Advanced Alexandrian Witchcraft - A Wiccan Golden Dawn
I have recently wrote an article stating my opinion that Alex Sanders was a modern day Pagan Magus. I demonstrated, by carefully examining an old documentary, that he was clearly engaged in an experimental approach to witchcraft and magick. He was employing both modern and traditional elements in the crafting his variation of Wicca, but the traditional elements were not part of an ancient pagan tradition. That tradition was taken from a Gardnerian Book of Shadows, but also included the Key of Solomon and the Lemegeton, and it has been shown that most of the Book of Shadows was derived from other various sources (almost all of them modern and accessible to Gerald B. Gardner).
In many ways, Alex was following the footsteps of Old Gerald himself, by incorporating the whole corpus of western occultism into forging a new tradition. What many may not realize is that Alex Sanders did have a goal and a vision for his work, and that he was deliberately attempting to forge a new tradition of pagan religion and magick. He was only partially successful, since he lacked the ability to write and communicate his ideas to a larger audience. Still, as an initiate of the Alexandrian tradition of witchcraft, I was made aware of certain rumors and ideas that had supposedly filtered down from Alex himself, although I have never been able to verify or prove that to be true.
I would like to use this forum to discuss some of those things that I heard, and I believe that I can do this without breaking any of my initiatic oaths, since what was communicated to me was not part of the actual corpus of traditional rites or specific identifying myths and Godnames. I feel that I can discuss something that I had found momentous, even if it didn’t really amount to much more than innuendo and speculation. Still. I found all of that speculation to be quite fascinating and inspiring.
Alexandrians are actually Gardnerians with an additional emphasis on ritual and ceremonial magick, which I believe is what Gardner would have called “High Magic.” Most of the Book of Shadows, its liturgies and other materials, are nearly identical for both Gardnerians and Alexandrians. Some poetic versions of specific liturgical rites are missing, and so is the “Ardanes”, or the Laws of Witchcraft. Both traditions practice their rites skyclad, perform the Great Rite and the Draw, and celebrate a communion rite of cakes and wine. Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches is considered one of a few important sacred books, and the outer court Godhead names of Diana and Aradia are considered important.
It would also appear, if one were to really examine the works of Gerald B. Gardner, that the proclivity for high magic was actually established first by him, even though many Gardnerians in the present time don’t consider it to be important. In many ways the curious tradition of witchcraft as set down by Gardner seems to be more a variant of Italian Stregharia than a proper form of British Witchcraft. Sacral nudity and an emphasis on the Great Rite would seem to be particular to Gardnerian and Alexandrian witchcraft, but they don’t seem to be as important to other British based traditions of Witchcraft which don’t follow Gardner’s foundational praxis. I have often wondered about this stark difference, and I suspect that there might be more to the coincidental similarities between Strega and Gardnerian Witchcraft than one might think.
Even so, where Alexandrian and Gardnerian traditions depart from each other is the obvious incorporation of the Golden Dawn corpus of the Adeptus Minor. It would seem that some of the Alexandrians were required to learn and master the Golden Dawn magical rituals, although this is no longer emphasized. I know that this was required of me in order to receive my second degree initiation, and it may have an important part of the tradition back in the 1970's. I had to take and either perfectly memorize or rewrite variations of the six most basic rituals taught in the four elemental degrees of the Golden Dawn, and particularly, the rituals taught in the beginning Adept grade. I have discussed these six rituals previously, but let me list them here again so that my readers will fully understand what I am talking about.
1. Lesser Banishing and Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram
2. Qabalistic Cross
3. Middle Pillar
4. Superior Pentagram Ritual
5. Lesser and Superior Hexagram Ritual
6. Rose Cross Ritual
What we were taught is how these rituals were to be deployed, but they were often practiced as a distinct corpus from the battery of rituals found in the Book of Shadows. In other words, in order to employ the above rituals in the work of elemental and planetary magic, an Alexandrian witch would have to either omit the basic circle consecration rite, or employ a variation of the Opening and Closing of the Watchtower ritual. It would seem in retrospect that the Golden Dawn ritual of the Watchtower was used by Gerald Gardner to formulate the circle consecration rite, although that rite, as found in the Book of Shadows, is a poor facsimile of the more rigorous and in-depth Golden Dawn Watchtower ritual.
