David Conway grew up in rural Wales. At eighteen he moved to London and, on leaving University, went to work – reluctantly – for the Civil Service. It was shortly afterwards that his first book, Magic: An Occult Primer was published, winning the favour of critics and readers alike. (Nearly fifty years on it is still in print.) A second book, The Magic of Herbs quickly followed, as well as a third title, Secret Wisdom: The Occult Universe Explored, several years later.
By then its author had joined the Foreign Office, serving as First Secretary at the UK Permanent Representation to the European Union before becoming, still in his thirties, Principal Director at the European Patent Office in Munich. He has since returned to his native Wales. There, his home overlooks the estuary where, legend has it, the infant Taliesin, bard at King Arthur’s Court, was found after being cast out to sea by Ceridwen, goddess of rebirth and transformation. Magic thus remains as much a part of David Conway’s surroundings as it is – and always has been – part of the man himself.
Photo: Patrick Garbous
Richard Deutch (1944-2005), travelled to England from the United States sometime in the mid-70s when he met Alex and Maxine Sanders, prompting his interest in the then-emerging Alexandrian tradition of Witchcraft which eventually led to his writing ‘The Ecstatic Mother – Portrait of Maxine Sanders-Witch Queen’.
A prolific poet, Richard also published several books on magic, ranging from the extreme “Exorcism: Possession or Obsession?” (1976) to a children’s stage-magic title: “Your Book of Magic Secrets” (1991) followed by “The Australian Magician’s Handbook” (1993) to “The Magick Handbook” (2003), about witchcraft as a method of practising magic with historical aspects.
June Johns, (1927-1980) author of ‘King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders‘ (1969), was a highly respected reporter and writer having worked as staffer on the Daily Mirror and Daily Express before the age of 25. In her son’s words “she was a trained observer and a total sceptic. All things interested her but few influenced her. By the time of her death in 1980, aged just 53, she had written and had published more than a dozen books,” including ‘Black Magic Today‘ (1971).
Alex Sanders, (1926 – 1988) born as Orrell Alexander Carter, known in the 60s & 70s as the ‘King of the Witches‘ he possessed tremendous magnetism; a beacon of attraction. While his knowledge of the art magical was extensive, he had no compunction about expropriating from the comparatively few authors that were in publication at the time to get his point across. He was influenced by the likes of Franz Bardon; Éliphas Lévi; Dion Fortune, to name a few; and unscrupulously incorporated their works into his teaching whilst often neglecting to credit them.
Variously described as an inspiring teacher and guide to those who were seekers of the inner way, he was equally considered controversial, even notorious. Wit, humour, infamy, and fearlessness of public exposure – he embraced them all. Criticism and judgment aside, it can be said that many a witch of the day acquired a firm foundation for the continuation of their magical work, and many of their descended witches of today consciously or not, owe a measure of their ability to choose whether to be open about their being or to remain in the shadows – to Alex.
There is anecdotal oral lore about how in the late 60s Alex diverted the attention of a group of tabloid reporters who were seeking to expose several school teachers who were training as witches in Manchester, away from them by promising the hounding press hoard a better story of resurrecting a corpse before the cameras. The teachers were spared the loss of their jobs and reputation in favour of a Swiss Roll recipe incanted backwards thus bringing a ‘corpse’ back to life, which had the desired effect of scaring the frightened reporters and sparing the teachers.
An antic perhaps considered corny by today’s standards, Alex’s protective intent then in response to the public mood of the time still holds true today, namely, that ‘we [witches] are only one bigot away from persecution.’
Maxine Sanders born 30 December 1946, is a highly respected Priestess of the Sacred Mysteries. She has encouraged, enabled, and inspired students of the Priesthood to take on the conscious mantle of their spiritual potential. She believes the catalyst for that inspiration comes from the Cauldron of the Goddess in all its guises.
At age 15, Maxine was the youngest Westerner to be Opened in Subud, a spiritual movement that had its origins in Indonesia in the 1920s and spread to the west in 1957. She was a student of John G. Bennett in Coombe Springs, Kingston, where she experienced the teachings and practices of Gurdjieff, which in turn, set her on a spiritual path that led her into the mysteries of a magical lodge that performed in rituals near Alderley Edge in Cheshire, England.
It could be said that the occult world holds Maxine in connection with her late, former husband Alex Sanders, with whom she co-founded the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft. Constructive comment cannot do justice to her supporting contribution as she was as much a part of the teaching when she was with Alex as when she continued on her own path with her own students whilst simultaneously dealing with the legacy of Alex; a legacy that became more and more complex (even notorious to some) as the years passed.
And still it continues.