Archives For Maxine Sanders

Welcome to the working week! I hope you’re all having as good a Monday as possible. Let’s start off with an important update on a previously reported story, and then move on to some Pagan news of note.

Haitian Government Reassures Vodouisants in Wake of Constitutional Changes: Last week I reported on the newly-amended Haitian constitution, and an assertion from Euvonie Auguste, head of the National Confederation of Haitian Vodou (KNVA), that it removes legal protections for Vodou practitioners.

Haitian Vodou Ceremony (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty).

Haitian Vodou Ceremony (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty).

“Voodoo would be no longer protected by the Constitution amended. The Priestess Euvonie Auguste, Head of the National Confederation of voodoo in Haiti, deplores the abrogation of Article 297 of the Constitution which, accrding to her protected the sector voodoo against all forms of discrimination. Recall that Article 297 abrogated amongst other things the Decree-Law of 5 September 1935 on superstitious beliefs that restricted arbitrarily the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. Given this new constitutional situation, the priestess Euvonie Augustus, stated that now, the vodoo practitioners will have to use their own means to protect themselves from any attacks against them.

At the time I cast some doubt on this assertion, noting that Haitian President Michel Martelly wants to build a tourism industry around Vodou, making a new crackdown on the faith unlikely. Now, Joël Turenne, Director of Legal Affairs of the Directorate General of Ministry of Religious Affairs, who apparently was stunned by these accusations, has released a statement denying that Vodou is in any way unprotected or endangered by the new constitution.

“…with stupefaction the apprehensions of Voodoo sector concerning the abrogation of Article 297 of the amended Constitution” brings to the attention of all concerned, that “the constitutional amendment is and can not be prejudicial in any way, nor to the functioning of voodoo, or the rights of its adherents”. Especially, he specifies that “the presidential decree of April 4, 2003 make of the Voodoo a religion recognized which should in no way be confused with a superstitious practice.”

The Director went on to claim that the infamous 1935 anti-Vodou law concerning superstitious practices is not applicable under the law as it has “never been promulgated.” This sentiment was echoed by American Haitian Vodou practioner Mambo Racine, who noted that the “definition of Vodou as a “superstitious practice” has gone out the window, that’s why the amendment regarding the prohibition of “superstitious practices” promoted during the long-ago regime of Haitian President Stenio Vincent is no longer needed.”  It remains to be seen if this clarification from the government will mollify the National Confederation of Haitian Vodou. I’ll keep you posted of any further developments.

Witchtalk Talks to A Witch Queen: Karagan Griffith’s Witchtalk interviewed Maxine Sanders on the most recent episode, and you can now listen to it on Youtube.

“Maxine was initiated into the Circle of Witchcraft in 1964. The High Priest of that Coven was Alex Sanders, known throughout the world as ‘King of the Witches’. Maxine and Alex were Handfasted in 1965, and legally married in 1968. The Sanders became household names during the sixties and seventies, dramatically bringing Witchcraft, its practices and reality into global consciousness.”

Sanders released a autobiography entitled “Fire Child: The Life & Magic of Maxine Sanders ‘Witch Queen'” back in 2007, and truly is an important figure in the history of modern Paganism. This interview is a must-listen, so share widely!

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

New Books of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 14, 2007 — 2 Comments

There are some new books of interest to Pagans, Heathens, and occultists of many stripes that I would like to spotlight today. The first is “Fire Child”, the long-awaited autobiography of English “Witch Queen” Maxine Sanders. Sanders is well-known in Witchcraft circles as a co-founder of Alexandrian Wicca, and for the many striking photographs taken of her performing rituals with Alex Sanders and their coven in the 1960s.

According to Sanders, the book is a way of answering the many questions she encountered from Witches about the history and development of the Craft.

“Last year I met American witches from different traditions of modern Craft who asked good questions and were not afraid to ask the sensitive ones. They made me see the impact Alex and I have had on the Craft. They had the right to ask and I felt obliged to answer. Writing ‘Fire Child’ was the perfect opportunity.”

This release should be a unique treasure, autobiographies from Pagan elders are rare, especially from figures who had as large a role to play as Sanders. The book will be released on November 23rd from Mandrake of Oxford Press.

On a similar Witchcraft-related note, a new book takes a deeper look at the history of initiation rituals within the Western esoteric traditions. “Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation” by Henrik Bogdan, a Religious Studies and Theology professor at Goteborg University in Sweden, explores the ties and similarities between Freemasonry, and later esoteric initiatory paths, including modern Witchcraft.

