Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Doreen Valiente was perhaps one of the most respected English witches to have influenced the modern day movement of Witchcraft. She was an early initiate and High Priestess of Gerald Gardner and did much to co-write with him the basic rituals and other materials that helped to changed and shaped contemporary Witchcraft as it is perceived today. As Gerald Gardner is now commonly thought of as the "Father" of contemporary Witchcraft, so Doreen is known affectionately as the "Mother".
Doreen was born Doreen Edith Dominy the daughter of Harry Dominy, an architect, and his wife Edith (nee Richardson) in Mitcham, South London, on the 4th January 1922. Little is known of her family except that they were Christian and very religious. During her early years the family lived near Horley in Surrey, and here Doreen had her first psychic experiences. When she was just seven years old, she became fascinated with the motion of the moon as she studied and gazed at it from the garden, and while doing so experienced her first spiritual contact:
"I saw what people would call the world of everyday reality as unreal, and saw behind it something that was real and very potent. I saw the world of force behind the world of form".
Far from a disturbing experience, it did more to boost her intrigue in the true nature of life's existence:
"Just for a moment I had experienced what was beyond the physical. It was beautiful, wonderful, it wasn't frightening. That, I think, shaped my live a lot".
At the age of thirteen, Doreen begun to experiment with simple magic. Once when learning that her mother, who worked as a housekeeper, was being constantly harassed and tormented by a co-worker. Doreen was able to obtain a few strands of the women's hair, and concocted a spell to stop her bullying. The spell apparently worked but her devoutly Christian family, perhaps out of fear, were far from happy and sent Doreen away to convent school. Doreen walked out of the convent when she was fifteen and refused ever to return.
As time went by, Doreen became more aware of her own psychic abilities and began to read and study all the occult material she could lay her hands on, including the works of: Charles Godfrey Leland, Aleister Crowley and Margaret Alice Murray whom she particularly admired.
On the 31st January 1941 having just turned 19, Doreen was working as a secretary in Barry, South Wales. There she met and married her first husband 'Joanis Vlachopoulos'. Not a lot is known about Joanis, except that he was a 32 year old 'Able Seaman' serving with the Merchant Navy out of Cardiff. This was a dangerous occupation at that time as the course of World War 11 spread across Europe and our navy's struggled to re-supply troops and forces employed over there. On a daily bases, many ships and seamen were lost as they crossed the treacherous waters of the Atlantic. Just six months after their wedding, Joanis was reported missing at sea and presumed dead. Despite her loss, Doreen continued to work as a secretary in Wales, then later moved to London.
On the 29th of May 1944, just a week before the Normandy Landings, Doreen married her second husband Casimiro Valiente. Casimiro was a refugee from the Spanish Civil War, who while fighting with the Free French Forces against the German occupation, had been wounded and sent back to England as an invalid. He met Doreen while convalescing in London and they were married at St Pancras Registry Office. They would remained together for the next 28 years until Cosimiro died in April 1972.
Sometime after the war ended, Doreen and Cosimo moved from London and took up residence in Bournemouth, not to far away from the New Forrest area where Gerald Gardner had first been initiated into Witchcraft. After the bombed-out ruins of war-time London, the peace and tranquility of the area appealed to Doreen and such was it's history steeped in folklore, her interest in Witchcraft, the Occult and Psychic Phenomena was re-kindled. In 1952 shortly after the repeal of the old witchcraft laws, Doreen read an article about Cecil Williamson who was opening a Folklore Center of Superstition and Witchcraft based on the Isle of Man. The article mentioned a coven still operating in the New Forrest area, and this so intrigued Doreen that she wrote to Williamson seeking further information. Williamson in turn passed her letter on to Gerald Gardner.
After corresponding back and forth for a while, Doreen expressed her interest in joining a coven. Gardner invited Doreen to tea at a friend’s house near the New Forrest. During the summer of 1952 in a little town called Christchurch, Hampshire, there still lived a lady called 'Dafo', the very same lady who had introduced Gardner to the New Forrest coven in the autumn of 1939. She wisely used 'Dafo' as a pseudonym, because it was only a year before that the old antiquated 'Witchcraft Act of 1735' was repealed, and 'technically', witchcraft was still considered by many a criminal offence, and to declare oneself a Witch could bring about all sorts of social complications.
