Brid, Brigantia, Brigid Festivals

Heather Awen copyright, St Brigid well
St Brigid’s Well, Co. Clare, copyright Heather Awen photo.

Last year I covered the Goddess of Britain’s most powerful tribe, Brigantia, and how the Goddess Brig became the Saint Brigid. Also, I shared the story of an incarcerated transwoman’s decision to recover from PTSD due to rape, based on her experience with this simple rite/prayer to Brigantia.

I’m adding some Imblog information and ritual invocations from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:Celtic Paganism for Prisoners in the hope that you will be inspired to donate $12 so an incarcerated Pagan receives a free copy. Please email us if you would like to spread the knowledge of our deities to the forgotten 1%.

“Imbloc (or Imblog or Oimlec) is covered in the Imbloc Ritual to Brigid. It is Imbloc in Scottish Gaelic, too. Pronounce it “imbolk.” In Welsh it is called Gwyl Ffraed, for Brigid. As it is the end of winter in Ireland (the wet winds are fierce then) and even colder in Scotland, it is a household hearth ritual, not intertribal. The seasonal celebration is gratitude for the longer days and the milk from sheep giving birth.”

Artist and all round good guy Armi Dee worked intently on providing the first visual instruction I’ve ever understood on how to make a Brigid’s Cross. I, Heather Awen, wrote the incantation to charge it in ritual.

“Brigid of the fiery arrow

And the cows who always provide milk,

You who hung your wet cloak on a sunbeam,

And guarded many a family and its animals,

To you I pray.

Your equal armed cross I made

Symbol of the Sun herself

To bring your divine blessings

Into mortal lives.

Hearth Goddess, protect our homes,

Protect our wealth,

Protect our health.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine into my life through your cross.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine in our lives through your cross.

Thank you, Exalted Brigid!”

Imbolc Invocation for Making Offerings to Brigid by Heather Awen

“O Goddess,

Mistress of the Flames of Healing, Making, Creating,

Triple daughter of The Dagda

First to keen

And wife of the treacherous Bres

I call to you.

Brigid who is foster mother of the World

Who hears and answers countless prayers

Please join me here

On this, your sacred day.

Let my love for you reach you

Let my love for you reach you

Please may my love for you reach you,

Bright beacon of hope, home and health.

O Brigid, know how much I value you,

Wondrous one who nourishes the World.

Dear compassionate Brigid

Whose fire lights up my spirit

Please accept this offering!”

 

Have a happy Imbolc, Oilmec, Candlemas, St Brid’s Day or whatever you celebrate!

 

 

 

The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?

By Vicky Pelaez

Source: Global Research

Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP

According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:

. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

.The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.

. Longer sentences.

. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.

. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.

. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.

 

HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES

 

Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.

During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.

Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.

Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”

PRIVATE PRISONS

The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.

Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES

Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.

After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.

STATISTICS

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

Desultory Heroics

national-occupy-day-in-support-of-prisoners-022012-by-kevin-rashid-johnson-web

By Vicky Pelaez

Source: Global Research

Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus…

View original post 1,661 more words

The Inner Work of Liberation

Toin Adams
by Toin Adams, used with permission

“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 achieves 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

Good Money: Harm Reduction & Porn in Prison Politics (penpal info)

(Trigger Alert: Sex work, pornography, sexual abuses of power.)

If you are writing someone in prison, odds are that they can’t afford paper and stamps to write you very often. (It is illegal to send stamps or blank paper.) Western Union and other ways of putting money into your friend’s trust fund (or “on the books”) take a percentage of your money. There’s also normally a fee, and spending $8 so a penpal gets $5 is ridiculous. Plus, if your penpal is in higher security, they’ll often have strict limitations about how much they can spend of their own money. They probably can buy stamps and paper, but possibly not any food which is really necessary due to the tiny meals in prison.

