A Brief History of Wicca

The Development of Wicca

Alex Sanders

Alex and Maxine Sanders

Alexandrian Wicca (1963-1973)

In the 1960s, an Englishman called Alex Sanders emerged, appearing in various newspapers. He claimed to be a hereditary witch, having been initiated into the craft by his grandmother. Later researchers, such as Ronald Hutton, have shown that he actually had been initiated into a Gardnerian coven, although Hutton notes that Sanders' grandmother was in fact "skilled in cunning craft". Sanders had previously practiced as a spiritualist healer.

His reputation in the tabloids increased when he married the much younger Maxine Sanders in a handfasting ceremony, and subsequently the duo began to refer to themselves as the "King and Queen of the Witches", at one point claiming to have the allegiance of 1,623 witches, and 127 northern covens. His tradition, which was later coined as "Alexandrian" by Stewart Farrar, an initiate of Sanders, incorporated aspects from ceremonial magic and the Qabalah, as well as Judeo-Christian iconography. Sanders justified this by claiming that his version of Wicca and Christianity were both forces for good, battling against the forces of darkness which were practiced by Satanists and black magicians.

Several Gardnerians, including Patricia Crowther and Ray Bone, tried to denounce Sanders as a charlatan, but he simply responded by accusing them of being the charlatans, and as being practitioners of black magic who abused their initiates.

In 1973, Alex and Maxine separated, but both continued to practice the craft. One of the key reasons for their separation was that neither would compromise on Alex's bisexuality. After the divorce, Alex focused on formulating Wicca so that it could be followed by homosexual men, who had been partially prevented from involvement previously because of the religions' focus on gender polarity. He also initiated a number of people from continental Europe, who then spread the faith there. In 1979, Sanders issued an apology for his "past hurts" and "many public stupidities" and tried to encorouge co-operation between Gardnerians and Alexandrians. He died in 1988.

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