Vice reported today that Doreen Valiente, famously known as “the Mother of Modern Witchcraft” was a WWII British spy and a pro-choice spy on a Neo-Nazi group after the war, A new book has surfaced with such claims. The Argus revealed, today as well, that she was indeed involved as Bletchy Park code breaker in World War II, working as a translator, and possible a friend of the Queen Mother. This evidence has come to light some 17 years after Valiente died.
Phillip Heselton, the writer of new biography about Doreen Valiente, who died in 1999, called “Doreen Valiente: Witch”, has brought previously unknown details of Valiente’s life to the public. He alleges that she even was an acquaintance of the Queen Mother, and that she had a number of friends in high places. But admits; “As with a lot of her life, much of this is a mystery and will remain so but we have certain clues to their relationship.”
Doreen Valiente is one of Britain’s most famous public witches and one of the those who helped develop the modern witchcraft religion of Wicca. When photos first surfaced of Valiente to the public, she did not look like what would typically be construed as a witch. As Heselton commented to the paper the Argus:
She was sensible in a way that others at the time weren’t. She gave witchcraft a maturity and made it accessible to people. She made it seem sensible to them.
Valiente was born in January of 1922 in South London and began practicing witchcraft as a teenager. At age 13 she performed a spell to prevent her mother from being harassed by a co-worker. A bird attacked the harasser and Valiente had come to believe that the spell worked because of it. Her mother worried about her witchcraft behavior, and sent her to a Christian covenant school. But Valiente loathed the school and left at 15.
As an adult, Valiente familiarized herself with the writings of Margeret Murray, Robert Graves, Aleister Crowley, and Charles Leland. She latched on to the idea of a pre-Christian witch-cult that survived into the modern eras. Once she read an article in 1952 about Gerald Gardner by Cecil Williamson, a witchcraft museum director, she wrote a letter to him and Williamson who put her into contact with Gardner. Gardner and Valiente took an immediate liking to each other.
In 1953 Valiente was initiated into Gardner’s Bricketwood coven. She quickly rose the ranks to become the new Wiccan High Priestess. Valiente recognized that much of the material Gardner used for the coven was from Crowley and was not ancient as claimed. She took to rewriting much of the material. Her major contributions to Wicca were the rewrite of the Wiccan rede, a bit of an advice for witches, and “The Charge of the Goddess”, her most influential text.
Wicca has gone through it’s first great “schism”, in summer of 1957, when Valiente and some other members, had enough of Gardner. The members and Valiente left the coven. Valiente eventually joined Robert Cochrane’s coven of Tubal Cain, but soon split from him after a bitter falling out, too. In the 60’s she mended her relationship with Gardner. After her mother died, she became more public about Wicca and witchcraft.
She was especially prominent through out the 1970’s and 80’s. From the late sixties to late eighties, Valiente published five books on Wicca and witchcraft. In one of the books she encouraged readers to be solitary and noted that initiation was not necessary to practice Wicca, contrary to Gardner’s claims. Considering that Valiente could be said as one of the “founders” of modern Wicca, with Gardner, this was a revelation.
During the second World War, she worked as a senior assistant officer with the Foreign office. She showed great interest in the Colossus, an early computer, which she spoke of great length about. The computer was used to crack German codes. Her section’s job was to intercept messages from Nazi spies in the U.K. The section was well known for cracked the Abwehr ciphers. Valiente helped reduce causalities by the millions and speed up the war. A friend of hers, at the time, reported that she would disappear for awhile and not even her mother knew her whereabouts. She also continued to hold odd jobs around from time to time, to make it appear that she was not working for British intelligence.
Valiente was well known to be a feminist, environmentalist, pro-contraception, into sexual liberation, pro-choice, for equal rights, and pro-LBGT. She had noted her affinity for these things in her book the “An ABC of witchcraft past and present”. At the time that Valiente held these beliefs, many of these ideas were highly controversial and weren’t the social norm of the era. She was very progressive. However, in the 1970’s she became a member of the far right white nationalist party, the National Front, which has links to Neo-Nazism. Going as far as even designing a local banner for her branch, which does not make sense because she fought against Nazis in the war.
Her biographer, Phillip Heselton, has said that perhaps that Valiente agreed with their strong nationalistic stance that appealed to he patriotic sensibilities, or she hoped that it would serve as an equivalent to the Pagan movement, that may be unlikely though. A more logical alternative theory, proposed by Vice and historian Ronald Hutton, is that she may have been a spy for the British government in that group, since the group has many beliefs that are uncharacteristic of her personality and wouldn’t suspect a middle-aged woman.
Doreen Valiente could keep a good secret like any witch who is good at what they do, so we won’t know just how involved as a spy she was. Perhaps, more details will surface in the coming years. Although as with much of Doreen’s life, it will likely remain a mystery.