The Transformation of “Witchcraft”



I came of age in the 1970s. Those were the early days of the feminist movement. I always loved femininity, so the idea of becoming a miniature – (and the was the word they used) man had no appeal foe me.  I was always a rebel and wanted to be seen as a realm person, having equality with men, but I did not want to be one. I was also always very drawn to the moon. I was a natural clairvoyant and telepath, and artist and visionary. Of curse back then there was not really any language for those things, especially in traditional New England. I had to come to the west coast to find put that I “wasn’t really from here.” and that I ” shouldn’t try to fit in.”

In the 1980s the Women’s Spirituality Movement emerged. I have since learned that most “movements” are concocted by socila engineers to promote their hidden agendas and that indeed the feminist movement was a CIA psy-op designed to get women  into the workplace so they could be taxed.  But since I had to deal with this movement, spirituality resonated with me much more that any corporate ambition. I was working class so that was all Greek to me.

The books were pretty good too. The Jungian things, books like Moon Moon by Anne Kent Rush produced in those hand made 1970;s hippy style paperbacks, books like Margaret Murray’s God of the Witches, and especially Dione Fortune’s Sea Priestesss. I had also studied Surrealism in art school and read about the girl friend of one of the famous painters or poets…hmmm. I think Paul Eluard, describing his girlfriend as mysterious, in the garden at night, a witch. These works resonated with me and my natural affinity to nature.

I grew up in nature. My playground was the woods, exploring the woods, discovering wildlife, reading fairy tales, dressing in my mother;s cats off clothes, pretending to be otherworldly among the trees, at the woodland lake, in the meadow with the ancient stone walls. Woman as sibyl, as shamaness, as fairy take witch had a great appeal for me. I was not alone in this. We all grew up much closer to nature than people do now despite their “green movement” which isn’t really green but corporate. The forest was my refuge and my healer, a place of magic.

As a forest person, I’d always been naturally attracted to Druidry. The White Goddess by Robert Graves sealed that resonance for me.

Over the last 20 years a very dark strain has entered in. Via heavy metal music, horror films,  books. Satanism has replaced the lovey celebratory nature of the seasonal rituals and “witchcraft” seems to be deteriorating into the evil that our Medieval ancestors  feared. Perhaps even then the art of the wise woman, the healer , the shaman, the cunning man deteriorated into evil, just as the pagan religions fell into orgies of human sacrifice and war.

This development has been extremely distressing to me. I do not want to be associated with this darkness. When I played Cameron / Babalon in Babalon in London, I did it as a creative project ( I had been an actress at one time). I had no idea who jack Parsons and Marjorie Cameron people were. Playing the Babalon roletwas fun, but as I hate war, I was disturbed at the Jack Parson’s excitement invoking “Force and Fire, my friend, Force and Fire” as the most desired reality in the Aeon of Horus. I never liked Crowley and still don’t. I am not a destroyer, but a preserver and creator. I feel I’ve spent my life watching everything I love being destroyed.

Now, I feel the old mythopoetic path of witchery is being destroyed. This probably has more to do with why I don’t write to this blog any more than anything else. These ideas work great in fiction, so that is where I will explore these themes. In fiction light and dark can dance without raining bombs on innocent people in sacrifice to some awful un-God. The theme of human sacrifice haunts us all because it is in our ancestral memories, but frankly it is the devil in the psyche that Christ sought to redeem so that it could end forever. The whole thrust of Christianity is to raise consciousness to a high vibrational level, thereby starving the dark lords and escaping their clutches. This is why they hate Christ. I never hated Christ. In fact, before I lived in London, my witchcraft was solidly aligned with the Virgin Mary.

Anyway this is my little rant. I wish for all my readers who are drawn to Malifecium that you see the error of your vision, that is it is a form of demonic brain washing manufactured to bring you down to the lowest common denominator. It backfires. It will not feed you.

The Wicca religion is filled with beauty, but one must always know that the God it celebrates is the Devil. It doesn’t have to be, but it seemd to be going more and more in that direction. This is the Being that is being uploaded into the ethers now. Not a nature God, or joyful, fertilizing spirit, but something evil.

Maxine Sanders even writes about it in the opening to her autobiography, Firechild describing a Druid ritual at Stonehenge in 1968:

“The ceremony went on until the killing of the old king when, after a few moments of dramatic knife waving it became apparent that the play acting was taking a sinister turn. Alex ( Sanders) was suffering sincere but blunt jabs that were trying to penetrate the beautiful, luckily thick, robes he was wearing; there was terror in his eyes and panic in his voice. The normally sedate priests and priestesses were screaming for the lifeblood of the old Oak King, the king of the witches, my husband…. This was witchcraft!”

So it was spelled out even then. I am curious about what you think.

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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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What is the Connection Between Maxine Sanders and Sharon Tate?

The Devil’s Eye

In her autobiography, Firechild, Maxine Sanders discussed her meeting with Sharon Tate in 1965.

For even more details, go to my website www.themysteriousdomain.com, click Mysterious Blog and scroll down to Chateau Hautefort.

Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate

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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 www.sexywitch.wordpress.com. 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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