There’s always “good money” and ” bad money”. Bad money is drugs and cell phones, which need to be smuggled into prison by guards or visitors with the help of staff on the payroll of gangs. I am not suggesting doing that.

Good money is totally legal sexy photographs of women in microbikinis, transparent fabrics (not clear latex), mesh and thongs. The women can hold their naked breasts or have a bare bottom if there’s other clothing. As long as the inner lips, vagina, anus and nipples are covered, the photos are fine. The mail room goes through them, taking out any that show too much. Wives and girlfriends often send similar pictures.

The pictures are not any more revealing than what you see in most R rated movies or the Hollywood red carpet. Some are kinda artsy. However, there’s more to it than seeing some flesh. The woman has to look like she actually wants to have sex. The blank model face actually works because fantasies can be projected, while a big smile staring at the camera usually does not. (People usually don’t grin during sex. A come hither smile sometimes works.)

There are two things that you want to keep in mind when choosing photographs: 1. Is the position one that invites sexual activity or is common for sex (penetration or pleasuring a woman orally)? 2. Is the model dressed so it is like she is naked? By this, I mean looking for the following: her vulva’s shape can be seen through transparent underwear; her bottom is naked; the darkness of her nipples shows through the fabric/mesh?

These are the same clothes that celebrities wear to the beach, and those tabloid pictures (if the position is right) should be included. Good microbikini and mesh swimsuit photo shoots often come from topless beaches in the Mediterranean, but rarely include Black women and have no Latinas or Asian women. Bony white women aren’t that attractive to prisoners, but those pictures show everything possible. Suicide Girls (in prison-approved level nakedness) do not sell, and neither will Playboy or Penthouse models in lacey bras and panties. Meanwhile, Etsy can have some good photos from stores making stripper gear or lingerie. As far as actual porn sites, ones with Bikini or XL in the name are quite popular.

Prisoners (like everyone) have fantasy lovers and “types”. There’s quite a large demand for mature amateur BBW (big beautiful women). Mature models are often the same age of the prisoners. The men want to be with “real women” with whom they’d actually be dating or married, so make sure to search “BBW” and “mature” with “mesh” and “lingerie.” There’s often a few men into pregnant bellies. (They usually have a child and can remember a happier time in their lives this way.) Asian and Latina models are just as popular as the mostly white women who will come up on a search for “microbikinis” but you need to specify “Asian microbikinis” (or whatever ethnicity your multicultural assortment needs).

Black women are the hardest to find due to Internet search engines. “Black women mesh” gets you photos of white women in black mesh. If you search “ebony pornstars” you’ll get close to what you want (although you’ll see hardcore porn in trying to find the rare Black pin up girls). That’s something that bothers me; I don’t want to see hardcore sex presented with all the degrading words about the woman. It really upsets me, and it’s only when trying to find Black women that I have to do that.  See, the photos on their own are actually often great as an artist to study. Put in the context of degrading headlines and misogynistic comments, I feel threatened, like all men see me and other women this way.

Again, it is like context that makes it clear that this woman exists to sexually please men that upsets me. The “softcore” photos themselves are usually interesting to examine for artistic reasons. Also I  can see each woman’s appeal, from the 65 year old women with old tattoos on cellulite dimples on thick thighs to the almost bursting belly surrounded in black lace of a pregnant woman. Normally I don’t see lots of naked women of all shapes, ages and colors. The labia shape or nipple color of different women even seen in these “pin up girl” pictures is new to me. It seems strange that I don’t know all these varieties of women’s bodies, like as a woman I should recognize my sisters, not go “What is that?”

Black women pop up if you search “phat thong” etc. Really, any ethnicity in a thong, pulling down her undies, or bent over with her skirt raised is a big hit. The big butt “close up” in a barely noticeable thong is popular, just like twerking in music videos. I was worried that I didn’t have many Black women in positions not butt-centric, but was told “most of the Brothers want that.” No one has asked for a skinny, light skinned Black woman like Beyonce and the few pix I sent didn’t sell. There certainly is a bias against Black women with their natural hair, which is depressing. That “Brothers” think white hair is better than Black hair hints at the internalized racism many prisoners struggle with. (“I didn’t know there could be Black intellectuals. Teachers assume we are stupid.”)

