Interview with the Queen of the Witches: Maxine Sanders

Maxine Interviewed in Dutch Documentary

I posted this so you could hear Maxine’s voice and have a sense of her presence. I would have liked to do a podcast with her, but she is shy of technology. I don’t blame her. If I lived in the green hills of Wales, that would be enough for me too.

I hope this interview sparks discussion in the comments section. Just press Comments and let’s start talking! If you want to know more about Maxine read my review of her book Firechild, Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen and Maxine Sanders: Queen of the Witches: Dawn Ritual

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Maxine Sanders Interviewed On A Dutch Witchcraft Documentary. This was originally upload on YouTube by lichtengel60 as part of a much longer Dutch documentary about Witchcraft. I figured it would`t be found by most UK viewers so cut it out and uploaded it separately. It is only a minute long but is still a nice clip and shows the lovely Maxine interviewed in 1995.

I discovered Maxine Sanders when I lived in London between 1998-2006. She fascinated me. Here was a witch that was beautiful, poetic, a figure from a fairy tale, and 1960′s icon as well. She had lived a life dedicated to Magic. She agreed to do this interview for me form the goodness of her heart really. It turned out to not be a good time for her. She is very busy and has her family needing her attention. Still, she gave some thought provoking answers to my rather personal questions. I had to ask her things I wanted to know, and I hope my readers will find these interesting as well.

From Maxine

This interview was given via email. It wasn’t easy as there was not the normal give and take of a conversation that leads from one thing to another. Plus I am totally new at this. So please forgive me if I didn’t make the most of this as far as the questions I asked.

Arlene:

Hello, Maxine.

I would like to thank you up front for taking the time to talk to me. I have given these questions a great deal of thought. Hopefully, you will enjoy discussing them.

Please feel free to answer, or not, if you don’t like a question. Or add if you are particularly interested.

Just so you know where I am coming from, I have not been initiated into Wicca or any Witchcraft Tradition, though I have been invited recently to join a coven. I think witchcraft is in my blood, though. I have ample evidence of that from my youth.
I didn’t join the coven because of time constraints, but I wish I could.

Maxine:

I have been away and am rather taken up with travel back and forth to London. My son has been seriously ill. He is still in hospital. My answers are alas brief, nonetheless they are as I feel. I find the in depth meanderings of mind only confusing to those who are really interested. If there is anything else I can help with please let me know.

Arlene:

Thank you so much.  (Lets send out a prayer for Maxine’s son, Victor, that he gets well soon.)

Questions and Answers

Arlene:

In reading things about you, reading your book, and just looking at you, I sense that, even if you had never met Alex Sanders, you would have been a witch. Do you have a response to the idea that there are people who are born witches, and how that guides their journey through life.

Maxine:

I believe some are born with magical potential and ability just as there are people who seemingly have a gift for maths or music. It is fate and fortune that help and enable these gifts to be enjoyed.

Arlene:

Is there a deep difference in energy between witch souls and other mystics?

Maxine:

The title Witch is given by Initiation or by village society where the person practices their art within the community etc. Witches are individuals who tend to specialize in particular aspects of magic and some are Witch and Mystic.

Arlene:

What marks a witch?

Maxine:

Initiation and training.

Arlene:

Where does it come from, this consciousness of the deeper Mysteries? Are we born with it, called to it, or did your mother teach you these things?

Maxine:

We have a vocation that is born of a natural consciousness. Circumstance of birth and upbringing brought me to the world of Witchcraft.

Arlene:

How does the Moon effect witches? What is the role of the Moon?
(Forgive me, I am a poet and I sometimes see images in the words that you may not see. If the questions are too vague, feel free to change them, ignore them, or ask me for clarification.)

Maxine:

Everything in the Universe effects us all. Witches are taught to be aware of the cycles of the planets and their effects. We work in the appropriate cycle to bring about affect.

Arlene:

I am very interested in the spirits of place. In Fire child, you suggest that Alderly Edge had a special energy. When I first lived in London, I lived near Hampstead Heath and on the first Samhain was assaulted, from 3AM – 6AM by the Horned God during six weeks of vivid dreams. There was a lot of related phenomena. I was terrified. When I finally stopped trying to block it, He entered me and I was on fire, on all levels, for three days and nights.
I was later told (by Christina at Treadwells) that Hampstead Heath was a stag hunting forest. Had I been initiated into Wicca, I might have known how to deal with this event, but it just erupted into my life and put me into shock.
In my earlier life, I dreamed all the time that I had stag antlers.
Can you address this issue of spirits of the land?

