The Starting Gun has fired - in restoring the Alex and Maxine Sanders Legacy . . .
The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle was tired of giving up its secrets for the day. I wanted to scan several more documents but succumbed to the forces of the magic-imbued walls. Enough was enough. But for all my time in the archives, I’d never really spent much time in the museum proper. Something nagged at me. Spending an afternoon in the ‘company’ of the ‘King of the Witches’ had my mind turning. I wasn’t exactly sure what the question was, but I knew the answer was waiting for me. Standing in front of his Crown, I had a realisation that aside from the burden of proof via documentation the present craves, the gift from the past is in the memory and some of the answers were staring me in the face.
From Whence We Came . . .
It has for a long while perplexed me as to why a wholly untrue myth would be created and circulated about the origins of the name of the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft. Delving into that bottomless pit of supposition, however, will drown one in a quagmire of animosities. Best not go there, rather snorkel through the clear mud whilst grasping onto the facts as one is propelled by the self-powered fins of desire to know the truth.
History, both living and supported, reveals that the Library of Alexandria had nothing to do with the naming of the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft. It was based, perhaps boringly to some, on Alex Sanders’ name. The witches of the Manchester Coven in the mid-to-late 60’s loosely used the reference to themselves as such, which Stewart Farrar seized upon and suggested at a meeting amongst he, Alex and Maxine in the lead up to the publication of ‘What Witches Do’.
Simple as that.
Incidentally, his children (and a grandchild) also have Alexandria and Alexander as middle names, a British tradition designed to honour familial heritage, so more than a Tradition carries the name.
More to follow on the upcoming historical archive website . . .
Where there’s a Will, or there isn’t . . .
Alex Sanders died Intestate (i.e. — he left no valid, enforceable Will).
This has now been confirmed from a legal perspective, which means that his entire estate should have passed to his children in equal shares - not to Derek Taylor, nor to anyone else - irrespective of any scribblings or handwritten notes he made prior to death. Intellectual property rights e.g. copyright, not otherwise assigned during his lifetime have therefore passed to and currently belong to his children.
Think about that a moment.
Maxine, who, according to documentary evidence held at both the funeral home and crematorium, was Alex’s named next-of-kin and coordinator of his funeral, who also oversaw Alex’s post-death arrangements, including his Sending Forth Rite and the spreading of his ashes, was forbidden entry to the home by Derek Taylor. Historical events which followed reveal a typical case of ‘possession is 9/10ths of the law’. In apparent reliance on what Derek believed should pass in the manner he wished rather than Alex’s, and despite the non-existence of a validly executed Last Will and Testament - contrary in many cases to the several drafts Alex made which are now contained in the Museum of Witchcraft archives - Alex’s children and, tellingly, Maxine herself, were denied their rightful inheritance - except for the intellectual property rights which pass by operation of law.
Or were they? Denied their rightful inheritence that is?
Legacy: ‘that which is inherited; a title or property or estate that passes by law to the heir on the death of the owner . . .’
On a magical level, who did Alex gift his presence, memories and his teachings to? His next-of-kin? All the witches who were there? All the subsequent witches? Memory is imprinted on the mind and permeates our consciousness through the ions of old books, films, audio recordings, interviews, tabloid articles, photos, and every form of media available at the time - it is the oral lore of each who knew him which breathes life into his memory and perpetuates the aroma of his essence to those who didn’t.
Regalia, artefacts, trappings and trinkets - would he have cared who got what?
The magician cum alleged party-trickster dichotomy whose natural talents included the ability to fascinate beloved jewellery and personal mementos from one only to pass it to another, usually a complete stranger, right before them?
The dying man who urged the woman whom he’d always loved and believed until his dying day he would remarry, his former wife and one time Witch Queen, to take what she wanted before all the vultures got it?
The generous-to-a-fault man who freely distributed everything, from a precious gem-encrusted chalice, to a pair of spray-painted kitsch plastic candle sticks, to an ethnic rattle, to the ‘contents of [his] right hand pocket…trousers’ as he did with ‘Little Betty’ - which was nothing?
If ‘possession is 9/10ths of the law’ the fact that comparatively little actually remains in the possession of the Sanders family is a testament to the extent to which Alex was not possessed by his possessions. Although the cornucopia of tangible memorabilia and ephemera may have spread its abundance far and wide, Alex managed to entrust the Crown with a confidante who hailed from Canada, and instructed its return to Maxine upon his demise; which happened and in doing so, its manifestation perhaps portrays part of the 1/10th he wanted to wend its way back to its intended keepers and custodian of his legacy as the ‘King of the Witches’ . . . . The other 9/10ths remain as moments.
“A moment would come, and then another, and then another. These moments would be his life.” — Harbach
Is therefore, this fervent quest for historical accuracy an exercise in reclaiming Alex’s estate some 30 years after his death?
Not at all.
As Maia, Alex and Maxine’s daughter said with a resigned shrug of shoulders ‘this sort of thing has happened throughout history. I was begrudgingly given a piece of amethyst and a silver goblet. He gave me much more than that.’
She then sent me this photo with an apology for her momentos not having been polished for nearly 30 years and the pithy comment, ‘no trainee witches here to do the brasses!’
This quest is therefore, an awakening of the legacy Alex left not only to his next-of-kin, but also to the witches who were there, the witches who came after, and the witches yet to be born into the Tradition he and Maxine created.
‘I had to do something because I couldn’t refuse. I couldn’t refuse because no one in the world could do what I do and a job had to be done. Like you, I am an individual. No one else is like me or like you for that matter, so you too may find a task which you cannot refuse. Or you might turn your back and walk away from the chance of discovering the adventure of your fate and your destiny.’
- Alex Sanders, 1988
It might be said that Alex lived the adventure of his fate and destiny to the full, and continues to do so posthumously in true-to-form colourful fashion - be it through:-
(i) magical weapons, books, tools and treasures originally used in the Manchester Covens which still thrive today (‘64-’67); the London Covens of Clanricarde Gardens (‘67-’72/3); by Maxine at the Temple of the Mother (’73–’00); by Alex in Bexhill (’73-’88), and the many covens descended therefrom, all impregnated with the consciousness of countless rituals - destined to be burned, buried or destroyed in accordance with tradition, now granted a reprieve in recognition of their historical significance - for they still have work to do in future museum exhibitions;
(ii) a living, breathing, historical Timeline; and online meeting place where memories, lore and images can be shared and contributed to the memory that was Alex’s; and
(iii) the ritual, the cakes and wine, the generousness of spirit and the good humour of this Tradition’s followers.
Thus, the remaining 1/10th, combined with the preceding 9/10ths, is bequeathed to all touched by him - past, present and future.