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Doreen Valiente

This article was written by John Michael Greer on April 01, 2005
posted under Doreen Valiente

English Witch and author, 1922-1999. Among the most influential figures in modern Wiccan history, Valiente was born in south London but raised in the West Country, where Witchcraft folklore was a significant part of everyday life well into the twentieth century. Her parents were devout Christians who attempted to raise her in that faith, sending her to a convent school; she walked out at age fifteen and refused to return.

Her interest in the occult dated to her childhood, and she was already casting simple spells in her teen years. Shortly after the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, she contacted Cecil Williamson, then owner of a museum of Witchcraft on the Isle of Man, hoping to make contact with a Witch. Williamson put her in touch with Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), the founder of Wicca, who initiated her in 1953. Valiente became Gardnerís High Priestess shortly thereafter, and played a major role in revising the original Wiccan rituals, excising substantial passages borrowed from the works of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Her works include the standard version of the Charge of the Goddess, which is used by most modern Wiccan traditions.

She left Gardnerís coven in 1957 to start the first of her own. In 1964 she was initiated by Robert Cochrane into the Clan of Tubal-Cain, a tradition of Witchcraft that Cochrane claimed to have inherited through his family since ancient times. She broke with Cochrane a few years later over his increasingly erratic behavior.

For the remainder of her life, Valiente was active in English Wiccan circles; she wrote a number of books on the subject of Wicca, and by her last years was widely seen as the grande dame of English Wicca. In 1972, she successfully lobbied Parliament to prevent the reenactment of the Witchcraft Act. She spent her last years in Sussex, where she died of cancer in 1999.

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