Welcome to the Pagan Prison Resource Center

If you are concerned about the racist Asatru material sent by the Appalachian Pagan Ministry to prison residents, please read here.

Are you a:
Chaplain; Volunteer Coordinator; Deputy Director of Programming; Loved One of an Incarcerated Pagan; Inclusive Pagan Prison Ministry Volunteer; Books-to-prisoners Organization; Generous Author, Teacher or Publisher with Book or DVD Donations; Possible Volunteer; or Potential Financial or Material Goods Supporter with QUESTIONS? Do you need a Pagan vendor that other DOC and BOP facilities use now that Azure Green is not available? We are who found and helped the ones now working with prisons. Please Contact Us!

Person Desiring to Buy Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners? Please Contact Us!

What is the Pagan Prison Resource Center and what has it accomplished?

The Pagan Prisoner Resource Center’s mission statement is to assist prison and other institutionalized living residents by connecting them to accurate, inclusive Pagan resources. In order to do so, we are a successful national umbrella organization that partners with a wide diversity of organizations to meet our goal. Our creative flexibility allows us to function in a variety of ways to bring high quality free Pagan materials to incarcerated Pagans and the staff who serve them.

We have worked with 49 states’ Departments of Corrections, the Federal BOP, Mental Hospitals, and Immigration Detention Centers in several different ways that meet the needs of both Pagans and the regulations of the prison. The many free resources we’ve been able to bring to prisons include books, magazine subscriptions, DVDs, handout PDFs, MP3s of ritual music and meditations and educational material for low literate and vision impaired Pagans, a large assortment of materials for tablets, our Pagan Prisoner Resource List, and the Pagan Prison Resource Center Google Drive of all our materials. Director Heather Awen regularly answers questions on all Pagan topics for both the DOC main office and the front line facility Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators, dubbed the “Pagan expert” or their Pagan Advisor who has earned their trust. Creating and locating teachings on theology, prison-approved religious practices, and what living Pagan values means are ways we serve this holy planet, our deities, divinities, ancestors of blood and spirit – and of course the incarcerated Pagans and their loved ones who have been abandoned by most of the (Pagan) community.

The Pagan Prison Resource Center finds hope in Restorative Justice and Transformative justice. We do not support any Folkish “reconstructed” “pure” culture’s pre-Christian religion or “white people only” / neo-Nazi Odinism. There is not even a genetic mark for the proto-Germanic Indo-European peoples of the Bronze Age; they had merged with so many Neolithic European, proto-Saami, proto-Finnish, and proto-Celtic peoples. The language and culture was always changing due to their openness to other cultures joining their own. Folkish Reconstructionist Asatru has a politically manufactured, Christian mythos Prose Edda pantheon, Wiccan Holy Tides, and modern practices no ancient Heathens would recognize. Worldwide, in polytheist cultures deities and practices were traditionally adopted from other Pagan communities. Polytheists typically lived in peace in very diverse, multicultural communities. This was true for Germanic speaking . Only the deities know the people They have called in this quickly changing world. Where you fit into a race riot in prison does not determine your religion.

We believe that by cooperating with Pagan Prison Ministries, Chief Chaplains, Deputy Directors of Programming, Pagan authors and publishers, friends and family members of incarcerated Pagans, books-to-prisoners organizations, Volunteer Coordinators, Chaplains, and Pagan vendors it is possible to achieve far more than anyone thought possible.

And we are right.
In 18 months we have (this list is several pages long, so you might want to save time, trust that we help, and Contact Us):

