Archive for the Book Category

Fire Child by Maxine Sanders, 2008

Posted in 2000+, Book, Real Witch, SFW on 25 January 2008 by redwitch1

Maxine Sanders (née Arline Maxine Morris) has finally written an autobiography: Fire Child: The Life & Magic of Maxine Sanders ‘Witch Queen’ (Oxford: Mandrake, 2008).

I say finally because both of the two previous books on Maxine (below) were written by others: Maxine the Witch Queen (London: Star Book, 1976) was ghost-written by the journalist Wally Clapham (as we find out on 259 of Fire Child) and The Ecstatic Mother, Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen (London: Bachman & Turner, 1977) was written by Richard Deutch.

Generations of Wiccans, Witches and historians of The Craft will be grateful to Sanders for overcoming her aversion to writing, but Fire Child is a difficult book to read, not least because it is under-edited, disjointed and unnecessarily obtuse and confusing (as I discuss below).

Sanders bravely recounts physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father (15, 18, 21, 27, 29) followed by emotional abuse at the hands of Alex, ‘King of the Witches’ (168, 239). Alex betrayed Sanders by sleeping with other men (120, 138, 169; engaging in a week-long bacchanal while she, alone, gave birth to their second child), used her as a prop to his ego (92), his ambition (68) and his finances, relying on her to work (124) and burdening her with substantial debts (171, 208). His meglo- and ego-mania (159) reached absurd heights and, once out of the spotlight, his desire to regain it undermined much of the little good his showmanship has achieved (239, 252, 261; he also deteriorated as a teacher: 173, 241). Future biographers may speculate about why Alex “liked being married to an attractive woman”, whom he “placed on a pedestal”, keeping her “apart and untouchable” (251), when his “preference was for men” (242) and why Sanders endured so many years married to a man with many similarities to her father — whom she long wished dead (both being abusive, yet charismatic, men who were manipulative and unscrupulous spendthrifts and philanders).

Sceptically- and empirically-minded readers will wonder at the extent of Sanders’ delusions about supernatural events, which are presented as matters of fact (levitation and destruction of inanimate objects, materialisation of spirits, use of telepathy and astral-travel to keep an eye on each other etc), as well as the claims made for the extent of Alex’s authority in Wicca circles before leaving Manchester (66, “eight full covens and several smaller ones” in addition to his “teaching” coven in 1963). Personally, I am interested in the historical details, who met whom (real names, in full), when and where, what happened etc. These sort of details are provided sparingly and inconsistently.

For example: Chapter 9 mentions Alex’s famous ‘Grandmother Story’. Sanders states that “Alex’s showmanship made much of it”, cryptically described as “probably more colourful and yet less shocking than Alex described”; his telling of it being “a means to an end” (101). The reader is left wondering how being sexually initiated by one’s grandmother can be “more colourful and yet less shocking”, and what “end” could have been served by telling this story. Sanders also spends pages talking about her “new husband” circuitously, leaving the reader guessing who on earth she is talking about, before finally naming him (290). Why not name him from the outset?

Doubts remain about the dates, too. Sanders says she was born on 30 December, and that she was conceived in the spring of 1946 (11). That is, she was conceived in April 1946 and was born 30 December 1946. This means she had only just turned nineteen on 15 January 1966 when (nude) photographs of her were first published (80; see my post on these photos). The publication of these photos prompted an appalling run-in with the police. In the course of which she says told the police that “no-one had taken my virginity, least of all Alex and at seventeen I was in any case old enough” (82). Even if Sanders was “seventeen” when the full moon rite took place, and that this had occurred before her previous birthday only a few weeks earlier, the dates must still be out by a year (meaning she was born in 1947, not 1946).

(In fact, I have long-suspected that the dates are even further out: that Sanders was born in December 1948, not 1946, turned seventeen in December 1965, and that she has been lying about her age since January 1966 in order to protect Alex and herself. It seems we will only learn the truth when Sanders’ birth certificate becomes available, in about fifty years!)

Nevertheless, we learn a great deal about “Maxine Sanders”, her family, Alex, his family and some of the central figure and events in Sanders’ life. We also discover, indirectly, many details that will be of interest to different readers (such as her impatience with vegetarians, who “cannot master their sentimentality” 276), of her boredom with her role as priestess (112, 142), her struggles as a mother (242), lover and teacher. Though many of the stories are a little disconnected and cryptic, any reader interested in the rise of Wicca will gain much from reading Fire Child.

(And if the very high prices of second-hand copies of Maxine the Witch Queen and The Ecstatic Mother are any guide to the future demand for this book: buy it now, while you can still afford it!)