I learned a lot about the diversity of who is considered sexy doing this. The “jailbait” stuff doesn’t go over well. Fat does. Yes, there’s still a preference for the hourglass shape, but a large belly fanbase, too. Images of regular looking women, women to whom the media tries to sell shame and billions of dollars worth of diets, cosmetic surgery and toxic products, are worth food, books, tattoos and ways to write letters in prison. Women who may have no idea of their beauty and sexual power are vied for, bidding wars commence over, and yet at home they probably feel “less than”: 50 years old, 200 lbs, sagging and wrinkled – everything women “should not” be. The media is lying. When men can only see models and actresses on TV and in magazines, with their factory -produced sameness, the desire for stretch marks and waist length breasts is still there.

With the search words “women mooning” I found lots of pictures of “regular looking” women size 8 to 18 pulling down their jeans or PJ bottoms outside. They were a surprising hit. I think that because these photos are usually taken by spouses (wedding band) and there’s a sense of playfulness and intimacy, the men really responded. One said, “I can imagine my future girlfriend being cute on holiday morning like that.” Personalities shrine through and dreams of real love are kept alive.

I did, in the beginning, have a sudden panic. “I’m a porn … something! Ack ack!” There’s so many conflicting opinions about sex work not from a Puritan POV, but a gender equality and safety of women POV. (I am aware that men are sold into sex slavery and face similar threats as women from sex work. Because I’m writing about photos of women or women I knew, though, I use the pronoun “she.”)

All my Riot Grrl friends who were call girls or strippers talking about female empowerment (almost always after being raped by someone they knew like an exboyfriend or talked into it by a boyfriend) today regret being sex workers, have buried it deep in their pasts, and want it to be stopped. And yes, all sex worker clients I’ve had as a psychic were drug addicts so I had to drop them as meth and my psyche don’t mix well.

But I know that for many women with disabilities, sex for 1 hour is much less painful than 9 hours keyboarding. I personally don’t see the difference between what part of the person is used for money, as all jobs involve renting yourself out. 85% of Americans hate their jobs, which means there is psychological damage from the majority of jobs. What specific negative psychological effects are caused by sex work? In the women I knew, the core psychological problems existed before any sex work. However, I don’t know if some women go into sex work perfectly healthy and are traumatized by the sex work. It would be easy to say sex workers are helping the patriarchy, but almost every job helps the status quo. It’s not like making money for IBM or Exxon is helping women. Men own the strip clubs and many agencies – Suicide Girls used to lie about being feminist and female owned but it was a man using his girlfriend’s name, to subvert feminism for his income. But men own all the major companies that rule the world in general, so again, what’s the difference?

I worry most about two things: the safety of sex workers, whose rapes, beatings and murders are generally ignored by the police and an uncaring “she deserved it” Puritan population. Also, the consent of the models – Are their eyes blood shot? Glassy? I avoid anyone who looks high. As I teach Intersectional Feminism to prisoners so they’ll have social skills for today, one man asked “Are we just replacing using women with using pictures? How do I know that she gave consent?” As the photos are part of harm reduction (to reduce infractions from masturbating looking at female COs who sometimes respond in a similar way and other times delay them receiving parole), I remind them that this is to prevent infractions, not a new forever way of life.

The other concern is about how pornography affects young people who might think porn is the same as sex. That positions the camera likes are ones people enjoy. That as a man, you have to make a woman scream in delight and as a woman, you have to say and do things that you don’t want to because pornography makes it seem as if it’s normal. There’s hundreds of versions of bad lessons that are being taught about sex on the Internet.