  • Formed relationships with the Chief Chaplains or Deputy Director of Programming in 49 states’ Department of Corrections (unless the position is currently vacant, in which case we work directly with the Chaplains or Volunteer Coordinators most committed to Interfaith Ministry). States include: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. We have letters of recommendation or gratitude from DOCs which we treasure.
  • Created the 10 page Chaplain’s Guide to Paganism, including specific information on: different Wiccan Traditions; Asatru/ Heathenry; Druidry; African Diaspora Religions; types of Witches; different polytheist Reconstructionist religions; Luciferians.
  • Made the Prison Chaplain’s Resource List for All Religions, which is the most comprehensive list of free religious materials for prison staff about Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, Pagans, and General Spirituality. (We actively seek to help all people in prison find the resources that will help them in painful situations and when reentering society.)
  • Answered LOTS of Chaplain or Volunteer Coordinator’s fascinating questions and made materials they requested. We love hearing from them! Please, if you are prison staff and have questions, Contact Us. That’s why we’re here! (For example, the Chaplain’s Guide to Paganism was something the Chief Chaplain of New Jersey wanted.) We can assist the amazing religious diversity in prisons because our Board of Directors is so diverse: devotional polytheists, Thelemite occulists, Wiccan High Priestesses, scholarly Heathens, ADF Druids, Reclaiming Tradition Witches, Orisha and Vodou Diaspora Religions devotees, Celtic Reconstructionists, eclectic Witches, and Unitarian Universalist CUUPS members. Our supportive colleagues, some of whom volunteer in prison, are experts from The Troth, ADF Druidry, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Haitian Vodou, OBOD Druidry, other Wiccan Traditions, Harner’s Core Shamanism, Luciferianism, and more.
  • “Translated” Pagan rituals and practices to prison reality. If there’s a way to practice a Pagan religion in prison – we will find or invent it. Creative problem solving is one of our greatest strengths. 1/3 of the Board members spent at least 14 years in prisons. One founded their own decade old Pagan Prison Ministry and still teaches Pagans in prisons. We’re close with other Pagans who volunteer in prison, or are the rare couple of paid as Pagan DOC clergy, people who completed Wiccan Seminary course in Prison Ministry, attended UU Seminary, or are on a DOC’s Religious Practices Committee. Unlike some Pagans who claim to want to help, we actually know what’s typically allowed and are touch with the needs of incarcerated Pagans. We are available as free consultants for people making materials for prison residents. (Imagine being a Pagan with no Internet access, libraries, teachers, outdoor green space, or tools, just a cell mate in a tiny room with tap water, bit of paper and pencil, no idea where to buy books due to paper catalogues no longer being available, and no supportive family and the Chaplain or Volunteer Coordinator knows nothing about, maybe even fears or ridicules, your religion. That’s the reality.)
  • Assisted DOCs with projects, such as the Wiccan Sabbat menu at Connecticut’s womens’ prison and finding the cyber volunteers for Oregon DOC.
  • Created 2 page solitary rituals tailored to prison conditions and rules for the 8 Wiccan Sabbats, 8 Heathen (Asatru) Holy Tides, and 3 (so far) Orisha Religion (Santeria/ Yoruban Ifa/ Lucumi) Feast Days. A Volunteer Coordinator asked for these and they’re very popular during the pandemic.
  • Written or located many 1-6 page PDFs on various Pagan religions or topics specific to prisons. Some Chaplains/Volunteer Coordinators have the funding/ priority to print the ones that meet the needs of the Pagans there and collect them in a folder or binder which is signed out to Pagans or available when Pagans meet. (It is rather rare for Pagans to meet for study and ritual without a Volunteer especially with the shortage of guards, so please, if you are Pagan, volunteer or apply to be on your state’s Religious Practices Committee! Wonder how? Contact Us!)
  • Submitted several essays to and provided hundreds of pages of research support for the upcoming book Kemetic Paganism for Prisoners. (Kemetic Pagans are needed to submit essays, invocations, myths, easy rituals, art, etc. Please Contact Us.)
  • Have a new book on the way – The Prison Book of Shadows! Magick has been an empowering way for people considered less-than, such as women and BICOP, to access covert control over their lives.
  • Ordered all available free Pagan DVDs (mostly produced by Pagan Prison Ministries) for Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators so they don’t need to make several emails. (If you are a Pagan who has made videos or would like to create ones for prisons, please Contact Us. If you have copies of Pagan DVDs or CDs to donate to prisons, again, please Contact Us.)
  • Located two years worth of high quality videos on Pagan topics for TDCJ (Texas state). TDCJ burns 100 DVDs and sends one to every facility. The bimonthly one hour video is the only information about Paganism TDCJ residents typically receive. Our choices in videos is their religious education, which we take very seriously. PhDs lecturing on Norse mythology, Witches explaining Chaos Magick, Wiccans going deeper into the ethics of the Rede, Santeras making an altar for the Warriors, animists teaching their theology – we strive to introduce them to new concepts and bring them into this century.
  • Organized the free Pagan DVDs to Virginia prisons’ closed circuit tv.
  • Discovered great Jewish videos by a wonderful Rabbi who is also a prison Chaplain! Many DOCs were very happy about this.
  • Requested videos by authors published by Moon Books. Moon Books was outstanding! After their authors recorded videos, Moon Books edited and emailed the videos to us. We distribute them to over 100 Chaplancies and Chaplains/Volunteer Coordinators who burn DVDs for their facility. Authors have included such famous names as Morgan Daimler and Irisanya Moon, with subjects ranging from Conjure to animism. The videos may be free on prison tablets.
  • Partnered with ADF Druidry Prison Ministry to bring hundreds of prisons their free 14 DVDs on polytheist theology and cosmology (often important to Heathens). The DVDs are played in all 100 TDCJ Texas prisons, every facility in Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Louisiana, as well as dozens of prisons in Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, Montana, Illinois, Indiana, and more
  • Provided practical knowledge of prison conditions for Alessandro Gagliardi’s excellent Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn video series. It is free for prison tablets, introducing the basics of Ceremonial Magick like the ArchAngels and Qaballah.
  • Encouraged Wiccan High Priestess Lady CrowMoon to make her ground breaking video series on Wicca. Once a volunteer in 8 South Carolina prisons, Lady CrowMoon is probably the most recognized face of Wicca in American prisons due to her free DVDs that the Pagan Prison Resource Center promotes. According to her, Crow Gleann Wiccan Services would never have been able to reach such a huge population without the Pagan Prison Resource Center. A Senior Chaplain with the Illinois Department of Corrections told us that she finally has the Wiccan Group all on the same page, making her job much less confusing.
  • Requested the wonderful MP3s of Reclaiming’s first CD “Chants” which we were thrilled to receive. Now incarcerated Pagans can finally learn some commonly used ritual songs. They may be downloaded onto prison residents’ tablets for free or burned to CD. (If you have used Pagan CDs or original music for Pagans to donate? Please Contact Us.)
  • Recorded MP3s of traditional mental training, energy work exercises, and guided visualization meditations, which are perhaps the most practical way for incarcerated Pagans to practice their religions. Maine DOC already burned them to CDs. The MP3s are free for prison staff to put on prison residents’ tablets or CDs.
  • Began recording MP3 materials for low literate or vision impaired Pagans. They are free for DOCs and Chaplains to put on prison residents’ tablets or CDs. We are responsible for providing the precedent so Pagans may have the Americans with Disabilities Act reasonable accommodation. (Want to help? Contact Us!)
  • Made the book by PPRC founder, director, and only full time volunteer Heather Awen, Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners, available for free on every prison resident’s tablet in California, Montana, Indiana, and soon Ohio and Arizona, with other DOCs plannimg to do the same when various red tape and tablet company negotiations are completed. Although we don’t have the final numbers from DOCs, the book is estimated to be free to 80,000 prison residents.
  • Worked so other books are also available for free on a growing number of prison residents’ tablets, such as those graciously donated by Asphodel Press, and authors Sallie Ann Glassman, Nimue Brown, and Bob Trubshaw, as well as booklets by The Troth, OBOD – The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, ADF Druidry, and us, PPRC. (If you are the author of a high quality Pagan book of which you own the rights and would like to donate the PDF to prison tablets, please Contact Us.)
  • Made available all our resources from original Pagan hymn sheet music to excellent reentry handouts free in the Pagan Prison Resource Center Google Drive. 48 DOCs and the BOP received the guide to the Drive and the link to download 2 dozen books, MP3s, videos, and short handouts. This was also sent to over 200 Chaplains or Volunteer Coordinators. They may choose what materials they want, download them, and then print, put on tablets, burn to disc, etc. If they cannot download files on work computers and won’t use their own computers, we will, of course, email them the materials they want.
  • Created the Pagan Care Package, 7 pages of religious art and prayers from many cultures over the last 2500 years, specifically for incarcerated Pagans in Hospice, quarantine, psychiatric facilities, etc. The 6 page Pagan Coloring Art is for stress relief and mindfulness. Coloring books are often used in psych wards because it keeps people from dwelling on the past (depression) and obsessing over What If? (anxiety) We have Interfaith mandalas to color as well, but the Pagan Care Package including art is for Pagans in crisis who don’t have clergy available.
    It was kindly accepted by a Chaplain at a New York State Mental Hospital we have assisted in the past. We also provided materials to TDCJ Mental Health Workers. The Pagan Care Package is especially for prison Mental Health Workers and hospital and psychiatric facility Chaplains.
  • Informed DOCs in September 2021 that the main (perhaps only) vendor for Pagans in prison, Azure Green, would no longer be available after January 1, 2022. We told them of the only two companies that have paper prison catalogues, one of which, Hermits’ Cupboard, designed their 300+ items catalog using several states’ Approved Religious Items List. Without this information, there would be no Pagan vendor for prisons.
  • Explained a huge problem to the other vendor, the Magical Druid, which is willing to special order books requested by incarcerated Pagans. With publishers no longer making paper catalogues this is one of the only ways a Pagan in prison can buy books.
  • Mentored Wiccan High Priestess Lady SylphMoon of My Crossroads Ministry when other Pagan Ministries ignored her. Heather Awen advised her to get the attention of Arkansas DOC by printing a copy of Wicca Behind Bars by Mother Earth Ministries ATC for each facility and mailing it to the Chaplain with a letter of introduction. Lady SylphMoon completed a Wiccan Seminary course in prison ministry and answered letters from Pagans in Arkansas DOC.
  • Donated free PDFs of Steel Bars Sacred Waters and dozens of other PDFs on different types of Paganism to every Pagan Prison Ministry that contacted us or we contacted. Only one exchanged any of their materials or books in exchange. We work to end the hoarding of knowledge that forces each new Pagan Prison Ministries to reinvent the wheel, crash, and burn out. This only harms Pagans in prison.
  • Distributed the 1-4 page handouts and Wicca Behind Bars by Mother Earth Ministries ATC to every DOC which we assist. We do the same with 9 brochure series by The Troth and Dianna Paxton’s wonderful Working Within guide to Heathenry in prison. We know that Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators do not have time to email organizations or download PDFs off websites. In this way, Mother Earth Ministries ATC and The Troth reach hundreds of facilities they would not have.
  • Distributed the Arizona and Nevada forms for donating DVDs or books to the organizations that have free DVDs and books available.
  • Emailed the Colorado DOC form required if an organization wants to have their classes approved and listed to OBOD Druidry, the organization that offers a fantastic free course.
  • Announced the free OBOD Druidry course Beyond the Ninth Wave and how to register prison residents to 48 DOCs, the BOP, and over 200 Chaplains. In facilities where the Chaplains illegally won’t help Pagans, we register Pagans who contact us. (Loved ones can register people in prison, too! https://form.jotform.com/obodoffice/beyond-the-ninth-wave)
  • Donated approximately 100 print copies of Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners to prisons or books-to-prisoners organizations.
  • Sold Steel Bars Sacred Waters to dozens of incarcerated Pagans for the price it costs to make and mail. We cannot in good conscience make money off of people in prison. Asphodel Press also does not make money off incarcerated Pagans, unlike most other publishers.
  • Identified, in the hundreds of letters we’ve received from Pagans prison residents, the need for two specific essays or booklets: 1) Support for transgender Pagans in prison, especially femme identified, and 2) How to be Wiccan in an all male, mostly heterosexual Circle. The second one was hardest. Two Wiccan High Priestesses who are prison volunteers said that no male Wiccans they knew would say all male Wicca can exist, except it does – in prison! Emails to male Wiccan authors who publicly state that they are active progressives or radicals involved in serving their community received no response. (To be fair, it is rare for any Pagan to reply to our request to help incarcerated Pagans.)
    Out of all our combined Pagan contacts only one person responded: Raven Kaldera. Asphodel Press had already published a book on Wicca focusing on polarities aside from male and female, Casting a Queer Circle: Non-Binary Witchcraft by Thista Minai. Thista Minai generously donated an important chapter from their book, while another Traditional Wiccan, Kane Rhodes, also in a coven of people who didn’t all fit into the limiting categories of “boy or girl” offered more useful information. Wicca focuses so intensely on tools that can easily be used as weapons and DIY prison crafts are contraband, so tools have been a problem for many years. Heather Awen asked if Asphodel Press had advice on paper tools that can be stored in a large envelope. A huge breakthrough in Prison Wiccan tools was made by Raven Kaldera. A photograph of a proper, usually prison-approved Wiccan altar is included in their much needed, exceptional booklet Wicca Beyond the Binary: Coven Resources for Incarcerated Wiccans.
  • Using parts of his own book for transgender people, Hermaphrodeities: The Transgender Spirituality Workbook, Raven Kaldera created the prison-friendly little book Contemplating Gods in the Walls: Pagan Resources for Incarcerated Transwomen. The first free copy was sent to an openly bisexual transwoman who for years has refused any gang affiliation, leaving her very vulnerable. For her safety she was in solitary confinement for the sixth time in TDCJ. Inside Books Project sent her a free Chapter of Heather Awen’s Steel Bars Sacred Waters. She wrote to Heather Awen on small pieces of paper, unable to afford anything else. Transwomen have the highest rape rates and are arrested in higher numbers than other people. This vulnerable population is misgendered by almost every prison employee with whom we’ve spoken or emailed. If you want this supportive, one of a kind book to be available to more imprisoned transwomen who often serve as the High Priestess in prison, please donate to Asphodel Press. They have a prison books fundraiser on their website.
  • Asphodel Press did a lot of fund raising and using of their own money to print and mail approximately two hundred books to prison libraries. Contemplating Gods in the Walls was so popular that within 10 minutes of our email announcement about it, Maryland DOC requested 25 copies, without even reading the PDF first. (These books are also available to incarcerated Pagans at the wholesale price and shipping from Asphodel Press.)
  • Made it possible for two hundred of book donations from the Asphodel Press Pagan Prison Series books, many copies of Sacred Gifts: Reciprocity and the Gods donated by its author (former ADF Druidry ArchDruid, head of ADF’s prison ministry, WA DOC and OR DOC volunteer, and WA DOC Religious Practices Committee member) Rev Kirk Thomas, and several copies of Haitian trained mambo, former high ranking member of the OTO, New Orleans media dubbed “Voodoo Queen”, and committed social justice and environmental actionist Sallie Ann Glassman‘s Vodou Visions: An Encounter with Divine Mystery to actually get into prison libraries.
  • Unfortunately, in the past, many Chaplains would deny Pagan book and DVD donations that arrived with a letter stating it was a donation. Perhaps because of prejudice against Vodou, Ms Glassman was unable to donate her book. Asphodel Press could not find a way to notify Pagans in prison that their book existed. When incarcerated ADF Druidry members had the free 14 DVDs sent to their Chaplain, very few ever had an opportunity to watch them. Yet, when the Pagan Prison Resource Center says these same materials are available for free, prisons want them. For example, now those ADF Druidry videos are incredibly popular and shown in at least 200 prisons because we made the introduction. We have worked ceaselessly to earn the trust of Chaplains and DOC officials with our high standards about materials and focus on ethics and theology. Now when we recommend free books and DVDs to Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators, these materials are often available in prison libraries and on closed circuit tv.
  • Of course, there are many hundreds of Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators that never respond to their Chief Chaplain’s or DOC’s news that there are any free resources for Pagans. Three states’ Chaplains still won’t provide anything for Pagans. There are about 3,000 prisons in the US and we’ve only found a couple hundred Chaplains or Volunteer Coordinators who will assist Pagan prisoners in any way. We won’t pretend that this has been easy.
  • Then how do we reach the approximately 40,000 registered Pagans in prison?
    At first desperate to find a way to let incarcerated Pagans know about her very complete 2.8 lb book and other important resources, Heather Awen created the Pagan Prisoner Resource List. The List is the only way for incarcerated Pagans to learn about free classes, discount classes, books specifically for Pagans prisoners that are usually sold at wholesale prices, and more.
    To find the first Pagans, Ms Awen searched prison pen pal websites. The Pagan Prison Resource Center still returns to this method of reaching Pagans, especially those in states where the Chaplains or Volunteer Coordinators are not active in Interfaith Ministry. Now we often include a letter for the Chaplain or Volunteer Coordinator explaining that we already have a relationship with the Chief Chaplain or Deputy Director of Programming and there are free DVDs and more available. Sometimes the names of a few other Chaplains or Volunteer Coordinators are included for references.
    Once the List is in a facility, our address is passed along. A few more Pagans write for the Pagan Prisoner Resource List, often with questions or gratitude. When a Pagan is transferred to another facility, the List goes with them. We get more letters and answer simple questions, recommend books (with the publisher’s address), and activities like meditation and writing invocations.
    Sometimes Pagans in prison are very upset with their Chaplain and we can help improve the situation by explaining how incredibly understaffed prisons are, especially in to the pandemic. No one can supervise rituals, study groups, or viewing DVDs. Losing 1/3 of the guards in the past year is not common. The Chaplain sometimes truly doesn’t have any money for ink and can not print a 4 page handout. American people tend to vote “tough on crime” due to fear mongering politicians even though the crime rate has been declining for over 30 years. But it is rare for voters to choose to fund even the basic upkeep of prisons, such a kitchens that pass health inspections. Punitive justice does not work, as 50% of people released are woefully unprepared to return to society, often with PTSD and a harder than ever time getting a job that will cover rent in any place than an addict flop house, return to prison the first year. 50% of people sent to prison, according to NAMI, have a mental illness. Many self medicate, which is the most common reason why someone is in prison. Prisons typically don’t offer therapy and getting appointments to have psych meds monitored due to hallucinations can take 2 weeks. Many people in prison go without all types of medication without warning for weeks because the staff never had time to have a doctor write a new prescription. Adding PTSD and teaching no skills to manage mental health problems in a violent place where suicide and homicide are not rare obviously is not working to rehabilitate anyone.
  • As prison is filled with fear and ambiguity, sometimes the best way we can help Pagans there is to provide facts we have been given. If a DOC truly wants to provide more to Pagans but is held back because of partial lockdowns due COVID, has far less staff, or must wait to negotiate for better tablets, we tell the Pagan. (The huge prison industry company Securus/Jpay is really “Upay” and made it very difficult for prisons to add any free content until recently. GLT has no fees and it is much easier for prison staff to upload PDFs, MP4s and MP3s to their tablets – when they have time. Time is almost as difficult to find as money for prison Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators.) If a state has certain Chaplains well known for ignoring all free Pagan materials and treating Pagans (often including us) disrespectfully, we let the Pagans know that people know and are still trying to help. We may be the only Pagans these Chaplains have knowingly met. Sometimes it takes over a year of concentrated effort to get a skeptical Chief Chaplain to believe that we really do want to help – and know how. Our honesty can help Pagans in prison to feel more confident that they know what is happening. Eventually prison staff usually realize that we, as on Pennsylvania DOC Chaplains put it, “help us do our jobs” .)
  • The pandemic isn’t going anywhere and prison residents are often among the last to be vaccinated. In one state, 1 in 5 people in prison tested positive for COVID. Prison is not supposed to be a death sentence. Prison residents spend all day and night in a windowless 5 by 8 foot cell with a cell mate who may be dangerous for months on end to prevent the spread of COVID. To handle the stress, prison residents desperately need to be busy. If they knew about the remarkable free classes in Wicca, Heathenry, Luciferianism, and Celtic Paganism by Appalachian Pagan Ministry or OBOD Druidry course Beyond the Ninth Wave with its 124 pages of free booklets, they could spend the time learning about Paganism and meditate on the new information so it has a more profound impact. (These free courses obviously cost a lot in printing and postage, so please support them in this, the most important Pagan resource in facilities where the Chaplain does not help.) Pagans need the Resource List more ever.
  • We partnered with seven books-to-prisoners organizations who now send the Resource List to prison residents requesting used free Pagan books. (The demand is great, but Pagans are not donating their books. Please Contact Us or check out our list of books-to-prisoners organizations to learn how you can donate your unwanted Pagan, occult, New Age, Buddhist, Hindu, yoga, divination, etc books to these organizations or sometimes directly to prison libraries. There are a lot of types of paperbacks that these organizations need. One book in prison is usually read by seven people! This really helps low literate people gain greater reading skills.
  • Donating books a great project for a circle, coven, grove, or kindred! You can make it a sacrifice to a deity or a way to show that Pagans care about the community. If there’s one thing Pagans on the inside want, it’s to belong to their greater community, and this is where we Pagans fall short compared to other religions. We have gained a lot from our religion; let us give back to our religion. If we love and appreciate it, let’s share it – and not for money, but because we know what it is like to not have our religion and we wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer the ways we did. Are our Pagan ethics and values capable of promoting positive changes in people? Do our experiences of the Divine support us in times of great danger, grief, loneliness, and despair? Are our practices foundations for inner growth? If so, please join us in sharing them because we are blessed with so much information and those in prison are not.)
  • Some organizations will mail our short handouts to Pagans. Prisoner Literature Project surprised us with the book Resources Behind Bars, a 134 page collection of excellent choices from all our material, with information on Wicca, Druidry, Heathenry, African Diaspora Religions, and Celtic Paganism for incarcerated Pagans who write them for a free Pagan book! It is especially excellent for people in solitary confinement or pandemic circumstances, with a strong focus on not only the accurate basics on how to practice the religions, but essays on deeper topics such as race, the environment, living your values, and how to bring the best of ancient tribal religions to modern global problems. The reader can start basic meditations, learning ritual structure, understanding new theologies and cosmologies, and build a devotional practice, while being challenged to change behavior to match beliefs. Information we can’t afford to print and mail is now available from this national (aside from Texas) books-to-prisoners organization. (Please donate to them to support this project!)
  • Heather Awen and Asphodel Press donated paper copies of books to the Texas books-to-prisoners organization Inside Books, who then asked if they could print chapters of Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners, Raven Kaldera’s Candles in the Cave: Northern Tradition Paganism for Prisoners and Contemplating Gods in the Walls, and some handouts for residents of Texas prisons requesting Pagan books. Again, information we can’t afford to print and mail is reaching Pagans in prison! (Please, Pagans, donate your used books!)
  • A couple years ago, Heather Awen received permission for Prison Books Collective Publishing and Distribution to add Wicca Behind Bars to their national catalogue of free zines for prison residents. Yet, again, our allies are paying to get excellent Pagan materials to incarcerated Pagans. (If you don’t have books to donate, please help fund us, Pagan Prison Ministries, or these books-to-prisoners organizations.)
  • The Pagan Prison Resource Center provides materials to friends and family members who contact us for their loved one in prison. We format our handouts with narrow margins and line spacing to save paper and shipping costs, because Heather Awen used to send materials to her best friend, who after 24 horrible years in prison is out and doing wonderfully. He is a Board member even. We understand the stress of having a loved one in prison or being in prison. The financial cost of supporting someone in prison is very high; the psychological cost is higher.
    These wives, mothers, sisters, and best friends are responsible for getting Pagan materials into prisons where there was none, not even the Pagan Prisoner Resource List. We are very grateful to them and wish them many blessings. They’re doing time, too, and we hope that you will treat the families of people in prison with generous hospitality.
  • 1 in 28 American children has a parent in prison and is at higher risks for poverty, hunger, certain diseases, addiction, depression and anxiety, and a host of other societal ills. 1 in 110 Americans are in prison, which is more than any other nation. 10% do not belong to an Abrahamic religion and really need good religious materials to educate them. Please donate high quality inclusive Universalist Pagan DVDs, CDs, MP4s, MP3 lessons or original music, PDFs of books, Amazon Gift Cards (office supplies and Steel Bars Sacred Waters), money (printing the List and handouts), stamps, etc to us or used books to books-to-prisoners organizations!
  • In our work we’ve learned that it’s actually not that difficult to have a real impact that helps to change the world. To many, Paganism is a consumerist spell book joke. We are proof that Paganism is a religion. We believe that if Pagans focused on practical ways to live our values, our collective power would directly improve lives, please our deities, and cause what is holy to us to grow.
    Nature, the deities, and the holy are everywhere, including our prisons. Please help us reach the people living there before they forget.