Maxine:

They are just that and I am aware of them and use them. A fully trained witch would not be hurt by them.

Arlene:

Why does the Horned God visit some people without being called? Or any Deity for that matter?

Maxine:

The Witch studies the natural and is empowered by their experience with these energies. The witches training includes safety techniques that include the wholeness and protection of self.

Arlene:

How have the places you have lived effected, or transformed your magic?

Maxine:

Every valley and vale is different and effects the magic of the witch.

Arlene:

Are cities better for lodge magic, and the rural places for witchcraft?

Maxine:.

Magic and its effectiveness is dependent upon the individual practitioner.

Arlene:

Does it matter?

Maxine:

For me the place obviously matters, however the preparation and creation of the sacred place contributes enormously.

Arlene:

Can witches help to heal the Earth?

Maxine:

Witches have always been aware of the need to respect the Earth. We know the Earth does have the ability to heal itself. I believe it is our responsibility to continue in respectful behaviour and if it is possible this should be encouraged throughout the human race.

This is one of my favorite photos of Maxine and the Witches. It is from King of the Witches by June Johns, 1969.

Arlene:

I am interested in the interrelationship of Faery tradition and Witchcraft. Would you discuss the relationship between witches and the Faery — especially those in the British Isles?
Are they important to you or not?

Maxine:

All of the elemental kingdoms are important to the Witch and Occultist.

Arlene:

What about the Roots of the Tree of Life?
The Underworld realms. Shamans go there, but Qabbalists keep away. Do you have any feelings about that that you would like to share?

Maxine:

I have been practicing the Art of Witchcraft for over 45 years. However I am not an historian nor am I an authority on the subjects you mention, I am still the student, enjoying that status. I do believe we each have our speciality we have chosen to practice. We can only wear one pair of shoes at any time.

Arlene:

What happens to a witch’s power if she doesn’t practice magic for a time?

Maxine:

The laws of Witchcraft advise that we invoke often. Probably because we will loose it if we don’t.

Arlene:

Do some people HAVE to practice magic to be OK?

Maxine:

No

Arlene:

I traveled in Cornwall in 1997. On one leg of the trip, I wanted to find an old wishing well I had heard about. I was in the village, and asked some children if they knew about it. An old lady come up to me and smiled and pointed the way. I sensed I had met someone whose background had always been in the Old Religion.
When you were doing your work in the 1960s, were you aware of people in the British Isles still living an ancient way of life?

Maxine:

Yes, and I am still aware of them. I live in a rural area in North Wales and even now the Old Religion is still apparent.

Arlene:

(How cool is that!)

Were there covens, or is that a modern thing?

Maxine:

I believe coven is a comparatively modern term although I do think there have always been gatherings of magical practitioners

Arlene:

Have you met earlier generations of witches during your life, and did they teach you things?

Maxine:

Yes.

Arlene:

As the Old Ways become more mainstream, domestication may become a concern. Mainstream and Domestic seem to me to equal loss of vividness, loss of power. Like churches where peoples’ prayers are empty.
How do you keep the witch soul alive when there are so many novices who become self appointed experts, and replace the deep truths with platitudes and shallow unsolicited advice?

Maxine:

It is my own practice in my own circle that is my responsibility to keep pure. Whilst Witches keep true to their highest ideals and disregard those who are ruled by ego born of earth, the Craft will be continue to be Hidden and true.

Arlene:

Have people tried to advise you as if you were born yesterday? lol

Maxine:

Yes.

Arlene:

How do we protect the power of the Goddess and the Fay when so many take them for granted, or change them into household doodas, and generally disrespect the awesome power that they are?

Maxine:

The Goddess and the Fay are more than capable of protecting themselves. To doubt it enables the profane.

Arlene:

How do we keep the old ways from becoming an organized religion?

Maxine:

Remember the Craft are called ‘The hidden Children of the Goddess’.

Arlene:

Or in the face of that probability, how do we keep the portals open, in the right way, for ourselves?

Maxine:

It would seem appropriate that we remain hidden.

Arlene:

Many women find that when we are in the Spirit that our love life stops. I was told a Faery was very possessive of me and drove potential boyfriends away.
What do you make of that phenomenon?
Has it happened to you?

Maxine:

The path of the Initiate is that of vocation and dedication. It was my choice therefore I must live with the consequences.

Arlene:

Do you have anything you want to say to people who are drawn to the occult, and magic, but may not know what they are getting into?

Maxine:

Listen to the Inner voice and beware of those who boast.

Arlene:

What is the Dark Night of the Soul and its purpose?