Which goes to my next concern – the general worldwide understanding that women exist to help men. Free emotional labor, sex we don’t really want, doing most of the house and family care, the 55¢ a Latina makes compared to her white male co-worker’s $1, postmenopausal women kept in concentration camps as Witches, removing a pubescent girl’s clitoris, how we dress whether it is mostly naked or totally covered, safety going out of the home, the amount of children a woman is forced to give birth to regardless of her health, income, goals, needs and desires, and about a million more glaring inequalities – Yes, these pictures do reinforce that belief that women in all ways are secondary to men.

Still, I believe in the sacredness of expressing one’s sexuality. I want a world where that’s safe for everyone. I want “sacred prostitution” ie a sexual deity devoted Priesthood trained in psychology especially trauma, somatics, disability, safe awakening of Kundalini, energy and body work, who consult with the seeker’s medical or psychological healer if necessary, so this incredible energy provides its fullest, healthiest power to everyone. Sexuality in all its wild to relaxed forms, where sensuality and emotional awareness is consciously connected to the body again. I want floods of oxytocin, created by breastfeeding, orgasm and grooming each other (safe touch by the people you know well), to provide the contentment which could easily dismantle our culture’s dopamine addiction.

(Dopamine addiction is a large part of video game and online pornography addiction. The brain “on  dopamine” focuses on the hunt, the win. Dopamine does this so we won’t starve and we’ll have a pleasant, restless ambition to do something meaningful. But when the “win” (killed the enemy in a video game, found a photo to get you off) happens so fast and you can just get that high, the body’s natural cocaine, again and again by clicking buttoms, a dependence on dopamine occurs. “Retail therapy” and gambling are other versions of getting dopamine “hits.” This is one way technology is controlling its creators and new psychiatric diagnosis are created.)

You want to destroy capitalism? Cultivate contentment, which is what oxytocin does. You see it in other primates grooming each other. It is probably why people pay for having their hair washed and to receive massages. If we followed evolutionary psychological needs and did these things for free from birth in communities, buying that useless stuff or addiction wouldn’t be very attractive. (Having taken doctor prescribed oxytocin and reading studies on it I can agree that it doesn’t make you feel any closer to people with whom you don’t already have a good, close relationship. It is NOT natural MDMA.)

In the end, the many ways these pictures provide harm reduction (soon to be explained) combined with how many men (and a lot of feminist women) I’ve met watch hardcore porn helped me decide if I should send the pictures. If everyone else has the right to get off, why not prisoners? It’s just more psychological torture. Plus, these could be 1980s record covers! Access to bikini girl pictures wouldn’t cause more world problems than not having access to them does. (Yes, I think a lot about my choices.) 

I call these issues, where I have a foot in the wonderful world we are trying to create and a foot in the world that has purposefully created barriers to that future world, and no choice is really the “right one” “Sophie’s Choices” like the film. The Nazis allow a woman named Sophie to save only one of her children from the camps. The rules of the game aren’t made by the billions of Sophies trying to do the best thing in a society that doesn’t care about what Sophie really wants.

Back to the world of photos in prison!

Photos are worth stamps, which is a unit of currency in prison. A 10¢ picture can equal a 50¢ stamp. Sometimes prison is almost Marxist in that the same picture costs less for prisoners who are not allowed access to much of their own money compared to prisoners who can buy much more on the day the Commissary is open. It is often a sliding scale depending on income. Other times it’s a bidding war, which is why you can send the same, “best selling” photos every month – other people who wanted a specific photo get their chance.

The mail room will review each picture, looking for anything contraband. Some workers are more strict about it than others. I always expect 10 pictures to not make it into my penpals, especially when trying something new, like semi-transparent latex (a mailroom no go) or pantyhose (popular in the UK; you’ll learn about different cultures doing this).

To carry the photographs to buyers who have more goods available for exchange are prisoners who have good behavior and spend their days sweeping floors or emptying trash throughout the prison. These men are known as “legs” and a smart prisoner gives them gifts on top of payment.

