For the past few days I have been reading Firechild by Maxine Sanders. It has been sat on my shelf for good few months now, but the visit to the Edge provoked me to read it at last. Maxine was a member of the Coven that used Alderley Edge for their very widely publicised rituals in the 1960s.
Maxine was the wife of the late Alex Sanders, who was a ceremonial magician, trance medium and wiccan High Priest. She met him through her mother who ‘dabbled in the occult’ and took her young daughter along with her to Subud and Gurdjieff meetings. At the age of 15 she was initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries, and was then introduced to the Craft by Alex, achieving the 3rd Degree Initiation and the role of High Priestess by the age of 20. Together they trained up many other initiates and the Alexandrian tradition of Wicca was spread worldwide.
The book was a fascinating insight into their relationship. They were hand fasted when Maxine was just sixteen, Alex was over twenty years her senior. His strong personality and showmanship and her overwhelming love for him, meant that she didn’t really come into her own power until after he left her.
At the time they were practising their craft, it was regarded with suspicion and hostility. With Alex actively pursuing attention in the press – papers, television documentaries and advising on movies -they were the subject of frightening persecution. Forty years on when Pagans can go about life with complete freedom it is easy to forget what pioneers people such as Maxine and Alex Sanders were, and what a debt the whole Pagan community has to them.
The book is a good read, it explores the development of Wicca, the glamour of Alex Sanders, and the dynamics of a working coven, which I only had a sketchy knowledge of previously. It is also a study of the practice of magic – its morality, and the discipline required, which has lessons for all those involved in any kind of esoteric studies. Above all it’s a fascinating and honest autobiography.
The Invocation builds to a crescendo and when heard in the depths and silence of a forest can take your breath away. When the God is called in this manner at Alderley, the priestess’ voice echoes over the whole area and the normal night sounds of the animal kingdom are suddenly stilled as they too are compelled to listen to the long, beautiful powerful invocation of their God and mine.”
This passage made me think of Marriott’s description of the Druid’s Circle (previous post) He was right about the acoustics, if not about it’s antiquity!