About the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft


Photo by Karagan Griffith- Original Chalice of both The London Coven and Temple of the Mother (center). Alex Sanders’s Kingship crown (left), Maxine Sander’s priestess necklace.

Alexandrian Wicca, more frequently referred to as Alexandrian Witchcraft, is a tradition of the religion of Witchcraft and forms part of the traditions now collectively known as British Traditional Witchcraft. It was founded by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine Sanders, and they established the movement in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Although the Alexandrian Tradition shares similarities with Gardnerian Wicca due to their common origins, 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 magical and functional 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. In Temple of the Mother, Maxine continued to develop the work of the Alexandrian Tradition, and many well known witches today were members of and trained in this coven. It has also been noted that many are of the opinion that the ritualistic and ceremonial hallmarks of Alexandrian Witchcraft was honed and solidified as working system in the Temple of the Mother.

==Practices & Beliefs==

The Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft is a fertility based mystery religion , 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, and 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.


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 and the time frame between the first and higher degrees are usually a minimum of 2 years, but at times longer.

==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. Alexandrian Witches generally tend to consider themselves as Priesthood of Witchcraft as well as Occultists.

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

Training in The Derby Coven

***The following is a piece written on training specifically within the Derby Coven.***

Training within the Derby Coven are based on the same methodology and philosophies as that of the London Coven and the later Temple of the Mother in London, United Kingdom, which were headed by Alex and Maxine Sanders.

After considerable experience and training in the magic of the circle, the Witch may then decide to embark on the preparation for the Higher Degrees and the subsequent inner workings and deeper knowledge and gnosis. Training within the First degree takes -usually a minimum of 2 years.

As a training coven, we meet weekly for training and working circles, as well as the eight Seasonal Sabbats, connecting us with the rhythm and forces of the cosmos, and the inner mystery aspects of the Craft of the Wise. We also focus on aspects of Hermetic pathworking, the Ceremonial Magical Arts, Qabalah and the Pauline Art of Angelic Magic.


The Alexandrian Tradition is composed of men and women who have dedicated their lives to the Priesthood and service of the Ancient Gods. Every coven is completely autonomous and there is no central authority within the tradition. The structure of the Priesthood of the Tradition is the same as that observed in the Gardnerian Tradition, being First, second and Third degree, but there are a couple of notable differences between practices, such as the 2nd and 3rd degree being given together.

The Witchcraft degrees indicate the spiritual progression of the individual. Each degree contains its own mysteries to be experienced and the Mysteries are both revealed and discovered, as the Craft is a initiatory and experiential tradition. This implies that the mysteries will have to be experienced by the individual to be understood and internalized. The first degree is often spoken about as being the initiation into the mysteries, the second degree being the penetration of the mysteries and the third is a celebration and seal of the former.

One of the fundamental characteristics of the Priesthood is the fact that they should be aspiring to the quality of ‘beauty’. ‘Beauty’ here means ‘a greater appreciation and coveting of  beauty’ in everything; The way they speak, the way they compose themselves.

“Magic itself is simple and direct, it is the rituals that lead us to acts of magic that require years of student practice and discipline.” – Maxine Sanders

To work a Circle of power effectively takes years of practice and discipline. There are several components in the creation of a circle that have to be taken into account and each moment in this process has to be mastered in a concrete and efficient way. The Magic Circle is one of the most important components of a rite. Without the Circle, none of the work can be done and the Witch who has not been properly trained to do so, will fail. How to create and work an effective Circle of power and all that this entails, is the work of the first degree. To master this Circle, is the work of subsequent degrees.

Training in the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft may take several years and depends on the dedication, vocation and consistency of the work of the Initiate. Alex Sanders writes in the book “The Alex Sanders Lectures” in Chapter IV titled “The First Degree of Initiation in Wicca”:

 “Why does anyone want to be a witch? It is a question that most people ask. Do they seek sensation or home from home or do they really want  or spiritual progression? The answer is that people come for all these reasons. Neither does the reason matter, for one gets out of the Wicca as much as one puts into it. “- Alex Sanders

The High Priesthood should be like “strings on a harp, which produces a clear note, and when played together, sympathy shall form a beautiful symphony” (Alex Sanders, The Alex Sanders Lectures, 1970).


Requesting initiation Into the Derby Coven.


***Please note that the following is the process for requesting initiation into the Derby Coven of the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft only. This is the only Alexandrian coven and lineage in South Africa at present.***

By the time an individual requests initiation and  training in the Alexandrian Tradition, contact with a prospective coven and teacher would have been made, either through one of the Soirees that we hold every now and then, or through whatever other means. (Email contact etc.). Any enquiries can be forwarded to johannesburgcoven@gmail.com

Once you have decided to formally request initiation and subsequent training, you will have to send a letter to the prospective coven containing the history of your own path up to the time of the application. This letter must include which groups you attended, if any, and of what tradition, if any. It needs to include what your experiences have been within paganism or witchcraft or Wicca, including any teachers or mentors who assisted you in your training, if any. Please also state why you wish to be part of The Alexandrian Tradition – given that there are other forms of witchcraft, paganism and wicca available in South Africa. The letter will also have to include what it is you think that the Craft can give you, and also what you think you can bring to the Craft. If you are accepted for the pre-initiatory preparation sessions, we request that you cease any and all magical practices and activities including participation in other Traditions, Orders and groups, open or closed rituals, or any other type of occult or witchcraft-related training, with the exception of certain personal devotional practices. Training takes dedication, devotion and commitment. Any candidate who is accepted for Initiation will have to travel to the coven at least 4 times per month, unless in a different province, in which case there will be different protocols. As such, please consider travel plans and the feasibility of them before applying for initiation.