Please Donate to the Pagan Prison Resource Center.

If we could accomplish all this without funding, imagine what we could do with your donation of a book of stamps; Amazon gift card; used Pagan paperback books, DVDs, and CDs; credit at our nearest printing and photocopy shop Capitol Copy in Montpelier VT 802-223-0500 (tell Annabel it’s for Heather Awen; they know me well); MP4s and MP3s of high quality, diverse Pagan content of which you own the copyright; PDFs of excellent Pagan books or booklets of which you own the copyright; printing envelopes and stationary (Heather Awen is ink intolerant and cannot have a printer or pens); help burning DVDs or CDs; copy editing skills; printing and mailing the Pagan Prisoner Resource List by your books-to-prisoners organization; printing short or long Pagan handouts for your books-to-prisoners organization; sharing information about us on social media; and perhaps things we have yet to think of!

We are mostly people with disabilities, which 5 of the 7 people who have donated money or volunteered also are. We are proudly committed to Disability Justice and, to remain sustainable, work at the speed of our bodies.

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Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners

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Cover Art by Carl Fairweather, Design by Armi Dee

Greetings! This is the Home page because we obviously want you to buy the book so we can afford to keep sending copies to prisoners! (We would be very happy to receive financial donations for that reason as well!)

However, below is our blog with all sorts of posts like how the book helped a transwoman who survived rape in prison start her PTSD recovery process, little known Germanic deities, further information on Celtic deities and Norse deities and religious practices, African Diaspora Religions, Indo-European religious practices, information about Pagans in prison, information from Pagans in prison, projects and resources for pen pals, quotes from academic peer-reviewed journals and the possible Celtic Festivals of several deities including Sulis, Telesphorus, Brigantia, Aine, Neto, Ataegina & Erecura, Mercury/LugAndraste, Taranus, the Alci, Abnoba, Erudinus, Albiorix, Ilurbeda, and many more! 

The Menu has information about supporting incarcerated Pagans– especially donating books on (almost) any topic, Resources for Pagans in Prison, information about Gullveig Press, Guide to Writing Pagan Prisoners, and Contact. Please explore!

The first release from Gullveig Press is now available! We’re proud to announce that the Celtic Paganism “all-in-one” book Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners has already become a well-loved treasure trove for Pagans on the outside and in prison alike. At 556 pages and 8.5″ x 11″ (21.59 x 27.94 cm) in size, you’ll be reading and rereading these essays, performing these rituals, and admiring the art for quite a long time. (Want to read some of the book just to make sure? Visit here for excerpts and check out our awesome contributors!)

Price for people in prison, Pagan Prison Ministries*, and prisoner rights organizations*: US $7.52 plus shipping and taxes. US $12 in continental USA. Australia US $17.50. BULK RATE: 5 copies for only $46.50 in continental USA! All Pagan prison ministries may have a FREE pdf version! The important thing is that these resources get to prisoners. We lose money but gain satisfaction by providing free and inexpensive resources to Pagans in prison. You volunteers know what I’m talking about!

Buy a copy for an incarcerated Pagan and receive a free pdf of the book! $12!

Price for people neither in prison nor involved in Pagan Prison Ministries or Activism: $24.00 (and whatever shipping fees and taxes apply; $4 in the continental United States). To order, contact us. ALL PROFITS GO TOWARDS PROVIDING COPIES TO PAGANS IN PRISON. Note: This is a lower price than on Amazon because Amazon takes a large cut. Australia: U.S.$ 30.00 including shipping and taxes. (The shipping and taxes are really high, so we give a discount.) The book is available at Amazon Canada and Amazon in Europe if shipping from the States is too expensive. (Live somewhere else? Contact us and we’ll find the cheapest shipping and make it more affordable like we’ve done for Australia!)

If you are buying a copy for someone in prison, a Prison Ministry, or to donate to a “free books to prisoners” organization, please contact us. Let us know the address of where you want the book shipped so we can calculate shipping costs and taxes. We will respond by email with the price including shipping and our PayPal account information. Copies for incarcerated persons or established “free books to prisoners” organization will be mailed directly to them once we receive payment. (Either choose a program here or we can choose for you.)

If you would like to share information about ordering Steel Bars, Sacred Waters with people in prison, thank you! Please let them know that they can send a MoneyGram to Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819. Continental USA price plus shipping and taxes: $12. Remind them to include their full name, prison ID number, and address.

Gullveig Press makes a 2 page Pagans in Prison Resources List, which we’re happy to email folks, or send to prisoners if they send a SASE. We also have other materials for incarcerated Pagan: check them out!

*For Prison Ministries (and other organizations helping prison in prison), we also need your mailing address for calculating shipping, along with the following information: who you are; what your organization is; what you do involving prisons; what prisons you serve; and a link to your website, so we can verify that you actually are working with Pagans in prison. We’ve actually had defunct Pagan organizations try to scam us!

Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners

Authored by Heather Awen, Rev Donna DonovanViducus Brigantici filiusErynn Rowan Laurie, Hester Butler-Ehle, Eddie MarssonEmma Restall Orr, Armi Dee

An “all-in-one” pan-Celtic polytheist resource of cosmology, deities, virtues, history, rituals, meditations, magic and the future of Celtic Paganism, rooted in scholarly research.

One of only three full-size books for incarcerated Pagans, Steel Bars, Sacred Waters also fulfills the need for a historically accurate guide to ancient Celtic religions that many have sought.

Highlights include:

  • rituals for 11 traditional holy times and seasonal changes based on Gaelic, Gaulish, Welsh and Manx practices;
  • information about (and invocations for and prayers to) 160 Celtic deities;
  • the Other Life/Otherworld;
  • daily practices for the Celtic Pagan;
  • Celtic virtues and how they can be lived today;
  • exploration of different Celtic cultures through time and space;
  • Iberian Celtic deities never before included in a Pagan book;
  • neglected Gaulish deities;
  • how Celtic tribes adapted Roman religion to existing cults and created new ones;
  • the cultural intermixing between Celts and Greeks, Celts and Germans, Celts and Norse Heathens;
  • the “horse, head and hero” cult;
  • modern and traditional meditations;
  • documented Celtic magic;
  • known teachings of the Druids;
  • ogham divination guide;
  • Celtic mythology in context, with explanations of how political factors from the times they were written affected the versions we have today;
  • proto-Celto-Germanic-Finnish words used by some Indo-Europeans 4,000 years ago and the Gaelic, Germanic and Norse deities, rituals and magic that continued from them;
  • common practices among Celtic peoples worldwide;
  • sacrifice and hospitality;
  • maps of the Celtic world, with cities, tribes, temples, rivers and other places of interest mentioned in the essays on history and deities;
  • The Oran Mor (Song of the World);
  • moon rituals;
  • working with ancestors;
  • animism and land spirits, especially in lands new to Celtic Paganism;
  • the connection between Lugus and Woden;
  • Celts in a multicultural society of many polytheist cults;
  • land, sea and sky cosmology;
  • 5 directions of Ireland cosmology;
  • Gaelic and Welsh mantras;
  • the file (poet-prophet);
  • Celtic heroes and heroines;
  • the Fianna (hunter-warrior band);
  • saining (Scottish purification);
  • devotional polytheism, the community and the environment;
  • root meaning of Norse seidR and its ancient link to Celtic magical religious practices;
  • the king-making ritual;
  • the British Old North, a unique mixture of Britons, Angles, Gaels and Picts, home to “Merlin”, ancient poetry, and Hiberno-Saxon art;
  • pathworking (guided meditations) to different deities;
  • cloud scrying and other forms of divination;
  • the Neolithic roots of the swine cult;
  • instructions for making a St Brigid’s Cross;
  • why Anglo-Saxon and Brythonic magic is so similar;
  • making and working with prayer beads;
  • the role of ritual music and improvising ancient Celtic instruments;
  • Celtic funeral practices;
  • the importance of ecological issues in modern Celtic Paganism;
  • journaling questions about essays;
  • pronunciation of deities’ names and important terms;
  • shrines;
  • the political, legal structure of kingdoms;
  • Fairies;
  • Celtic openness about homosexuality;
  • Celtic astronomy;
  • explanations for why Celtic Paganism cannot be Folkish, racist, homophobic or limited to Ireland and the British Isles;
  • visions of Celtic Paganism’s future;
  • Celtic Paganism and the 12 step program and CBT, DBT and ACT therapies;
  • forming and maintaining a diverse Pagan group;
  • drawing and creative writing exercises;
  • recipes for “make do” crafts including papier mache, print making, and the 6th century paint glair used in medieval manuscripts;
  • around 100 drawings or photographs of archeological finds, depictions of Celtic deities both ancient and modern and Celtic culture;
  • crossword puzzles;
  • resources for incarcerated Pagans;
  • and much more.

Although written for Pagans in prison who are possibly alone with only paper, pencil and tap water, “outside” Pagans are provided with the background information to expand their own practices. A valuable tool for Pagan Prison Ministries, volunteers and penpals, Steel Bars, Sacred Waters was partially shaped by communication with Pagans in prison. Their needs were generally no different than those of frustrated Pagans on the outside seeking an accurate education about the Celts. The main difference was lack of access to books, services and especially the Internet, where so much research is scattered. Both communities needed that research organized, including the recent Iberian, Balkan, Gallo-Roman and Celto-Germanic discoveries. The result is a book that explores the ancient Celtic peoples and their religions from Ireland to Turkey, Portugal to Ukraine, and their role in over 1,000 years of European history. The Celts influenced the cultures with whom they interacted and were changed by those near them – including other Celts.

All profits go to supplying Pagans in prison with copies of the book. The U.S. incarcerates 1% of its population, more than any other nation. Most convictions are connected to addiction. The American prison population is 8-12% Pagan. This means that 1 in 1000 Americans are incarcerated Pagans! Providing low cost, high quality information to Pagans in prison is the goal of Gullveig Press.

Please note: The content by Laurie, Restall Orr and Butler-Ehle have been published elsewhere or are available online.

Steel Bars Sacred Waters
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Racism in Pagan Prison Ministries (Appalachian Pagan Ministry and Woden’s Folk and Heilvegr)

There are rumors that involve the Pagan Prison Resource Center. I prefer to just speak honestly about my actions here than waste energy on rumors. Gossip is nothing and yet it is what has been destroying Paganism more than anything else from the 1950s onwards. Believing things about other Pagans without any facts is the modern Internet version of the news but as a former reporter at a paper with 5 million subscribers, I know the libel laws, as does my dear attorney.

Among the many other things I do, I share the inclusive, Universalist Heathenry (includes Asatru) organization The Troth’s prison outreach materials with Chaplains even though I am not a member. That’s actually pretty common for me because there’s few Pagans interested in helping Pagans in prison. Although I don’t have any ties with The Troth, I do have a strict no racism, no homophobia, no ableism, etc policy.

I stopped promoting Appalachian Pagan Ministry when I learned that Donna Donovan’s Asatru class, which in a March 21, 2022, email she told me was “the lore and the sagas” based on The Troth with nothing political or racial, actually contained The Blood Prayer by Woden’s Folk, the Folkish Asatru group who started the addiction recovery program Heilvegr. (The Blood Prayer is at the end of this essay.) Woden’s Folk, she wrote me in an email on March 21, 2022, are on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups, like the AFA.

I initiated the email discussion with Ms Donovan after I had heard from a prison that an organization on my Pagan Prisoner Resource List was sending racist Folkish Asatru to students and they wanted to know if I was racist. I said no and was told about the Blood Prayer and Heilvergr materials with Appalachian Pagan Ministry’s name and contact information on them on them. I had always thought that the Blood Prayer was racist. It is impossible to imagine an Asian or Black man seriously talking about his Nordic ancestors. Ms Donovan always evaded a direct answer about this.

I wanted to be sure that the Blood Prayer was as racist as I and other people, many of them not Pagan, thought. I remembered that Ms Donovan had said that Heilvegr, which she strongly supports, was approved by a Pacific NW DOC. The more likely state was Oregon. Otherwise, it was Washington DOC, but that didn’t seem likely with a member of The Troth as the paid Pagan advisor.

The Chief Chaplain of Oregon had never heard of Heilvegr. He read the Blood Prayer and in 30 seconds said it was white supremacist and Heilvergr would never be allowed in OR DOC. As I said, Ms Donovan is a very active member of Heilvegr, including putting Appalachian Pagan Ministry’s name on the materials sent to prison residents. There’s some disturbing, confusing writing about rape in Heilvergr’s booklet. Having a Chief Chaplain say that The Blood Prayer was white supremacist and he’s seen the same language uses before in other groups that were racist, I felt more confident that everyone who called the Blood Prayer racist was right. I told Ms Donovan that I couldn’t support anything about Heilvegr, especially with the obviously racist Blood Prayer.

She replied that won’t stop sending in The Blood Prayer, even though it’s not “the lore or the sagas” she had written me is all she teaches. (Good news! Since I informed Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators and DOCs about the racist material, I’ve heard from a Chaplain that someone new to her course did not receive the Blood Prayer! Maybe she’s stopped because of the questions prison officials have? For the good of Pagans in prison who do need accurate information on the Lore- and the incredibly important information about the political context of the myths Snorri recorded often after changing them to fit medieval Christian myths about Jewish people and crucial information from archeologists and linguists about what the Bronze Age, German migrations and Viking Era was really like- let’s hope so!)

I had no idea that she was sending racist materials to people in prison in a class about my Heathen religion. (I am polytheist/ animist and the Germanic deities are very much of that.) I was deeply ashamed and honestly mortified that hundreds of people in prison were having the idea that if you worship these deities you have to be white and share a fictional shared European ancestry and be “kin” reinforced by the Blood Prayer. (These are the teachings of Woden’s Folk, which you may read for yourself at the end of the post.)

There are prisons where the Chaplains usually know very little about Paganism and had reservations about Heathenry especially for this reason. They have only started bringing in Pagan DVDs and books because I built sincere relationships with them. These people trust and believe in me and I feel that I let them down. It is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life. This could have jeopardized everything for Pagans, especially Heathens, in several states. Ms Donovan, everyone I work with, or who see the website knows that I support nothing racist. The trust that took over a year in some states to build could have been destroyed if a Chaplain saw the Blood Prayer, and like the prison that wrote me, wondered if I supported racism.

I spoke with my attorney. There’s no legal issue; no one could blame me for what Ms Donovan sends to people in her class. What I was most concerned about was any legal issues about me letting people know what she was doing and her association with different racist organizations. As it’s all in writing and most of it from Ms Donovan, it is not libel. The truth protects me.

Ms Donovan had emailed me that she was now “Folkish Celtic” which I really hope doesn’t become an actual trend where the birthplace of some ancestors gives you an immediate connection with the deities written about by Christian monks at a specific time. I don’t understand the logic of Folkish Pagans, with the now known Otherworldly Fae people being much more important than any deities your ancestors worshipped before or after the Irish monks wrote myths in their version of Irish history that ultimately connects them to Jesus. How do you know that your ancestors weren’t slaves brought to Ireland or Norway from elsewhere? Who did your ancestors worship 200 years before the names used by monks existed? Who did your ancestors worship in the Ice Age? When Toba erupted? When in Africa? Whether it’s Celtic or Germanic, how do know that your spiritual elders are the beings Christians mention centuries after conversation? Because you have a Grandparent born somewhere centuries after the conversation to Christianity?

First I sent apologies to everyone working in prisons who consider me their “Pagan expert” or just someone who finds or makes them requested donations of high quality materials. I explained that I have no idea what is in any of Appalachian Pagan Ministry’s classes and told them the exact details of the racist action in the Asatru class. (Interestingly, I received an email from a Chaplain about the class. Someone who just received their Appalachian Pagan Ministry Asatru course work when the Blood Prayer is normally included actually did not receive the Blood Prayer unlike the students before I told Chaplains about the Blood Prayer. If it is not racist, why remove it?)

