Love to Our Ancestors on Samhain: The Revealers

Samhain is a time to honor our ancestors.

Time to lay out a feast and invite them to dine, to share their presence with us while the veil is thin.

So, in respect for those who came before, I have made a small Ancestral Gallery of Witches. Give them a smile, tip your hat, light a candle and say thank you for blazing the trail and holding open the gates of Elfhame.  It took a lot of courage, in those old days, to walk between the worlds. My original plan was to give space to thirteen of our forebears in one blog post, but i realized, not everyone would know them, so I shall make a series of posts with three in each — a good magical number. It is amazing to discover these great teachers and mentors all over again and to remember how they kept magic alive for all of us, sometimes at great personal risk.

These three gentlemen were controversial figures even for witches. I was not that aware of Alex Sanders until I lived in England. When a told a friend of my discovery, he  responded with, “Oh, wasn’t he just a television witch?” I had no idea. about that. I just thought he and Maxine were fascinating people. Robert Cochran’s style of witchcraft drew me very strongly. I later found how troubled he was.  The American witch, Leo Martello, was an activist, very outspoken especially about animal cruelty and Gay rights.

Alex Sanders (Orrell Alexander Carter)

Born: June 6, 1926/ Entered Faery: March 30, 1988

The flamboyant Witch King, Alex Sanders, was reputed to have been initiated into witchcraft by his Welsh grandmother, Grandma Bibby, as a child. He had accidentally come upon her sitting stark naked in the middle of a circular cloth upon which curious objects were placed. The image of the classic witch, she swore the terrified Alex to secrecy, cutting him with a knife to mark as “one of us now.” Later on, she initiated him in the “old way”, launching his career as a witch.

The, perhaps apocryphal, biography of Alex Sanders, King of the Witches, by June Johns, 1969, ends with a very interesting interview. This section may put to rest some of the disturbing ritual imagery in films of Alexandrian witches found on youtube. The Questioner is June Johns:

Q: What is the difference between black witchcraft and white?

A: White is used for the good of the penitent and must not harm even his enemies. Black involves harm being done to either the petitioner or his enemies, or the sexual seduction of women.

Q: But doesn’t the use of the fith-fath ( doll) harm enemies?

A: No, it is only a means of silencing or restraining someone.  Suppose we  are asked to restrain a meddlesome mother-in-law. We fashion a doll in wax or plasticine, fasten its lips  together with a safety pin, bind its limbs together and have the High Priestess breathe life into it as we recite the correct incantations. No harm is wished her, beyond the impulse to keep her mouth shut.

Robert Cochran   (Roy Bowen)

Born: Jan. 26, 1931/ Entered Faery: July 3, 1066

I have always thought the Cat’s Cradle was witchy game. Here are the words of Robert Cochran, founder of the Clan of Tubal Cain, a mystical branch of witchcraft begun just after the 1951 repeal of the witchcraft laws in England.

On Cords

by Roy Bowen

Pentagram (3) March 1965

“Cat’s cradle” as a game is interesting enough but as a form of witchery it becomes an interesting indication of the complex nature of the Craft. Each of the fingers on the hands of a witch has a defined meaning and purpose. It would be reasonable to assume that, to the knowing eye, the crosses and planes formed by the strings would tell much of a particular ritual.”

I found a couple of fascinating websites about Robert Cochran and the Clan of Tubal Cain in case you are interested. He had a very deep mind, and his letters are full of profound interpretations of poetry and symbolism.

Check out: and

Robert Cochran was born Roy Bowers in a down at heels area of London. He claimed that members of his family had been practitioners of an ancient pagan Witch-cult since at least the 17th century, and that two of them had been executed for it. He  also claimed his great-grandfather was “the last Grand Master of the Staffordshire witches”, who cursed his grandparents for abandoning the Craft and converting to Methodism. His father had practiced witchcraft, but kept it a secret, and forbade his wife to tell his son, Roy. Despite her oath, his mother did in fact tell him. On finding this out, he immediately embraced his heritage.

