Wicca in Prison

I saw this article on WitchVox last week but didn’t read it until Michi sent it out on our CUUPS members list.

The article was horrible. What’s encouraging are the comments. I was expecting to see the usual fundamentalist rants about how Wicca isn’t a “real” religion. Instead, three of the four commenters quickly and concisely summed up what the journalist missed: the picture of Margaret Hamilton in greenface is an offensive stereotype, the prison system is wrong not to give the prisoner what he needs to practice his religion, the prisoner is wrong to use what may be a religion of convenience to sue for large sums of money, and finally, the prisoner is wrong for doing what put him in prison in the first place.

I’ve always been extremely skeptical of jailhouse conversions. Too many prisoners “find Jesus” to look good for the parole board, and too many take up Wicca either because they think it’s an easy route to power or because they want to catch the prison in a case of religious discrimination and profit from it.

Earlier this year I met a guy who had recently been released from prison after 17 years. I met him at a Druid gathering. He said he was incredibly angry when he first went in, but eventually the anger wore off and he was left with nothing. The Christian prison ministries didn’t do anything for him, but he found the OBOD Bardic course materials in the prison library. They were exactly what he needed. When he completed them, he was able to get the Ovate materials through his tutor (the OBOD course materials aren’t cheap) and continue his studies, and he was still working on the Ovate grade when he got out.

I haven’t seen him since February, so I don’t know how he’s doing. He struck me as someone who realized how badly he had screwed up and was genuinely trying to start over. The Pagan materials he had access to had been very helpful to him.

Just a reminder that not all jailhouse conversions are staged.

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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.