Our tradition has its roots in what is now called Gardnerian Wicca which had simply been called “the Wicca” or “the Old Religion.” The term “Alexandrian” is generally viewed by the Initiates of this tradition as a reference to its founder, Alex Sanders, and to the Great Library of Alexandria which was the centre of occult knowledge in the ancient world. Alex Sanders was initiated into Wicca in the early 1960s and was also well known as a Ceremonial Magician. According to the accounts given by his former wife, Maxine Sanders, he was a member of at least two covens prior to marrying Maxine and founding the Alexandrian “London Coven” from which many modern Alexandrians descend.
Alex was also known for being a healer, diviner, and a powerful Witch and magician. In becoming household names in the UK during the ‘60s and ‘70s the Sanders’ were responsible to a great degree for bringing the Craft into the public eye for the first time and in turn establishing a lineage of Witchcraft which has since spread throughout the world.
The early Initiates of the Sanders’ referred to themselves simply as “the Wicca” or Witches. The name of the Sanders’ particular lineage was later codified in the early 1970s. Our tradition has been both fortunate and unfortunate enough to be one of the most, if not the most, documented Wiccan traditions to date. Naturally many misconceptions have arisen about our tradition which shall be addressed below.
Contrary to popular belief not all Alexandrians work Ceremonial Magick, such as Qabalah, Angelic Magick, and Enochian. Some do and some do not. Alex Sanders was constantly evolving his own magickal practices and passed newly found knowledge and techniques to his Initiates. This resulted in many different lineages descending from him, each with their own unique particulars, but all sharing the same traditional Wiccan core.
Some Alexandrians are strongly oriented towards ceremonial magick while others are more oriented towards folk magick. It depends on one’s lineage or origin as well as individual and coven focus. Training has always been a hallmark of the Alexandrian Tradition with each new generation contributing to the knowledge base of the previous which in turn makes for more informed and well-rounded clergy and Witches. This diversity gives us a thriving and dynamic tradition with our feet solidly grounded in Traditional Wicca and our eyes looking to the future.
Although Ireland had its own Witchcraft traditions the Alexandrian Tradition itself was introduced to the island by Janet and Stewart Farrar.
Traditionally, we work with and honour the indigenous Gods of Europe, primarily focusing on the Lady of the Moon and her Consort, the Horned One. Our Gods are not jealous and Initiates of the Alexandrian Tradition may work with other deities on a personal or group basis as well. We aim for a personal connection with and understanding of deity, ancestors and the rhythms and tides of nature. We know the power of magick and use both traditional and experimental techniques to achieve our goals.
Role of clery
Wicca is very different from other religions in that it has no laity. Every Initiate of our tradition is a trained Priest or Priestess of our Gods. Some of our clergy are very active in their local Pagan communities conducting Handfastings, other life rites and public Sabbat festivals. Others are called to work away from public life and focus inwardly on their covens and personal callings.
Organisation of groups
The Alexandrian Tradition is organised into covens which operate on a skyclad basis (ritual nudity). To become an Alexandrian Initiate one must be initiated by a properly prepared and authorised Alexandrian High Priestess or Priest in a cross-gendered initiation. Our traditional initiatory rites must be used without subtraction, as passed through each lineage from the original Alexandrian coven. It is not possible to “self-initiate” into Alexandrian Wicca.
Our tradition consists of three grades known as degrees which are usually considered a private matter where an Initiate interfaces with broader society. A 1º Initiate is a Priest or Priestess of the tradition; a 3º Initiate is a High Priest or High Priestess of the tradition and a coven Elder. The 3º is sometimes reserved for coven leaders. The time between each degree can vary greatly from one lineage to another and depends on the focus and views on the initiatory and training experience of each line and coven. In the Alexandrian Tradition one progresses through the degrees; not through time in each grade but through growth within oneself and the Gods.
A 2º Initiate may hive to form a new coven and may initiate up to his or her own degree in most lines with the permission of their Elders. Covens led by 2º clergy remain under the supervision and authority of the High Priestess and High Priest of the Mother Coven until the 2º clergy are deemed ready to take the 3º. The amount of autonomy 2º clergy have varies from line to line. A 3º High Priest/ess is completely autonomous in our tradition, answering only to the Gods and the tradition as a whole. Autonomy does not mean lack of accountability.
In addition, a number of lines have a Neophyte or Dedicant degree allowing a proper person (see Standards of Conduct below) to participate in certain rituals before making the lifelong commitment to our Gods. This exposes the candidate to the tradition and to the close family bond which is at the heart of a coven. It also allows both the candidate and the Coven Elders to decide if the vocational calling and the necessary interpersonal dynamics are present. Our tradition is matrifocal. The High Priestess is considered “first amongst equals” and holds the final word in all coven matters. Traditionally the word of the High Priest/ess is law within the coven, although the authority of coven leaders does not extend beyond Craft matters. Traditionally the High Priest co-leads the coven in cooperation with and in support of the High Priestess.
