Perhaps no figure looms as large on the history of modern religious Witchcraft (and in turn modern Paganism) than Gerald Gardner, who, depending on whom you ask, introduced the heretofore underground religion of Wicca to the wider world, or simply created it from a variety of esoteric and folkloric sources. Whatever one’s stance is on the providence of Wicca, all agree that Gardner played an essential role in developing what would become a world religion practiced everywhere from India to Lebanon and Brazil in less than sixty years. As historian Ronald Hutton notes in “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft” Wicca has unique significance due to it being “the only religion which England has ever given the world.” Now Gardner, with the help of Hutton, will be the subject of an hour-long documentary on Channel 4 in Britain.
“Britain’s Wicca Man tells the extraordinary story of Britain’s fastest growing religious group – Wicca – modern pagan witchcraft – and of its creator, an eccentric Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan studies, Professor Ronald Hutton, explores Gardner’s story and experiences first hand Wicca’s growing influence throughout Britain today.”
The documentary, commissioned by Channel 4, is being produced by Matchlight, who expand a bit more on the film at their web site.
“Its a journey that takes in tales of naked witches casting spells to ward off Hitler, tabloid hysteria about human sacrifices and Gerald Gardner himself appearing on Panorama. The film tells of a peculiar man who saw that the world was ready for a new religion based on magic, sex nature and ritual – and gave it to us. In doing so, he created in Wicca, the UK’s first religion, one that has taken on a life of its own and is today counted amongst one of the fastest growing faith groups in the world. Through interviews and encounters with Wicca followers, experts and these who knew Gardner, Professor Hutton delves into this unusual world and the story of how its eccentric founder created a religion that is today increasingly seen as a valid alternative to the more orthodox faith groups.”
While this isn’t the first documentary to deal with Wicca, it is the first to focus exclusively on Gardner, and certainly the first to so prominently place a scholar and historian as the point-person in its explorations. Despite the occasional criticisms that have been launched toward Hutton’s work from within modern Pagan circles few can argue that he is deeply knowledgeable on the history of Wicca, well-read on the latest scholarship, and has extensive contacts with surviving associates (and initiates) of Gerald Gardner. One can only hope that Hutton will follow in the footsteps of Simon Schama or Michael Wood, and that this one-hour documentary ends up sparking a series of documentaries on the history of modern Paganism in Britain (I would love to see a multi-part treatment of “The Triumph of the Moon” or “Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain”).
Once we have an air date for “Britain’s Wicca Man,” or other pertinent information, I’ll update you here. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can talk to anyone involved in the documentary. A big hat-tip to Chas Clifton for letting us know this was in the works.