I don’t know of any women in prison using good money, although it is not easy to find a girlfriend like many assume. Also, if two queer people meet in prison and fall in love, the prison will transfer one. Meanwhile, people who have tried to kill each other are kept on the same unit. Prison really wants to cause as much suffering – and as few skills for a better life – as possible. In fact, prison often destroys the few skills many people incarcerated have for a better life.

A collection of 300 pictures that you rotate in groups of 100 is a great monthly gift. It costs less than $10 at online shops if you wait for free shipping or a 3¢ print code once you’ve already used their service for free prints. Ask your penpal which ones are most popular in general, and keep those as your core. The 6th month the picture arrives, the 6th man who wanted to buy it finally can. New inmates are constantly arriving. Rotate the “special items” that have less buyers but definitely a few “collectors.” Sometimes one prisoner will buy all 100 pictures flat out in a mix of stamps, paper, envelopes, soap, snacks or OTC medication. 

Good money can provide a role for your penpal in the prison ecosystem. By having an incredibly rare commodity, they are valued in “the user” mentality so on display. If your friend is in a vulnerable population or situation, this may prevent them from being harmed or murdered. The only competition is South Beach Singles whose photos cost 50¢, catalogs cost $5, and the photos haven’t changed in years. If guys want your brand new photos from somebody’s Pininterest collection of “sheer clothes on hotties” – and they do – they probably will not mess with your penpal. Without him, there’s no you sending pictures.

Good money can also provide harm reduction for male inmates having dangerous sexual relationships with the worst female guards who randomly write infractions that punish the men for engaging in sexual behavior the same female guard encourages the next day. This is very frightening because after several years of this, the prisoners can’t stop because it’s the only intimacy they have. Sometimes COs have “boyfriends” who are very territorial. This leads to a lot of violence. He gets more food, a snuck in cell phone, drugs on top of sex. Meanwhile, for the rest of the prisoners, the punishment keeps them from leaving prison and the sexual relationships keep them hooked. Often it’s a version of Stockholm Syndrome. I can’t imagine what the psychological damage must be like when these men finally are released and trying to interact with any women. (Hence, Intersectional Feminism for Prisoners.)

Our culture often thinks women aren’t sexual abusive or part of “power over” dynamics. For this reason it’s a more confusing situation for the male prisoners affected, who have learned that very same sexism. With discussions about consent everywhere, a prisoner asked “Is this consensual sex? I’m not told if she will give me an infraction afterwards or just randomly on a day nothing happened. There’s almost never any talking so there’s no yes or no. They have great power over us. Our showers, our food, our mail, and our sexuality. But we’re unable to say no when it’s the only time we make eye contact with someone who can be kind, the only time we feel a connection to someone and the only sexual release. There are guards I’ve masturbated for, for over a decade. I like to think that they feel something special for me.” The Stockholm Syndrome is well in place. These same women will suddenly write an infraction for behaviors they encouraged other days.

“We have to read their moods by asking how the day is. Also, guys will yell to the rest of us ‘Ms. Jones is a beast! Ms. Davies is ready to go!’ so we know who wants it. But it would be so much easier if women just told us. How can I learn about consent? A new CO told me twice that she’s very strict except for masturbation. Is it a trap or invitation?”

It is illegal to masturbate in American prisons, a law passed by Bush after he was Born Again. The law also bans the “Satanic” role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons and consensual homosexuality. As so many have explained in detail, it is clearly specific Christian faith sin-based beliefs pushed on people not of that religion. (What factual harm comes from playing D&D that playing chess or cards won’t?)

Other nations have found different solutions for safe masturbation (no infractions, no other prisoners in the room which could lead to rape, nudity is in newspapers), but other nations also don’t imprison 1 in 100 of their citizens.

None of them.

In Gratitude to Brig & How a Goddess Became a Saint

Heather Awen Photo Brig well
St Brigid’s Well somewhere in central Ireland from a windy roadtrip, copyright Heather Awen photo.