The Witch of Endor, 1754

Posted in Book, Engraving, Pre-1800, SFW on 21 January 2008 by redwitch1

What I didn’t mention in my post on The Witch of Endor, 1728 was that the image I used is by Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) from Figures de la Bible (The Hague: P. de Hondt, 1728). The rest of the images from this book are available online here.

The caption for the image is in Hebrew, Latin, English, French, German and Dutch, meaning the book was printed for a Europe-wide audience. The book and its images soon reached England, where they were copied for Robert Goadley in An Illustration of the Holy Scriptures, by Notes and Exposition. This book was published in Sherborne, in 132 parts, between 1754 and 1759. (“The First Book of Samuel, otherwise called the First Book of the Kings” being towards the start of the Bible, this image was probably published in 1754).

Here are the same images from a copy of the book that has had each engraving hand-coloured (using watercolour paints).

As you can see above, the English version of Hoag’s artwork has been reversed in copying, and is a pretty poor imitation of the original. While the colouring is probably a professional job, it is also somewhat crudely done. Though our witch has lost much of her beauty, however, it is clear that she is supposed to be young and beautiful, even if the artist and/or engraver was not up to the task of creating an engraving as attractive as the original.

It also shows that representations of the Witch of Endor as attractive and young existed throughout the eighteenth century; and that Hoag’s 1728 artwork published in Holland influenced later representations of the Witch of Endor elsewhere in Europe.

Maxine Sanders & Co., January 1966

Posted in 60s, Book, Magazine, NSFW, Photograph, Real Witch on 11 August 2007 by redwitch1

These images of Maxine Sanders, Alex Sanders, Paul King, Jean Stevens and a few other unnamed coven members were taken in January 1966 by Jack Smith.

The pictures were, seemingly, first published in a local tabloid (The Comet) and were then widely syndicated in newspapers, magazines and books. Each publication would only use a selection of images from the sequence, sometimes using images that had already been published, sometimes using unpublished images; consequently, some images from this sequence appeared for the first time almost a decade after The Comet first ran its sensational story.

I say ‘seemingly’ (above) because I think it is likely that a Tit-Bits article was the first (‘Amazing Pictures of a Moonlight Rite’). The photographer, Jack Smith, was the husband of June Johns; Johns penned both the earliest article I have found on the subject (the Tit-Bits article) and went on to write Sanders’ biography. The accounts we have of the taking of these photos also suggests Sanders’ knew the journalist and photographer.

The circumstances are not mentioned by Alex Sanders (via Johns), but Maxine wrote (in Maxine: The Witch Queen (1976), 60-61):

A local reporter [Alex] knew asked him to ‘give him a break’ and Alex, whose showman instincts … were never far from the surface, let him know when a ritual was taking place on Alderley Edge. I knew nothing of this. Even when I saw the flashes on the Edge that night I began thinking … that my growing clairvoyant powers were really waxing full … the flashes, of course, were from a Press camera. Two days later my doorbell went and there on my doorstep was my landlady. ‘What’s all this?’ she asked, and there on the front page of the little local paper that she pushed under my nose was a picture of me as bare as the day I was born, with my long blond hair hiding nothing really, and there also was a story … ‘Witches in Manchester. Ex Convent Girl Maxine Morris taking part in rites on Alderley Edge’. The landlady said the obvious — I would have to leave. I eventually went round to see Alex but hardly had I got a foot in the door before the National Press arrived, hammering to be let in. From then on I was followed by Pressmen on foot, Pressmen in cars — it was impossible to walk anywhere unmolested in Manchester … There were posters everywhere.

In the following year a few more details emerged in Richard Deutch’s The Ecstatic Mother, Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen (1977), 77-78:

Several days before a scheduled initiation Maxine was introduced to two men who, Alex told her, were Witches. ‘I thought there was something odd about their mannerisms. To me they didn’t look or talk the way I had come to expect of a Witch’. Nevertheless the two accompanied the witches to the site. The bonfire was kindled, and a makeshift stone altar erected. Maxine cast a circle and began the necessary rites before the candidate could be led into it. The initiation started; a man and a woman were led naked and blindfolded into the circle … Maxine had gone into a deep trance … so it was several minutes before she noticed the while flashes of a light outside the circle. At first she thought it was some sort of psychic phenomenon, but then she realised the lights were flashbulbs. Alex and Maxine are great collectors of photographs, so she assumed that some of the witches were recording the ceremony at [Alex's] request .. A week later she answered the doorbell to be confronted by two men. One of them had a camera. ‘Maxine Morris? The Witch? ‘I’m sorry, I don’t give interviews’ … Confused and frightened, she waited inside for an hour. Intending to see Alex, she put on her coat and stepped out of her flat. Immediately she was surrounded by camera-flashing and notepad-waving reporters. She bolted through the crowd and .. outdistanced her pursuers. Catching her breath, she hammered on Alex’s door. Paul answered. He was beaming. Demanding to know what was going on .. they told her. They were all big news now. Papers all over the country were carrying stories about poor, convent-educated Maxine being seduced into Satanic orgies … Alex and Paul roared with laughter. Maxine roared, but not with laughter .. The next week she saw the banned headline of a local paper. WITCHCRAFT — WE REVEAL THE NAKED TRUTH. The naked truth, as it happens, was Maxine .. the day after it appeared posters were put up all over Manchester, proclaiming WE EXPOSE WITCHES IN CHORLTON.’

