Book of Shadows.

Gardner said that the Book...

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The goddess Diana (Yale University Art Gallery)

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