At this first meeting in Dafo's home, Gardner didn’t invite her to join his coven, but presented Doreen with a copy of his book 'High Magic’s Aid'. This he did to all potential initiates in order to gauge their reactions to ritual nudity and scourging. After further correspondence, a year later in 1953, Doreen received her first degree initiation into the Craft. Tradition demanded that an opposite member of sex conduct the initiation, and so Gardner decided to conduct it himself. On Midsummer's Eve he was due to attend a 'Druid Solstice' gathering at Stonehenge, where he was to loan the 'Order' his ritual sword. Traveling in from his witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man, on his way he stopped off at the home of Dafo to initiate Doreen. That evening Doreen was reborn as "Ameth" the pseudonym or craft name as it is called, by which she was to be known.
During the initiation Gardner used his own Book of Shadows containing as he claimed, information and remnants of rites taken from an Old Religion passed down through the ages to the old New Forest Coven, but from it he also read a passage Doreen instantly recognized. It came not from an old religion, but from a more contemporary source, the 'Gnostic Mass' written by Aleister Crowley. Gardner then gave Doreen free access to his 'Book of Shadows' and other materials he had collected. He still claimed most had been passed down to him from the old coven, but much of it was fragmentary. Doreen immediately recognized some of Crowley's other work among his material, but accepted Gardner’s assertion of how it came to be there. Working in collaboration with Gardner, she began to re-write his 'Book of Shadows' using her considerable poetic gifts. Due to his unsavory reputation, she removed much of Crowley’s influence and instead inserted the influence of Charles G. Leland, this is evident in her most famous piece 'The Charge of the Goddess'. This revised version of the Book of Shadows served as the basis for what was to become known as “Gardnerian Wicca”, which still today is one of the most dominant traditions of contemporary Witchcraft.
Doreen was reborn as "Ameth"
From these early beginnings we can see how Doreen Valiente's influence helped to shape and mould the future of modern witchcraft as it evolved into many other traditions. Doreen was also credited with increasing the emphasis on Goddess worship and thus transforming the craft into a fully-fledged Religion.
By 1957 however, a rift was starting to form between Gardner, Doreen (now his High Priestess) and the rest of his coven. It was caused mainly by his relentless pursuit of publicity and would lead to Doreen (and others) leaving his coven. In her autobiography 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft' she explains:
"that as the coven's High Priestess, she felt that by speaking to the press, Gardner was compromising the security of the group and the sincerity of his own teachings".
As was his way, Gardner persisted forcing a separation, so Doreen left to set up her own coven with a man called Ned Grove. Later, before Gardner died, they restored their friendship and mutual respect, but never to the same degree as before.
Life then changed dramatically for Doreen in 1964, when both her mother Edith, and Gerald Gardner died. It was also the year, perhaps due to the growing tensions of internal politics emerging within Gardnerianism, that Doreen decided to move on and take up with another tradition. She was initiated into the 'Clan of Tubal-Cain', a coven run by Robert Cochrane. Cochrane claimed to be a hereditary witch and was the founder of the tradition now referred to as the '1734' tradition, a tradition allegedly handed down through his family. However, Doreen soon became disillusioned with Cochrane as she began to realize he was more fiction than fact. He was openly contemptuous of Gardnerian Witches, which irked her, and when she noticed his obsession with 'witches potions' (Drugs), she left him. Cochrane died in 1966 in what would appear to have been a ritual suicide, he had ingested belladonna leaves, more commonly known as 'Deadly Nightshade'.
Into the 1960's, a time that brought change to many people, in many ways, and a time that changed many public perceptions. Freedom was in the air, a sexual revolution started, rock and roll was here to stay, and peace movements proliferated as people took to the streets against war, racism and environmental issues. Social upheaval led to the old-fashioned ideas that Governmental-control and suppression, as well as public opinion could be changed. The public had finally found a voice.
