A Woman to Know: Doreen Valiente

She became a high priestess during an era when witchcraft was still very much in the broom closet. — Phyllis W. Curott

She became a high priestess during an era when witchcraft was still very much in the broom closet. — Phyllis W. Curott

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1937, Doreen, then a 15-year-old girl brought up in a strict Christian home, walked out of her convent school. She never returned.

From there, she pursued a lifelong fascination of hers, one that took her deep into a world of paganism, spells and “white witchcraft.” In 1953, following her research to the Isle of Man, she joined a group of witches known as “The New Forest Coven.” She quickly rose through the coven’s ranks, becoming the gathering’s high priestess and eventually revising the liturgy the other witches used as a sacred text. Her resulting book, “The Book of Shadows,” is now a cardinal text for many wiccans.

With her many books and speaking appearances, Doreen popularized “white withcraft,” or the practice of using the practice for the benefit of others. She advocated for the inclusion of other movements, like feminism and environmentalism. She rewrote and modernized the “Charge of the Goddess,” a text which witches today use when gathering in covens. Before she died in 1999, she was honored as “the mother of modern paganism.”

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