I showed evidence, including Ms Donovan’s email that she’s “neutral” so she works with The Troth and Wotansvolk. I was alarmed by the casual mention of an organization founded by a convicted white supremacist terrorist. I asked her if she was actually bringing information from them into prisons and heard nothing back.

(If you don’t know about Wotansvolk and the havoc that it unleashed in prisons, Wikipedia has the shameful highlights.)

I also sent the heads of the DOCs the Blood Prayer and the quotes about race from Woden’s Folk’s book The Heathen Handbook, now free to borrow if you have Amazon Kindle Unlimited. They help to put the Blood Prayer in context if you worry about jumping to conclusions.

This post is part of my clearing my conscience. As people learn about what Ms Donovan does and supports in prison, it is very important that no one thinks that because she contributed to my book or that because Appalachian Pagan Ministry has been on the Pagan Prisoner Resource List for years that I have in any way been party to this. I thus clear my name and my organization’s name from any association with racism. Obviously Chaplains and the DOCs are not fond of hate groups because they increase the violence in prison. People may read any hate literature they want in most prisons, but prisons cannot promote or endorse it via volunteers or materials given by the prison.

Unlike aboriginal cultures, our Reconstructionist Pagan religions are not our tribal ways passed down in the community through the persecution conversation times, which for some First Nations was only 80 years ago and President Carter lifted the ban on indigenous religion in the late 1970s, so those nations had “only” 40 terrible years of hiding their ways. Here on the east coast to avoid the Trail of Tears many people said that they were “colored” and kept their ancestral ways hidden in large extended families for a few centuries. I was adopted by the chief of a small Cherokee band in Southern Ohio and Kentucky due to the work my mother and I did about saving the mounds and getting bones returned from Universities etc. Also indigenous people are still fighting genocide in the original meaning of the word, the destruction of a culture, and the other more common meaning of ethnic mass murder. Still with many nations are the effects of forced sterilization, extremely abusive boarding schools to “kill the Indian, save the man”, and the poverty on most reservations with high pollution rates, etc.

I don’t pretend that my ancestors in the Sagas were having blots and sumbles or even worshiped deities I’ve heard of, deities whose names were lost because they were not recorded in stories for wealthy warlords and the warriors living in their rather modern halls. The Folkish Asatru “we’re like Native Americans” nonsense defense is not true and trying to use laws meant to protect indigenous cultures to support deciding how white someone has to be to have a relationship with Frey or Heimdall is absurd and in very bad taste.

I am disgusted as a person by racism and think it’s weak of Heathens to say nothing when racists use our deities to promote unscientific racial beliefs that are meant to exclude some and elevate others. Almost everyone says that someone should have said or done something as the Nazi party was gaining strength, but today when we have racism in our own communities, not many white people say or do anything to stop it. It is tolerated so it may grow.

Paganism has been entwined with the growing intolerant ethnicity based nationalism of many nations that were former Soviet states that had their ethnic heritage almost destroyed. Many never got the West’s promised support for rebuilding in the 1990s. While I am able to imagine and have empathy for why someone who grew up in those turbulent times with sudden waves of immigrants now arriving would want to declare that the deities worshipped there 600 to 1500 years ago are something that they can own to feel a connection with a fictional Golden Age past, I certainly don’t support it. People have been murdered in Eastern Europe in the name of Paganism.

The fantasy Golden Age of every religion tells us what they hope the future will bring. (It’s actually the exact opposite with the old Norse and Germanic speaking tribes – they welcomed in spouses, deities, religious ideas, technology, religious practices, and language from every group of people they encountered. They are the only group of Indo-European language speaking peoples to have lost any genetic mark of being related to each other before even the Iron Age! They were the most inclusive Indo-European speaking people. If any culture is a melting pot, it’s Viking Era Heathens. Why not be real Reconstructionist and behave like this! It’s a beautiful multicultural world today, one the Germanic language pre-Christian people would have loved!)

I can’t, especially at a time when xenophobia is at dangerously high levels in North America and Europe, “tolerate” the teaching of excluding people based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc from Paganism. Chaplains and the DOCs trust me to make sure that they are not involved with any Pagans like that. I now screen everyone that I introduce to them. If anyone has materials to send incarcerated Pagans via the Resource List or my recommended to prison staff, it must be reviewed by me in its entirety. My integrity stays and I get the peace of knowing that I didn’t contribute to the murders and other violence that make prison so terrifying.

The offensive material:

BLOOD PRAYER, Woden’s Folk Kindred, Heilvegr

Behold, the Blood runs true
Our people walk again in the Troth of our ancestors
We raise our voices to the Gods of our Folk
And we hear their answer in the depths of our soul.
We hold out our hand to the wights of this land
And we feel kinship with the living Earth.
In the struggles of this life we are never alone.
We find Strength and Valor in our Gods
Love and Wisdom in our Goddesses
Hope and Pride in our ancestors
And Faith and Frith and our Folk.
We shall carry our way forward and we shall not fail.
Bound by blood, guided by honor, united in purpose,
We are one people. Hail the Gods.

These quotes are used in the legal acceptable way for a review.

The Heathen Handbook, by Woden’s Folk Kindred

We know that the culture of our people is the highest achievement in human history, and in our way, we revere the deeds and legacy of our people… The gods are the companions of our people, and though we lost sight of them for a time, they have never left us. Our gods are the soul of our people, and we have found them again.

We believe that the heart of our folksoul is expressed through the blood of our people. Our faith, our ways, and our gods are our inheritance. This inheritance, this bloodgift, is not to be cast aside or squandered on others. Our way arose organically along with our people to sustain us spiritually, for we share the blood of our ancestors and the touch of the gods. The power of the bloodgift renders our people honorable at our core, but we must live out the inheritance of our folkway to bring that honor to fullness. Foreign creeds and values stifle the natural nobility that has come to us from our ancestors.

One of the most often used words in Heathen circles is “folk.” In Heathen contexts, the word is generally used to mean “people,” so “my folk” would mean “my people.” The broadest usage of folk includes all those we consider our ancestral kin, that is, all people of European descent. There is validity in this position, for we are tied by blood to those with whom we share ancestry.

A Heathen does not accept the silly idea that we should treat everyone the same, be they stranger or kinsman. We relate to those outside in the way that most benefits our folk and ourselves.

The Nordic peoples swarmed all over Europe (and the New World) to imprint their blood and pieces of their culture on all the peoples they met and conquered. A person whose ancestors come from any corner of Europe can claim descent from all the Nordics. The majesty of Greece is ours, the might of Rome is ours, the valor of the Celts is ours, and the fury of the Norsemen is ours.

ANCESTRY IS BETTER THAN UNIVERSALISM The bloodgift of our ancestors is our most precious possession as we strive forward.

Is this really what we want people in prison to learn via Paganism?

Us versus Them

“Being a victim of oppression in the United States is not enough to make you revolutionary, just as dropping out of your mother’s womb is not enough to make you human. People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution. The oppressed internalize the values of the oppressor. Therefore, any group that achieve power, no matter how oppressed, is not going to act differently from their oppressors as long as they have not confronted the values that they have internalized and consciously adopted different values.”

Grace Lee Boggs

Stance on Odinism

This is what the Pagans in Prison Resource Center tells the Department of Corrections and Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators it works with:


If I may, I’d like to share a heart warming story with you. Someone in a TDCJ (Texas) prison saw a man walking around with my book, Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners. I have bought and donated many copies for books-to-prisoners organizations, which is how he got the copy over 2 years ago. After studying it, the man entered TDCJ’s program for getting out of gangs. He learned the truth: There’s no place for racism, homophobia or transphobia in Paganism. I personally do not support racist Odinist groups who unfortunately have been using prisons to convert frightened white men into fascist boot boys. I believe in the freedom of speech and religion, so my materials are of course available for these types of Odinists. However, they are to Heathenry what the KKK is to Christianity. They definitely not the norm for Heathens and Norse Pagans. I come from a very long line of Society of Friends. My ancestors were refused entrance to the Salem colony because of being “free thinkers”. They founded one of the first European people towns at that time where religion was not criteria, slavery was abolished, all children had free education and women had equal power. Although Pagan, I chose to do my Bachelor’s degree at a Quaker college. Freedom of religion is obviously very important to me.

I have written with Odinist godis in prison who honestly believe they are not racist but “of course” won’t allow people who are not of European descent to join the religion. This breaks down simply into who in a race riot will identify as white. I understand their fear experiencing their first time as a racial minority. However, their claim that they follow the Native American blood quotum rule for tribal standing is also rooted in racism. That law was created by a white American government and is not traditional for Native American nations. It has caused a lot of pain for children of people from two different Native American nations and European and African people who don’t qualify for either parent’s American government’s legal tribal standing.

Also, unless you want to pay for DNA testing for everyone in prison, it is generally accepted that most Black Americans have European ancestors due to rape and the European tradition of having a mistress whose household expenses and children are financially supported by the man. The first ever Pagan Prison Ministry was by Marie LaVaeu the elder, herself a “free person of color”: the child of a woman from the Kongo kingdoms and a white, married French man who in his will emancipated both his long term lover and their children. If having European ancestry is the criteria for Odinism, you would be hard pressed to find a Black, Native or Latinx American who does not have European ancestry and thus qualify.

I suggest that you offer “Heathen” as an alternative to “Odinist”. Heathens include a much greater diversity without the racist, homophobic, transphobic, and sometimes sexist aspects often found in Odinism. It is solely based on what deities you worship and how. For ancient Germanic speaking tribes (including Norse) belonging to a tribe was not solely based your ancestry. You spoke the language (unless deaf or mute), practiced similar traditions and were a good member of the community. Celtic, Slavic, Roman, Finnish, Saami and people of other cultures married Germanic speaking people and they followed the traditions of the people of which spouse’s land they lived on, sometimes with private other practices. If language is the criteria, then anyone who says Thursday would get Thor’s attention because Thursday means Thor’s day. English is a Germanic language.

In fact, the Germanic speaking tribes are the only Indo-European linguistic group for which there is no genetic marker! They were so actively involved with the not Indo-Eurpean Neolithic European and early Finnish-Saami speaking people as well as Bronze and Iron Age Celtic cultures, the Pagans that Odinism are very loosely based on are known as the only genetic “mutts” of the Indo-European speaking cultures.

If you have any questions about Heathenry and these issues, please contact me. Many Pagans in prison have written me, saying that they don’t want to be gangs. Or they are gay or Black and cannot worship their Norse deities with others. Religion should not be based on race riots. We are Americans in the 21st century who live nothing like an 8th century Icelandic farmstead (which would have been 25% Christian Irish and Scottish women). Pagans worldwide have always brought in other cultures’ deities – the more the merrier for a polytheist. No people own the deities and they simply never have.

Resource Center for Pagans in Prison

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press is now the Pagan Prison Resource Center. We network with the few Pagan Prison Ministries in the U.S. and create and find for resources to improve the quality of life for Pagans in prison. We work directly with prison Chaplains, volunteers, and incarcerated Pagans. We now provide Pagan materials for 46 states’ Department of Corrections.

