Alex Sanders (June 6, 1926 – April 30, 1988), born Orrell Alexander Carter, was an English occultist and High Priest in the Neopaganreligion of Wicca, responsible for founding the tradition of Alexandrian Wicca during the 1960s. Historians have considered him to be one of the most significant figures in the history of the religion, who was noted for bringing it to greater public attention through his publicity seeking efforts and for the various innovations that he introduced into the faith.
Being raised in a working class family, he was introduced to esoteric ideas by his mother and grandmother from a young age, and as a young man began working as a medium in the local Spiritualist Churches before going on to study and practice ceremonial magic. In 1963, he was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca before founding his own coven, through which he merged many aspects of ceremonial magic into Gardnerianism, falsely then trying to pass off this tradition, Alexandrianism, as a hereditary tradition that had been handed down to him by his grandmother.
Alex Sanders, in full ritual garb
Sanders’ first contact with Wicca was in the early 1960s, through correspondence and meetings with Patricia Crowther. In September 1962, he succeeded in convincing the Manchester Evening News to run a front-page article on Wicca. This publicity had several unfortunate side-effects for Sanders, including the loss of his job at the library and estrangement from the Crowthers, who considered him a troublesome upstart and refused to initiate him.
He was eventually initiated by a priestess who had been a member of the Crowthers’ coven, and with whom Maxine Sanders later worked for several years. It was rumoured that Alex copied the Wiccan Book of Shadows in a Gardnerian’s garage while a party was going on in the house, however according to Maxine he copied his book from his initiator’s book in the normal manner.
Soon afterwards, he joined a Gardnerian coven led by Pat Kopanski, which dissolved just over a year later. Sanders worked with several covens, including one led by a priestess called Sylvia. Eventually she and several others left the group amicably, leaving Alex to continue as High Priest. During this period the coven worked at Alex’s home at 24 Egerton Road North, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester. Sanders continued to attract media attention which brought him more followers. By 1965 he claimed 1,623 initiates in 100 covens, who apparently elected him to the title of King of the Witches.