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 > The Meaning of Witchcraft Search

Order from
Buying books via our links helps support The Cauldron.
Book Review:
The Meaning of Witchcraft

Author: Gerald Gardner
Trade Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 1959, 2004
List: US$19.95
ISBN: 1578633095
Price & More Info: Click Here

If you have been trained in a lineaged tradition of Witchcraft, you have probably read this book. If you joined the Craft more than 10 years ago, you have probably read this book. If you don't fall into either of the above categories, or if you simply haven't gotten around to reading this book, it is time to pick up this reprint by Weiser. This was only the second public statement of Witch beliefs in the modern English-speaking world.

Over the years I have heard a lot of people dispute Gardner's claims (and claims about Gardner); mostly from people I strongly suspect have never taken the time to actually read this book. While we can never know for sure how much Gardner inherited from his initiators and how much he cobbled together on his won, at least in this book we have his statements first hand.

I first read this book more than a quarter of a century ago. Every time I got a copy into my library, I made the mistake of loaning it out (and losing it). With this reprint, I can now tell my students where they can get their own copies. It belongs in the library of every serious student, if only for the historical value.

One of the things which struck me as I began this book was how little things have changed in four and a half decades - Churchmen still preach against the "devil-worshipping Witches," and if something goes wrong in a locality with a publicly known Witch anywhere in sight, you can be sure who will get the blame for "causing" the misfortune.

Say what you will about Gerald Gardner, he knew human nature. He knew that the public, although curious about Witchcraft, was reluctant to grant it legitimate religious status. It was all a thrill to read about in the Sunday papers near Halloween, but no rational person could possibly believe in it; could they? In his time, there was no one to present the Witches' side of things. Nowadays there are too many people presenting "the Witches'" side of things, and most of them disagree with each other.

In Chapter II ("Witches Memories and Beliefs") the author makes a statement which many of his detractors seem to have missed: "It is just what I think, not what I know, because I do not see how anyone will ever find the first beginnings." [emphasis his] So, although his religious descendant might treat his theories as holy writ, he didn't see it that way. Let us grant him the same consideration we would any other researcher. His beliefs may, or may not, be disproved, but they at least provided a starting point for further inquiries.

It is all too easy to dismiss Gardner's writings and speculations as being his own inventions, but further research has both supported and supplanted them. He is meticulous about reminding his reader that these are his ideas about what may have happened. He should not be held accountable for the actions and beliefs of those who followed him. He, personally, expresses a level of tolerance which could be profitably imitated today.

The only thing which current readers may have a problem with is caused by Gardner's education. He was educated at a time when the ability to read Latin was a given. Consequently he includes some quotations from older works in Latin (and some in French) without providing translations. These instances are few, however, and do not detract from the value of the work.

Many other authors cite Gardner, and now Red Wheel/Weiser has made this valuable text easily available. Buy this book. Read it. You will gain a better understanding of the early days of modern Wiccan existence.

Reviewed by Mike Gleason

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