Valiente, Doreen

Valiente, Doreen (1922-1999)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Doreen Valiente was one of Gerald Gardner's High Priestesses. With him, she coauthored what became known as the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, the book of rituals used in that tradition of Wicca. Although that book is a gathering of material from a wide variety of sources, much of it originated with Valiente. She was one of the most influential people in the Wiccan revival.

Doreen Dominy was born in London, England, living in Horley, Surrey, in her early years even though her family came from the New Forest area of Hampshire and from Cerne Abbas, Dorset. She read extensively on Theosophy as well as the writings of Aleister Crowley, her interest in matters occult growing rapidly. In 1944 she met and married a wounded and recuperating refugee from the Spanish Civil War.

Valiente learned of the Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft, opened in 1950 by Cecil Williamson at Castletown, on the Isle of Man, and entered into a correspondence with Williamson. From him, Valiente learned of an existing Witchcraft coven in New Forest, and she eventually became acquainted with Gerald Gardner, a member of that coven. Gardner presented her with a copy of High Magic's Aid, his novelized version of Wiccan practices. Valiente's husband was not interested in Wicca but did not stand in her way. By 1953 Gardner had initiated Valiente into his own coven, which was then separate from the original New Forest group.

Valiente studied Gardner's Book of Shadows, which was based on the one belonging to the New Forest coven but heavily modified by Gardner. Valiente, with her knowledge of occult literature, identified material attributable to Aleister Crowley, Rudyard Kipling, Alexander Carmichael, Charles Godfrey Leland, and others that Gardner had added to the text. She set about editing the book so that it was not so obviously laced with outside material, contributing much original work herself, including the universally admired Wiccan "Charge of the Goddess." This she wrote in verse, but she also revamped the original prose version, which was largely written by Leland and in part by Crowley. Valiente worked on the Gardnerian Book of Shadows from 1954 till 1957 before they were both satisfied with it. It has since become the mainstay of modern Wicca.

By the end of 1957, Valiente left Gardner's coven and formed her own with a man named Ned. From 1964 till 1966 she received a series of trance communications from a spirit claiming to be a Witch. He gave his name as Jack Brakespeare and said that he lived in Surrey in the early nineteenth century, where he had a coven. Later, in 1978, Valiente incorporated some of this spirit material in her book, Witchcraft For Tomorrow. In that book Valiente also criticized such people as Lady Sheba, the self-proclaimed "Witch Queen of America," who published the Gardnerian Book of Shadows under her own name, claiming it to be "words handed down by word of mouth for generations." Several writers have claimed great antiquity for their particular tradition while producing only a version of the GardnerValiente writings.

Valiente's husband died in 1972. For the later years of her life Valiente lived in Brighton, Sussex, on the south coast of England. She became very much a recluse until her death on September 1, 1999.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.