Month: April 2011

Rooting out the problems of Alexandrian Witchcraft

Alex was a man of his time with a keen interest in the paranormal that has been documented time and again in several biographies. We know he performed séances and his early beginning involved more socially accepted forms of spiritualism. Witchcraft was sensationalised in the 60s and part of rural England and Wales downright redneck country. He’s find an audience ready to listen there.

Whatever passed between him and Gardner must have severely wounded his pride and I can understand that for a man with a deep need to be noticed and validated, it might have been a particularly harsh blow.

Unfortunately, he reacted stupidly and set a precedent to which 21st century Alexandrians still act upon, despite having come a long way with the progress in accessing knowledge.

But you see, the general excuse lives on: ” Alex did this…” Alex did that…” with the snotty attitude of those who think they’re special because they were once in his retinue.

Alexandrian tradition doesn’t exist and the reason it doesn’t exist is because Alex misappropriated himself of one incomplete version of Gardner’s Book of Shadows believing he did indeed possess some rare document of antiquity. Alex Sanders was himself fooled to the extent he had to make up some bullshit about being initiated at seven years old by his Welsh grandmother in order to trump Gardner and pretend he had acquired the book before meeting him.

He copied out her ‘Book of Shadows’ in his own handwriting and destroyed the original upon her death, as he had promised and in accordance with the old custom.
Unfortunately for the truth of this romantic tale, when I first heard it I did not
merely think it to be untrue: I knew it to be untrue – at least, as far as the ‘Book
of Shadows’ went. Some friends in the Midlands who were sceptical about
Sanders’ claims sent me press cuttings from the Manchester Comet of 23 June
1965, with the banner headline: ‘WITCHES DANCE PAGAN RITES UNDER
MOON’. The witches had been led by Alex Sanders. Some of the words from
their rituals were quoted – and they were words I had written myself in
collaboration with Gerald Gardner back in the 1950s!
I now have a copy of the ‘Book of Shadows’ used by Sanders and his covens,
and it is practically identical (except where it has been badly copied) with the
‘Book of Shadows’ used by Gerald Gardner. Yet Sanders had the impudence to
assert to June Johns (op. cit.) that ‘Gardnerian’ witches were considered
‘novices’ by witches such as himself, who had learned their rituals from ancient hereditary sources. They could be accepted as legitimate witches, but only of the first grade.  Doreen Valiente – The Rebirth of Witchcraft

His acolytes looked up to Sanders as the Prometheus who brought them the fire that Gardner would otherwise deny them. They wanted to believe him. It gave them the upper hand over their detractors. For Sanders, it was a massive ego boost. He really believed he had the capacity to make anyone believe his outlandish porkies. He had managed to convince an impressionable 15 years old and her gullible mother. He knew just the type of people who would buy into his crap, how to butter them up and exploit their vulnerabilities to his convenience.

So when it came to dealing with Alexandrians, if it was good enough for Sanders to cheat and steal, it would be good enough for me too. If it was good enough for Alex to be initiated by a renegade Gardnerian priestess, it would be good enough for me to go and take my 2* and 3* from a renegade Alexandrian (besides, since prominent Alexandrians took part in it they would have to shoot themselves in the foot in order to challenge its validity). I look at it this way: he was my role model.

In time, Alex Sanders added grimoire material to the Book of Shadows, he himself did not understand. Most of it, did not survive to the present day and Maxine admitted that much of it ended up in the fire. What’s left turns out to be entirely lifted out other out of print sources, for example William G. Gray books.

In 50 Years of Wicca, Fred Lamond recalls the time Alex Sanders told him he had performed the Abramelin in just 3 days. What emerges from Lamond’s account is that Sanders had little or no awareness of the opposite effect his self-absorbed monologues had on those he tried to impress with his magical prowess. He was a typical case of the fool that reveals his ignorance by talking too much to the wise man that humours him with his silence.

Maxine Sanders is no different, except she tends to repeat herself like a broken record. I suppose not much else happened in her life, so she clings to particular memories. What I find particularly interesting is that often people will ask her about events described in her biography Firechild and her reply to that is that she can’t remember what’s in it. If you can’t even get the story of your life straight what’s in the book can’t be that true…and yet, you people who want to believe, desperately and would rather be complicit in a lie than face reality.

To those who are seriously intentioned to practice the magical arts, Alexandrian witchcraft loses all its credibility. It becomes a cynical playground for the disillusioned.

I’ve often asked myself what keeps people bound to a false narrative. What drives them to trade in authenticity for a lie? Is it low self-worth? Is it the need to belong and feel special? Is it because they’ve invested the best years of their lives and it’s taken them too far? Is it because they feel to have nowhere else to go?

Alex Sanders thought very little of himself, that’s why he needed to buy fake knighthoods and proclaim himself a king.

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Yes, it got him the attention of tabloids and he didn’t care if that made him a laughing stock to some and stirred furore with others. He was willing to make a fool of himself just to see his name on the papers. He played with fire and in the end he undid himself with it.