Brig saved my life once. I had been misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder and drugged out of my mind. In that state I married a psychologically abusive misogynist and fell apart as his control issues and lies strangled me. While on our honeymoon in Ireland I begged to Brig to cure me and give me sanity, tying a rag at Her well in Co. Clare. I’d ignored the psychologists who told me, “Heather, it’s not you, it’s your husband,” but Brig took my request seriously. Within two months he abandoned me, and a year later a rare good psychiatrist (Dr Joe Lasek) immediately said upon meeting me “You don’t have bipolar disorder. It’s ADHD. Let’s taper you off these drugs. If you weren’t hyperactive, you’d be unconscious!”

Heather Awen copyright, St Brigid well
St Brigid’s Well, Co. Clare, copyright Heather Awen photo.

In Brig’s honor I made a Mexican folk Catholic style ex voto. These are art depicting a horrible situation and the Saint who saved them. Usually the person draws the ex voto themselves but some people make a living painting them. Often the pictures are of drunk men hitting women or muggers with guns with the Virgin Mary or another Saint hovering over head. The sacred art is hung in churches as proof of the divine helping mortals.

I made mine a double face, one blue and looking up crying for depression, and one orange and looking down for mania, overlapping each other. Brig took bipolar away by getting me finally to a decent doctor who removed the 10 mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, and antipsychotics and gave me Provigil instead and, much relieved, I happily fell asleep.

ex voto brighid 001
Brig ex voto by Heather Awen copyright

At the top I hung a charm of a wedding couple. I painted the bride red in blood for how suicidal I became in this nightmare of gaslighting smoke and mirrors.

A little bucket (for milk, as She is associated with the abundance of cows) held a page from Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica Hymns and Incantations (1900) with a prayer to Saint Brid (pronounced “breed” the Scottish version of Her name). A pruned blackberry branch, a bush associated with Brigid, was attached with a red rag (clootie). I made an equal arm cross from Rowan, a tree associated with Brigid, as well. (The rowan was a gift from a friend’s farm after pruning.)

Brig isn’t the only Goddess to save my health. After 10 years of living with Lyme disease and Babesiosis, Freya cured me after I fulfilled a promise She asked for in return. And Brig’s forerunner Brigantia, based on a prayer I wrote to Her for recovery from PTSD, aided a transgender woman in a male prison in her rape recovery, as posted here.

Power & Religion: The Creation of St Brigid

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

“The British Ui Bairrche and Fothairt may have created St. Brigit from the Sovereignty Goddess Brig. The Ui Bairrche tribe were related to Britain’s powerful Brigantes (the tribe of Brigantia). They and their mercenaries, the Fothairt tribe, probably brought their Goddess Brig to Leinster when they migrated. The Fothairt were not originally important in Leinster, but they had the monastery of St. Brigit, which gave them some power by the 7th century. With its obviously Pagan roots of 19 female virgin fire tenders, the monastery was on the Curragh Plain, where originally Pagan horse races and religious activities had been held.

“Even before St. Patrick arrived, Christianity had a small following in Ireland, probably from Roman British tribes settling in Leinster, or through Irish families communicating between Wales and Leinster. Eventually Ulster’s powerful, new Ui Neill dynasty aligned themselves with St. Patrick and the Roman church. Meanwhile, the Ui Bairrche and Fothairt probably brought Christianity to Leinster, which used the native St. Brigit to consolidate its Christian power.

“St. Brigit gives some insight how the newly Christian Irish still understood a Sovereignty Goddess. Unlike Patrick, she never fights Pagans or their Druids. An early hymn starts by calling her Brigit, but then changes her name to Brig when asking for her protection. When Leinster was attacked she was seen in sky, defending her land. Unlike other medieval Irish saints who fasted and renounced the pleasure of the body, Brigit prepared eight miraculous feasts. She fixed the broken chalice of a king, handing it back to him whole. These are aspects of the Sovereignty Goddess and the Pagan king-making ceremony.”

