Who Was Doreen Valiente?

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Doreen Valiente grew up near the magical New Forest in England. Proto Credit: Peter Lewis/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

If Gerald Gardner is the father of the modern witchcraft movement, then certainly Doreen Valiente is the mother of many traditions. Like Gardner, Doreen Valiente was born in England. Although not much is known about her early years, her website (maintained by her estate) verifies that she was born Doreen Edith Dominy in London in 1922. As a teen, Doreen lived in the New Forest area, and it is believed that this is when she began experimenting with magic.

When she was thirty, Doreen was introduced to Gerald Gardner. By this time, she had been married twice - her first husband died at sea, her second was Casimiro Valiente - and in 1953, she was initiated into the New Forest coven of witches. Over the next several years, Doreen worked with Gardner in expanding and developing his Book of Shadows, which he claimed was based on ancient documents passed down through the ages. Unfortunately, much of what Gardner had at the time was fragmented and disorganized.

Doreen Valiente took on the task of re-organizing Gardner's work, and more importantly, putting into a practical and usable form. In addition to finishing things up, she added her poetic gifts to the process, and the end result was a collection of rituals and ceremonies which are both beautiful and workable - and the foundation for much of modern Wicca, some sixty years later. For a brief period, Gardner and Doreen parted ways - this is often attributed to Gardner's love of speaking publicly about witchcraft to the press, while Doreen felt coven business should remain private.

However, there is also speculation that some of the rift was caused when Doreen questioned the authenticity of Gardner's claims about the age of some of the items they were working with. At any rate, they later reconciled and worked together once more. In the 1960s, Doreen moved away from Gardnerian Wicca and was initiated into a traditional British witchcraft coven.

Doreen may well be best known for her incredibly evocative poetry, much of which has found its way into the lexicon of modern ritual format, both for Wiccans and other Pagans. Her Charge of the Goddess is a powerful call to invoke the Divine within us. The Wiccan Rede is often attributed to Doreen as well. Although the Rede is typically summarized in brief as An it harm none, do what ye will, there is actually quite a bit more to the original work. Doreen's poem entitled The Wiccan Rede can be read in its entirety here: The Wiccan Rede.

Near the end of her life, Doreen was concerned about the many misconceptions about modern witchcraft, as well as the wide distortions of original teachings. She became patron of the Centre for Pagan Studies, described as "offering a facility for learned research and a non commercial environment." She passed away in 1999.

Much of Valiente's work is still in print, and can be find both new and in used versions. Many of these titles have been updated since their original publication, and even after Valiente's death, but are still worth seeking out.

Valiente's collection of artifacts and books are now in the possession of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, which was established as a charitable trust in 2011.