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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Alex Sanders (1926-1988)



Written and compiled by George Knowles.


Alex Sanders - the “King of the Witches” as he became known - was responsible for founding the Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca, now one of the main traditions of the Wicca/Witchcraft movement.  But his reign was fraught with criticism and controversy.

Alex Sanders was born Orrel Alexander Carter on the 06th June 1926 at 56 Church Road, Tranmere, Birkenhead.  He was the eldest of six children born to Orrell Alexander Carter, a labourer and musician, and Hannah Jane Bibby, a domestic servant who later became a professional foster mother.  His father was a sometimes music hall entertainer but suffered from alcoholism, and soon after the birth of Alex, moved the family to Grape St in Manchester, there he unofficially changed the family name to Sanders.  Alex was unaware of his official surname until he applied for a passport later in life, at which time he officailly changed his name to Sanders by deed poll on the 22nd October 1970.

As a young boy Sanders suffered with tuberculosis and would regularly visit with his grandmother in Wales where he could benefit from the Welsh fresh air.  At the age of seven, he is believed to have happened upon his grandmother “Mary Biddy” performing some sort of pagan ritual.  Taken by surprise she immediately swore young Sanders to secrecy, and initiated him on the spot claiming, “Now, you are one of us”.  Thus he became her student and started on the path of the Old Religion. 

Though he was an able schoolboy, practical considerations curtailed his formal education at fourteen, and he subsequently worked for a pharmaceutical company and for the John Rylands Library, as well as being adopted for a time by a wealthy stockbroker.  On 17 July 1948 he married Doreen Stretton (b. 1928/9), a packer of surgical plasters and the daughter of a foundry labourer, Joseph Herbert Stretton.  They had a son and a daughter, but were divorced in 1953.

Sanders was a natural psychic who learned all he could from his grandmother.  He claimed that she gave him her “Book of Shadows” to copy and taught him all the rites and magic of the witches including clairvoyance by scrying in inky water and gazing using his grandmother’s crystal.  Sanders also claimed that following the Blitz during WWII, and just a few months before her death at age 74, his grandmother conferred upon him the second and third grade initiations involving ritual sex.  After her death he tried to contact other witches, and although he failed in that effort, he continued with his studies while working for a time as a healer in Spiritualist Churches under the pseudonym of Paul Dallas.


After the War ended Sanders began working as an analytical chemist at a laboratory in Manchester, were in 1947 he met and then married a co-worker called “Doreen”.  He was 21 at the time, she 19, and together they had two children “Paul and Janice”.  Sanders had wanted more children but not Doreen, she also disapproved of his practicing Witchcraft.  Five years later the marriage deteriorated and Doreen took the two children and left him.  According to his later second wife Maxine, Sanders had been so grief-stricken that he cursed Doreen with a fertility spell; when she later re-married she had three sets of twins??

Depressed Sanders began drinking; he drifted from one low paid job to another and indulged in sex with both men and women.  He started on the left-hand path, worshiped the devil and studied “Abra-Melin” magic, hoping to use it to gain wealth and fame.  He regularly boosted about his feats of magic and made some amazing claims.  One like “Aleister Crowley” before him, he claimed to have created a “magical child”.  He created it during a rite of ritual masturbation with the aide of a male assistant.  He says, “the baby disappeared shortly after its creation and grew up as a spirit called Michael”.

“Michael” was the spirit he used during trance work, and it was Michael (he claims) who was responsible for forcing him to act badly at wild parties, to insult people, and generally act in an abominable way.  Eventually the spirit of Michael settled down and I was able to control it”, he says.  When channeling Sanders used a familiar entity called “Nick Demdike”, who claimed to have been a persecuted witch from Lancaster during the trails of the 17th century.

In the early 60’s, Sanders is reported to have sought entrance to some Gardnerian covens, including that run by “Patricia and Arnold Crowther”, who refused to accept him.  Not to be put off so easily, he somehow managed to obtain a copy of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows.  This he copied (badly from all accounts) and embellished it with a few of his own amendments.  He then used this as the bases to found his own coven, claiming it to be a copy of his grandmother’s Book of Shadows. 

