by Roz Tappenden BBC South.
Gerald Brosseau Gardner worked to ensure the survival of Wiccan culture, gaining worldwide attention.
A blue plaque is being unveiled in Dorset at the former home of Gerald Brosseau Gardner. He is regarded by many as the “father of modern witchcraft”, but who was he and what was his legacy?
Southridge, a comfortable 1920s house in Highcliffe, was bought by Gardner and his wife, Dorothea, in 1938 when they moved from London.
Until then Gardner’s life had been unremarkable for someone of his wealthy background in the colonial era.
Gardner said he was initiated into the New Forest Coven in Mill House, not far from his home in Highcliffe
Born in 1884, he had been sent to the warmer climes of Madeira as a child in a bid to alleviate his asthma.
Consequently he received little education and later claimed he had taught himself to read.
Gardnerian Wiccans are organised in covens, usually with 13 or fewer members. Membership is gained through initiation by a High Priestess or High Priest. There are no central authorities.
There are eight festivals – two solstices and equinoxes, Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain (also known as All Hallow’s Eve)
As a young man, he spent time working in Ceylon, Borneo and Malaya before returning to London in 1936.
After arriving in Highcliffe, shortly before the outbreak of war, he became acquainted with a group claiming to be witches and was initiated into the New Forest Coven at nearby Mill House.
It proved to be a turning point for Gardner who, from that time, devoted himself to promoting his new-found religion.
Biographer and Wiccan initiate Philip Heselton said: “He wasn’t a religious pioneer.
What he did was to publicise it and write about it and he gradually became known through that and people made contact.
“He initiated quite a lot of people into the Wiccan culture. He felt it was important that it survived.”