The Temple of the Rising Phoenix is an active, Atlanta-based Wiccan Temple formed in 1982 by its current High Priestess & Witch Queen, Lady Magdalena. With its roots deep in the soil of spirituality the Temple and its members have been committed to living by and teaching the Wiccan and Pagan lifestyle for over three decades. Since 1997, the Temple of the Rising Phoenix has been affiliated with the Covenant of the Goddess. We participate in local Pagan events, both private and public to support our local Pagan community, lend our voices and spend time with like-minded witches.
As with many prolific covens, the Temple of the Rising Phoenix rose up from the humble beginnings of one person searching for a life spiritual path. In 1979, Lady Magdalena began her journey as a student of Lady Galadriel and Lord Athanor of the Grove of the Unicorn, a Wiccan Grove based in Atlanta, Georgia and their Elder, Lady Rhea.
"When I first started taking classes, I had no idea that the Craft would define over half my life. My home became a Covenstead, attracting numerous people who, over the years, have enhanced my life with friendship, love and devotion. These strangers have become our family, bringing a wealth of experience and support to our lives", remarks Lady Magdalena, High Priestess and founder of the Temple of the Rising Phoenix.
With her husband in the military, it wasn't long before Lady Magdalena was obliged to relocate to nearby South Carolina, but with many trips to Atlanta, she finished her early initiatory work. However, his career soon landed them much further away, in Austin, Texas. In the early 1980’s, before email, personal computers, printers and cell phones, keeping up with her advanced studies proved difficult. Lady Magdalena assumed the distance from Austin to Atlanta would be too great to continue her lessons by US Postal Service and the occasional phone call. Consequently, she was resigned to staying a 2nd degree witch.
However, in seeking out a Pagan sympathetic community, she found much more than she anticipated. She found students. Austin proved to be the beginning of a journey and not the end. Lady Magdalena took on the challenge of organizing a group of diverse Pagans into a cohesive unit. With the blessing of her High Priestess, Lady Galadriel, she committed herself to completing her 3rd Degree work and flew to Atlanta to be initiated as a Wiccan Priestess.
From this initial struggle and perseverance, the Temple of the Rising Phoenix, originally named The Grove of Phoenix Rising, was born in October of 1982. In following years, Lady Magdalena wrote and led regular seasonal rituals, taught classes and, eventually, began initiating new members, including her own mother, Rhiannon; son, Gwyddion; and husband, Myrddin.
"Just when the Temple was growing and stabilizing with 15 members, Myrddin came home one day with the news of another transfer. We were moving to Germany. In 1984, after preparing the Grove to continue without me and many tearful goodbyes, we flew to Deutschland," recalls Lady Magdalena
With the close of every door, a new one opened and the possibilities were once again surprisingly unlimited. Such was the case in 1985, when an unexpected opportunity arrived in the form of a letter from a prominent American Wiccan leader and author, Starhawk. She asked Lady Magdalena to be her guest at a weekend Witches’ workshop at Arkuna, a Women's Self-development Center in Stuttgart, Germany.
After the weekend, impressed by Lady Magdalena's experience with the Craft, the organizer asked her to teach a Wiccan course at the center for interested German-speaking women. And, so it began, Lady Magdalena was once again beginning a new path on her Wiccan journey with new students. Despite frustrating language and cultural barriers, she had eight excited new dedicants by 1985. As a result, they formed a group called Der Hain dem Regenbogen Hexen or the Grove of the Rainbow Witches.
"By mid-1987, the time had come to return to the United States. Two of my German ladies had attained first Degree, Avesta and Soluna. During our final ritual, my eyes were filled with sad tears while my heart was bursting with love and pride for what we had accomplished together," remembers Lady Magdalena.
In the years after they left, Der Hain dem Regenbogen Hexen became quite large with both public rituals and very extensive classes. In 1990, they decided to change their name to embrace a new vision. Incorporating both their interest in light energy and the Ancient Goddesses who spun the fates of humankind, they renamed themselves Lichtspinnen, or the Light Weavers.
While parting was difficult, Myrddin was granted his request to be reassigned to Austin. In 1987, Lady Magdalena was reunited with the Grove of Phoenix Rising in Austin Texas. And, as was their vision, Lord Myrddin, now an initiated Priest, assumed the role of High Priest alongside Lady Magdalena. Two years later, her group gave birth to two Priestesses and another daughter coven, Earth Haven.
