Valiente, Doreen (1922-1999)

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Valiente, Doreen (1922-1999)

Doreen Valiente, poetess and one of the founders of modern Wicca, was born on January 4, 1922, in London, England. During World War II (1939-45) she married a soldier who had been wounded fighting for the Free French and had been sent to England to recuperate from his wounds. Her rise out of obscurity began in 1952 when she was introduced to Gerald B. Gardner, who was in the process of creating a new Goddess-oriented religion that he called Witchcraft. Following her initiation into the Craft, she worked with Gardner to perfect the rituals

he had assembled. Among her most important contributions was a poetic piece called "The Charge to the Goddess." After four years with Gardner, she left to become the priestess of her own coven, and in 1962 authored her first book, a small volume describing the new Wicca religion. In 1964 she accepted a second Witchcraft initiation from Robert Cochrane.

Valiente worked quietly through the 1960s but became an object of controversy in the 1970s as Wicca emerged as a popular counterculture religion and various researchers began to explore the literary origins of the Pagan rituals. This controversy grew in the 1980s after Gardner's papers were sold to Ripley's Believe It or Not. The papers indicated that Gardner had not inherited the Witchcraft rituals, but had created them with the assistance of various people, especially Valiente.

Valiente began to emerge into her own in the 1970s when she wrote a set of popular books on Witchcraft, An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present (1973), Natural Magic (1975), and Witchcraft for Tomorrow (1978). Then, as the controversy on Gardner heated up, and speculations concerning her own role in the development of the Gardnerian rituals were rife, she published her account of the story confirming much of what had been said about the discontinuity of Gardner's work with any folk survivals of the Craft from previous centuries. At the same time, she documented one of the major aspects of Gardner's story, that he had been initiated into Witchcraft in 1939 by a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck. Some had speculated that Clutterbuck had never existed. Valiente tracked her birth and death records and found a copy of her will. All of this material was included in her most important book, The Rebirth of Witchcraft (1989). Besides being a significant contribution to modern religious history, the book established her place in the creation of modern Wicca.

During the last decade of her life, Valiente was widely acknowledged as a matriarch within the Wiccan community internationally though she lived quietly and made few public appearances. She died on September 1, 1999.


Valiente, Doreen. An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973.

. Natural Magic. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975.

. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. Custer, Wash.: Phoenix Publishing, 1989.

. Where Witchcraft Lives. London: Aquarian Press, 1962.

. Witchcraft for Tomorrow. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978.