“For more than three hundred years the practice of Masonic rituals of initiation has been part of Western culture, spreading far beyond the boundaries of traditional Freemasonry. Henrik Bogdan explores the historical development of these rituals and their relationship with Western esotericism. Beginning with the Craft degrees of Freemasonry – the blueprints, as it were, of all later Masonic rituals of initiation – Bogdan examines the development of the Masonic High Degrees, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – the most influential of all nineteenth-century occultist initiatory societies – and Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft movement of the 1950s, one of the first large-scale Western esoteric New Religions Movements.”

The book seems like a must-read for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of where some ritual elements found within religious Witchcraft, and in turn many modern Pagan traditions, originated. You can preview the first chapter at the SUNY Press site.

Finally, we come to a book that has made it onto my Yule list, “Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes” by Chris Knowles (with illustrations by Joseph Michael Linsner). Knowles delves deep into comic-book history to explore the mythic, occult, and religious backgrounds for many of the crime-fighting icons we know and love.

“Was Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor based on Aleister Crowley? Can Captain Marvel be linked to the Sun gods on antiquity? In Our Gods Wear Spandex, Christopher Knowles answers these questions and brings to light many other intriguing links between superheroes and the enchanted world of estoerica. Occult students and comic-book fans alike will discover countless fascinating connections, from little known facts such as that DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz started his career as H.P. Lovecraft’s agent, to the tantalizingly extensive influence of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy on the birth of comics, to the mystic roots of Superman. The book also traces the rise of the comic superheroes and how they relate to several cultural trends in the late 19th century, specifically the occult explosion in Western Europe and America. Knowles reveals the four basic superhero archetypes–the Messiah, the Golem, the Amazon, and the Brotherhood–and shows how the occult Bohemian underground of the early 20th century provided the inspiration for the modern comic book hero.”

Anyone who has spent time dissecting “The Invisibles” or “Promethea” should definitely give this a look. As a longtime comic-book fan with an interest in the esoteric, this looks like a treasure-trove of information. You can listen to a podcast interview with the author, here.

Is modern Paganism becoming more mainstream, yet shrinking in size? That seems to be the gist of two recent articles that talked to practitioners and academics about the state of modern Paganism today. Reuters reporter Sarah Marsh interviews famed Alexandrian priestess Maxine Sanders, who explains that Witches and Pagans are more in demand than ever before.

“‘Witches are getting more and more in demand. People want a pagan wedding,’ said Maxine Sanders, high priestess of the sacred mysteries and a promoter of the modern nature-based witchcraft movement of Wicca … People are more tolerant on the whole nowadays, she added, and more interested in witchcraft.”

Elsewhere in the article, pop-culture boosts to Wicca and other modern Pagan religions through shows like “Buffy” and “Charmed” are mentioned, but a metaphysical store owner says these newcomers aren’t necessarily in it for the religion.

“More and more people are practicing magic but they are not necessarily interested in the spiritual side of witchcraft, said John Cole, high priest of a Manchester coven and owner of an occult shop selling everything from cauldrons to Viking rune charms.”

Some of these themes are taken up in a Samhain-themed article for The Record in Canada. Mirko Petricevic interviews academic Douglas Cowan, author of “Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet”, who also credits pop-culture for a sudden burst of growth, yet now thinks modern Paganism is entering a “shrinking” phase as that initial surge of interest wears off.

“Cowan says he hasn’t had to go far to track the popularity of Paganism. But he has also observed that participation seems to be declining. Not long ago, he says, books about Wicca and witchcraft occupied huge amounts of shelf space at book stores. “Over the years I watched that shrink” … Cowan suspects the next census or two will show a dramatic drop in the number of Pagans. He says he believes Paganism will grow, but that it will build slowly from the same core group of believers who were practising before interest in Paganism was driven by pop-culture.”

While I agree that we may be tapering off of the explosive growth modern Paganism saw in the 1990s, there seems to be no clear picture on if we are shrinking (call it the hypothetical “pop-culture corrective”). Book-buying as proof of growth rates is a pretty shaky indicator, especially if the market was over-saturated for many years (as I believe it was). There will always be transient dabblers and seekers who don’t stay long, but the demographics of possible new Pagans keep improving, perhaps mitigating any dramatic “shrink” in population. No doubt harder data will emerge when both Britain and Australia hold their next censuses in 2011. Until then, while I agree we are becoming ever more “mainstream”, I’m not sure we are experiencing any dramatic downturn.