In the recent past, I have had a few experts in the Golden Dawn tradition note the imperfections and erroneous assumptions to be found in the Wiccan circle consecration rite. Despite these imperfections, the ritual appears to work as it was originally conceived. Instead of being used to fashion a domain of warding and protection, it seems to operate as a way of establishing a circle boundary between the sacred inner world of the Gods and the profane outer world of humanity. This is quite a different purpose than what is promoted in the Golden Dawn Watchtower rite, and for some odd reason it seems more in accordance with the ancient pagan practices of establishing and keeping a marked boundary between the sacred ground of the temple precincts and the rest of country.
As I have also stated previously, because of the way that the Wiccan circle consecration rite was written (as opposed to the Golden Dawn Watchtower rite), the focus of the magick performed within the charged circle produced by that rite is one of immersion. Unlike the pristine environment of the Golden Dawn Watchtower rite, the Wiccan circle consecration rite has no boundaries or protections against anything that is invoked or evoked within that magick circle complex. The only thing protecting the erstwhile Witch is the obligatory godhead assumption that he or she performs before engaging in the practical work as a part of the individual repertoire of pagan ritual magick.
Because the foundation of Witchcraft magick is so different than what is practiced in western ceremonial magick, I was forced into radically rewriting the above Golden Dawn rituals so that they formed a completely seamless and related system of magick. I have known other practitioners who have either adjusted or differentiated their Wiccan magical foundation in order to practice Golden Dawn magick. Yet for whatever reason, I didn’t ever go through that process, so I never really mastered the Golden Dawn system of magick as it is presented in books and practiced in various Golden Dawn groups. For this reason, I went in a completely different direction, and chose to mutate the basic Golden Dawn rites into a formulation that was amendable to a corpus of Witchcraft magick.
However, the most important device that I incorporated into my newly devised system of magick was the Rose Ankh. If the Rose Cross is the preeminent symbol of the Golden Dawn, then the Rose Ankh would be its polarized opposite. Since I was in the habit of working with polarities as the essential foundation of my magick, then each ritual structure and device would have its equal opposite. Thus, to the Cone of Power (reconfigured into the Pyramid of Power) would be the Spiral Vortex; the Western Gateway of the Underworld would be polarized by the Eastern Gateway of Ascension; the Pentagram would have as its opposite, the Septagram; and the Rose Cross would have the Rose Ankh as its opposite. In each of these situations, a device or a ritual structure could use an obverse and inverted version of itself, such as an inverted pentagram or an inverted Rose Ankh (defined as a special symbol analogous to the regal orb surmounted by a cross). All of these opposites and inversions represent a magical toolkit that uses polarity as its greatest expression of power, and of course, ecstasy is the achievement when polarities are joined together (in emulation of the One).
My first exposure to the Rose Ankh was while I was going through the grades of Alexandrian witchcraft. What I was told by my teachers (and thereby taken with a grain of salt) was that Alex Sanders had as his ultimate goal to produce a system of magick that was analogous to the Golden Dawn. In fact it would have been a Wiccan Golden Dawn whose emphasis would have been on the feminine archetype and the Great Goddess. I was even given a copy of a special Rose Ankh device, which was a close analogue to the Golden Dawn Rose Cross device, when I achieved the third degree. While I am unable to share any of the specifics of that Rose Ankh device, the creative impetus for this new formulation obviously went along with Alex Sander’s vision of a re-established Pagan and Wiccan Golden Dawn. Of course, I found that by drawing the device of the Rose Ankh in the air, it produced a powerful magnetic energy, which is the opposite of what the drawn Rose Cross would produce. Adding the ritual structure of the spiral vortex to the placement of five Rose Ankh devices produces what I have called an invoking vortex, which is a powerful magnetic energy container that can strongly attract and hold spirits within it.