These accounts differ as to whether the local press or the national press were first on the scene and the number of days between the ceremony and the publicity; but, until someone can show me an article that pre-dates Saturday, 15 January 1966, I will go on assuming that it was the first!

I have no idea how many photos were taken by Smith, whether this is the full ‘set’, or whether more pictures remain unpublished. I have, however, been searching for many years and this is all I have found. For the record: the following are taken from: June Johns, ‘Amazing Pictures of a Moonlight Rite’, Tit-Bits (15 January 1966), Martin A. David, ‘Nude Rites in a “Black Witchcraft” Hideout!’, TAB (December 1966), Anon., Witchcraft Today (1968), June Johns, King of the Witches (1969), Peter Haining, The Anatomy of Witchcraft (1972), and Eric Maple, Witchcraft (1973).

If you compare the above photo, with that below, you will notice that the female figure on the right (the one in front of Alex Sanders), has had long hair painted onto the negative in order to obscure her face.

If you compare the above photo, with that below, you will notice that Maxine has had long hair painted onto the negative (below) in order to obscure her breasts.

Shulman’s Daughters of Astaroth, 1968

Posted in 60s, Book, Painting, Photograph, PSFW on 29 May 2007 by redwitch1

This post is a response to Curt Purcell’s excellent review of Sandra Shulman’s The Daughters of Astaroth (1968) and the complaint made by Tina Anderson (in feedback to Curt’s post) that this book has “the lamest cover I’ve seen in quite some time”.

The shout on the back cover of the New York edition of The Daughters of Astaroth (below) explains why I am discussing this book here: “The Most Depraved Rites Of Witchcraft Flourish At The Abbey Of Light, England’s Most Exclusive Finishing School. Few know that the girl’s lessons include spiritual and sexual enslavement in the unholy practices of Satanism. One day…” (for more, read Curt’s review here). BTW: I am so glad Curt has reviewed this book. I read it in 2003 but I remember few details: just a vague feeling that it was a lot of fun.

New York: Paperback Library, Inc., 1968

It must be admitted that Tina is right, the New York cover of The Daughters of Astaroth is pretty tame and inept: the nude photographs that form a backdrop to the red Satyr are quite blurred and indistinct; and the shades of blue are not particularly eye-catching. The back cover is no better.

In contrast, the cover of the London edition is quite interesting. Not only do we have a leering demon framed by two anatomically-detailed candles on the front, but on the back cover there is a lovely scene of three witches dancing beneath the moon.

London: New English Library, 1969

What I find particularly interesting about the sensational paperback fiction of the late 60s is the transition that was going on from painted covers to photographic ones. As I have argued here and here, the earlier ones are often a lot better.

As you can see, the London edition was issued under a new title The Daughters of Satan and with a new catch-penny shout. On the front: “Their beautiful bodies belonged to the devil”. On the back: “Here is a chilling novel of modern Satanism in the tradition of Dennis Wheatley–written with all the horrifying power of ROSEMARY’S BABY“.

As a final note I should mention that every time I read this title I can’t help doing so with the mad-intonation of Hy Pyke, the totally unhinged bus driver out of Lemora (1975). Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural is one of the all-time best no-budget vampire films. As the Wikipedia entry explains, after Lila Lee runs away from home “She ends up taking a bus to the strange town of Astaroth, where people have the Astaroth Look…”

UPDATE 3 June 07: Curt has now done a post (here) on the German language edition of this book (Die Töchter des Satans, which is a translation of the London edition’s The Daughters of Satan). The German cover is better than the US one, but neither are as cool at the London edition. Looking at the London cover again, I realise I missed something before. The horny devil has sexy witches on the mind (or, at least, on his head):

Doré’s Witch of Endor, 1866

Posted in 19thC, Book, Engraving, Magic Lantern, SFW on 24 February 2007 by redwitch1

Gustave Doré (1832-83) was a highly influential French illustrator whose works dwell on dark religious, fantastic, romantic and gothic subjects. His illustrations for the Bible (1866), Dante’s Inferno (1861), Purgatory & Paradise (1868) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (1866) are among the most influential engravings ever. Doré also illustrated Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1860), Perrault’s Fairy Tales (1862), Arabian Nights (1865), La Fontaine’s Fables (1867), Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (1868) and Poe’s The Raven (1883), as well as humorous works such as Rabelais’ Works (1854 and 1873), Baron Munchausen (1862) and Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1863), the frontispiece of which is not soon forgotten (see here). For a list of Dore’s works see here, here and here.