However, Austin was not to be the final resting ground of the Phoenix. Due to job restrictions, Lady Magdalena and Lord Myrddin were once again compelled to move. They were finally returning to Atlanta, the place where their journey had begun. Before their relocation, she prepared to leave the Grove of Phoenix Rising, as it was called then, at its birthplace of Austin in the capable hands of its initiates.
In May of 1990, Lady Magdalena and Lord Myrddin set up a new temple space in their Atlanta home for personal use. By the end of 1992, their beloved Austin Grove was struggling. Some initiates had moved away or had children with little time to devote to Grove activities, and nobody wanted to take on the role of leader. As a result, the Phoenix's energy was dissipating, consequently its remaining members asked to be relieved of their duties. They asked Lady Magdalena to visit Austin and be in charge of dismantling the Temple energies. At yet another crossroads, she made the decision to keep the Phoenix flying in Atlanta.
"Only when I knew that the Grove of Phoenix Rising was irrevocably and forever dissolved in Austin, did I feel it was my right and responsibility to revive, care for and serve the Phoenix, the Guardians and the Egregore in a new Temple. Therefore, I finally drew the energy field to our active Temple in Atlanta," adds Lady Magdalena.
In 1993, Lady Magdalena began teaching a small group of interested people. Shortly after, the new Atlanta-based Grove of Phoenix Rising expanded past Pagan classes with its first initiation. Another chapter had begun for the Phoenix. The next twenty years saw tremendous growth when the Coven’s forward-thinking members decided to set up their first website making access to the Grove easier for interested people all over the southeast. Now they could let searchers know the Grove’s history and the beginning of new Pagan class sessions. Having a web address also allowed them to link to international Pagan organizations like Witchvox and Covenant of the Goddess which brought constant inquiries and eventually students.
Scores of people enrolled in the beginner classes and after several months many stayed for their Pagan Dedication. Some people left but others stayed on to deepen their commitment to the Grove and this Path eventually earning their First and Second Degree Initiations. A rare few who heard the calling to the Priesthood made the large personal sacrifices to achieve their goal and become elevated to the Third Degree Priest and Priestess status.
Lady Magdalena explains: “We have a well-developed progressive curriculum beginning with our Pagan/Seeker course which ends in a Dedication ceremony. The student continues working though basic material and experiences leading to a First Degree Initiation after at least a year and a day. Each succeeding body of study and initiation takes at minimum of a year and a day, but in reality, it may take two years or ten for each since the student has to balance our requirements with the demands of family, work and other life issues. We liken our levels to the familiar American education system. The Pagan Dedication is akin to a High School graduation. The First Degree is equivalent to an Undergraduate degree and our Second Degree brings one up to the Master level. Very few people in the general population go on to get a PHD in their specialty, likewise very few pursue the extremely rigorous passage to our Third Degree initiation which is akin to a Doctorate of Religion.”
In our Tradition, a Third Degree Priest or Priestess has the authority to “hive” off and start their own active teaching grove. We have a special ritual to empower the new leader while the Mother Coven sends them off with tools, blessings and encouragement to spread the Wiccan Way and our tradition to inquiring seekers. This is a joyful ceremony but also bittersweet, like ones grown children moving out into the adult world.”
The Grove became an affiliated congregation with the national organization the Covenant of the Goddess in 1997. For the next twenty years Lady Magdalena with several other Grove members traveled around the country to attend the annual national convention called Grand Council of Witches and Merry Meet. The Grove’s Third Degree Initiates are credentialed legal ministers through this organization. The Grove was also a member of the Dogwood Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess serving Georgia pagans and witches. Lady Magdalena served as First Officer on the Dogwood board as well as holding several other officer positions through the years. She and other members of the Phoenix Rising and the Dogwood Local Council hosted and produced the four day long Grand Council and Merry Meet in Atlanta in 2014. Witches from all over the USA came to conduct the Covenant’s business, participate in workshops, classes, demonstrations and socialize in the parties, teas, dances and casual discussions about the Wiccan world.
