Alex Sanders

Sanders approached a Gardnerian group in 1962. The Crowthers, its high priest and priestess, took an immediate dislike to him and refused to initiate him, especially after he staged a public ritual that landed Wicca on the front page of the local paper. The stunt was labeled as "black magic" by the press and earned Sanders the lifelong antipathy of many Gardnerians. Sanders also lied to the paper, saying he was a Gardnerian initiate.

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Somehow Sanders found a copy of the Book of Shadows and started a coven of his own with a woman named Maxine, whom he eventually married. Sanders changed his previous story and said publicly he had been initiated by his grandmother. Publicity brought them hundreds of young counter-culture British recruits.

Sanders' publicity-grubbing was denounced by the Gardnerians, who called him an impostor; he countered saying they were the impostors and his was the real Wicca, and Gardner had imitated him. Sanders assumed the self-proclaimed title of Britain's King of the Witches. No one is exactly sure which witches he was King of.

In 1969, a journalist named Stewart Farrar met Sanders and wrote What Witches Do on his behalf. Farrar was so impressed with Wicca that he initiated, and in the coven he met Janet, whom he married and started his own group with in 1970. The Farrars went on to become Wicca's first genuinely prolific authors, and they named the tradition Alexandrian to hearken back to ancient times (and possibly because it sounded much better than Sandersian).

Eventually the Farrars and the Sanders parted ways, and the Farrars joined up with Valiente, who had published her own book geared toward solitary practitioners. Together, the Farrars and Valiente revised, analyzed, and got into print the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which enabled people to start covens from scratch without an established lineage.

In his later years Sanders publicly apologized for his "many public stupidities" and worked to train people all over England; he also sought to make Wicca more accessible for homosexuals, as the Gardnerian tradition had a strict gender polarity that encouraged homophobia.

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