Dore’s illustration of ‘Saul and the Witch of Endor’ first appeared in Le Sainte Bible Traduction nouvelle selon la Vulgate par Mm. J.-J. Bourasse et P. Janvier (Tours: Alfred Mame et Fils, 1866). These illustrations were reprinted as a part of The Holy Bible which was issued in parts in London between 1866 and 1870; thereafter the illustrations appeared in many forms (The Bible Gallery, The Bible in Pictures, The Bible Illustrated, Pictures of the Bible etc). Like the 1728 engraving of the Witch of Endor that was the subject of a previous post, Dore’s witch is young, shapely and alluring and has been depicted in a naturalistic way, heightening her appeal.

[A monster version of this image (over 2000 pixels wide) is available here on Dr Felix Just's excellent site]

In the late nineteenth century many of Dore’s illustrations were used in Magic Lantern shows. The following hand-coloured slide is from one such show.

BTW: Gothic, horror or, what might now be considered, ‘Halloween-themed multi-media shows’ date back to at least the late eighteenth century, when Etienne-Gaspard Robert began creating ‘fantomes artificiels’ with projected images. Using an abandoned Capuchin convent near Paris, Robert terrified his audience with supernatural, exotic, and morbid sights and sounds (for more information on Robert, see here, here and here).

Coven I, 1998

Posted in 90s, Book, Drawing, NSFW on 19 November 2006 by redwitch1

Coven: Sisterhood of the Dark is ‘A Gallery Girls Collection’ published by SQP Inc. in 1998. SQP specialises in collections of “female eye-candy” (aka pin-up art) by up-and-coming fantasy artists. Each Gallery Girls title gives some indication of the contents of the collection (Devil Dolls, Fairy Tails, Crimson Embrace, Angel Lust etc).

Despite its title, however, Coven: Sisterhood of the Dark contains more female demons, devils, fairies and vampires than witches. Even if we include enchantresses, sorceresses and other practitioners of the Dark Arts, only half of the 62 illustrations are of witches, historical or modern. Some of these pictures are great; many of them are not. SQP did far better job with its second and third collections (Coven 2 in 2002, Coven 3 in 2005). I will discuss these another time.

Mitch Byrd’s picture is probably the best in this volume; and it is no surprise to discover that Mitch went on to become a respected fantasy artist. Therion has a gallery of 80 of his works online here (including the image below from Coven, here, and below) and a book of his art has been published: The Art of Mitch Byrd.

The picture by Anibal Maraschi is also good, but some of his other works are sensational. A gallery of 40 of his works is online at Therion here (including the image below from Coven, here, and below). Maraschi has a very busy site (here).

This picture by Arantza Sestayo stands out, though the theme (sexy witch being burnt at the stake) leaves me cold, so to speak. A gallery of 40 of her works is online at Therion here (including the image below from Coven, here, and below). Arantza has a nice site (here) and a book: The Art of Arantza.

As for the badly drawn, tacky or tasteless, they are probably best left unidentified. I will give only one example: Jose Marin offers us a witch standing between two very tall candlesticks: her arms and legs are spread and power radiates from her hands. I presume this power stops her wrists being burnt by the candles, which are immediately above the candle flames. Jose’s model also seems to have been a porn actress with silicone breast implants, if we can judge by the clearly defined ribs and even more clearly defined (and perfectly circular) breasts.

Carter Brown’s Sexy Witches

Posted in 60s, 70s, Book, Painting, Photograph, PSFW on 29 September 2006 by redwitch1

Here are a few witchy covers of books written by Allan Geoffrey Yates (aka Carter Brown) and published by Horwitz in Sydney. To this sequence could be added Walk Softly, Witch (1957; also published as Eve–It’s Extortion or The Victim) and Witch’s Hammer (1967). For more about this prolific author try here.

Like the Tandem covers I discussed in an earlier post, around 1967 Horwitz moved from painted covers to photographic ones, and from veiled figures to uncovered ones.

1967 edition

1971 edition

1972 edition

BTW: I actually read Blonde on a Broomstick in 2000, for much the same reason that people eat cars or motorbikes: to prove they can digest anything. I remember very little about it other than that it featured a blonde (this rhetorical strategy is called metonymy) but had little to do with witches or, thankfully, broomsticks. If I can bring myself to reread this book (or read the others) I will post a review. Don’t hold your breath.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 274 other followers