Maxine:

The Dark Night of the Soul is experience of true Brilliance. The Brilliance is the realization of the inner reality of that experience.

Arlene:

Can goodness be found in the dark?

Maxine:

There is a saying ‘The Light shineth in Darkness’.

Arlene:

What do you say to those who insist God wants you to be happy all the time?

Maxine:

Happiness is of the moment. Continuous happiness would be difficult.  I rather think if would become boring, although it is possible to enjoy the moment and be at peace with all experience.

Arlene:

Are your cycles of death and rebirth fast or slow?
Are they intense or easy?
Why does the Goddess put us through such strong cycles?

Maxine:

We choose the path!

Arlene:

Right, right….of course. What is the goal?

Maxine:

The Moment.

Arlene:

I love in your book your sea working in Wales. It reminds me of Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess and Apuleius’s vision of Isis in the Golden Ass. How breathtaking! Is this the type of magic you do all the time?

Maxine:

The intensity of the Sea Rite is truly breathtaking, it would be quite silly to do this kind of work regularly; it would loose its vitality.

Arlene:

Can I be your student? lol!

Maxine:

Bless you. I stopped teaching several years ago. I believe the Craft is experiential and extremely physical. Whilst as an Elder I can advise, my physical ability is compromised through time against which we are helpless.

Arlene:

I hope these questions are not too obtuse, Maxine. I want to know these answers from one of the very wise, so must others want to know.

Maxine:

I do wish you joy on your wonderful journey.

Thanks so much!

If you want a little more, please see my blog reviewing Maxine Sander’s autobiography by clicking this link: Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen

Buy the book by clicking on this widget. there are other great Wicca books here as well but those connected to the Sanders.


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How Do You Walk Through the Dark Night of the Soul?

Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul… artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.” - John Paul II, Letter to Artists

The spiritual path starts out full of bliss, visions of beauty, healing, and grace. After twenty years, when one has mastered the mind, stilled the ego, has cleared the energy bodies, and is still engaged in life, things can turn very dark indeed. Complete disillusionment is perhaps the most painful experience that a  spiritually oriented person oriented  can have. It is a destroyer whose ways are many, eroding one’s faith in oneself, creating an existential despair so deep that  the heavy, dull mundane world presses around with the blackness of the Void — taking your breath away,  spinning in your solar plexus, emptying you out until all that remains is burn out.

When this was happening to me, I sought advice in books. I found very little. Most bookstores are filled with an endless selection of rehashed, regurgitated texts aimed at attracting beginners on the spiritual path with watered down, bliss bunny promises. Not much help when you are desperate to understand why you landed in Hell.

St. John of the Cross

So I found a very old text : The Dark Night of the Soul by St.  John of the Cross.

“Thus it is fitting that, if the understanding is to be united with that light and become Divine, in the state of perfection, it should first of all be purged and annihilated as to its natural light, and, by means of this dark contemplation, be brought actually into darkness. This darkness should continue for as long as is needful in order to expel and annihilate the habit which the soul has long since formed in its manner of understanding, and the Divine light and illumination will then take its place. And thus….it follows that the darkness which it suffers is profound and horrible and most painful, for this darkness, being felt in the deepest substance of the spirit, seems to be substantial darkness. Similarly, the love which is to be given to it is Divine love…”

And so on.

The Alchemy of Disillusionment

Disillusionment is a fire in which the soul must burn, for without the loss of comforting illusions, the character is forever unformed, immature, and shallow. What is burned away is error, crusts of fixed emotions and thoughts, ideas, and perceptions that obscure the  radiance of the Divine Light within.
Disillusionment is darkness,  and the bliss of sweetness and light is dissolved in in the dark. But the darkness has its own tale to tell, its own truth to deliver, its own integrity.

The light needs the darkness to shine. When one is an artist, this merging of shadow and brilliance is required to create work that will move others because it is aligned with deep truths. Without knowledge of the totality of life’s possibilities, artistic work lacks depth, and wisdom. When an aspiring artist  only entertains ‘positive’ thoughts and energies, the results are banal, mediocre, bland.

I was born to complete the Great Work.I don’t know if I am doing a very good job of it. It is not a choice in terms of my ego mind. My deepest soul led my into this fire and I had no choice. Others who are in the same condition, may find some resonance and solace within my words. I have come through my Dark Night intact and, though I do not want to fill this blog with such a painful, transforming subject, I want to reach out to those who, like myself, could not find answers, comfort, or guidance, and offer reassurance.

But then, maybe being lost is part of it too?

Loreena McKennitt sings The Dark Night of the Soul

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