Sanders was a born showman who avidly courted publicity.  In September of 1962 he even succeeded in convincing the Manchester Evening News to run a front-page article about Wicca.  As a result he soon attracted a large following.  During this period Sanders and his coven worked from his home at 24 Egerton Road North, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester.  One of his initiates was “Maxine Morris”, a Roman Catholic 20 years his junior.  After her initiation, they handfasted and she became his High Priestess.  In June 1967 the Sanders’ moved to Clanricarde Gardens, London, which became their base for the next six years.  They were formally married in a civil ceremony at the Kensington register office on May Day 1968, and had two children, Maya (b. 1967) and Victor (b. 1972).  On his marriage certificate, Sanders gave his rank or profession as “lecturer in comparative religion”.

From their new home the Sanders’ ran a London coven and taught training classes, he claimed to have initiated more than 1,623 witches working in 100 covens around the country, all-practicing what had become known as the Alexandrian Tradition.  At one meeting, a gathering of sixteen of his covens, Sanders was bestowed with the title of “King of the Witches”.  Sanders frequently appeared in ritual photos as robed or wearing only a loincloth while Witches surrounding him were naked.  His explanation for this was that the old “Witch laws” required that the Elder of a coven should be easily identifiable from the other coven members.

Alex Sanders leadin a "skyclad" dance during a sabbat ritual.

In 1968-69, Sanders with Maxine appeared in, and gave technical advice on a film called “Legend of the Witches”.  During the press preview of the film, they met with and were introduced to “Stewart Farrar”, then a reporter for the Reveille newspaper.  Stewart would later be initiated by Maxine, and move on to become famous himself as a witch and author.

In 1972 Maxine gave birth to another child, a son they named “Victor”, but then just a year later in 1973 they separated.  Sanders moved to Sussex were he remained in relative obscurity until he died on the 30th April 1988 after a long battle with lung cancer.  His funeral was a mass media event, Witches and Pagans from all over the country attended to pay their respects.  During the course of the funeral a pre-recorded tape was played in which he declared that his son “Victor” should succeed him as “King of the Witches”.

Victor Sanders had no desire to take up the title and later left the country for the United States.  Maxine stay on in London and continued to run their coven and teach the craft with her half-brother “David Goddard” acting as her High Priest.  A short time after his funeral, a “Witches Council of Elders” was convened formed mainly from the Alexandrian tradition.  They decided there would be no successor to the “King of Witches” and the title was discontinued.

Without doubt Alex Sanders was a controversial and flamboyant man, who without scruples plagiarized the work of others to embellish he own.  Whither he did so with malice, remains a question?  Personally I don’t think so.  More I assume through innocuous indifference, and mainly for the benefit of his students, even though it resulted in criticism from many in the craft.  He was also without doubt a very skilled witch, and powerful magician, whose contribution to the newly evolving movement, brought witchcraft back into the public arena and changed the face of Wicca.  He helped to influence many newcomers entering the craft and Alexandrian Wicca remains today one of the largest traditions of the contemporary Wicca/Witchcraft movement.






The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft  - by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft  - By Raven Grimassi

A Witches' Bible  - By Janet and Stewart Farrar

What Witches Do  - By Stewart Farrar

Man, Myth and Magic  - Edited by Richard Cavendish

Triumph of the Moon  -  Ronald Hutton



First published on the 04th May 2001, 21:12:38 © George Knowles



Best wishes and Blessed Be



Site Contents - Links to all Pages


Home Page


A Universal Message:


Let there be peace in the world  -   Where have all the flowers gone?


About me:

My Personal PageMy Place in England / My Family Tree (Ancestry)


Wicca & Witchcraft


Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick


Traditional Writings:


The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality


Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /  Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /    


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:

(Our Ancestors)


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagorasParacelsus /  Abramelin the Mage Archimedes AgrippaSocrates  /  Aristotle 





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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