by Kyril Oakwind & Judy Harrow
          appearing in the spring/summer 1989 issue of FireHeart

          Each year, Garderians come together for the Annual Samhain
          Garderian Gather.  In the years since it began, the Gather
          has grown from a small local get-together to a national
          gathering, with participants from both East and West coasts.
          This year, England was represented as well !  Our experience
          in the Gardnerian community has shown that we are not a
          homogeneous group.  These family reunions have allowed us to
          maintain a certain amount of continutity while learning
          about of differences.  There is a spectrum within Gardnerian
          practice.  Kryil represents the more traditional or
          conservative side of the family, while the practices of
          Judy's coven look more eclectic or innovative.  We felt that
          by working together, we could describe our tradition more
          clearly than either of us could writing alone.
             Gardnerianism as a distinct Tradition began with the
          writings of Gerald B. Gardner.  He was initiated into the
          New Forest coven in England by "old Dorothy" Clutterbuck.
          During World War II, Gardner participated in the efforts of
          British Witches, led by Dorothy Clutterbuck, to turn back
          Germany's invasion troops.  Gardner was active in the Craft
          and published a fictional novel about medeival Witchcraft in
          1949.  He started a Museum of witchcraft on the Isle of Man
          after the 1951 repeal of the last anti-witchcraft law in
          England.  Coming out publicly as a Witch in 1954, he
          published "Witchcraft Today".
             At that time, he believed the Craft was dying out-most of
          the members were older and few young members were being
          initiated.  Gardner stronly believed not only in
          reincarnation, but that he would be reborn to the craft.  If
          it died out, this could not be, and so he dedicated himself
          to reviving the Craft.  Unable to directly reveal much of
          his coven's workings, he developed a system that was a
          systhesis of various elements from Masonic ritual,
          ceremonial magick, French Mediterranean Craft and the
          teachings of his coven.  Gardner and later Doreen Valiente,
          rewrote some of the ritual, improving its poetic qualities
          and adding yet another dimension.  As generations of
          Witches, they became the basis of Garnderianism, and those
          who practiced these rituals as handed down (not as
          published) became known as Garnderians.
             Gardneriansim was brought to America by the Bucklands in
          1962.  Their coven was passed on to Lady Theos and Pheonix
          in 1972 and to Lady Rhiannon in 1985.
             Judy notes that the existence of the earlier New Forest
          coven is unproven, and not particularly important.  We may
          not know wether our Craft is old or new.  We know for sure
          that it works.  What we can prove is that Gerald Gardner,
          Doreen Valiete, and their associates did develop a ritual
          and symbolic system, drawing from many sources including
          their own inspirations.  Their single greatest innovation
          was to make the Goddess their main focus.  The fruit of that
          generation's research, innovation and creativity was a
          strong and flexible ritual structure that forms a foundation
          for the research, innovation and creativity of later
          generations.  In fact, we know that each successive
          generations of Gardnerians did augment the materials they

          received, and develop the Tradition.  As we live with this
          material, use it and practice it, while continuing to study
          whatever Pagan sources we can find and, we hope, grow in our
          understanding both experientially and intellectually, we
          must and will make changes.  A tradition that does not
          change is dead.
             Gardnerisnism, like mush of the craft, is an initiatory,
          Mystery Tradition.  To become a member of the Tradition, an
          individual must be initiated by a Garnderian who was
          initiated by a Gardnerian, on back to Gardner and his High
          Priestesses, and the initiation ritual used must be the
          Gardnerian ritual.  Initiation is more than a rite of
          passage that unties the participants.  They have not only
          undergone a similar death and rebirth but are reborn into a
          particular world.  That world is a microcosm of the universe
          with a unique psychic pattern of the created by the
          particular ritual, energy current, and vibration of the
          Deity names used by the participants.  They take on the
          group karma of their new family and clan, and they add to it
          as well.  They also take an oath of secrecy.
             From a more eclectic Gardnerian viewpoint, any initiation
          ritual that is based on the Gardnerian structure and
          contains certain elements is a valid Gardnerian initiations.
          Lineage-the sense of family and continuity- is intensely
          important to Garderians.  Within Judy's line, any variants
          on initiation or elevation rituals must be checked with the
          Priestess immediately senior to the one making the changes.
          In this way, we make room for growing understanding and
          changing times without sacrificing the continuity that all
          Garderians value equally.
             Kyril points out that Neo-Gardnerian or Gardnerian based
          groups using the published versions of Gardnerian rituals,
          while performing and having perfectly valid initiatory
          experiences, are not being "reborn" into the same psychic
          pattern as that of the Gardnerian Tradition.  A real
          difference exists in the energy they draw on and the psychic
          patterning that is being done.  Gardnerianism is very much a
          family.  We have our different covens and our different
          practices, But the family feeling is very strong.  We are
          bound by the magickal ties of the initiation and our oath of
          secrecy.  We are bound by the ties of love.  No amount of
          book knowledge can ever replace human contact and the
          feeling of belonging to a loving family.  This is why Judy
          feels a re-written ritual within the context of lineage,
          makes you a Gardnerian in a way that a word-perfect ritual
          out of a book never could.
             Gardnerianism as a Tradition has a body of rituals passed
          down from Gardner that helps to form the core identity-a
          shared current of energy which is added to and drawn on by
          all the initiates, secret Deity names, and a specific group
          Karma.  It also has a hierarchial form of leadership, a
          three degree systems of training, experienced and
          knowledgeable Witch Queens and Maguses (high Priestesses and
          High Priest who have successfully trained a coven to the
          point where another coven has hived off from theirs) from
          which to draw on.  And there is an oath of secrecy.
            Judy feels Gardnerianism is not much so the body of
          rituals as the ritual system and the symbolic vocabulary.
          She tells her students that Gerald, Doreen and their
          associates were the architects, but we are the interior
          decorators.  The structural pattern can be gotten from books

          almost as easily as a particular script can be.  More and
          more, she believes that the personal affiliation, the group
          Karama if you will, and the energy current are as definitive
          as the ritual and symbol system.
             Our respect for lineage, and for the seniors within our
          lineage, is very important.  But Judy does not think of it
          as hierarchical.  In hierarchy, those "above" us would have
          been assigned by those above them, without our consent.  We
          choose to work with our teachers, our Priest/esses, our
          Queens and Maguses out of respect and love and trust.  The
          bond is freer and more flexiable- and far more real.  Nor
          are they considered to be holier or higher, simply more
             The tree degree system is an uncomfortable but necessary
          form of quality control.  An initiation is a statement, not
          only to the Gods, but also to the community, that this
          person is a Priest/ess, qualified to fulfill certain roles.
          If we initiate people, or do degree elevations, before they
          are competent, harm amy result.