The Pagan Prison Resource Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to locating, creating and distributing high quality materials for spiritual and psychological growth to Pagan residents, Chaplains, volunteers and others involved with the prison system. Created and led by Heather Awen, author, editor and publisher of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners, Gullveig Press has a small volunteer staff of Pagans both in and out of prison as well as occasional paid assistants. Awen’s personal money and all profits from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters sold to the general public via Amazon or this website are used to send free copies to books-to-prisoners organizations and prison Chaplains or libraries. Over 100 copies are now in American prisons.

If you would like to purchase a copy for someone in prison or work with incarcerated Pagans, a copy costs $12. For those not involved with Pagan Prison Ministries, the cost is $24 if ordered directly from Gullveig Press. Chaplains, Volunteer Coordinators and Pagan Prison Ministries may receive a free PDF copy by contacting us. Montana DOC put it for free on Pagan residents’ tablets, something Awen offers to all prisons. California has put 103 Pagan materials from Gullveig Press including the book on an internal site that all residents’ can access from their tablets, reaching everyone in the second largest state prison population.

Awen has sent approximately 100 free written materials about Paganism, Wicca, Heathenry, African Diaspora Religions, Thelema, Druidry, Luciferianism, and other Pagan religions directly to the Chaplaincy for Texas TDCJ, the Chief Chaplains of South Carolina DOC, Illinois DOC, New Jersey DOC, North Carolina DOC, Massachusetts DOC, Virgina DOC, Connecticut DOC, Idaho DOC, New Hampshire DOC, Minnesota DOC, Maryland DPC, Arkansas DOC, Heads of Religious Programming for California CDCR, Georgia DOC, Florida DOC, New York DOCCS, Ohio DOC, Oregon DOC, Virgina DOC, Louisiana DOC, Oklahoma DOC, Kentucky DOC, New Mexico DOC, Alabama DOC, Mississippi DOC, Maine DOC, Nebraska DOC, Montana DOC, Pennsylvania DOC, Delaware DOC, West Virginia DOC, Kansas DOC, Washington DOC, Utah DOC, South Dakota DOC, Rhode Island DOC, Missouri DOC, Alaska DOC, Wyoming DOC, Michigan DOC, and Colorado DOC, all facilities in Vermont, Mental Health workers at TDCJ, and individual Chaplains or Coordinators at Iowa, Wisconson and Indiana state prisons.

These Chaplains, Mental Health workers, and Volunteer Coordinators also receive Awen’s Prison Rites, as described below. Awen also makes a free weekly newsletter for Pagans in Pennsylvania’s DOC prisons that other prison Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators are welcome to print and distribute. To aid Chaplains in understanding the variety of Pagan religions, Awen made the free PAGAN Q&A for Chaplains

Most Pagans in state prisons cannot meet unless they have a volunteer present, which is sadly rare. Pagans generally do not volunteer and so a Buddhist volunteer may double as volunteer for the Pagan groups. For this reason, Awen was asked to write solitary rites for important Pagan holy days. These may be performed with only tap water, pencil, paper and the body. Eight times a year Awen emails three 2-page rituals: one for Wiccans about the Sabbat, one for those involved with Orisha Religions, and one for Heathens. They provide historical background information on the holy day and easy to do rites to celebrate them. She writes many essays and practices for incarcerated Pagans and sends materials from a wide variety of writers. To be included on the Gullveig Press Prison Rites mailing list, please contact us.

UPDATE: Heather Awen has created a series of materials for teaching pan-Pagan and specific Pagan religions. Wicca, Thelema, Luciferianism, Heathenry, African Diaspora Religions, animism, Druidry and different reconstructed polytheist religions are included in these essays. And of course, they are free! Focusing on theology, cosmology, ethics, self reflection, and critical thinking skills, they are made to help incarcerated Pagans take their practice to a deeper level. Other materials teach important skills from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to pathworking, including Magick based on the items easily found in prison. The only prison materials for people who are devoted to the Orisha and lwas have also been created. There’s even a handout on Santa Muerta.

Awen has made materials from the donated writing of authors such as former ADF Druidry Arch Druid Rev. Skip Ellison, Bob TrubshawNimue Brown, and others. Trained in writing for people with low literacy skills, she makes these works more accessible. Reclaiming Tradition Witchcraft donated all of their songs, chants and guided meditations to prisons via Awen. Sheet music for original Pagan hymns was donated by the Church of Asphodel

The creator of the ALL Religions Prison Chaplain Resource List, Awen maintains the most comprehensive collection of free resources available to prison Chaplains and residents. The Resource List includes Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Native American TraditionalJewish, Christian, Islam, and General Spirituality. If you are a prison Chaplain, volunteer, librarian, or otherwise work with prisoners and would like a list of the ALL Religions Prison Chaplain Resource List, please contact Gullveig Press.

Awen also connects busy Chaplains and Religious Coordinators with Pagan Prison Ministries. During the pandemic several states have been using closed circuit television or DVD viewing for all religious services and classes due to having no volunteers. Lady Crowmoon, Wiccan volunteer at 8 South Carolina prisons, has created a highly praised free series on Wicca, which she sends on a flash drive or by email, and offers a free DVD for each Sabbat. The Appalachian Pagan Ministry, active in 22 prisons, has a great Asatru series and a few Wiccan lessons available on their YouTube channel. They also send 2 free DVDs on Asatru to facilities, while offering the only free Pagan correspondence classes. These have allowed Pagan inmates who have never had a volunteer to learn from highly skilled Pagan clergy proper information tailored to the regulations of prison. Knowing how overworked prison staff are, Awen often coordinates the sending of the video content to different DOCs and individual facilities. She also provides Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators with the contact information of Pagan Prison Ministries in their area if there is one. IF YOU ARE A PAGAN PRISON MINISTRY, PLEASE CONTACT GULLVEIG PRESS. IF YOU HAVE MADE EDUCATIONAL VIDEOS ON A PAGAN RELIGION THAT PRISONS MAY USE FOR FREE, PLEASE CONTACT GULLVEIG PRESS.

The Pagan Prison Resource Center also produces the Pagan Prisoner Resource List. Copies are made for residents in prison and mailed to Pagans looking for pen pals. Via word of mouth, the Pagan Prison Resource Center receives many requests for the Pagans in Prison Resource List. If you would like a copy, please contact us or give our mailing address to any incarcerated Pagan: P.O. Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819 (A self addressed stamped envelope is appreciated.) A letter for their Chaplain on the success of the Pagan Prison Resource Center in meeting the needs of prison Chaplains is included. In this way, the Pagans may advocate for other free, useful resources.

Awen emails Pagan materials to loved ones of Pagans in prison who will print and mail them. She also provides resources on other topics about incarceration. If you have a Pagan loved one in prison, please contact us for emailed materials.

Awen also organises the Vermont Prisons Diverse Religion Book Drive. Vodou manbo Sallie Ann Glassman is the first author other than Awen to donate copies of her book. If you have used, clean (no mold, writing, yellowing or dust) paperback books about Paganism, Buddhism, Hinduism, the occult, mythology, New Age topics, sci-fi/fantasy, yoga, tai chi, art, graphic novels, LGBTQ issues, starting and running a business, addiction or trauma recovery, history, and/or dictionaries, please contact us.

In these ways, the Pagan Prison Resource Center offers a wide variety of different ways for prison residents to learn accurate Pagan information and assists dedicated staff in providing their Pagan population with high quality religious educations.

We gratefully accepts donations of postage stamps, Amazon gift cards, credit at our locally owned copy shop, good condition used books and money. To help, please contact us.

“Three candles illuminate the darkness: knowledge, truth and nature.” – Irish Triads

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The End

So we’re at the end.

No, Gullveig Press isn’t going anywhere. We’re still going in debt sending Pagan prisoners the Pagans in Prison Resources List. We’re searching prison pen pal ads and connecting with people who care about the people living in barbaric conditions – actually, violating human rights if you care about what the laws say – to make sure that at least those who are Pagan can get affordable information on over a dozen Pagan religions. We contact prison Chaplains and create, collect and email Pagan materials around the nation. We are starting an annual anthology for Pagans in prison. It’s not the least we can do; the next stage is a guide to evidence-based psychological skills.

Yep. PTSD breathing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness, radical acceptance, value based living, and some tools from DBT – The tools for managing the painful mental illnesses many prisoners learn they have, as they are given dangerous drugs erratically and receive absolutely no therapy in prison. No one else is doing it and that’s the spirit of Gullveig Press. What needs to be done and how can we have a direct impact? Most of the time we don’t need an authority figure to solve our problems, because as a species we are designed to work together. Just do something, one step, and then another. It’s how we change the world.

But we’re stopping the blog. Oh, the information on resources will stay updated. How to easily donate books of any type is still provided. We hope that you will write an incarcerated Pagan. You probably interact online with people who have committed felonies in your online community. I personally know that many of our Pagan elders are felons – they just weren’t caught growing that weed.

The blog was merely to bring attention to the needs of Pagan prisoners. To give pen pals and loved ones of Pagan prisoners some ideas about how to help. To get you to buy a great book so others with no resources could read it. To lure you to the Solutions that are working to improve the functional literacy rate of prisoners and expand their minds with your donated used books. To teach you about the 1 in 100 Americans in prison – that’s the parents of 1 in 27 children. No other nation in the world imprisons more of its population – and 1 in 1000 Americans are now incarcerated Pagans, usually because they learned about the religions in prison. From really crappy overstock books.

(OK, the blog also met my passionate desire to share information about deities that most people would have never heard of, or heard of, but had misinformation. It’s been an honor and I especially hope that the recently recovered Celtic deities of the Iberian peninsula get some loving!)

But in 2 years, not one visitor to the blog ever even clicked the link to find out where to donate used books. A couple did go to Kroger website to choose Athens Books to Prisoners. Maybe some of you made Providence Books Behind Bars your Amazon Smile charity; there’s no way to know. And one miraculous Aussie sent $36, which turned into surprise copies of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners to prisoners writing Gullveig Press for Pagan resources.

Not one post about prisoners was been viewed. Not one.

Which means that the blog failed.

Instead of wasting precious spoons on trying to get the Pagan “community” to be inclusive and involved in service to the less fortunate, we’re going straight to the people who care about Gullveig Press: prisoners. You have the Internet, so you can research papers on academia.edu. You appreciate that privilege, right? Others don’t have it.

We’re staying committed to transformative justice that focuses on the actual needs of victims, demands accountability from those who harm, and heals a shattered society that breeds suffering, so one day it will be a society where everyone recovers. A society of support and accountability, that matches our values of truth, knowledge and nature.

It’s never too late to donate some books.

 

Suggested Reading:

Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement, edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ejeris Dixon, AK Press, 2020

We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities by Zach Harris, Beacon Press, 2020

 

Jessica Caponigro
activist- artist- Witch Jessica Caponigro

Thank you for Making this Best Earth Day Ever

“People” have lied to us, saying that we can’t cut carbon emissions. Human beings can’t possibly live without cars and airplanes. And yet, as we’ve all grieved for loved ones dead from the pandemic, especially in our African American communities, those exiled to the streets, and those in institutional living facilities: our elders, prisoners and people with chronic illness and disability like me in nursing homes*, we have also proved that we can cut carbon emissions and live without cars and airplanes. We have chosen to save human lives by social distancing (which is nothing like solitary confinement) and without knowing it, caused a miracle:

The cleanest air quality worldwide in 75 years.