Initiatory lineage is traced cross-gendered (female to male to female etc.) back to the late Alex Sanders and his High Priestesses, such as Maxine. While lineage is not oathbound within our tradition it is not a matter of public record and is often considered private. Shortly after initiation each Initiate begins to copy by hand his or her Initiator’s Book of Shadows. It is considered the responsibility of each Initiator to pass on the tradition, both written and oral lore, as it was passed to them with no omissions. In this way the continuity of our heritage is ensured. The Alexandrian Book of Shadows consists of a common core of contents with some variation from line to line since Alex and his Initiates were constantly evolving their Craft. However, the core text and initiations are key for legitimate Alexandrians since they form the basis of our commonality. The only way to obtain a complete Alexandrian Book of Shadows is to be initiated in the time honoured way.
The nature and exact practice of Alexandrian covens may vary from line to line and coven to coven with certain limits. Training has always been strongly emphasised in our tradition second only to service to the Gods. Most Alexandrian covens have a strong family feel while the tradition network gives the sense of being part of a larger international family.
Alexandrian Wicca celebrates the eight Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year. We also meet for Esbats on the full Moon for workings, training and celebration of our Lady. We do not traditionally work with the cycles of the Oak and Holly Kings as written by the Farrars in their book Eight Sabbats For Witches. While individual covens and Witches may decide to work the rituals, the Oak / Holly King cycle is not a feature of the Alexandrian Tradition, or derived from it in any but the most surface way. The Farrars themselves make this very clear in their book yet this misinformation still persists.
Standards of conduct
Initiation into and elevation within Wicca is a privilege, not a right. Initiation is not offered lightly. To be initiated into Wicca as a Priest or Priestess one must first be a “proper person.” The Elders of a coven determine this with input from those already in the group. A candidate’s sincerity, character, maturity, personal spiritual focus, level of commitment, sense of ethics, and personality are all factors that are considered. In addition, the Elders look for more esoteric signs. First and foremost, they must consult with the God and Goddess and obtain their approval. The Elders must also consider whether the seeker would bring harm to the Craft or misuse or abuse the Mysteries with which they will be entrusted upon initiation.
In short, the Elders must rely on their fair and balanced judgement and intuition. There must be good personal chemistry between new Initiates and the coven into which they are initiated. A person who is generally suitable for initiation may not be accepted into one group but may mesh well with another. The Priesthood is not for thrill seekers or glory hogs, and an initiatory path is certainly not wise for mentally, spiritually, or emotionally unbalanced individuals. One must also maintain the status of being a proper person once initiated. Those unwilling or unable to do so will be asked to leave the coven. It is a tenet of Wicca that money is never charged for initiating or teaching our religion. In the Alexandrian Tradition some covens may suggest reasonable dues simply to serve as a kitty to share the cost for very basic coven expenses (oils, candles, incenses etc.) or may simply pass the Witch hat as expenses arise. We have an obligation to maintain the privacy of fellow Initiates. Therefore, to reveal the name or identity of another Witch without his or her express prior permission is not appropriate at any time.
The ethical guide of the Alexandrian Tradition is the Wiccan Rede: “An’ it harm none, do what ye will.” Contrary to popular belief this only states that all harmless activity is permissible. Harmlessness is a worthy ideal but it is not to be taken literally. There is simply no way that any person can go through life without causing something or someone else harm. That said, we are fully responsible for our choices in life. One way that the Rede is interpreted is to follow your highest ideal (your Will) which implies that it is best to try to choose the path of least harm. As we grow in our understanding of the mysteries of the cycles and tides of life we begin to realise our connectedness to all beings of the Earth. The concept of “True Will” then begins to suggest our actively working toward the greater good of all in whatever way we feel is appropriate.
Ways of worship
The Alexandrian Tradition is an oathbound Mystery Tradition; therefore many of the details of how and why we work are secret. This secrecy among Initiates of Traditional Wicca has been a target for detractors who imply that either we have something to hide or aim to maintain a veneer of secrecy for the purpose of ego stroking. Quite simply neither of these are true. The tradition and lore are held to be sacred and private; in some cases it provides unintentional side effects if used by those not trained properly in our techniques. Alexandrians maintain that privacy of sanctity through secrecy. We do not claim to have the secrets to the universe. In fact most of our secrets would be of little to no interest or use to those not initiated into Wicca. Suffice it to say that our teachings focus on the development of a personal relationship with deity and a keen awareness and attunement with the cycles of nature through ritual and in our daily lives. We use our traditional techniques to gain self-mastery and develop our skills as Witches so that we may help others and ourselves. Experimental methods are also often used for our tradition provides us with a firm foundation upon which to build and improvise.
A Seeker can expect a lengthy meet and greet process prior to a decision on acceptance for training. During this period a Seeker should be able to convey a good knowledge of contemporary Paganism and Witchcraft. For a suggested reading list please click here. A candidate will be of adult age and able to demonstrate self-care, personal integrity and commitment. A candidate can expect to spend around five years completing training. Seekers may submit a considered expression of interest via firstname.lastname@example.org. First, please see advice for Seekers here. All enquiries shall be treated with confidentiality. Those using pseudonyms shall receive no response.
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