“I come from the country of the oak, ash and thorn… I describe myself as a ‘pellar’. The People are formed in clans or families and describe themselves by the local name of the Deity. I am a member of the People of Goda – the Clan of Tubal Cain. We were known locally as ‘witches’, ‘the Good People’, Green gowns (females only), ‘Horsemen’ and finally Wizards.”

Robert Cochran worked as a blacksmith at a foundry, and later on a barge transporting coal along Britain’s network of canals. He would later remark that he saw traces of paganism in the folklore and folk art of both of these professions.

The Clan of Tubal Cain, 1951-1966

Around the time that the British 1735 Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1951, and it became legal to practice witchcraft in the United Kingdom, Cochrane, who was in his early twenties, founded a coven, and named it the “Clan of Tubal Cain” after the Biblical figure Tubal Cain, the first blacksmith. Blacksmiths have long been associated with wizardry because theyw ork with the four elements and bend iron to their will.  Cochrane initiated his wife Jane and several others into the craft, and they then joined the coven. Among these was Evan John Jones, who would later become an author upon the subject of pagan witchcraft.

Cochrane ingested belladonna and Librium on Midsummer eve 1966, and died nine days later in hospital without recovering consciousness. He left a suicide note expressing his intent to kill himself “while of sound mind”.

Dr. Leo Louis Martello

Born: July 26, 1931/ Entered Faery: June 29. 2000

“In the Craft, there is no hard dogma. Hard drugs are forbidden. Mindless morons can’t be a compliment to our Mother Goddess. Sex is sacred, not something to be exhibited at a peep show. Power is something personal, not to be used over others, which is contrary to Craft ethics. Those who think the Old Religion will make them masters over others are slaves to their own self-delusions. A happy person is always a powerful person and is hated by those who aren’t. A happy person is in many ways selfish; in the Craft we must protect our best interests and ensure that the power that comes from joy remains constant, knowing that none of us are immune from the vicissitudes of life, but that our Old Religion will help us handle adversity. The Craft has survived for thousands of years. After everything else has come and gone, it will remain. And one day, in the coming Age of Aquarius, there will once again be magnificent temples to the Goddess”. from: Witchcraft: The Old Religion, 1973.

A fellow native of Massachusetts, Dr. Leo Louis Martello was  certified hypnotist,  graphologist, and author. During the 1960’s, he was involved in the early spread of Contemporary Witchcraft in America.  Colorful and sometimes controversial, he worked tirelessly in the areas of Civil Rights, Animal Rights, and Gay and Lesbian Rights issues.  He is  famed for his manifesto seeking retribution for the torture and execution of Witches during the Witch hysteria of the 15th – 17th centuries in Europe, going so far as to filing suits of $500 million against the Roman Catholic Church and $100 million against Salem, Massachusetts.

His father was an immigrant Sicilian who owned a small farm, The stress of poverty during the Great Depression., tore his family apart and Leo was sent to a Catholic boarding school. Despite the hardships of his life, before the age of twenty-five Leo had achieved many things. A natural psychic, he studied palmistry and tarot with a Gypsy woman, learned hypnotism and graphology.  By the time he was sixteen, he was making radio appearances, giving handwriting analyses and selling articles to magazines, at the same time continuing his education at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Like Alex Sanders, he also had a powerful grandmother whom he was said to resemble.  Still in Sicily,  Maria Concetta was a well-known Strega Maga (a female Witch) and a High Priestess of a secret coven called ‘Goddess of the Sikels’.  After the sudden death of a local Mafiosi by heart attack, it was rumored that she had caused his death after he had threatened to kill her husband for not paying protection money.

Eventually, Leo’s father told him that his cousins from the old country wished to meet  him.  They had been watching him for years, waiting until he was ready to be brought back into the Old Religion.  On the 26th of September 1951, Leo was initiated into his cousin’s secret Sicilian coven, and thus he became a Stregone Mago (a male Witch).  The initiation involved a “bloodletting Oath”; he was never to reveal the secrets of the coven, its members, or any of their secret teachings.

