EarthSpirit Newsletter Spring 97
THEODORE MILLS, 1924 – 1996
by Andras Corban Arthen
Ted Mills died around midday on Wednesday, 21 February 1996. Or, more properly, he moved on to “another room” in his life, for that is how he would prefer us to speak of his passing. For thirty years, Ted played a subtle but very influential role among contemporary American witches, as a teacher, as a mentor, as an elder.
When I first met Theo in 1974, it was with some amount of apprehension on my part. A mutual friend had pointed me in his direction, to seek advice on a problem I was facing. He showed me a photo of Ted, his face grim and intent to the point of looking sinister. The man’s considerable power came clearly through the photograph, but his furrowed visage suggested someone who might wield that power harshly.
As it turned out, I had no cause for alarm. Theo proved to be extremely kind and generous, even solicitous, to a young witch in need (and a “fellow Scorpio”, no less, as he was fond of reminding me.) He listened intently to my plight, and offered his wise counsel with a healthy dose of that disarming, self-effacing humor—one of his signature traits—that made my problems seem much less weighty and even left me feeling as though I’d been the one to help him, not the other way around.
A few years later, when I reminded him of our first meeting, he did not remember it well, and begged my pardon with the excuse that, in his “dotage”, his memory was failing. I knew better, though. I knew he didn’t remember because I had been just one of the very many others who had come to him in a similar way over the years, seeking help, seeking counsel, seeking the reassurance of his sense and of his years. His lack of memory was nothing but a measure of his giving and a tribute to his work.
In recent years, Theo reveled in his role among our community at Rites of Spring. He could never come but for a few hours—the oxygen tank that had become an annoying but necessary appendage could only last so long. But come he did, defying illness and “good sense” to give his elder’s blessing at the ritual, to sit among us, to “chat with the young ones”. He delighted in the adulation and respect that came his way even from those who had no idea who he was—not out of ego or vainglory, but because such deference, in his mind, was not bestowed on him merely as a man, but as a representative of the Craft, and hence upon the Craft itself. That made him happy, that things had come this far in his own lifetime.
The day Theo died, before we had received news of his passing, Aine and I were in New York, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As we ambled through the magnificent Temple of Isis at Dendur, perusing the intricate hieroglyphs, touching the ancient stones, I could not help but think of Ted—whose devotion to Isis is legendary—and wonder whether he’d ever been there. I felt his presence then, strong and vibrant, almost physical, and fantasized (or so I thought) of sharing that moment with him, holding his arm for support as we walked the exhibit, listening to him tell me of one of his past lives in Egypt, when he was a priest at that very temple, and how the curators who’d reconstructed the building brick by brick in the middle of Manhattan hadn’t gotten it quite right…Later that night, upon returning home, we got the message that Teddy had died, just before we’d been in the Museum. I am not one to make overly much of such things, but, knowing Ted, it would not surprise me if my “fantasy” had been more than it seemed at the time.
The following interview with Ted was published in issue #4 (1989) of FireHeart magazine. We make it available here as a service to our community—to those who knew him, as a fond remembrance; and to those who never had the pleasure of his acquaintance, as a glimpse into the soul of a wise, kind, powerful, and complex man, and one of our most beloved elders.
Farewell, dear Theo, and hail!
© 1996, Andras Corban Arthen
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