Donna Gardner's Biography (Photos)
Donna Gardner (1893 - 1960). I feel that this page would not be complete without Donna Gardner, wife of Gerald. Whilst the traditional viewpoint is that Donna was not involved in Gardner's Craft activities. I believe that she would at times, participate in rituals.
Gardner's mother had died in 1920, but he had not returned to Britain on that occasion. However, in 1927 his father became very ill with dementia, and Gardner decided to visit him. On his return to Britain, Gardner began to investigate spiritualism and mediumship. He soon had several encounters which he attributed to spirits of deceased family members. Continuing to visit Spiritualist churches and seances, he was highly critical of much of what he saw, although he encountered several mediums he considered genuine. One medium apparently made contact with a deceased cousin of Gardner's, an event which impressed him greatly. His first biographer Jack Bracelin reports that this was a watershed in Gardner's life, and that a previous academic interest in spiritualism and life after death thereafter became a matter of firm personal belief for him. The very same evening (28 July 1927) after Gardner had met this medium, he met the woman he was to marry; Dorothea Frances Rosedale, known as Donna, a relation of his sister-in-law Edith. He asked her to marry him the next day and she agreed. Because his leave was coming to an end very soon, they married quickly on 16 August at St Jude's Church, Kensington, and then honeymooned in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, before heading via France to Malaya.
In 1936, Gardner and Donna left Malaya and headed for Europe. She proceeded straight to London, renting them a flat at 26 Charing Cross Road. Gardner visited Palestine, becoming involved in the archaeological excavations run by J.L. Starkey at Lachish. Here he grew particularly interested in a temple containing statues to both the male deity of Judeo-Christian theology and the pagan goddess Ashtoreth. From Palestine, Gardner went to Turkey, Greece, Hungary, and Germany. He eventually reached England, but soon went on a visit to Denmark to attend a conference on weaponry at the Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, during which he gave a talk on the kris.
Returning to Britain, he found that the climate made him sick, leading him to register with a doctor, Edward A.Gregg, who recommended that he try nudism. Hesitant at first, Gardner first attended an in-door nudist club, the Lotus League in Finchley, North London, where he made several new friends and felt that the nudity cured his ailment. When summer came, he decided to visit an outdoor nudist club, that of Fouracres near the town of Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, which he soon began to frequent. Through nudism, Gardner made a number of notable friends, including James Laver (1899-1975), who became the Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Cottie Arthur Burland (1905-1983), who was the Curator of the Department of Ethnography at the British Museum. Biographer Philip Heselton suggested that through the nudist scene Gardner may have also met Dion Byngham (1896-1990), a senior member of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry who propounded a Contemporary Pagan religion known as Dionysianism. By the end of 1936, Gardner was finding his Charing Cross Road flat to be cramped, and moved into the block of flats at 32a Buckingham Palace Mansions.
In 1960, Gardner's official biography, entitled Gerald Gardner: Witch, was published. It was written by a friend of his, the Sufi mystic Idries Shah, but used the name of one of Gardner's High Priests, Jack L. Bracelin, because Shah was wary about being associated with Witchcraft. In May of that year, Gardner travelled to Buckingham Palace, where he enjoyed a garden party in recognition of his years of service to the Empire in the Far East. Soon after his trip, Gardner's wife Donna died, and Gardner himself once again began to suffer badly from asthma. The following year he, along with Shah and Lois Bourne, travelled to the island of Majorca to holiday with the poet Robert Graves, whose The White Goddess would play a significant part in the burgeoning Wiccan religion. In 1963, Gardner decided to go to Lebanon over the winter. Whilst returning home on the ship, The Scottish Prince on 12 February 1964, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the breakfast table. He was buried in Tunisia, the ship's next port of call, and his funeral was attended only by the ship's captain. He was 79 years old.
Gardner only married once, to Donna, and several who knew him made the claim that he was devoted to her. Indeed, after her death in 1960, he began to again suffer serious asthma attacks. Despite this, as many coven members slept over at his cottage due to living too far away to travel home safely, he was known to cuddle up to his young High Priestess, Dayonis, after rituals. The author Philip Heselton, who largely researched Wicca's origins, came to the conclusion that Gardner had held a long-term affair with Dafo, a theory expanded upon by Adrian Bott. Those who knew him within the modern witchcraft movement recalled how he was a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of sunbathing.