In 1964, Leo sought the permission from his Sicilian coven to go public as a Witch.  With their consent, he contacted other friends and associates leading to his initiation into Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Traditionalist traditions.  He published his first book,  Weird Ways of Witchcraft in 1969.


That ends my list of 13 witches for Samhain.

I’m sorry to have missed any, I know there are a few more who have passed beyond the veil.

When I describe them a being in Faery I really mean it. Consider what it means for a Faery Witch who can contact any of these Ancestors. I believe they are there to help us on our path in all their different ways — and not just via their many books and articles. So, if you have a Samhain Feast perhaps invite them to share with you by name. And if you do, let me know what happens.

Just click the COMMENTS tab at the top of the blog and you will have lots of room to express yourself and share with all of us.

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Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen

A Review of the Autobiography of the Queen of the Witches

It was a long wait. Maxine Sanders, Queen of the Witches, had been written about, filmed, photographed, and been the subject of two biographies in the 1970′s. Out of print, these are rare books now, and very expensive to obtain. Treadwells had a copy of Maxine, the Witch Queen, for 50 pounds.  I couldn’t afford to buy it, so the owner, Christina, generously allowed me to read it in the shop. I had just finished the fascinating account of Maxine’s initiation into an Egyptian Cult at the age of 15, when someone bought the book out from under me. How I kick myself!  It was a good deal.

So, I was very happy about the publication of Firechild:The Life and Magic of Maxine Sanders, ‘Witch Queen’ in 2008.
As an American who has been, unconsciously and then consciously, on a magical path since childhood, I had still not been very aware of Maxine and Alex Sanders. When I lived in London, 1998-2007, they were famous, and I crossed paths with many Alexandrian witches. Opinions were strong in discussions about them. One British friend dubbed them “T.V. witches” as if that meant their magic wasn’t real.  But one look at Maxine on the cover of Maxine: The Witch Queen, published in 1975,  convinced me that she was, and still is, a Goddess.

The British historian Ronald Hutton says that Wicca is the religion that the British gave to the world. Indeed, the creators of Wicca, Gerald Gardener in the 1930’s and the Sanders in the 1960’s are British, and it is the British who seem to have embraced Wicca wholeheartedly and with a great deal of public fanfare. My experience with life in Britain convinced me that Wicca, Thelema, and other Paganisms are the dominant “religions” in the U.K.

Over the years, I have read the works of many modern witches. Starhawk’s Spiral Dance was an early inspiration. Aspects the Womens Spirituality Movement were much like the woodsy witchcraft we played at as teenagers in Massachusetts. Wicca was like a mirror of things I already had within me, an extension of what my friends and I just spontaneously did.

My deep reading of the Arthurian/ Holy Grail Legends, Grimms Fairy Tales, Medieval arts and Shakespeare developed my imagination in such a way that symbol systems became transparent, and magic an inner reality. Living hard by the forest as a child, instilled in me a high awareness of nature as a realm of enchantment, freedom, and wonder. Witches were the ultimate fairy tale beings living in the woods and making magic.

The British occultists have always appealed to me. I am a long time student of R.J.Stewart and his Faery Magic. All through the 1980’s-90’s John and Caitlin Matthews books and workshops provided scholarly insights for my deeper understanding of the Arthurian Legends. Reading Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess in 1979 initiated me into the primal magic of deep time/space. When I discovered Maxine Sanders, I felt the resonance that comes with a sharing of the Witchblood.

Other reviewers of Maxine’s book, Firechild, have rightfully criticized it for its lack of editing. It is a shame that no one stepped forward to do this for her, and help improve the book. She says herself that she is not a writer, and writing is hard work. But I do not want to dwell on that, for this book is full of treasures. Also, when Maxine writes about her magical experiences, they come from the heart and are well written.

