People of Wicca

Doreen valiente (1922–1999)

One of the most influential individuals in the shaping of modern Wicca was born Doreen Edith Dominy in Mitcham, South London, on January 4, 1922, and spent her childhood in the west of England, an area noted for its rustic beauty and its connection to the folklore of the past. As an adult, she recalled that from a very young age she took to running about while riding on a broomstick. Although she did not consciously know why she had done so, she did remember that it upset her conventionally religious parents, who were opposed to any portrayal of witchcraft, whether or not it derived from childish display.

When Valiente was only seven, her first mystical experience happened one night while she was staring intently at the moon. She perceived at that time that what ordinary people embraced as the world of reality was but the facade behind which something much more real and potent lay waiting for those

who would seek "the world of force beyond the world of form." At the age of 15, she walked out the door of the convent school to which she had been sent and refused to return.

At the age of 19, she married Joanis Vlachopoulos, a 32-year-old able seaman serving with the merchant navy. Six months later, in the summer of 1941, her husband was reported missing. Details are sketchy, but since World War II was in progress, it is assumed that Vlachopoulos was killed when his ship was destroyed by a Nazi torpedo. In 1944, Doreen married Casimiro Valiente.

In the summer of 1952, the year after the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed, Doreen Valiente met a witch of the New Forest Coven who introduced her to Gerald Brosseau Gardner. On Midsummer's Eve 1953, she received the first degree of initiation into Wicca by Gardner, who at that time was operating a witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man. Although Gardner claimed that his Book of Shadows had been compiled by remnants of the Old Religion that he had pieced together for his Gardnerian tradition, the astute Doreen, whose witchcraft name was "Ameth," recognized passages from other works, such as Aleister Crowley's Gnostic Mass (1942).

Far from being humiliated or angered by his student's recognition that his Book of Shadows was much a pastiche of many traditions of witchcraft, with rites and rituals copied from ancient lore, as well as a few bits and pieces from Freemasonry and Crowley, Gardner invited her to improve, if she could, upon his fragments of the old and the new. Valiente accepted the challenge and replaced nearly all of the Crowley and Masonic excerpts with the thoughts and inspirations that she had received from her own mystical experiences since childhood. The reconstruction of the Book of Shadows achieved by Valiente gave the practitioners of Wicca a practical and workable system which has been followed by many witches ever since. Gardner and Valiente eventually parted company over his claim that his "Old Laws" should be heeded above her revisions, but Valiente continued to doubt the authenticity of some of the laws that Gardner claimed were derived from ancient traditions. Although they later resumed their friendship, it was never again at the level which it had once attained.

When her husband passed away in 1972, Doreen Valiente began to devote herself to writing about witchcraft as she knew and understood it. After her An ABC of Witchcraft (1973) and Natural Magic (1975), she became recognized as an authority on magic and witchcraft. Her last days were spent in a nursing home, and after she had passed her magical legacy on to John Belham-Payne, she died on September 1, 1999.

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