“They” said it couldn’t be done. “They” are usually wrong and want to manipulate you into apathy, depression and self-destruction. “They” underestimate the Power you have, your shining beauty of self resilience. “They” want you to forget that everything is ashe and we are children of ashe, shapers of ashe and have at least as much ashe as “they” do.

If you ever doubted yourself, your power, your visions for the world, your dreams, your ability to see and affect real change, remember this moment. “They” were wrong. We can make the planet a better place. And you still talked on the phone, visited on Skype, ordered pizza, re-read your favorite books, put on a mask and sat out on the stoop hearing bird song, wore your most comfy PJs, listened to your favorite playlists, smoked your weed, had yoga class on Zoom, used your CBT skills, cast spells, and knew that whatever fears about your finances and loved ones you have, you were not alone because your problems are finally the focus of mainstream media.

Until there is a proven safe in the long run vaccine, which my doctors say is not going to happen soon and they certainly wouldn’t be the beta testers (the first six years of a medication or vaccine is on the market is the beta test – I’ve unknowingly been a beta tester of medication no longer on the market), you and the rest of us will rely on what has allowed the human species to thrive on 6 continents: creativity; communication; community; curiosity.

You are not in solitary confinement. You are choosing to keep people safe and inadvertently make the planet a place that can support your and other people’s lives. If you will continue to make choices and create “new normals” to keep human beings safe and make the planet a place that can support your and other people’s lives, especially the most marginalised folks, I don’t know. 

I just know that you did and you can.

Many blessings on you. I am not a misanthropic self-hating “environmentalist” – I am a part of Nature environmentalist.

My professional ecologist friend had emailed me saying that the scientific community was following a virus in China. It was the long overdue “it event” they’d been bracing for: something that would kill humans – and of course the most disenfranchised people would be hit the hardest (social isolation doesn’t exist in the shanty towns surrounding Rio and the slums of Calcutta) – and improve the quality of life for every other species. I said “I was in Toronto during SARS, and my “it event” (chemical poisoning by the Episcopal Bishop living in a Manhattan penthouse and the Vestry of Trinity Church in Saugerities, NY) happened.”

Last week his mother was barely conscious and is dying from COVID-19.

Three candles illuminate the darkness: truth, knowledge, nature. Light those air cleaning beeswax candles, protect those candles already burning, and banish ignorance, apathy and depression.

The canals in Venice have jellyfish. A miracle “they” said we couldn’t control our greed enough to allow to happen. Take the miracles when you can.

*  I am considered in need of nursing home level care. Right now, it’s good luck that Mast Cell Activation Syndrome means a nursing home just like a hospital, dentist or Red Cross emergency shelter under normal circumstances would possibly kill me. The book Steel Bats, Sacred Waters was not written only for people in prisons, the “proven to not help the victims or community” punitive “justice” system.

It was also written for those who are trapped in medical institutional living facilities – where your SSI check is taken and in exchange someone else controls your meals, doesn’t allow sex, doesn’t allow you a glass of wine or cannabis tincture, doesn’t allow an overnight guest, has confined you to a room with a stranger, usually in conditions that don’t exactly meet the requirements to stay open, but stay open because they tell us that there’s no other way to keep enough of these “healing” places open if the health rules were strictly followed.

You, too, get SBSW for $12. If you are ink intolerant like myself, of course you should email me. I am banned from books I want to read, too.

For the prisoners of all “living facilities” – I wrote the book for you as well. It says so in the dedication. If we organize and fight back, we shall overcome. You are not forgotten. Please join the Disability Justice movement and know that there are other hidden people who are ignored by the media making differences for our oppressed communities. Don’t believe “their” hype. You are powerful and you matter.

Ancient Pagan Festivals in May

Please copy this for your Pagan pen pal in prison. Make sure that you already sent the weekly and monthly guide.

The Anglo-Saxon name for May is Thrimilci which translates into “three milkings a day.” Cows enjoyed fresh grass.

May is named for Roman Goddess Maia, who was similar to Terra Mater (Mother Earth). On May 1 Maia was worshipped with the sacrifice of a pregnant sow.

Beltain is the Gaelic festival beginning the light half of the year. Cattle were moved to the summer fields, protected by the tribe’s young men. Herbs that kill ticks and parasites were tossed in bonfires for both cattle and human purification. (In the cold winter farm animals often slept in the home.) A lot happens in Welsh mythology now: Rhiannon is sighted on horseback by Her future first husband. Scottish fairy queens are especially active, perhaps as fertility spirits, so it is bad luck to marry (especially wearing green, their favorite color). Ancient British Celtic tribes made large animal sacrifices around Beltain and Samhain. A transitional time, communication with the dead and divination are easier.

In Haitian Vodou, May 1 honors Azaka Medeh. Although kind, He is suspicious of city people and fears they will steal from him. He is a rural farmer associated with agriculture and loves to eat.

On May 1 the Romans honored Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”), She who cares for women. Bona Dea particularly cares for pregnant women, whether they choose to have a baby or an abortion. Her temple garden grew medicinal herbs that healed the sick who visited. Sitting on a throne, depicted as holding a cornucopia, Bona Dea is associated with the healing snake, with consecrated snakes even living in Her temple. Her father Faunus beat Her with a myrtle stick after getting Her drunk, so never say “wine” or “myrtle” in Her presence!

The Lares Praestites (“Standby Lares”) also had a ritual May 1. The Lares are the protective household spirits; the two Lares Praestites protected the Roman state as Their home.

Lemuria was a time in early May when the terrifying, hungry ghosts (lemures) of those who died too young could return home and harm the living. The head of the family spit out black beans for the ghosts to take instead of living kin. Crashing bronze items together loudly, he’d yell, “Ghosts of my ancestors be gone!” Lemuria was very old.

May 11 is sacred to the mother of the Lares, Mania (“Good One”), who is a death Goddess. Cakes shaped like ugly humans were offered to Mania. Dolls of Mania were hung on the front door to ward off threats.

On May 14 Romans purified their city of the past year’s evil by making 30 puppets from rushes called the Argei. Citizens gathered with Priests and Vestal Virgins on a bridge over the Tiber River and threw the Argei into the water. One Priestess, her hair uncombed, grieved the puppets’ deaths.

The 15th is sacred to the hunter Orisha Ochosi who helps with court cases, justice and balance.

The Mercuralia, in honor of Mercury, Roman God of commerce and travel, was honored by merchants on May 15 (or the full moon). Mercury was incredibly popular with the Celtic Gauls in modern France, Germany and the Alps.

In Rome the last week of May focused on an ancient Italian Goddess, Fortuna Primigenia (“Bringer of Increase”), a luck Goddess. At Her temple worshipers prayed for answers then randomly chose messages inscribed on oak from a chest. Without Priestly guidance, they deciphered what the meaning of the message was.

The end of May was also the time of the ancient rural festival Ambarvalia (“Beating of the Bounds”). Any evil in a Roman farmer’s fields was purified by a procession marking the farm’s boundaries to be protected by Mars. Ceres, grain Goddess, and Bacchus, vineyard God, also received sacrifices for the continued growth of crops. Everyone including animals did not work that day. Humans abstained from sex. Ritual hand washing began the ceremony and the oxen’s horns were decorated with garlands. A bull, sow and sheep were part of the procession that circled the farm’s boundaries three times as Ceres was invited to move into the fields. Then the three animals were sacrificed.

May 29 is the festival of ancient agricultural Goddess Dea Dia, whose worship was organized by the 12 Arval Brethren (“Field Brothers”), of whom the Roman Emperor was one. Her grove had Her temple, a dining hall and a bathing complex.

Lost Yoruban Women’s Ogun Snake Rites, Marie LaVeau & Religion in Dahomey

Heather Awen original T shirt turned into art
T Shirt my mother brought me from Haiti which I later framed – Heather Awen VIVE LA LIBERTE

April 20th is the birthday of activist and Priestess of Oshun Luisha Teish. Her book Jambalaya was the first title I ever bought hard cover because I was too excited for the cheaper paper back to be released. I had studied what little was available on Haitian Vodou because my mother was there in the 1986 revolution. Teish made me aware of other African Diaspora Religions including the Orisha and Marie LaVeau. She’s also the only person I have ever paid to attend a spiritual workshop.

(I didn’t know that Teish is part of the “Trans women are men who will rape us” nonsense and hate speech! So horrible when people only want what they believe in to be true. I doubt she’d be so keen on racism and sexism. What has happened to those who were once progressive? Now they are the oppressor.)

There’s a lot of African traditional religious practices that didn’t carry over into the modern neo-Yoruban religions like Lucumi. However, here’s one that is found in Marie LaVeau’s Congo Square dances. First a little African religious history for context.

“According to myth, there were no voduns in Dahomey until Agaja demanded that they be brought into the kingdom. Until that time, women of Dahomey gave birth to goats, and goats gave birth to humans. In order to alleviate this imbalance in nature, eleven voduns were carried en masse from the Fon heartland in Adja to Abomey. Among these were Hevioso, Gu, , Fa, and Legba. Only upon summoning the voduns and showing them devotion were natural reproductive capacities restored, humans giving birth to humans, goats to goats. Thus, regional history was rewritten, attributing the birth and regeneration of a new people to Agaja’s embrace of a pan-Dahomean cast of divinities. Contrary to the myth, the term “vodun” was in wide circulation in the region from as early as 1658, when Capuchin missionaries in Allada equated “vodun” with “god.” Hevioso, the vodun of thunder, originated in the small village of Hevie, halfway between Abomey and Ouidah. Other voduns had originated in Yorubaland before spreading across the region, some even to Abomey.

“Until the rise of the empire of Dahomey, there was no formal, centralized acknowledgment of the deities diffused throughout the region. Only when Dahomeans began co-opting the local deities of the peoples they conquered did the official pantheon of vodun actually emerge. Reproduction and regeneration were at stake as the nascent empire teetered. In response, Agaja instituted a policy of appropriating the deities of conquered peoples, importing their shrines and priests to Abomey, where they were integrated into the official royal pantheon.”

Domingos Álvares, African healing, and the intellectual history of the Atlantic world James H. Sweet. 2011 The University of North Carolina Press

However, in the roots of Voodoo and Hoodoo, enslaved Africans shared what they could of their various religions.