For more see my post:Maxine Sanders: Queen of the Witches and my interview with her

The Story, Quickly

The legend of Maxine’s birth is that she was born on a full moon. Although many people are born under full moons, Maxine’s mother thought this very significant, for she was interested in esoteric thought and the occult. What is more interesting than this full moon aspect, is what Maxine describes in her book: She spent her childhood sending her fetch, training herself, instinctively, to astral project over great distances. She was telepathic, saw spirits, and dreamed herself into the Otherworld. Her mother encouraged these talents and even put young Maxine at risk in her desire to use her daughter as a vehicle to explore the occult. This led to an amazing and harrowing initiation into an Egyptian Magical Cult at the age of 15, that would make Indiana Jones’s hair stand on end!

Here is an excerpt from her ordeal in the pitch black darkness of the cave on her journey to initiation:

I let myself down the chain for several yards until I was standing on a smooth ledge. My feet that had been frozen were now beginning to tingle and burn. It reminded me of Commb Springs saunas when we ran out into the snow and then had to be brushed with Birch tree branches causing the body to tingle with warmth; I almost laughed. From here on my journey was in complete darkness. the voice would say “Jump” followed by a direction and then the order would be repeated. I did not know if there was a rock beneath or an empty abyss. So it went on. “Ten paces left, so many paces right, walk forward”. When it seemed that a pattern was developing and it was tempting to relax, a different command would be given, demanding attention and concentration.

It must have been a couple of hours into the ordeal when a change in the air made me aware I was in another tunnel that narrowed noticeably. My muscles were aching and my head was throbbing with concentration; the rough rock was catching on my outer robe and scraping my hands, making them sting.

The voice changed: “Walk towards the fire.”

It was a man’s voice. The sudden switch was unnerving. Ahead was a gentle and comforting glow of light. As the tunnel widened. I could see the floor of the cave was alive with fire and I knew that I had to walk through it. Standing at the edge with my body dripping in sweat I removed my outer robes.

“Pass through.”

If I turned back, I would be lost. I had no choice.

“Pass through!”

Alex Sanders and Maxine

Much of the middle of the book is about Maxine’s relationship with Alex Sanders, King of the Witches.

She is very honest about the difficulties of this relationship. Her honesty here is helpful, for her issues with this man do not seem that unusual for women whose role in life is Priestess.  Alex was frequent visitor to her mother’s occult soirees. Even though Alex was 20 years older, Maxine was deeply attracted to him. This was the Call of the Witchblood, I imagine.

Though many esoteric people came to Maxine’s mother’s social gatherings, none of them moved Maxine like Alex the witch. Her experience of childhood abuse, coupled with the deep sensitivity of a natural medium, would  make a gentle, creative man like Alex Sanders irresistible to Maxine. I am convinced that Alex was drawn to her beauty and sensed her power. He wanted to tap into that power and bring it through for his magical work. Together they gave Witchcraft  a public face, gained many converts, and suffered the consequences both good and bad. Alex was ordained King of the Witches and Maxine his Queen. Eventually their special combination of Gardenarian Wicca and ceremonial magic would become the distinctive path: Alexandrian Wicca.

Sea Ritual

By the end of her story, Maxine and Alex had been the Magical consultants for the 1965 film Eye of the Devil with Sharon Tate during which the actress initiated into witchcraft by Alex. Alex had left Maxine for a man, and Maxine had moved on to another path in the Liberal Catholic Church. During the 1980′s, Alex passed away and Maxine was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Through it all she worked tirelessly to maintain high standards of training and commitment to witchcraft. In 1992, her coven, Temple of the Mother, and a related coven, Temple of the Corn King, conducted a powerful sea ritual on the coast of Wales.

