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 Goddessoriented
religion that he called Witchcraft. Following her initiation
into the Craft, she worked with Gardner to perfect the ritEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Valiente, Doreen
1619
uals 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.
Sources
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.