Our tradition has its roots in what is now called Gardnerian Wicca which had simply been called “the Wicca.” 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.”
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 again 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.
Alex Sanders constantly evolved his own magical 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. Not all Alexandrians work ceremonial magic, such as Qabalah, Angelic Magic, or Enochian. Some Alexandrians are strongly oriented towards ceremonial magic while others are more oriented towards folk magic. It depends on one’s lineage or origin as well as individual and coven focus. This diversity gives us a thriving and dynamic tradition with our feet solidly grounded in Traditional Wicca.
Although Ireland had its own Witchcraft traditions the Alexandrian Tradition itself was introduced to the island by Janet and Stewart Farrar. The Alexandrian tradition is more prominent in Ireland than the Gardnerian tradition and most Alexandrians in Ireland descend from Janet and Stewart.
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. Initiates of the Alexandrian Tradition may also work with other deities on a personal or group basis. We aim for a personal connection with and understanding of deity, ancestors and the rhythms and tides of nature. We know the power of magic and use both traditional and experimental techniques to achieve our goals.
Role of clergy
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 nature and exact practice of Alexandrian covens may vary from line to line and coven to coven with certain limits. However, skyclad practice (ritual nudity) is universally observed as a traditional feature. To become an Alexandrian Initiate one must be initiated by a properly prepared and authorised Alexandrian High Priestess or Priest in a cross-sex initiation. Our traditional initiatory rites must be used without subtraction, as passed through each lineage from the original Alexandrian coven. Lineage is traced via cross-sex initiation (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. 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 2º Initiate is a High Priest or High Priestess, and a 3º Initiate is an Elder and often a coven leader. A 3º High Priest/ess is completely autonomous in our tradition answering only to the Gods. Autonomy does not mean lack of accountability. 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.
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. 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.
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. The Farrars make this clear in their book.
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 coven. 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 training or initiation. 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.
Ways of worship
The Alexandrian Tradition is an oathbound Mystery Tradition; therefore many of the details of how and why we work are secret. 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 here.