The Life and Magic of Maxine Sanders ‘Witch Queen’
Mandrake of Oxford, 312p, PB
Review by Sorita d’Este for Avalonia
The long awaited autobiography of Maxine Sanders does not pull any punches! Until now the only available works were the difficult to obtain Maxine: Witch Queen or the almost impossibly elusive Ecstatic Mother. The influence of Maxine Sanders on the development of the Wiccan tradition has long been overshadowed by Alex Sanders and others, when in fact Maxine has more claim to being the “first lady of Wicca” than any other high priestess in the history of the modern Craft movement.
This book reflects Maxine’s character. It is not an easy read, and it certainly slays a herd of sacred cows! Nevertheless, shining through the humour and sadness found in equal measure, is a sense of the inspiration which flows through Maxine and has inspired so many people into the Wiccan path. As can be seen from the accounts of her life with Alex, if he was the mind, she was the heart. Maxine was the pre-eminent priestess during the decades when Wicca went from being a small elite club to being a global spirituality.
So what stands out in Maxine’s tale of her magickal life and the people who have populated it? Her early life and the influence of her family in shaping Maxine’s future are well documented. However it is when she reaches the influence of Alex and how the two of them interacted that things quickly become more revealing (happily this is from chapter 3 onwards!). Maxine is very honest about how her shyness was almost painfully clear during her early exposure to the media. What is more surprising is her revelation that Sharon Tate was initiated into Wicca during the filming of ‘Eye of the Devil’.
It would be too easy to recount lots of fascinating details from this book, presented from a unique perspective from the point of view of the development of Wiccan and modern paganism. However it is more appropriate to look at what the book says about Maxine. Here is a woman of courage, who has been to hell and back many times, and is still around to tell the tale. Not only that but she has grown strong in the fires of testing which she has been repeatedly exposed to through her life. Maxine is also very honest, admitting her own mistakes and failings in a way that many people would find difficult to.
Firechild is a wonderful book that is very difficult to put down. It will give you a completely different view of the development of Wicca, and many of the people within it. As such it is a very important book for everyone interested in the history of modern paganism (whichever tradition) and of course everyone whose work, beliefs and practices have been inspired, in one way or another, by Maxine – which quite possibly includes all of us.(Only those suffering from extreme arrogance or who prefer to bury their head in the sand, will tell themselves differently)