04 January 2011

Fire Child: The Life and Magic of Maxine Sanders, “Witch Queen”

Fire Child: The Life and Magic of Maxine Sanders, “Witch Queen”

By Maxine Sanders (Mandrake of Oxford, 2008)

Whilst much has been written about Gerald Gardner’s creation of Wicca, little is still known about Alex Sanders’ true influence and reasoning behind his push to bring Wicca into the public arena. That is until now. “Fire Child” is the long awaited book by Maxine Sanders, wife of the late Alex Sanders. Rather than being a tell-all book simply about Alex’s antics, it traces Maxine’s own life – warts and all – before and after Alex - and what an interesting life she has led.

Maxine was only a teenager when she met and fell in love with Alex and by her 20th birthday she had been initiated “Witch Queen”. In “Fire Child”, she frankly reveals what it was like in the 1960s and 1970s when Alex’s desire was to make Wicca more accessible to the public, some of the characters they met (including Charles Manson) and of the personal sacrifices they both made. She describes what it was like giving public rituals and interviews, her reluctance and the harassment she received.

Wicca however was not Maxine’s only introduction to alternative spiritual paths. Through the dabbling of her mother (who introduced Maxine to Alex) she became involved in a number of other groups including Subud (an Indonesian cult), a highly secretive Egyptian group, and even a liberal Catholic group. It is clear that despite many years later, the vows Maxine took whilst in these groups are still respected. Whilst unnamed, she describes in as much detail as possible temples and lodges she attended and rituals she undertook. These show the reader the variety of experience available at the time and the influences that have no doubt played a part in Sanders’ practice of the Craft.

Maxine gave her life to the Craft in a way that few have done or ever could imagine doing and she honestly admits that being “on call” in her roll as High Priestess and Witch Queen came at the heavy cost. Her marriage to Alex was described as more of a “working relationship” as she dealt with the philandering of his bisexuality, the financial hardship she faced especially when raising a young family, and later being diagnosed with breast cancer. Maxine also honestly admits her failings and the mistakes made, and even provides insight into why Alex said and did some of the things he is still controversially known for today, some 20 years after his death in 1988.

Wicca today is indeed very different to what it was like in the early days. Maxine notes with a great deal of sadness that modern Craft has become a victim of its own success as its growth has “outstripped the availability of experienced and reputable teachers who, in former days, would themselves have served an arduous apprenticeship before being judged worthy to passion the tradition”. Such failings in training, she admits, even occurred in her own group.

“Fire Child” provides an invaluable personal insight into the early days of Wicca from someone who was actually there. It is clear that regardless where her spiritual path may take her, Maxine remains a witch and still believes in the old magick. Even today, Maxine is still revered affectionately as “Witch Queen” amongst the Alexandrian Wiccan community and after reading this book, it is not hard to see why.

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