From this social freedom emerged many alternative 'New Age' traditions as people cast of the restraints of orthodox religion. Some witches took advantage of this new found freedom and the likes of Sybil Leek and Alex and Maxine Saunders became media personalities actively courting publicity. Many Elders of the craft still refused to come forward publicly, and stoically shunned all contact with anyone outside the Craft. Doreen was one of the few who managed to find a middle-ground, she never denied paganism nor feared to speak out in its defense.
After the death of her husband Casimiro in April 1972, Doreen began to devote much of her time to writing. Her first book was 'An ABC of Witchcraft' (1973), which soon became a sought after book. It was followed by 'Natural Magic' (in 1975) and 'Witchcraft for Tomorrow' (in 1978). These three books did much to established Doreen as an authority on Witchcraft and magic. Many of today's leading authors, researchers and pagans then contacted Doreen, who helped them with her knowledge, anecdotes and personal reminisces of leading craft figures. For those more discerning, she also made available her large and extensive private library, and by guiding their research, proof-read and edited many of their works . In this way Doreen helped and contributed to many of today's leading Wiccan titles.
It was also in the 70's that Doreen spoke out and challenged the British Government, who perhaps out of ignorance were attempting to pass new legislation against Witchcraft. However, they hadn't expected the persistence of someone like Doreen Valiente. She succeeded in lobbying the 'Member of Parliament' concerned, and in the end the new laws were never passed.
In 1980, Doreen began her quest and search for 'Old Dorothy Clutterbuck', the High Priestess who had allegedly initiated Gardner into Witchcraft in 1939. So little was known about Old Dorothy, that many craft skeptics believed she never existed and was merely a figment of Gardner’s imagination. Doreen set out to disprove these allegations and after a diligent and determined search, succeeded in proving through 'Birth and Death records', that Old Dorothy had indeed been a real person. Her account of the search which lasted over two years is published as “Appendix A” in Janet and Stewart Farrar’s book - 'A Witches Bible'. She also wrote and had published her own autobiography, 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft' in 1989
Through-out the last three decades of her life, Doreen gave freely of her time and energy, and contributed much of her research, knowledge and experience, not only through her writing and poetry, but through her personal appearances and public speaking at events and conventions regularly organized by the 'The Pagan Federation' founded in 1971. In her efforts to provide genuine information on Paganism, and to counter the many misconceptions about it's religion, in 1995 she agreed to become 'Patron' of the 'Center for Pagan Studies'. It was founded by John Belham-Payne, her last High Priest and working partner, and it was to the 'Center for Pagan Studies' that Doreen made her last public speech.
Doreen Valiente - January 1999
In her later years Doreen lived in Brighton, Sussex, where after a long struggle with cancer, illness finally overcame her. In her last few days she was moved to a nursing home for extra care and attention, and there friends would visit and keep her company. Through-out her final mortal hours, John Belham-Payne and his wife Julie were at her bedside, and at 6.55 a.m. on the 1st September 1999, she cross the threshold into the Otherworld.
Doreen had been a strong person in life, strong in her belief's through-out her life, and while her illness sapped her physical strength, she retained her mental strength right up until the end. Just two weeks before she passed away, Doreen notarized her 'Last Will and Testament'. In it she bequeathed to John Belham-Payne her extensive collection of witchcraft artifacts, her personal library, and copyrights to all her writings, research material and poetry for prosperity. The artifacts included many items made for her by Gerald Gardner, together with some of his ritual items, his original Book of Shadows and her own Book of Shadows, thought by many to be contemporary witchcraft’s most important documents. She also requested John to perform a simple pagan service for her funeral and invite all her friends to the same.
