As well as being a well-known and respected author on the occult and witchcraft, Doreen Valiente is hailed by many as the mother of modern Wicca. Born Doreen Edith Dominy to parents Harry and Edith in Mitcham, South London, 1922, she believed she had psychic gifts early on. By the age of seven she was fascinated by the movements of the moon and often gazed at it from her back garden. This early experience fostered her interest in the mystical and she began to question the true meaning of human existence.
Although she was educated at a convent school, Doreen's interest in the occult grew and she studied various magical traditions as well as theology.
In 1944, Doreen married her second husband, Casimiro Valiente1. Although he disapproved of her interests and was sceptical of her claimed abilities as a psychic and medium, she carried on her work, eventually beginning a correspondence with Cecil Williamson.
Williamson was a lifelong student of witchcraft and founded the witchcraft museum in Boscastle, Cornwall, UK. Through this correspondence with Williamson, Doreen learnt of wiccan covens in the New Forest which she now lived nearby, and eventually met Dr Gerald Gardner2. In 1953, Doreen was initiated into Gardner's coven and went on to become his High Priestess3, the two of them eventually responsible for bringing Wicca into the light of last century.
Doreen and Gardner co-wrote the Gardenarian Book of Shadows, now widely used as a base text for Wiccans. On reading some of the rituals Gardner had written, Doreen found offence in some that were a little too like the work of Aleister Crowley4 for her liking. She re-wrote these with some of her own beautiful poetry. She also wrote The Witches' Rune and The Charge Of the Goddess which was believed to be strongly influenced by Charles G Leland's Aradia.
The book was finally completed in 1957, shortly after which she left Gardner's coven to form her own. She eventually broke all contact with Gardner as she felt his prominence in the media was potentially damaging for their covens. She was very private about her activities, partly because her mother did not know she was a witch.
In 1964 both Gerald Gardner and Doreen's mothers passed away. By this time witchcraft was becoming more socially acceptable and many more practitioners were speaking out in the media. Although Doreen never denied her faith, and openly defended it when necessary, she preferred to remain low-key.
However in 1972, a member of parliament tried to pass a law once again banning witchcraft as illegal. Doreen was at the forefront of lobbies and protests and the law was never passed. She also later became the patron of the centre for Pagan Studies in Sussex, UK.
Doreen carried on her work as High Priestess and occult author until her death from cancer in a nursing home in 1999. Her published books include Natural Magic, An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present and Witchcraft for Tomorrow. Doreen has also published several books of poetry unrelated to Wicca.