Alex’s illegitimate lineage was obtained by trespassing against Gardner’s will. Gardner’s genuine interest in practicing magic that worked is undisputable in spite of the fact many believe he was a kinky old man into sexual festishes. He bothered to research myths and traditions; he consulted and collaborated with other magicians; he experiemented with a variety of magical techniques that are reflected in the three different version of his Book of Shadows; he authored two books on magic, whereas Alex and Maxine have only ever commissioned biographies.

This is not ‘karma’. It’s much simpler than that and at the same time, much more sinister. Trespassing and trodding over someone’s will as Alex did with Gardner was bound to generate a backlash but there was more, Alex’s unbridled hubris of which I got to witness the long range effects in the year preceding my separation from Alexandrian tradition. In fact, what I witnessed was a determining factor in my decision to leave.

Alex was not satisfied with being a witch and conning people out of their money. He was also a narcissist and expected witches to acknowledge his as their King. He was reported to have said “I started to think of myself as the King of the Witches.”

Needless to say, witches scorned the idea.

In her book, The Rebirth of Witchcraft, D. Valiente writes:

I have a copy of the tape-recording which some of his friends helped him to make in April 1988, only a few days before he died. In it, he expresses his wish that his son Victor, only sixteen years old, should succeed him as ‘King of the Witches’. However, Victor made it clear that he was not interested, according to press reports; and a gathering of what was described as ‘the Witchcraft Council of Elders’ decided that witches today did not need a king anyway. (p.168)

Victor went on to become a heroin addiction and at the age of 36 he suffered a stroke which left him irreversibly brain damaged, unable to speak or do anything for himself. Alex had been long dead but Maxine had continued from where he had left off. Even if she didn’t publicly advertise herself as the Queen of the Witches in the same bombastic way, she nevertheless expected all Alexandrian initiates to treat her as such and be subservient to her when they met her. If people visited her, they had to bring food, flowers and wine, cook the food, serve her the food, pour her the wine, wash the dishes, clean her kitchen…short of wiping her arse, she expected you to wait on her hand and foot. In return, she’d make snarky remarks and jokes at their expenses as if they weren’t there. With the exception of the High Priest or High Priestess that brought them there, when it was time to retire for bed, she would shoo them out the door, often physically. They were expected to stay at a hotel, the closest which was at least 10 miles away and could only be reached by car. If they were lucky, they could sleep on the floor. In the morning, they would expect to be back to prepare her tea and breakfast. On one occasion Scott had to make her tea himself and started yelling at us the moment we got through the door for failing to arrive at 8.00 am.

So you get the idea of the kind of people we’re dealing with here and why I found it unacceptable. I won’t deny that it made me really spiteful and spat in their drinks and food whenever I had the opportunity and I knew I wasn’t the only one. I know of a priest who got so pissed off he rubbed her toothbrush between his arsecheeks.

Trust me, watching them tuck in was far more pleasurable than any spell.

A corrupted line is characterised by initiates who linger on for unfathomable reasons in spite of the fact they have lost all respect for their Elders. It was making me as toxic as they were and what then happened to Victor, the lies and cover ups around it to keep up Maxine’s facade of the Ecstatic Mother and Witch Queen confirmed what I had been suspecting for some time – that Alexandrian tradition was a poisoned chalice. Those who stayed would end up with exactly the same dysfunctional personality and messed up lives.

Alex entangled himself and anyone with any attachment to him into a fucked up mesh of his own making. Every biography on Alex and Maxine provide a consistent timeline of signs that are testament to the trajectory of their undoing, some of which – such as Victor’s spectacular fall from grace – Alex did not even get to live long enough to see.

It’s the only reason that makes these books worth reading.

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Any corruption, like water, flows downstream and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to poison the water supply when you have access to the well. Ironically, for all their aesthetic ceremoniality and borrowings from other systems, the Alexandrian’s way to work magic is highly flawed and ineffective. Partly out of Alex and Maxine incompetence but I’m sure that Gardner and/or Crowther made sure they would get their wish but never really go beyond the illusion – which would explain why they are so infested with astral parasites and always at war with one another. Once I stepped outside of the tradition and looked at it from a distance, I regained clarity and what I saw was a shanty-town built on a contaminated swamp.

But the energy had to come from somewhere and once these curses kick into action, it’s not just the receiving end that suffers.

What we are left with today is a spiritually noxious Alexandrian camp while on the Gardnerian side they are so energetically depleted that a little bit of vigour could cause them to break them in two. Both traditions failed to thrive and grow, in different ways. Gardnerians have gradually energetically bled to the death and almost stalled. Alexandrians’ growth was stunted, mangled and twisted by the constrictions they were placed into. Not that anybody ever paid attention to the dynamics unfolding under their noses. Not that Alexandrians would ever recognise they have a problem and look at the roots for it.