By Patti Wigington, About.com
Origins of the Gardnerian Path:
Gerald Gardner launched Wicca shortly after the end of World War II, and went public with his coven following the repeal of England’s Witchcraft Laws in the early 1950s. There is a good deal of debate within the Wiccan community about whether the Gardnerian path is the only “true” Wiccan tradition, but the point remains that it was certainly the first. Gardnerian covens require initiation, and work on a degree system. Much of their information is initiatory and oathbound, which means it can never be shared with those outside the coven.
The Book of Shadows:
The Gardnerian Book of Shadows was created by Gerald Gardner with some assistance and editing from Doreen Valiente, and drew heavily on works by Charles Leland, Aleister Crowley, and SJ MacGregor Mathers. Within a Gardnerian group, each member copies the coven BOS and then adds to it with their own information. Gardnerians self-identify by way of their lineage, which is always traced back to Gardner himself and those he initiated.
Gardnerian Wicca in the Public Eye:
Gardner was an educated folklorist and occultist, and claimed to have been initiated himself into a coven of New Forest witches by a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck. When England repealed the last of its witchcraft laws in 1951, Gardner went public with his coven, much to the consternation of many other witches in England. His active courting of publicity led to a rift between him and Valiente, who had been one of his High Priestesses. Gardner formed a series of covens throughout England prior to his death in 1964.
Gardner’s Work Comes to America:
In 1963, Gardner initiated Raymond Buckland, who then flew back to his home in the United States and formed the first Gardnerian coven in America. Gardnerian Wiccans in America trace their lineage to Gardner through Buckland.
Because Gardnerian Wicca is a mystery tradition, its members do not generally advertise or actively recruit new members. In addition, public information about their specific practices and rituals is very difficult to find.