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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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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