Gerald Gardner was born in Lancashire England to William Robert Gardner and Louise Burgelew Ennis on Friday 13th, June 1884, and spent most of his childhood travelling. Due to the amount of time spent travelling, Gardner did not attend school and was never formally educated. He spent most of his time reading and learning about foreign cultures. It was due to reading “There is no Death” by Florence Marryat, that Gardner developed a belief in an afterlife.
In 1900 Gardner’s nanny, Georgiana McCombie, married David Elkington and it was agreed he would go to live with them on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka. Gardner spent a considerable amount of time with the natives here and soon began his study of Buddhism. He spent the next 4 years learning the tea trade until his father asked him to take over a rubber plantation known as the Atlanta Estate. During this time he also explored his growing interest in weaponry and hunting.
Gardner returned for a brief visit to Britain in 1907, spending a considerable amount of time with his relatives, the Sergenesons. It was through them that Gardner learned of the paranormal, due to rumour that his grandfather had actually been a practising witch. This was combined with other rumours that one of his ancestors had been burned as a witch in Scotland in 1610.
Gardner was initiated into the Sphinx Lodge as an Apprentice Freemason in 1910, rising to 3rd degree within a few months. He left the lodge a year later, some believe due to his father selling the now unsuccessful rubber plantation. Soon after he moved to Borneo and then Singapore. During this time he began to consider himself an amateur anthropologist and archaeologist, spending a significant amount of time with the indigenous people of the area.
Gardner continued to work on and off in the rubber industry until his return to Britain in 1927 when his Father became ill. At this time he revived his studies into the paranormal. He also met his wife to be, Dorothea Frances Rosedale, during this time. They were married shortly after their meeting and returned to Malaya together, where Gardner once again became involved with the freemasons and the magical practices of the natives, including archaeological digs in secret. His archaeological findings soon made their way into local museums. In 1932 on another return trip to London he was introduced to the concept of the Mother Goddess through a series of lectures he attended at King’s College. Gardner soon continued his travels, this time to various locations in China, returning home once more in Januray 1936 ( with detours through Palestine, Turkey, Greece, Hungary and Germany) after hearing of his father’s death. He also retired from Civil Service at this time.
In the following years Gardner would continue to travel, writing various archaeology papers, which led to the writing of his first work of fiction “A Goddess Arrives”, which was published in 1939. Shortly after, Gardner and his wife moved to Highcliffe, near New Forest where he soon took interest in the First Rosicrucian Theatre. Later that year he joined the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, that ran the theatre. Gardner also joined the Folk-Lore Society and Historical Association the same year.
It was through the Rosicrucian Order that Gardner eventually met Edith Woodford-Grimes, leading to the series of events that would end him in the New Forest Coven and his founding of Wicca.