The Official Doreen Valiente Website - Doreen Valiente - Home
Doreen Valiente, from Brighton UK (1922-1999), is known as “the mother of modern witchcraft” or “Ameth” her witch name. As a child, one summer day at twilight she was in her garden when her keen perception lead her to realize the world around her was hiding something “very potent.” Soon thereafter her parents sent her away to convent school in part due to her habit of running around the neighborhood on a broomstick. At age 15 she left the convent and refused to return. It was in her local library that she began investigating the occult, spiritualism, Theosophy and witchcraft. In 1952 a Museum of Magic and Witchcraft opened on the Isle of Man. Doreen wrote to its owner and he passed her letter on to Gerald Gardner who eventually initiated her and soon she became High Priestess of Gardner’s coven. Being well read in the occult, she was able to identify the parts of “Old Gerald’s” Book of shadows that were written by Aleister Crowley, Rudyard Kipling or taken from Masonic rituals which she began removing and rewriting. It was her sense of poetry that gave it the mystery and atmosphere that made it so effective.
After her split from Gardner’s coven due to his insistence on publicity and power she continued practicing the craft in a manner she preferred. It was her preference to practice a less formal witchcraft than Wicca, and a more folk magic and nature based style referred to as Traditional Witchcraft. Her encounters with Robert Cochrane during this time were another major branch in her path. She soon parted ways with Cochrane as well due to his obsession with trying to conduct what he called “a night of long knives” against Gardner’s coven. Cochrane would later commit a ritual suicide by ingesting toxic plants.
Doreen wrote several books including her autobiography “The Rebirth of Witchcraft” and a guidebook for solitary practitioners titled “Witchcraft for Tomorrow.” Both these books should be a part of every witches library along with her collection of poems “The Charge of the Goddess.” The charge was adapted and expanded by Valiente and others since. Although she would eventually say she wished people wouldn’t use it so much due to it being usually read, according to her “without any passion” it remains one of Wicca’s most beautiful and important pieces of liturgy. She had intended for it to be used by priestesses only when the Goddess didn’t show up for them during the Drawing Down the Moon invocation, sparing them the awkwardness of not having anything to say but it has often become a standard part the ceremony. (As a side note anyone interested in techniques to more successfully embody the Goddess and other spirits, I recommend getting a copy of “Lifting the Veil” by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone.)
Doreen Valiente was known to be very patriotic and it has been revealed she worked during World War 2 for Britains spy agency translating intercepted messages. She was also involved in gathering information from foreign merchant navy men regarding the Battle of the Atlantic. She also for a time joined a far right political party but shortly left. There is speculation she was still working for the British
government in some capacity keeping tabs on the group and never actually embraced their extremist ideology. The full extent of her role as spy may never be known as Doreen signed the Official Secrets Act which can remain classified for 100 years.
During the early 1980’s Doreen set out to find proof of the existence of Dorothy Clutterbuck, the woman who Gerald Gardner had said originally initiated him. Thanks to Valientes persistence and effort tracking down a paper trail of government records, she successfully discovered Clutterbuck’s information that confirmed her existence in agreement with Gardner’s story. The appendix of the Farrar’s “Witch’s Bible” details this pursuit. In 2013 she was honored with a Blue Plaque for her life and achievements, the first witch to do so and the first to be placed on public housing.
Power Of The Witch - Documentary with Doreen Valiente, Eleanor Bone, Alex and Maxine Sanders (1971) - YouTube