His parents named him Richard, but he called himself Gandalf.

We knew him as Father Pagan.

He'd been a Catholic priest for decades, but late in life he studied his way out of the church and into the Craft.

Being a man of integrity, he went to his bishop and offered to resign.

“Look,” said the bishop, "There's a shortage of priests anyway, and you're just a few years from retirement. Why don't you hang on for a little bit longer?”

So that's what he did. He lived a life of service to others all his life, and priesthood, after all, is priesthood.

In those days, here in the Midwest, the Craft was a religion of the young. Gandalf was one of the few elders that we had.

At his first pagan festival, a young woman approached him one night after the big ritual. “Can I talk to you in private?” she asked.

Gandalf was amazed. He'd heard stories about wild pagan women, but this seemed pretty direct.

Together, they went off to the woods.

“Can you hear my confession?” the woman asked.

Gandalf laughed.

“I don't really do that kind of thing any more,” he explained, “but if there's something you want to get off your chest, I'll be happy to listen,” he said.

She was only the first. Down the years, his gentle humor and quiet wisdom would enrich, and deepen, us all.

Gandalf was a lore-master, truly one of the Wise. It was from him that I learned why day begins at sunset.

(It's the lunar day. You don't know whether or not the new month has begun until you see the First Crescent at sunset. Since the new month begins then, therefore the day must, too.)

Gandalf spent his last years in the care of one of his sons in the Craft, and died in 2007, mourned by friends and colleagues across the Midwest.

In this Season of the Ancestors, I remember Father Pagan.

Gandalf: to you I pour.