WHEN Christians read the Bible they study the words of the Moses, David and others.

When Buddhists read the Tripitakam, they are reading the teachings of the Buddha.

And when the millions of Wiccans around the world study their spiritual texts, they read the words of Brighton's Doreen Valiente.

The Wiccan priestess has been dead for 17 years but her legacy lives on.

Such was her influence on the modern teachings of Wicca, a blue plaque was unveiled at her former home in Tyson Place, Brighton, in June 2013.

This year, two exhibitions in the city will celebrate the witch and explore her place in modern witchcraft.

Ashley Mortimer, at trustee at The Doreen Valiente Foundation, described her as the undisputed mother of modern witchcraft.

He said: "She was such an incredibly important person and these exhibitions will celebrate her life and legacy.

"Paganism disappeared when Christianity came to England but she revived it. She effectively invented Wicca with Gerald Gardner and made it accessible and available.

"Millions around the world identify themselves as Wiccans and they are reading Doreen's works.

"We have one of the original books at the exhibition which, as someone has said, is like seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jesus's handwriting.

Doreen was born in 1922 and her first experiences with magic came aged seven when she played with a broomstick, riding it up and down her street.

Her parents, who were Christian, feared she was attracted to the occult and so sent her to a convent school - which she hated and left aged 15.

She continued to experiment with magic as a teenager, once making a poppet to stop her mother being harassed by another woman.

It is said to have worked as the woman was then harassed herself by a blackbird.

During the Second World War she met a Greek seaman, Joanis Vlachopoulos, who she married.

Within six months he was lost at sea and in 1944 she remarried a Spaniard called Casimiro Valiente.

Doreen's fascination with witchcraft continued, as much as a hobby as anything. But when she read an article in Illustrated magazine about a Museum of Magic set up by Gerald Gardner, her life changed.

Gardner had come to prominence with the repealing of the 1735 Witchcraft Act in 1951. He was instrumental in bringing Wicca to public attention and wrote most of the definitive religious texts.

But what he did not have was a skill with words or a way with people. He failed to spread Wicca to a wider audience and failed to give it the gravitas needed for people to take seriously.

It is said when Doreen offered new ways of doing things, he apparently threw his book of shadows at her and said: "Can you do any better?"

She went away and used her talent with words to reconstructed the writings. She embellished some parts and added to others with her poetry.

The result, it is said, is a practical, logical, workable system of magic and religion rooted in the traditions of British spirituality.

Modern witchcraft grew as a result of her writing and millions around the world use her spells and much more to this day.

Mr Mortimer, who is also a director for The Centre For Pagan Studies, said: "Unlike Gerald she had an organised brain and a way with words. She managed to give it a robustness and real meaning - so much so that people take it seriously. I'm on the local religious committee that decides on RE taught in school. That would not have been possible without her."

With social change in the 1960s, modern witchcraft continued to flourish and Doreen was at the heart of it.

While she was wary of becoming a media personality she was proud of her beliefs and sought to explain and put across paganism and witchcraft in a good light.

The sixties and seventies were perhaps her most creative decades for writing with her Where Witchcraft Lives, An ABC of Witchcraft, Natural Magic and Witchcraft for Tomorrow, all considered essential texts.

In later life she helped establish an organisation known as The Pagan Front, later transformed into The Pagan Federation, which aimed to fight prejudice against pagans in society and in the media.

She died in 1999, but her writing lives on and her words are studied around the world.

To celebrate her life and legacy, two exhibitions will be held in Brighton this year in association with the Royal Pavilion Museums.

The first, titled Folklore, Magic and Mysteries: Modern Witchcraft and Folk Culture In Britain, will be at Preston Manor from April until September.

The second, Where Witchcraft Lives, will run for 49 days from late July in the Old Courthouse in Church Street.

Among the items being displayed include Doreen's alter pieces and many of her original books.

For more details visit wherewitchcraftlives.org.