Sanders, Alex (1926-1988)(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
The self-styled "King of the Witches" (there is actually no such title in Witchcraft), Alex Sanders was born in 1926 in Manchester, England. His father was an actor named Harold and his mother was Hannah Sanders. He attended St. George's Primary School in Hulme, then went on to William Hulmes Grammar School. After leaving school he worked for a carpenter for a while, then for a manufacturing chemist. At the age of twenty-one, he met and married a nineteen-year-old woman named Doreen. They had two children, Paul and Janice, but the marriage did not last.
Sanders drifted from job to job, became an alcoholic like his father, and later admitted to sexual affairs with both women and men. He was attracted to black magic and dabbled in that for a while, performing rituals worshiping the Devil. He studied Abra-Melin magic and eventually attracted others to him to the point where he was able to form what he termed a coven. In fact, he later claimed that he had over 100 covens, with 1,623 initiates! Neither of these figures were ever substantiated. All of these followers, Sanders claimed, were the ones who elected him "King of the Witches." Yet, despite all these supposed covens, he did not himself have a High Priestess. The "witchcraft" that he taught was a hodgepodge of material he had gleaned from such books as Francis Barrett's The Magus, the works of Franz Bardon and Eliphas Levi, and an assortment of books on ceremonial magic. Much later, he obtained a copy of Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft material from Pat Kopanski, and he intermingled that with what he had. He claimed he had received the books from his grandmother when he was only seven. He said that she had "initiated" him, yet the only thing she did, according to Sanders, was prick his scrotum and declare him a witch.
In 1963, when he met Maxine Morris (born 1946), a Roman Catholic girl twenty years his junior, Sanders was still without a priestess of his own. He initiated Maxine and eventually handfasted with her; for some reason, they went through the ritual a number of times on different occasions. In 1967 they married in a civil ceremony and moved into a basement apartment in Notting Hill Gate, in London. A daughter, Maya, was born that same year and nine years later a son, Victor. Both children were brought up as Christians.
Sanders continued to attract a wide variety of people and made them "Alexandrian" witches, still passing off material from a variety of sources as that given to him by his grandmother. Sanders's Craft name was Verbius; his grandmother's, he claimed, was Medea. In his rituals he made a point of always being robed, while the others of the coven were naked.
Sanders generated publicity for himself, and in 1969 June Johns, a reporter for the Manchester Evening News, wrote a book about him titled King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders. It was something of a fantasy world, but it did serve to promote him and his followers. Despite the material he was presenting, he did manage to attract and introduce into the world of the Craft some worthwhile seekers. Best known among them were Stewart and Janet Farrar, who later became respected and admired teachers of Wicca in their own right.
Alex and Maxine separated in 1973, and he moved to Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex. There he married again and divorced again. On April 30, 1988, he died of lung cancer in a Hastings hospital. The tradition he founded, Alexandrian, continues in various forms today. It did not become well established in the United States, although it did have a following in Canada.