Sanders, Alex(ander) (1926–1988)
Known as ‘‘the King of the Witches,’’ a title he gave himself
during the early years of the Gardnerian Neo-Pagan Revival in
the 1960s, Alexander Sanders became the originating point for
a number of witchcraft covens that in acknowledgment of his
leadership called themselves Alexandrian. In light of the revelations
concerning the origins of modern Wicca, few Alexandrian
covens now remain.
Sanders was born in Manchester, England, the son of a
music hall entertainer. According to a story he told in the
1970s, when he was seven years old he discovered his grandmother
in the kitchen performing a magic ritual. She was completely
naked. She confided in him that she was a witch, and she
initiated the young Alex then and there. She subsequently gave
him a Book of Shadows, which he copied and from which he
learned his magic rites. He held a number of jobs over his
young adult years and became involved in ritual magic and
even Satanism. In the 1960s he formed his first coven and
began to initiate people into witchcraft.
In fact, Sanders encountered one of the covens of Gerald B.
Gardner in the 1960s. From it he attained an initiation into the
craft and a copy of Gardner’s rituals. He eventually left that
coven and began his own group independently. His version of
witchcraft differed little from that of Gardner and included all
of his distinctives.
About this same time he met Maxine Morris, a young
woman some twenty years his junior. He married her and made
her his high priestess. They were discovered by the media in
1969, the same year June Johns’s fictionalized biography of
Sanders appeared. Over the next decade he, Maxine, and their
Saltmarsh, H. F. Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
coven were the subject of numerous magazine and newspaper
articles, most frequently appearing in the nude and occasionally
while engaged in symbolic sexual acts.
In 1971 Sanders and Maxine separated, and he largely retired.
Interestingly, that same year, a book, What Witches Do, by
Stewart Farrar, a close associate of Sanders, appeared and gave
Sanders his most lasting fame as a Wiccan leader. Farrar and
his wife Janet moved to Ireland where they became Wiccan
leaders in their own right and together wrote a number of authoritative
books on Wicca.
Sanders died April 30, 1988, from lung cancer. His movement
spread around the English-speaking world during the
1970s, but following the revelations of his unacknowledged use
of Gardner’s rituals and his plagiarizing of material from
Éliphas Lévi and Franz Bardon, most of the covens that had
identified themselves as Alexandrian dropped any relationship
with him.
Farrar, Stewart. What Witches Do. New York Coward, McCann
& Geoghegan, 1971.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and
Witchcraft. New York Facts on File, 1989.
Johns, June. King of the Witches The World of Alex Sanders.
London, 1969. Reprint, London Pan, 1971.
[Sanders, Alexander]. The Alex Sanders Lectures. New York
Magickal Childe Publishing, 1980. Rev. ed. 1982.

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