Fire Child: The Life & Magic of Maxine Sanders ‘Witch Queen’, by Maxine Sanders
Mandrake, 9781869928780, 309 pp., 2008
I have been waiting for this book to be written for years, if not decades. We need more autobiographies (as well as biographies) concerning those people who helped to bring our religion out of the broom closet. We already had Gerald Gardner: Witch and King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders as well as several books relating the life and works of George Pickingill, Doreen Valiente, Sybil Leek, and more modern practitioners such as Fiona Horne. The Internet has made it easy to find out about individuals’ actions. Their motivations, however, may not be so easily determined.
One of the things I enjoyed about this book was Maxine Sanders’s lack of pretension. Far too many elders in the Craft had, seemingly, flawless introductions to our religion, and smooth sailing throughout their careers. Not so with Sanders. She honestly recounts the bumps in the road and reveals the hidden warts. It may give hope to the next generation of witches to realize that snafus and bad decisions can be overcome with minimal bad effect in the long run.
Reading the accounts of the early days of public Craft brought back memories. Not that I was involved — I wasn’t. She and Alex Sanders were in England and I was just beginning my studies in Michigan and Illinois. Still, I knew of some of the individuals involved — Gardnerians, American Alexandrians, and the Process Church of the Final Judgement, among others. The constant sensational “news” stories, the blurring lines between witchcraft, magick, and the occult all had to be dealt with on a regular basis. It was refreshing to hear that the elders at the time had to deal with the same day-to-day realities.
On a mundane level, I was disappointed with the quality of the editing. There were numerous sentence fragments which made to work appear disjointed. Allowances must be made, I am sure, as Sanders is not a professional writer. I say that with all love and sincerity since I have been an Alexandrian initiate for more than three decades. I am grateful for her sharing of her memories and, while reading, felt as if I were sitting down and having a pleasant chat over an afternoon cup of tea.
I am sure that this book will appeal to the many Alexandrian initiates. I hope it appeals equally to those who simply want to know about how the Craft was seen and practiced in the days before the explosion of Craft “traditions” and the easy availability of information via the Internet.
There are lessons to be learned from Maxine Sanders’s writing in Fire Child, some so simple that they are often forgotten in training since “everyone knows” them, and some much more profound. Even more important, in my opinion, is her admonition that the best way to become a teacher is the experience with the heights (the exhilaration of a successful ritual) and the depths (when Murphy’s Law looks like the writings of a hopeless optimist) of magical workings.