About the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft

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Photo by Karagan Griffith

Alexandrian Wicca, more frequently referred to as Alexandrian Witchcraft, is a tradition of the religion of Wicca and forms part of the traditions now collectively known as British Traditional Wicca. It was founded by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine Sanders, and they established it in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Although the Alexandrian Tradition shares similarities with Gardnerian Wicca,as it has a common origin, it is regarded as a unique lineage of modern Witchcraft.  The tradition receives regular mention in books on Wicca as one of the religion’s most widely recognized traditions.

==Origins and history==

The Alexandrian Tradition has its origins in Gardnerian Wicca. At the time of its development however, the idea of distinction between traditions was not yet common, and the movement was simply referred to “The Old Religion”, or “The Wica”.

Alex Sanders, was initiated into the Gardnerian Tradition in 1963 by a Derbyshire witch named Medea. He later became known as “King of the Witches”, which was a magickal title bestowed upon him by the members of his covens at the time.  According to Maxine Sanders, by the time she was initiated, Alex was a member of at least two covens. In 1964, Maxine Sanders was initiated into Alex Sander’s Manchester coven, eventually becoming the High Priestess . At that point however, Alexandrian Craft had not yet come into being, but that it only distinctly developed in the Sander’s later London Coven.

In 1967, the Sanders’s accepted employment in London, moving into a basement apartment in Clanricarde Gardens, Nottinghill Gate. It is at this point that the tradition really took form, and where the ‘London Coven’, the first training coven in modern Witchcraft, came into being. The London Coven is also noteworthy, as it is in this coven that well known witch Stewart Farrar wrote the book “What Witches Do”. This book was a unique look at the practices of the London coven, and the first of its kind at the time. Farrar also played a role in the naming of the tradition. Although the witches that were initiated by the Sander’s were at times referred to as ‘Alexandrian’ especially by initiates of other traditions, the official reference to the Sanders’s lineage as Alexandrian Witchcraft came near the time of publication of “What Witches Do”.  Maxine recalls that Stewart did not yet have a designation of what ‘type’ of witches they were. In a meeting between her, Alex and Farrar, he asked what he could call the witches initiated by them.  Thus far, Maxine and Alex were happy to be called witches. ‘Alexandrian’ is what was then settled on by the three of them.

In 1973, the Sanders’s separated, Maxine continuing in London, and Alex moving to Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex. The initiates of the London coven were given the option whether they wanted to remain in London or continue on to the Bexhill Coven. Both Alex and Maxine continued their work in the Craft and the Alexandrian Tradition respectively. Alex however also later developed work with a man named Derek Taylor in their magickal order known as The Ordine Della Luna and Nova. This order, and the others that stemmed from it however, are not considered part of the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft today but a different magical order with different objectives.

Another noteworthy coven in the history and development of Alexandrian Craft is the ‘Temple of The Mother’, which was a coven that Maxine Sanders ran with her High Priest at the time, David Goddard. In Temple of the Mother, Maxine continued to develop the work of the Alexandrian Tradition, and many well known witches today were trained in this coven.

==Practices & Beliefs==

The Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft is a fertility based mystery cult, and its inner workings and practices are taught to initiates only. The tradition, compared to others, is not necessarily as secretive, but inner workings are considered sacred, and therefore private to those who are initiated into the tradition. The tradition shares some aspects with other forms of traditional Wicca, for instance the Wheel of the year, initiation and degree structure and the importance of gender polarity in its workings. There are however key differences between the traditions in practice and philosophy.

Traditionally Alexandrians pay homage to the Ancient Gods of Europe – the Goddess of the Moon and the Horned God. Similar to other traditions, the exact names of the Gods in the tradition are kept private and are known only amongst initiates. The Priesthood of the tradition seeks a personal connection and understanding of Divinity and the ancestors, but also, through the rhythms and tides of nature and, ultimately the inner rhythms of the Cosmos, the unfolding and development of the initiate and witch. Alexandrian witches believe in the power of magick and the use of both traditional and innovative techniques to achieve its objectives.

Alexandrian covens do at times work Skyclad, especially for specific ceremonies, and when the magick calls for it, however robes are also used.

==Training==

Proper, systematic and complete training is a strong component in the Alexandrian tradition and has been emphasized from its inception.

Training within the Alexandrian Tradition, which includes both the oral lore and practical work commences after initiation.

==Ranks and degrees==

The Alexandrian Tradition shares with other traditional Wiccan systems the belief that “only a witch can make another witch”. The process through which an individual is made a witch is called initiation.

There are “degrees”  of initiation and are known as First, Second, and Third degree.  Maxine Sanders has also called the First degree, initiation into the mysteries; the second degree, penetration of those mysteries; and the third as a celebration. There are no intermediaries in traditional Wicca between the initiate and the Gods and every initiate is a Priest or Priestess unto him or herself. A third degree initiate is referred to as a “High Priestess” or “High Priest”, and they are usually, but not always, the leaders of the coven.

In the Alexandrian Tradition, the Second and Third degree are given together, and not separately, as in other traditions. Historically there have been exceptions, which was truly the exception rather than the norm. One of the notable exceptions was the initiation of Janet and Stewart Farrar. There has been some recent dispute whether this has always been the practice in the tradition, but evidence shows that this was indeed the case from the beginning. In an interview with Sanders in 1970, which appears in a later version of “What Witches Do”, Alex Sanders clearly states the following:

“The First Grade makes you a Witch. Second grade enables you to break away and form a coven of your own. The Third grade isn’t really a grade, it is a ceremony, and it has to be taken at the same time as the Second”

Initiation in the Alexandrian Tradition is passed between individuals of the opposite gender, and same sex initiation is not considered valid traditional Alexandrian practice. >

==Relationship to other Traditions ==

It is known that many initiates of the Alexandrian Tradition also choose to train in various aspects of magic and occultism, such as Hermetics, The Sacred Magic of the Angels, Qabala, and other aspects of the Western Mystery Tradition.

It has been commonly observed that Alexandrian practices are as a whole, more ceremonial compared to other traditions.

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