Another interesting bit of speculation has to do with that mysterious initiation rite in Alexandrian Witchcraft known as the Fourth Degree. While most of the Gardnerian based traditions of Witchcraft have only three degrees (the first two were loosely modeled on the Masonic initiations for Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft, and the third was more an honorific), the Alexandrians promoted the possibility of a fourth degree. There is plenty of speculation about the nature of this initiation, and I have even found where a few individuals on the internet have said that the Garnderian tradition used the 4th degree initiation of the O.T.O. for expanding its degree system, and the Alexandrians used the Adeptus Minor initiation of the Golden Dawn. I have found no precedence for this speculation in any of my own personal Alexandrian lore, but I can at least say that there is a skeleton rite for this initiation in the Alexandrian Book of Shadows, which might also be found in some versions of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows. That skeleton rite has only a basic structure and the mysteries that might have been presented within it are completely omitted, as if to say that they were too sacred to even put in a secret book of spells and liturgy.
Since the Gardnerian system of initiation has only two ordeals and the Great Rite is an honorific, then it would seem that the systems of initiation as found in Masonry, the Golden Dawn and the O.T.O., which have at least three ordeals, are neither contiguous nor comparable to the initiation of Traditional Witchcraft. Yet the outdoor initiation ordeal of the Four Elements which seems to be a specialized trope used by Alex Sanders and his group might be a clue to an ordeal that incorporated the four elemental degrees into the tradition of Witchcraft. This might have been used to prepare an initiate (and not a novice) for the vaunted higher degrees believed to be practiced or conceptualized in the Alexandrian tradition of Witchcraft. As you can see, there are some compelling clues that point to a ceremonial magickal initiatory system in the Alexandrian tradition, but there appears to be little in the way of any hard evidence or actual rites being passed down the various lines (as far as I know).
In many ways these clues represent a potential system and methodology, but in the end, the Alexandrian tradition over time dropped the emphasis on high magick and became fairly analogous to the Gardnerian tradition. There was even a certain amount of sharing and reconstituting of the traditional lore between both traditions, and many of the new holders of the Alexandrian traditional lines of initiation began to act as conservative preservers of their tradition, and that means that they had become inimical to any kind of change in their lore, supposedly just like their Gardnerian sisters and brothers.
During the last decade there has been a powerful movement of establishing the legitimacy of the various initiatory lineages, and that each and every third degree initiate had to have a proper vouch of some kind in order to be considered a legitimate witch. This obsession with legitimacy is actually quite new to the Alexandrian tradition, and in fact it has completely replaced the fascination and zeal that the tradition once had for experimentation and the discovering of new occult frontiers. I have found this change to be quite disappointing, since unlike some of my fellow practitioners who survived into the 21st century, I took the hints of a merged system of Witchcraft and Pagan Ritual Magick quite seriously. In fact, where Alex Sanders appears to have never realized his ideal of a Wiccan Golden Dawn, and he went on to explore other areas altogether different, I continued to pursue this ideal and I have realized it in the system and methodology of ritual magick that I employ today.
Although what I have developed and produced is decidedly unlike the Golden Dawn in its various rituals, practices and beliefs, I have instead produced a specific system and tradition of magick that has taken many of these rites and practices and brought them into the context of the foundation of traditional Witchcraft. In the rites and ordeals of the Order of the Gnostic Star, you will find that the basic system of Witchcraft magic has been vastly extended and advanced into a system of high magick that has a seamless continuity from the most basic system of Witchcraft and Pagan magick. So it would seem that where Alex Sander’s dream was never realized by himself, in fact it was realized in the system of magick that I have given birth to over the many decades since. I could, therefore, claim to have developed and established a Wiccan Golden Dawn, but I think that I will instead call it by what it has actually become, which is a system of Wiccan and Pagan ritual magick as opposed to ceremonial magic.
by Frater Barrabbas