Gardnerian Wicca is an initiatory mystery Tradition (or branch) of Witchcraft named after Gerald Brosseau Gardner, a man initiated into a traditional Witch coven in the New Forest region of England in 1939. Finding the rituals fragmentary, he rewrote them with the help of Doreen Valiente, one of his initiates, resulting in the present Wiccan form.
Gardnerian Witches see the Divine as immanent in Nature and personified as the God and Goddess, which appear in many forms. They celebrate the turning of the year through eight seasonal festivals known as sabbats, and hold coven meetings, called esbats, for worship, magical working and coven business during the full moon.
This Tradition has three degrees of initiation that are passed on from man to woman, and woman to man.
The first degree confers initiation into the Tradition, and usually into the coven. A first-degree initiate receives the title of Priest or Priestess and Witch.
At second degree, the initiate becomes a High Priest or High Priestess and is now able to lead rituals and teach. In some lines, second-degree initiates may hive off to form their own covens.
Third degree is attained by those who have achieved certain level of spiritual growth and seniority in the Tradition.
The standards for these degrees can vary from coven to coven. Gardnerian covens, which are autonomous, are usually led by a High Priestess and High Priest. Some covens are governed by the High Priestess, whereas in others the High Priestess and High Priest govern as equals.
Gardnerians follow the Wiccan Rede, “An if it harm none, do what you will,” and believe in the three-fold law that anything one does, good or bad, returns three-fold in this or a future life.
In an attempt to popularize Wicca, Gerald Gardner wrote some books including Witchcraft Today and Meaning of Witchcraft.
Other recommended books include:
Crowley, Vivianne. Wicca: the Old Religion in the New Millennium. Thorsons, London. 1996
Founded by Alexander Sanders, Alexandrian Wicca is a tradition that is closely related to, and greatly resembles Gardnerian Wicca. Both traditions are similar in ritual practice, theology, and coven structure.
Where a difference may lie is that Alexandrian Wicca tends to be more formal, and tends to contain more ceremonial elements in its rituals, although even this may vary from coven to coven. Otherwise, very little difference exists between these two traditions.
Indeed, for the last decade in Europe, there has been a trend toward a unification between these two branches, thanks mostly to the efforts of Vivianne Crowley who was the first person to be a member of both a Gardnerian and an Alexandrian coven at the same time.
Alex Sanders claimed to have been initiated by his grandmother when he was seven, but it has since become fairly well established that he was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca at a later date, though by whom, and to what degree remains in dispute. Always a flamboyant character, Alex’s personality has remained stamped on a tradition that most believe was named after him, but others claim was named after the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which was known for its library, and remains associated in occult circles with the hermetic arts and alchemy.
Recommended books include:
Farrar, Stewart and Janet. A Witches’ Bible. Phoenix Publishing, Custer, 1996.
Johns, June. The King of the Witches.
Saunders, Maxine. Maxine: The Witch Queen. Wyndham Publications, 1976.