Alexandrian Wicca

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Many Alexandrian Wiccans perform regular rituals at the full moon. Image by Rolfo/Moment/Getty Images

Origins of Alexandrian Wicca:

Formed by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine, Alexandrian Wicca is very similar to the Gardnerian tradition. Although Sanders claimed to have been initiated into witchcraft in the early 1930s, he was also a member of a Gardnerian coven before breaking off to start his own tradition in the 1960s. Alexandrian Wicca is typically a blend of ceremonial magic with heavy Gardnerian influences and a dose of Hermetic Kabbalah mixed in.

However, as with most other magical traditions, keep in mind that not everyone practices the same way.

Alexandrian Wicca focuses on the polarity between the genders, and rites and ceremonies often dedicate equal time to the God and the Goddess. While Alexandrian ritual tool use and the names of the deities differ from Gardnerian tradition, Maxine Sanders has been famously quoted as saying, “If it works, use it.” Alexandrian covens do a good deal of work with ceremonial magic, and they meet during new moons, full moons, and for the eight Wiccan Sabbats.

In addition, the Alexandrian Wiccan tradition holds that all participants are priests and priestesses; everyone is able to commune with the Divine, therefore there is no laity.

Influences from Gardner:

Similar to the Gardnerian tradition, Alexandrian covens initiate members into a degree system. Some begin training at a neophyte level, and then advance to First Degree.

In other covens, a new initiate is automatically given the title of First Degree, as a priest or priestess of the tradition. Typically, initiations are performed in a cross-gender system - a female priestess must initiate a male priest, and a male priest must initiate female members of the tradition.

According to Ronald Hutton, in his book Triumph of the Moon, many of the differences between Gardnerian Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca have blurred over the past few decades. It is not uncommon to find someone who is degreed in both systems, or to find a coven of one tradition that accepts a member degreed in the other system.

Who Was Alex Sanders?

A Witchvox article by an author listed only as an Elder of the Alexandrian Tradition says, "Alex was flamboyant and, among other things, a born showman. He played the press at every opportunity, much to the dismay of more conservative Wiccan Elders of the time. Alex also was known for being a healer, diviner, and a powerful Witch and magician. His forays into the media led to the publication of the romanticized biography King of the Witches, by June Johns, and later the publication of the classic Wiccan "coven biography, " What Witches Do, by Stewart Farrar. The Sanders became household names in the UK during the 60's and 70's, and are responsible to a great degree for bringing the Craft into the public eye for the first time."

Sanders passed away on April 30, 1988, after a battle with lung cancer, but his influence and the impact of his tradition is still felt today.

There are numerous Alexandrian groups in the United States and Britain, most of which maintain some degree of secrecy, and continue to keep their practices and other information oathbound. Included under this umbrella is the philosophy that one must never out another Wiccan; privacy is a core value.

Contrary to popular belief, Sanders never made his tradition's Book of Shadows public, at least not in its entirety. While there are collections of Alexandrian information available to the general public - both in print and online - these are not the full tradition, and were generally designed as training materials for new initiates. The only way to access a complete Alexandrian BOS, or the full collection of information about the tradition itself, is to be initiated into a coven as an Alexandrian Wiccan.

Maxine Sanders Today

Today, Maxine Sanders has retired from the work that she and her husband spent much of their lives on, and practices alone. However, she still makes herself available for occasional consultations. From Maxine's webpage, "Today, Maxine practices the Art Magical and celebrates the Craft’s rituals either in the mountains or in her stone cottage, Bron Afon. Maxine practices her Magic alone; she has retired from the work of teaching. Her vocation as a Priestess includes counseling those who are in need of kindness, truth and hope. She is often approached by those in the Craft who are not too proud to test the strength of the shoulders of those who have gone before. Maxine is a highly respected Priestess of the Sacred Mysteries. She has encouraged, enabled and inspired students of the Priesthood to take on the conscious mantle of their spiritual potential. She believes the catalyst for that inspiration comes from the Cauldron of the Goddess in all its guises."