The Derby Coven will not consider to initiate any individual whose profession puts them into contact with death regularly, such as grave diggers, abattoir workers and butchers, and morticians. This regulation does not include medical Doctors. We do not initiate the severely disabled, either inflicted by accident or by birth.



The Book of Shadows, and why it might not necessarily be what you think it is.

‘There must be a book, written under the influence of a powerful spiritual inspiration, which forms the permanent nucleus of any movement that is to survive it’s founder. Such a book exalts the consciousness of those who read it and puts them in psychic touch with the sources whence the inspiration came; they are then able to work independently.’ – Dion Fortune- Applied Magic p68

The Book of Shadows… This beautiful and evocative name given to the book of liturgy and rituals within the Craft conjures up all sorts of images in the mind. From a tome that flips open thrice, to hereditary books full of demons, charms and potions. Most of these images are to the credit of movies and television shows like Charmed and Practical Magic.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these images and they can sometimes enhance and inspire the creative expression that we can channel into making a Book of Shadows worthy of the beautiful rituals and lore that it contains.

The Book of Shadows in Traditional Wicca is NOT a journal wherein the witches record all their spells and rituals and thoughts and ideas, neither is it a spell book per se. It is a specific book that contains the core rites and liturgies of the Wica. An initiate would immediately be able to identify a BOS of their specific tradition, as there are some slight, but definitive variations.

After initiation into the Craft, a Witch will usually copy the Book of Shadows from their initiator. This practice has been beautifully retained in the Alexandrian Tradition, and the Book is copied by the initiate by candlelight, preferably for no more than an hour at a time.

Now, another thing about the basic Book of Shadows within the Alexandrian Tradition is that we do not add to this original book. The basic Book of Shadows remains unaltered. This might not necessarily the case in other traditions. We do however have what is sometimes called a Coven Book, in which we will record rituals and experiments and all further development of that which was done within a specific coven. These may or may not be shared among initiates for purposes of sharing knowledge, experience and wisdom, but it is the unique expression of the experiences of that particular coven, and is not added to the core BOS.

Another misconception is that the entirety of the Book has been published. It has not. In other words, you will not find a complete Alexandrian Book of Shadows online, or in print, contrary to what some have claimed. What is also misunderstood is that even if the entire Book was published today, it would be almost entirely worthless without the oral lore and training that goes hand in hand with it. The Book of Shadows can in this way be viewed as a short hand for the initiate who has been trained to work the rites.

Although The Craft is certainly not a “religion of the book”, it remains a religion with core rites and principles that has kept the integrity of the tradition, and will hopefully continue for years to come.


Bright Blessings


On Lineage

The concept of lineage has been a rather big headache and a cause of great confusion for a lot of people in the magickal community, especially in South Africa. There has been quite a bit of misunderstanding about what it is and how it works. This is understandable, as Traditional Wicca, as far as what is known, has only come to South Africa very recently.

Note that this statement is not referring to the many wonderful and diverse new traditions and lineages that sprang up on South African soil over the years, neither to those that may be loosely based on the outer structures of Traditional Wicca. This is specifically referring to legitimate Alexandrian and Gardnerian lines.

The thing is that; if you are a practicing Witch or Pagan, but not initiated into a lineaged form of Wicca/Witchcraft, there is no problem. This does not mean that these practices of a more eclectic persuasion in the great big world of modern witchcraft are any less valid. Lineage however DOES become important when some claim to be practicing initiates of traditions of, which quite frankly, they are not.

But what is lineage anyway?

At its most simplistic level, lineage is a way of confirming who initiated who and tracing that line back to the founders of a tradition.

Lineage, in Alexandrian Wicca, is transmitted through the initiation rites, and would also be effected by the subsequent training. These are specific rites, containing the specific core liturgy, and specific methods of initiation into said tradition. It implies that a person was brought into the Wicca, by an already initiated member of that tradition, and that the initiator was brought into the mysteries of the tradition in the same way. As already mentioned, this also implies that this line of descent can be traced back to the founders of that tradition. In the case of Alexandrian Witchcraft, that would be Alex and Maxine Sanders. For Gardnerians this would be Gerald Gardner.

Now in theory this should be simple, but in practice can bring quite a bit confusion.

For example, let us say witch A was initiated by Alex Sanders into Alexandrian Wicca. Now A works the Craft for a couple of years and initiates witch B. B works the craft a couple of years but then goes on to form a completely NEW tradition and changes the initiation rites, changes the names of the Gods, the components of the rite, that now barely resembles, if at all Alexandrian Craft, and initiates witch C into this new tradition.

Now, although B originally has Alexandrian lineage, C does not, as she was not brought into the original tradition but a completely new one. In this case, B would be the founder of a new tradition, with a completely new lineage. A good real world example would be Raymond Buckland, who brought Gardnerian Wicca to the USA, and then later found Seax Wica. A person initiated into Seax Wica CANNOT claim Gardnerian lineage, just because Raymond was one. This is the same in the case of Ordine Della Luna and Alexandrian Craft.

Another important thing about lineage that is often not realized, or perhaps not known, is that when it is transmitted properly, it would also transmit the magickal current of the tradition to the initiate, which would in turn be passed on. Without digressing into this topic, anyone who has some understanding of occult principle and the work in occult groups and traditions should realize the significance in the matter, and why it would be important in a tradition.

I hope this clarifies some of the questions about what lineage is and how it works.

At this stage there is one line of Alexandrian Witchcraft in South Africa and no Gardnerian lines.