Doreen with John Belham-Payne - Doreen at rest
One of her last wishes John tells us, was that the poetry she had written over the years, be published. To achieve this last wish, John and his wife Julie moved to Spain in the following year 2000. This allowed them the time and freedom to restore and archive Doreen's now famous collection, and more importantly, to publish posthumously her final gift to the community, a new book of her poetry entitled "Charge of The Goddess" (published in 2000 by Hexagon Hoopix, the publishing arm of the Hexagon Archive). The book is available to order on-line from http://www.shop.doreenvaliente.org/
Doreen's contributions to modern day Witchcraft are immeasurable, and yet she was one of the few early pioneers who shunned publicity. She believed that a certain amount of secrecy on the part of covens should and ought to be maintained, and that the future of paganism in the age of Aquarius, lies in feminism and Green issues associated with the environment. In her last address to the National Conference of the Pagan Federation, held at Fairfield Hall in Croydon, London on the 22nd November 1997, she stated that:
"The initiates of the ancient pagan Mysteries were taught to say 'I am the child of earth and Starry Heaven and there is no part of me that is not of the Gods". If we in our own day believe this, then we will not only see it as true of ourselves, but of other people also. We will for instance cease to have silly bickering between covens, because they happen to do things differently from the way we do them. This incidentally is the reason why I eventually parted from Robert Cochrane, because he wanted to declare a sort of Holy War against the followers of Gerald Gardner, in the name of traditional witchcraft. This made no sense to me, because it seemed to me, and still does, that as witches, pagans or whatever we choose to call ourselves, the things which unite us are more important than the things which divide us".
"I was saying this back in the 1960s", she continues, "in the days of the old Witchcraft Research Association and I repeat it today. However since those days we have, I believe, made great progress. We have literally spread worldwide. We are a creative and fertile movement. We have inspired art, literature, television, music and historical research. We have lived down the calumny and abuse. We have survived treachery. So it seems to me that the 'Powers That Be' must have a purpose for us in the Aquarian Age that is coming into being - "So Mote It Be".
Time will tell whether her new book of verse will be recognized for its spiritual and literary values. Designed for practical use in Witchcraft, it may well in time be used for fresh inspiration and contemporary thought, and even become a template for a new generation of Wiccans, those who have finally arrived in the new age of Aquarius, a new era in a new millennium.
In 2011, John Belham-Payne of the Centre For Pagan Studies issued the following press release:
“The Doreen Valiente Foundation was officially formed on the 6th March 2011 and has now received ownership of all artefacts bequeathed to John Belham-Payne of the Centre For Pagan Studies by Doreen Valiente. The objects of the foundation are: “To protect artefacts which are important to the past, present and future of all pagan religions”, and “to make such artefacts available for future education and research”. The Foundations first Trustees each signed a “Declaration of Trust”, they include: John Belham-Payne, Julia Belham-Payne, Brian Botham, Patricia Botham and Ashley Mortimer. The Foundation held its first meeting and resolved to: Seek charitable status from the Charities Commission, which has now been achieved, and to design and prepare all artefacts for their new purpose, that of exhibition.
The Foundation has already received pledges of further artefacts to add to the Collection, and anticipates continued growth from future donations.”
A further up-date:
The Blue Plaque
On the 21st June 2013 (the Mid-Summer Solstice), sponsored by "The Centre for Pagan Studies" and the newly formed "Doreen Valiente Foundation", a Blue Plaque was unveiled in Brighton, UK honouring Doreen Valiente. Such commemorative Blue Plaques are only awarded to people of special interest those who during their life-time helped to shape our cultural heritage and history. This Doreen Valiente plaque is now prominently placed on the wall of the apartment block in Brighton where she lived and worked for the last 30 years of her life, and where she did most of her seminal writing. So far as is known, this is the first Blue Plaque of its kind to be placed on a council apartment block in this country, and one of the first to commemorate the life of a modern contemporary Witch.
For their support and information, my many thanks to John Belham-Payne and the 'Center for Pagan Studies'. They can be found at: http://centre-for-pagan-studies.com/ and http://www.doreenvaliente.com/
of Wicca & Witchcraft - By Raven Gramassi
Extract from her last speech to the Pagan Federation received by e-mail, Author Unknown. Believed published in the Pagan Dawn, the Federation's public magazine
First published on the 25th May 2001, 12:55:52 © George Knowles - Up-dated 01st September 2012
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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