“The primary African components from which Hoodoo would be constituted were drawn from a range of different African ethnic cultures that stretched from the area now known as Senegal down the West African coast to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because it concerned the transformation of a variety of traditional African religions into one spiritual tradition, Hoodoo must have involved a major confrontation of spiritual forces. The early disintegration process included a great reduction in ability not only to ritualize across the life cycle, but also to engage openly in significant events, which would help to stabilize and enrich the psychocultural continuity in the slave community. The most sacred of Christian symbols, the cross, resonated both with African notions of the crossroads as a supernatural site and with the sacred cross of the Kongo Yowa cosmogram. The symbol represents the Bakongo people’s view of the universe and the place of humankind in that universe. Among other qualities, it symbolizes the movement from the otherworld of the ancestors as they travel in a dynamic cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

“Southwest Hoodoo region, was centered in the Gulf Coast/New Orleans/Mobile area; this area would include the western Florida panhandle, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi and extend westward into eastern Texas and northward to Missouri and Tennessee. In this region, the Senegambian, Mande speakers, particularly the Bambara in Louisiana, would leave a fortified cultural legacy that recognizably contributed directly to Hoodoo development. The Bambara in particular were concentrated in such numbers there, that a Bambara interpreter was installed in the New Orleans court system. Their best-known and documented contribution to Hoodoo may be in the fabrication of protective amulets known by a variety of Mande labels, including gerregery (gris-gris), wanga, and zinzin. Other groups in area one include those from the Yoruba, Fon, and Ewe cultural complex as well as from Central West Africa or the Kongo-Angola-Zaire area.”

Mojo Workin’: the old African American Hoodoo System by Katrina Hazzard-Donald, University of Illinois 2013

I share these to provide historical context of how a 19th century Yoruban Ogun tradition may have had a similar practice in 19th century New Orleans. Here’s the Yoruban history:

“For an instance of female devotion to Ogun, there was the female butcher noted by E. M. Lijadu far away at Ondo in 1892. As she went into her stall in the market, she gathered up her iron implements, split kola and threw the pieces several times over them, and offered some incantations. To Lijadu’s question, she said she was “consulting Aje the goddess of money through Ogun the god of iron [and that] Aje promises to send me many customers with much money to carry home after the market.” This OgunAje linkage is attested from elsewhere; and as a woman’s ritual directed at personal wealth, it may perhaps be seen as practically analogous to the cult of Ori, which was popular among wealthy women in central and southwestern Yorubaland but apparently absent from the East. As described here by Lijadu, such elements of the ritual as breaking kola over iron tools seem identical to those practiced by male workers with iron.

“But the main way in which Ogun appears in the CMS journals as an object of women’s worship is quite different: not as iron but as a snake. It was not exclusively a women’s cult, though women were most active in it (as indeed in most forms of orisha worship). The most dramatic account of the cult of Ogun as snake comes from Ijaye in 1855: “It was the annual Ifa festival of the Ar Kurunmi, despotic ruler of the town, and large crowds had gathered before the gate of his compound. Most of them were said to be “worshippers of the orisa called Ogun or snake,” for Kurunmi’s late mother had been one of its principal devotees, and this was in remembrance of her. Lots of snakes of different sizes from different parts of the town were brought to “play” with Kurunmi, but he wouldn’t allow them inside his house since (says the African catechist Charles Phillips) he was afraid of them.” The cult was most publicly manifest when its members went about the town with their Ogun snakes, offering blessings in the god’s name and receiving gifts (in essence, sacrices) of cowries in return. A traveling Methodist missionary was visited by a female “snake charmer” at Oyo in the early 1890s. Our last glimpse of the cult is again in lbadan, when a European woman missionary encounters “sitting by the roadside an old woman, an Ogun worshipper with a huge snake coiled round the body, and she asking alms of the people. ”

From Christianity, Islam, and Orisa Religion: Three Traditions in Comparison and Interaction by J. D. Y. Peel, available for FREE here at University of California, Luminosoa.

On to Marie LaVeau!

“The drummer started a slow beat; a trumpet made from an animal’s horn sounded four long notes. The gathering had begun. As Marie Laveau crossed Rampart Street and neared Congo Square, the multi-leveled roofs of the French Quarter and the spires of St. Louis Cathedral rose behind her. At the entrance to the dance plaza, she passed market women selling their wares—pecan pies, spruce beer, Louisiana rum, and pralines filled with peanuts, coconut, or popcorn. Marie had left the corsets, petticoats, and heavy undergarments she wore to church that Sunday morning at home. In their stead, she chose a loose, low-necked cotton dress that permitted easy movement in the subtropical humidity and allowed the Great Serpent Spirit to enter and use her body. Her gold earrings and bracelets flashed in the sun, and her tignon—a vividly colored madras handkerchief wound as a turban—stood high in seven points. The policemen stationed at each of the four gates to Congo Square watched the crowd part as Marie Laveau passed. They were waiting for her.

“When Marie Laveau’s magical spells, commanding presence, or strategic bribery had taken hold, the police relented and joined the crowds to watch her perform. Marie slipped off her shoes and walked to the center where magical lines from the four corners and the four gates intersected. As was her custom, she knelt on the ground and rapped three times. The crowd loved the one-two-three rhythm and shouted it with her—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Faith, Hope, and Charity. Then from a box near her feet, she lifted a fat snake. The earth-toned creature—probably a Louisiana Coluber—was not poisonous, but it stretched twelve to twenty feet and entwined itself in undulating coils about the body of the priestess.

“Marie signaled the band and began to move with slow, sinuous grace. Bare soles flat on the packed earth of Congo Square, she shifted her weight from one ankle to another, then to her knees, thighs, hips, torso, and up to her shoulders. Her feet never lifted from the ground; she swayed in waves like the movement of snakes. Other women joined her and danced within their own tight circles or rings, some no larger than ten feet in diameter. Many waved white handkerchiefs “extended by the corners in their hands.” Men with bracelets of bells on their calves danced in circles around the women. Sometimes they balanced bottles of rum or other spirits on their heads. They mimicked fighting and leaped into the air in displays of gymnastic ferocity.

“On the Sunday afternoons when Marie Laveau herself danced, Congo Square was spirit theater. Marie devoured drumbeat, song, and motion. They drove her from her body, out of her social identity, and into the climax of spirit possession. As the snake curled about her, she called to its soul in song—“Come Great Serpent Spirit. Join us, Le Grand Zombi.” The serpent spirit entered her, became who she was; they whirled as one in ecstasy and awe. “He comes, the Great Serpent. Comes to make things happen. Comes to face down death.”

“Marguerite Darcantel, mother to the first queen and grandmother to the second, was—the gumbo ya-ya says—a fever nurse, hoodoo doctor, and Voodoo practitioner. People said she was a descendant of a Christian slave from the Kingdom of Kongo, a long line of Native American herbalists and healers, and several French and Spanish aristocrats. The gumbo ya-ya says that Marie’s mother’s mother came directly to Louisiana from the Central African kingdom and passed on spiritual customs to her daughter and granddaughter that resemble those of the ngangas or mediums, priestesses, or shamans of widespread religious movements in Kongo.”

Voodoo Queen: the spirited lives of Marie Laveau Martha Ward. University Press of Mississippi (2004)

Who is Le Grand Zombi?

“Marie Laveau drew upon the teachings and practices of Saint-Domingue and Africa for her work. In naming her famous snake “Li Grand Zombi,” Laveau paid homage not to shambling animated corpses but to a powerful spirit—the Kongo creator Nzambi. According to Kongo legend, Nzambi created the heavens, the earth, and the animals. Then, after creating man and woman, he taught them how to survive in his world and how to harness the magical power of his creation. By using those teachings they could break the blazing droughts and bring down the summer rain; they could heal sickness and ensure fertile crops. They could also communicate with the mpungas, deceased ancestors and nature spirits who assisted Nzambi in maintaining his creation.

“In Haiti, Vodouisants honor the Simbi family of lwa. Like the basimbi, snake spirits living in the rivers and streams of southern Africa, the Simbis are known to be shy but powerful magicians. Those who approach them with due patience and respect and gain their trust find they are powerful allies who can act as intermediaries between the worlds of flesh and spirit and life and death. Within New Orleans, believers and practitioners considered Li Grand Zombi a benevolent protector and wise teacher. In New Orleans the snake served simultaneously to advertise to one’s clientele and to set them apart as outsiders. This is similar to Simbi’s liminal position in Haiti. As a traveler between worlds, Simbi is tough to pin down. One of the most popular Simbis, Simbi Andezo, literally resides “in two waters” (an de zo), occupying the space where freshwater meets the salty ocean. Li Grand Zombi is similarly placed between public Voodoo rituals for tourists and private devotions, between religion and entertainment, between African roots and American money-making spectacles. In this, he is a fitting patron for the city of New Orleans and its religion.”

– The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan. Destiny Books (2011)

I know that Hoodoo and conjure are popular topics for Witches. If you are really committed to understanding the various African Diaspora Religions, read more than spells and dig into the fascinating history of West and Central Africa, horrors of European style slavery of Africans, and the spiritual legacy the two created. Things will make sense on many levels of interconnectedness. Try these books!

BRITISH PAGAN ALERT! Moon Books & other UK Pagan Publishers!

Haven Books to Prisoners

On top of buying British prisoners dictionaries to prisoners learning English, helping prisoners with dyslexia, and aiding prisoners in buying text books,

“Haven also provides prisoners a free catalogue of donated books from publishers, and books that are bought cheaply from remainder bookshops. These books range from Social Sciences such as Philosophy and Criminology, to Black Interest and political science, plus some fiction and graphic novels.”

So if you are a British publishing company, please contact Haven if you have copies to donate!

 SHOP ON AMAZON.UK?

 “(You can help by b)uying anything from Amazon through this affiliate link to www.amazon.co.uk. Haven receives a donation of 5% of everything you buy after following this link (excluding shipping and VAT).

“Haven provides essential tools for the creation of a resettled life after prison, without crime, providing a cost-effective service and an investment in the future of the growing number of applicants who seek our support.

“Thank you to those who donated for our Radio 4 Appeal; we managed to raise over £16,000. Listen to our appeal for support:

“My support for Haven books stems from my own prison experience. When I went to prison for life in 1984 I had no hope or any sense at all that I would or could ever again live any kind of a contributing life. If anything I was relieved that my destructive life was effectively over. Life outside had been painful for me, but more importantly painful for other people because of me. I entered prison an inarticulate, ill-educated brute – but luckily I was literate. Books provided a gateway into education and through education I learned a better way to live.

“Despite the best efforts of various prison libraries however, getting hold of the right books was always a struggle. Sometimes it took months to locate a particular textbook. It was three years before I owned my own dictionary. Significantly I think, the most popular requests to Haven even today are for dictionaries.

“Over the years I counted books among my best friends in prison. They gave me hope, for sure – but more than anything they were the practical means to achieving a life worth living. When the chance came for me to write for the Guardian newspaper from my prison cell fifteen years into my sentence I realised that unwittingly I had been preparing for the opportunity with books. Books inspired me to become a writer and for the first time in my life enabled me to become a contributor to my society.

“I have never considered myself to be a spokesman for prisoners, but I met hardly anyone during my twenty years inside who did not have the desire to change and a yearning to live a crime free life. Without books few of us would ever make it. For that reason I applaud the ideals of Haven books. Every book this tiny organisation sends into a prison represents a potential key to a better life for the individual recipient – and to a safer community for everyone.”

Erwin James is a Guardian columnist and author of two books: A Life Inside and The Home Stretch. He is a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and a patron of the charity CREATE, which promotes the arts and creative activities among marginalized groups. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (FRSA) and an Honorary Master of the Open University (MUniv.)