Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner


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Pedigree Books, 1960. First cheap edition. Book exchange stamps on title page, tear at the bottom of cover, text clean and un-marked. A good copy of a scarce paperback. 

A hugely influential book, instrumental in bringing the contemporary Pagan religion of Wicca to public attention, a definitive text and foundation of the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca.

'Published in 1954, Witchcraft Today recounts Gardner's thoughts on the history and the practices of the witch-cult, and his claim to have met practising witches in 1930s England. It also deals with his theory that the Knights Templar had practised the religion,  and that the belief in faeries in ancient, mediaeval and early modern Europe is due to a secretive pygmy race that lived alongside other communities. Witchcraft Today is one of the foundational texts for the religion of Wicca, along with Gardner's second book on the subject, 1959's The Meaning of Witchcraft.

Gerald Gardner in the foreword to Witchcraft Today:
I have been told by witches in England: "Write and tell people we are not perverts. We are decent people, we only want to be left alone, but there are certain secrets that you mustn't give away." So after some arguments as to exactly what I must not reveal, I am permitted to tell much that has never before been made public concerning their beliefs, their rituals and their reasons for what they do; also to emphasize that neither their present beliefs, rituals nor practices are harmful.

Whilst by the time of writing, Gardner had been initiated into the religion, and had formed his own coven, he did not state this in the book, instead he "posed as a disinterested anthropologist". The introduction to the book was written by Margaret Murray, who had widely supported the witch-cult hypothesis in the 1920s and 1930s through her books The Witch-Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches. In her introduction, she stated that:

Dr Gardner has shown in his book how much of the so-called "witchcraft" is descended from ancient rituals, and has nothing to do with spell-casting and other evil practices, but is the sincere expression of that feeling towards God which is expressed, perhaps more decorously though not more sincerely, by modern Christianity in church services."

Category Witchcraft