Hello, reader. How are you? Priestess Candace Ross passed over in May 2023. She’s one of the four mothers on the other side I honored during my Mother’s Day ritual, soon after she died.
Lately I’ve been crying because so many mothers I need are no longer among the living. I can step up and mother myself, and mother others. But these particular people are partly lost to me.
Priestess Candace Ross meant a lot to Ming and me, so I keep representations of frogs around in honor of her. Frogs were important animals to her. She seriously changed my life.
I decided it’s time for me to write about her. But where to begin?
I can begin at the table. When Ming and I lived in Las Vegas, we used to go on retreat at the Goddess Temple. We needed to get away from our responsibilities at home; we did too much caring for others in unbalanced relationships. So we needed breaks from that intense drain.
When we visited the Goddess temple, Candace would invite us to tea. Often cookies were involved as well, or some cake. She was a baker, so we enjoyed what she made– back when we both ate gluten and dairy.
We would talk about her life and ours, what was going on with the temple, and all sorts of things. These teas were fun. They followed a comforting format. Candace was refilling our cup, in a literal way and figurative.
Candace was a hard-working priestess.
- caring for the temple
- daily lighting incense
- making prayer
- doing ritual
- stocking supplies
- cleaning up
- visioning what the place was and could be
- tending plants and animals
- hosting groups
- hiring workers
- doing tons of maintenance and upkeep herself
- teaching others, formally and informally
- wrangling stuff
- battling mice infestations
- fostering communication between conflicted people
- enduring weirdness / misunderstandings from the locals
- bringing together pagan and interfaith community of Las Vegas and all around the world
Supporting peace activists was central to Candace’s work. Nevada Desert Experience would stop there for half the week, every year on the Sacred Peace Walk. The temple was partly created to support peace activists, as Creech Air Force Base is across the street.
Candace had been part of Code Pink in San Diego. She also supported couch surfers, loved her kids, made art, and had a wonderful style of her own.
possibilities of freedom
Candace was a private person in some ways, so my first Sacred Peace Walk or two, I didn’t see much of her. Getting to be her friend felt like an honor. She was around 20 years older than me and became something like a role model, when role models are few and far between. She showed me possibilities of freedom and being a truth-telling spiritual person, and doing many parts of life on her own terms.
I was friends with some friars and know some reverends. But Candace was a priestess, and her witchness was more DIY and closer to how I live. Being legible by allying with a huge org is advantageous in some ways. But Ming and I prefer a path of freedom. We are harder to understand and might hold less power, but we can do what we need to do, less beholden to big systems and money.
I see Candace as part of a sacred lineage of priestesses at the Goddess Temple who cared for that land, faced some similar issues, cackled, and did meaningful work that some people misunderstood. Not quite in the same way, I see myself as part of that project also.
Candace is in this movie Holy Week about the Sacred Peace Walk–Ming and I are too. I’m glad I’ve shown the movie to friends and to my mom. There’s a scene where Candace is leading ritual in the temple in the dark, and the torches are flickering. People say “Blessed be” in unison.
Not sure if it was edgy for my mom to see a smidge of pagan ritual, but I’m glad she could witness something that mattered to me that much.
Ming and I both served on the board of the Goddess Temple while it existed, trying to support Candace in her decisions. Then we were fortunate to befriend the stewards of the land that came after her, and we love them still.
As for Ming, he went back much farther than I did with Candace and the Goddess Temple. Ming lived at the Goddess Temple with Candace for a short time before I knew him.
Ming worked on projects at the Goddess Temple.
- the stone-lined greenhouse
- tending a huge historic tent used in antinuclear work
- planting trees
- cleaning up
- clearing out rampant mistletoe
Yes, Ming had a connection to that land different from mine, and I always enjoyed that.
Ming and I were married three times, on the day we were married: April 18 2014. This spring will be our ten year wedding anniversary. One of our weddings was Candace handfasting us under a young tree. Every time we return to the Goddess Temple, Ming and I kiss under that tree. I believe that her blessing is partly why our relationship thrives.
I’m sorry Candace retired, moved away toward her homeland in the Midwest, and died. She had a cancer which she might have contracted from spending many years with nuclear pollution. The Goddess Temple is near the test site. It’s a confusing mix of sacred and profane.
Was the water holy and healing? Was the water toxic? It would be helpful to understand that. All bodies are different in how they handle contaminants.
Ming and I love the Goddess Temple but are afraid to spend a long time there. Our prayers are with the people who live there these days. We cherish you, thank you for your hard work, and hold you in our hearts. We treasure your health and the health of your neighbors.
I hope to return soon and visit the spring that gave the town its name. I say a prayer for Priestess Candace Ross backwards and forwards through time.
Candace had integrity and always wanted to do the right thing. I interviewed her about abuse and community conflict for a zine I made that means a lot to me– to love: abusers in radical spaces. I admired her wise witch elder-ness.
Candace gave me things no one else gave me, and I will always love her.
I don’t know who made this invite to her Requiem for Peace memorial service, which Ming and I were fortunate to attend online. I’m glad I could briefly speak about how much she meant to me.
In the picture of Candace wearing a red dress toward the middle, you can see Ming standing behind her wearing an orange shirt and Sister Megan‘s hat.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Rest in power, dear Candace. I’ll be considering what you taught me with words and by example for years to come.