In 2008, Lady Magdalena, received special recognition by her Grove, the Unicorn Tradition, the Georgia Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess and the Atlanta community of Witches and was crowned as "Witch Queen" for birthing eight daughter covens, two granddaughter covens, two great-granddaughter covens and one great-great-granddaughter coven in her downline. This is a rare occurrence and requires decades to establish a continuous lineage of her own tradition. In addition, one has to be recognized as a leader who has given years of service to the Wiccan community outside of her own coven and tradition.
After long deliberation in 2010, the group’s Inner Council of Third Degree Priests and Priestess withdrew from the Unicorn Tradition and established the Rising Phoenix Tradition. They also changed the grove’s name to the Temple of the Rising Phoenix in order to begin a new chapter in its history. Lady Magdalena and Lord Myrddin were recognized as Elders in their Tradition.
Lady Magdalena explains: “In the Craft, being an Elder is more than age. Myrddin and I established this Coven 40 years ago in 1982 which is extremely long lived for a cohesive Wiccan group. The Craft revival itself is not that much older in the United States so we don’t have generations of Elders to look to for advice on what this role is all about. For some it is a time to retire from public life as an active Priest or Priestess, but most Elders are desperately needed to continue an active role in the Wiccan community.”
“We have withstood the test of time and watched the evolution of Wicca from secretive small family groups in the 70’s to a very public face of the Craft in this new millennium. I used to post little handwritten notices on occult bookstore and health food grocers’ bulletin boards about starting new classes and now we all have to have our own websites and Facebook pages to reach those interested in finding us. The Elders can fulfill any role that their community asks of them and that they still feel capable of doing. Elders many still be energetically staring new classes and covens or sitting in a seat of honor on the edges sharing their experiences and wisdom.”
The next decade saw a continuous stream of new students, classes, rituals, initiations and community events. During the Rising Phoenix Reunion at Mabon 2019 on Moonrock Mountain, Lady Magdalena and Lord Myrddin were joined by their daughter covens, initiates, hearthkin, family and friends to celebrate this specific lineage. During this ritual they were formally recognized as the Mother and Magus and founders of the Rising Phoenix Tradition.
“We had just started another beginning level Pagan introductory Course in February 2020 with 17 students when news of the Covid 19 pandemic became serious. By mid-March the Georgia Governor put the state into lock down hence we decided to stop having our in-person group classes. Many Wiccan groups simply stopped teaching or took a prolonged sabbatical. However, we had spent the previous 8 months organizing this new class and didn’t want to lose that momentum. Our students were also very enthusiastic and requested us to keep teaching them somehow. For the past 40 years I had resisted teaching any way but the traditional in person one on one classes. I never planned on doing it online, so it was quite a mental struggle to shift our focus as a result of this pandemic,” reflected Lady Magdalena.
“The Covid19 pandemic was a challenge for all magickal groups worldwide and even for us here at the Temple of the Rising Phoenix,” Lady Magdalena remembers. “With the help of one of my younger tech savvy Priests, Lord Lucian, we set up a Zoom account and learned to use the platform. It was quite a task adjusting our curriculum and way of teaching to this different format. It was not a great solution, but at least we were able to give our students much of what they wanted. However, I never want to cast and lead another Zoom ritual! Because of the struggle to teach on this format and the burn out with Zoom that most people experienced from also working online at home, we lost 10 of our students over the next few months. With all the members vaccinated a year later, the Grove was once again meeting in person, sometimes outside on our deck.”
Even during the unusual circumstances during the pandemic, the grove brought 10 people through Pagan Dedication, initiated two Priestesses, a Priest, and three First Degree Initiates. The Temple is now organizing a journey to Austin Texas for Witchfest in March 2022. This will complete another circle as the Atlanta initiates visit their great-great granddaughter group: Shadow Wolf Coven. We will be giving a presentation on what it is like to live and worship in an initiatory lineage coven.
Specifically, over the years, Lady Magdalena and Lord Myrddin have initiated dozens of people to First Degree, a few dozen to Second Degree and sixteen, to Third Degree Priest and Priestess. This number does not include the countless numbers of members and initiates from her downline Covens around the world. (See the names on: More Information)
Lady Magdalena concludes with a smile, " I felt the ‘calling’ to the unknown back in the 1970’s and Goddess opened a door for me to learn Her ways. The last 40 years on this Path has been a very colorful and interesting journey filled with adventures and spiritual growth. Furthermore, the Goddess is not through with me yet and I suspect She has a few more surprises in store for me.
So Mote it Be!”