In the summer of 1952, in the little town of Christchurch, New Forest, Hampshire, England, lived a lady named ‘Dafo’. She used this pseudonym because it was only the year before that witchcraft was still a criminal offence (the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed in 1951). Dafo had initiated Gerald Gardner in the autumn of 1939 and was a key member of the original New Forest Coven. On this occasion in 1952, Dafo introduced a raven-haired lady of thirty years to Gerald Gardner. So began Doreen’s first footsteps along the path of Wicca. However it was one year later in 1953 that Doreen received the first degree initiation into the Craft, given (as tradition demanded) by a member of the opposite sex. Gardner conducted the initiation himself on Midsummer’s Eve. He had just travelled from his witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man to attend the Druid Solstice gathering at Stonehenge where he was to loan the Ancient Druid Order his ritual sword. On this journey he dropped by the home of Dafo and initiated the young Doreen, whom he had met the previous summer.
Gardner used his Book of Shadows from the late forties up until 1953 when he initiated Doreen. He claimed the material was taken directly from the New Forest Coven and was the remnants of the Old Religion, which had been passed down through the ages. His astute student Ameth (the name given to Doreen) noticed that one passage read out by Gardner was taken from Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic MassOn this point, Doreen took Gardner to task and he replied that the Wicca rites he had received were fragmentary and he had filled them in the best he could. He gave Doreen his Book of Shadows saying “Can you do any better?” She did, replacing much of the Crowley and Masonic material with her own verse. She reconstructed the documents into a logical, practical and workable system, leaving us with what we know today as “Wicca”. It was Gardner’s penchant for interviews with the press that eventually led to Doreen severing contact with him for several years. In Doreen’s book 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. A set of rules were introduced called the “Proposed Rules for the Craft” which would prevent any members of the Craft from speaking to journalists or writers without permission from the Elders. Gardner was fully expected to follow these rules but retaliated with the claim that the Craft already had a set of traditional laws. He then sent the members of the coven “The Old Laws” – documents containing practical advice and theology. Doreen didn’t believe these “Old Laws” were authentic and parted company with Gardner. However they did later restore their friendship but never to the same degree as before.