Here is an excerpt:

The High Priestess led the witches in a spiral dance, chanting to the heart rhythm:

Flowing, increasing light;

Bearing, filling bright;

Receiving, giving delight;

Ebbing, waning, fading;

Secrets ever hiding;

Darkness, mystery shrouding;

Flowing, increasing light…

The chant went on until the priestess swirled the initiates into the serpent dance, leading them through the avenue of flares to the edge of the sea; the High Priest, facing the sea with arms raised in supplication, invoked Our Lady the Goddess. I remained in the circle, and knelt as the invocation was spoken to visualize the Goddess descending into the world of men.

As I opened my eyes, I blinked to make sure they were not playing tricks on me. The Goddess, swathed in silver, was standing far out in the sea, and as the invocation of the priest became more insistent, priest and Goddess moved slowly nearer to each other. A little way out from the shore with the water lapping around their ankles, the priest knelt to receive Her blessing.

And so the story of the Witch Queen ends for now. Just as the vision of Isis ends The Golden Ass by Apulaius, and  the Sea Priestess  by Dion Fortune, so the end of a cycle of life in magic for the Witch Queen, Maxine Sanders  culminates in a  transcendent vision of the  Goddess. Such visitations are the goal, the proof, and the gift of life on the Magical Path.

For the details, read the book. It really is quite a story of an extraordinary life. You can get it from the Amazon widget below.

Watch for my interview with Maxine Sanders where we shall discuss her current life and projects. Hopefully, she will share what the next cycle means for her, and thus for all of us who follow the same journey.

Maxine May Queen

Maxine May Queen

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Maxine Sanders: Queen of the Witches, Dawn Ritual

Maxine Sanders is the famous Alexandrian High Priestess from England . I strongly identify with her, for I believe she was born with the Witchblood. As a teenager in the 1960′s, she defied the stereotype of the hag witch with the youth, beauty, and charisma of the Enchantress. Partnered with Alex Sanders, she was instrumental in bringing  the Old Religion to public consciousness and the eventual quasi-acceptability we have today. Her lifetime of dedication to the Mysteries as  healer, teacher, Initiator, and muse in the face social antagonism, media sensationalism, public adulation and envy, makes for one of the truly remarkable life stories of our time.

For newspaper articles from the 1960′s and 70s including tabloid stories and photos of early rituals, visit The sublime hostess of the Sexy Witch, the Red Witch, has kindly allowed me to reprint the following article with rare pictures of a beautiful outdoor Dawn Ritual for a film made in 1969. You can aslo see other film footage on YouTube.

Thank you Red Witch!

Maxine has agreed to an interview with me about her current interests and path, so please come back for that as well as a review of her autobiography, Firechild. Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen

The interview is here: Interview with the Queen of the Witches: Maxine Sanders

Maxine Sanders, Dawn Ritual, 1969

I used the colour photos from the following sequence in my Sexy Witch Video No.2. A particularly astute YouTube viewer asked to see more of them, and here they are!

The ritual that is the subject of this shoot obviously took place in winter, “on one of the high and private ridges of the Yorkshire Moors” (as a 1971 article tells us). On 16 February 1969 one picture from this sequence was printed in News of the World and I think it is likely that the ritual occurred shortly before that date.

Although the sixteen pictures below are taken from eight different publications (listed at the end of this post), and were reprinted in many more, few details about the event have emerged. Consequently, the pictures will have to tell their own story!

Man, Myth and Magic, No.3 (1970). p. 74; Man, Myth and Magic, No.11 (1970), front cover; Man, Myth and Magic (1970-71), pp. 1868b, 1870; Dennis Wheatley, The Devil and All His Works (1971; repr. London: Peerage Books, 1983), p. 233; Witchcraft 1.10 (January 1973), pp.36–37; Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (London: Octopus, 1974), pp. 8–9, 104–5, 109; Encyclopedia of Magic and Superstition (London: Octopus, 1974), pp. 10, 19; Peter Haining, The Illustrated History of Witchcraft (London: New English Library, 1975), p. 15; Francis X. King, Magic: The Western Tradition (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975), plate 39; Susan Greenwood, Encyclopedia of Magic and Witchcraft (London: Lorenz Books, 2001), p. 202.

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