Return to Cauldron Home Page

Please donate now to pay our monthly server fees:
Donate to The Cauldron
[More Info]

Community Menu
Community Home

Message Board
Board Home
Board Rules
Board Extras:

CauldronMUX [Client]
Sister Forums:
   Asatru Lore


Site Info & Rules
Site Archives
Volunteers Needed
Advertise Here

Pagan Supplies
Buy Pagan Books
Buy Pagan Supplies

Books & Media
Books Home
Games Home
Music: Free | Pagan
Online Books
Pagan Book Browser
   Academic Books
   Divination Decks
   Fiction Books
   Pagan Books
   Speculative Books
   DVD & Videotape
Submit Review

Pagan Features
Article Library
Chat Log Index
File Library
Pagan Holidays
Pagan Primer
Pagan Rituals
Pagan Supplies
Pagan Youth
Spell Grimoire [Blog]
Web Resources

Pagan Living
Cauldron Cookbook
Take Political Action

Back Issues

Other Features
Greeting Cards
Syndicated Articles
World News/Opinion

Cheap Web Hosting
Doxy's Bazaar
Witchcraft Course

Old Indexes
Article Index
Webcrafting Index

Network Sites
Cauldron and Candle
Cauldron's Grimoire
RetroRoleplaying: The Blog
Software Gadgets
The Terran Empire

Site Search
Entire Web
The Cauldron

Member - Pagan Forum Alliance
Charter Member

Get Firefox! While this web site is designed to work in all major browsers, we recommend Firefox.

This site hosted on
a Linode VPS
Formerly hosted by

Why Use Dreamhost?

Site copyright
© 1998-2009
by Randall

Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > Wiccan Roots Search

Book Review:
Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival

Author: Philip Heselton
Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Capall Bann Publishing
Publication date: December 2000
ISBN: 1861631103
Price & More Info: Click Here


Wiccan Roots represents an attempt by Philip Heselton to examine in great detail the setting, circumstances, and people surrounding Gerald B. Gardner's initiation as a witch in 1939, and the events which followed therefrom. It is the result of a significant amount of original research, and includes information which, insofar as I am aware, has not until now been available to many of the people who have an interest in this subject. In his Introduction to the book, Heselton says:

I wanted to draw together what had already been published about the modern witchcraft revival, including vital books such as Gerald Gardner: Witch and obscure articles in defunct magazines, which could nevertheless reveal some unusual aspects of the subject.

It would be safe to say that Heselton has been successful in that aim, at least. Whether the conclusions he draws from the information he has unearthed are justified is another question.

Wiccan Roots begins with a fairly detailed examination of Gerald Gardner's life up to his retirement to England in 1936, establishing Gardner as a gentleman of independent means with a complaisant wife, and an active interest in esoteric subjects. After setting the scene by discussing the geography of the New Forest area, including the village of Highcliffe where Gardner eventually settled, Heselton examines the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, which established the Garden Theatre in the village of Somerford, between Christchurch and Highcliffe. It was among the membership of the Crotona Fellowship, and the casts and crews of the various plays produced by the Fellowship in the Garden Theater that Gardner is supposed to have found "a small group of people apart from the rest." It is this smaller group which is supposed to have been made up of members of the New Forest Coven, and which eventually initiated him into "the Craft of the Wica." Heselton identifies several of these persons by name, and provides some details of their lives. Among these is the woman known as "Dafo," who became Gardner's initiator and first magical partner, and who later broke with him over the question of publicizing witchcraft.

Heselton then spends several chapters addressing the issue of "Old Dorothy," more properly known as Dorothy St. Quintin Fordham (nee Clutterbuck,) and the nature of her involvement (if any,) in witchcraft and the New Forest Coven. He includes several excerpts from her "diaries" (which might be more properly characterized as journals or daybooks,) and while he admits that the evidence is far from conclusive, Heselton makes it clear that he believes her to have been both pagan and a practicing witch. The remainder of the book discusses the nature of the New Forest Coven, the legendary gathering of witches in the New Forest on Lammas Eve of 1940 to perform a great working to prevent an invasion of Britain by the Germans, and finally, some related issues, such as the possible influence of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry on the modern witchcraft revival, and the possibility of a connection of some sort between the New Forest Coven and Sybil Leek's Horsa Coven. In his final chapter, Heselton outlines a scenario which is consistent with the information developed in his research, and which he believes provides a plausible explanation for the mystery that has always surrounded Gerald Gardner's account of his initiation.

The book itself left me feeling ambivalent. Philip Heselton has clearly performed a great deal of original research, at no little cost to him in time and trouble. He presents the information developed out of his research in a clear and reasonably straightforward manner. It is, I suppose, the conclusions that Heselton draws from his information, and the manner in which he draws them, that trouble me. Heselton has a bad habit of suggesting in one chapter that the available evidence may indicate that such-and-such is true, and then beginning his reasoning in the next chapter as if the such-and-such mentioned in the previous chapter was an established fact. One sees this all too often in the popular press, (Holy Blood, Holy Grail being but one horrible example of this sort of reasoning,) but it is disturbing to find it in a work intended to be a piece of serious scholarship. Heselton also makes what I view to be a serious error in his interpretations of the various entries in Dorothy Fordham's "diaries." He clearly views her allusions to a number of common images from classical mythology in those diary entries as evidence that Dorothy was pagan. In doing so, he, ignores the fact that Dorothy, who was born in 1880, received the sort of private, classical education traditional for a young woman of Britain's upper classes during the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. Flowery allusions to classical themes were common features in formal writing (particularly of poetry), in the society in which Dorothy was raised, without being accorded any special meaning beyond being decorative. Such things were, in essence, evidence that the author had been properly educated. The inclusion of such things in a piece of verse would only be considered significant of something else when viewed from the context of a society where such ornate forms of writing have fallen wholly out of favor.

It is in large part because I feel that Heselton has not proved his arguments regarding Dorothy Fordham that I have problems accepting his conclusions in their entirety. That having been said, I must also state that I think that Wiccan Roots ought to be read by anyone with a serious interest in the history of the modern witchcraft revival. It makes a useful companion piece to Professor Ronald Hutton's The Triumph of the Moon, and Professor Hutton has in fact contributed a short forward to Wiccan Roots. In the long run, I think that Wiccan Roots' greatest value will be as an encouragement to further research and debate, rather than as a definitive resolution of the issues Philip Heselton has explored in its pages.

Wiccan Roots is footnoted, and contains an index. It was published by Capall Bann, which unfortunately means that it has had only very limited distribution in North America. However, I was able to obtain a copy with little difficulty (albeit after a wait of several weeks) from the UK branch of

Reviewed by Brock (High Priest, Tangled Moon Coven, Clarksville, TN)

Top | Home | Message Board | Site Info & Rules | Report Site Problems
Thanks to Cauldron Sponsors
(Sponsor The Cauldron!)

Cheap Web Hosting Report | Pagan & Magick Supplies
Witchcraft Course
Download Hundreds of Magic Spells