 

Selected Bibliography

Bethu Brigte (Author: unknown), https://celt.ucc.ie//published/T201002/index.html

Byrne, Francis J., Irish Kings and High-Kings. Four Courts Press (2001)

Huth, Christoph and Monika Kondziella, Textile symbolism in Early Iron Age burials, CONNECTING ELITES AND REGIONS: Perspectives on contacts, relations and differentiation during the Early Iron Age Hallstatt C period in Northwest and Central Europe, Robert Schumann & Sasja van der Vaart-Verschoof (ed.) Sidestone Press (2017)

Meyer, Kuno trans., Hail Brigit: An Old-Irish Poem on the Hill of Alenn. Dublin: Hodges, Figgs, and Co. (1912)

Smyth, Alfred P., Celtic Leinster. Mount Salus Press Ltd. (1982)

Heather Awen copyright, Brigid
St Brigid’s Well somewhere in central Ireland on a roadtrip, copyright Heather Awen photo. (Friend said “It looks like a Black Sabbath album cover” LOL)

 

Resource: 1 in 6, help for men who were sexually abused as children and teenagers

There’s a really important resource for those of us who work with or have pen pals in prison: 1 in 6. 1 in 6 is the (low) estimate of the number of men who were sexually abused or raped as children or teenagers by adults – including far more women than society wants to think. Actually, why doesn’t EVERYBODY check out the 1 in 6 website right now? I promise that this blog post will be waiting for you. This is such an important issue that receives so little practical support, why not get educated so you can be part of the solution? If you are a man who is a survivor or the partner of one, 1 in 6 offers actual help: Free and anonymous chat-based support groups for male survivors of sexual abuse or assault—and partners of men—who are seeking a community of support. Each group meets weekly and is facilitated by a counselor.” 

As young women, my friends and I often shared our own experiences of childhood sexual abuse and rape, often with nervous laughter, a defiant look, or a dead, numb look and tone. It’s usually a sign we haven’t processed and integrated it. Very few of us at that stage will call it what it was – rape, incest, assault. We just tell the event(s) like out of context stories, often drunk at the end of Girls’ Night Out. My generation, Gen X, was taught rape was a stranger with a knife or gun in a park at night and had various ways of protecting ourselves. In reality, those ways, including self defense classes, didn’t address the biggest problem: almost 90% of those who experience sexual violence knew the person who did it – often very well. We had no language for it and then somewhere in our 30s, often when raising children who are around the age we were when violated, the word finally bashes its way into our consciousness: rape. And nothing is ever the same again.

I’ve heard transgender friends share their childhood sexual abuse truths with the same dull voice that comes from repeating it to therapists like rote memorization, too. It’s not an event that skips or chooses queer, trans, cisgenger, straight, class, lookist, race, faith or any other people.

This includes cisgender men – hetro, gay, bi, ace and whatever other labels used for sexuality.

I don’t know if I’m unusual in being the “only person that I’ve ever told” for so many men. Women tell me about their horrible experiences, too, very quickly. I think I give off a “harmless” vibe. (Male friends say I confused them with how easy it was to talk to me and feel safe, even if attracted to me.) Maybe I am so ADHD open about myself, it’s contagious. Or people can tell I don’t ever assume anyone would go through the Hell of claiming something that can temporarily destroy their life (community support for survivors is usually nil) and have it be a lie. The effects live in the survivors, while the rapists and paedophiles almost always seem to bounce back to their regular life. Maybe raping is their regular life. With 1 in 4 women raped, especially 1 in 5 raped in the US military by a “fellow” American soldier, and the 1 in 3 women who have been raped being raped by a group of men, you’d think that we’d all know lots of rapists. Add this 1 in 6 when it comes to men, we really should all know tons of rapists.

We do. It’s just that people don’t want to believe that their friends and family members could be rapists. I had a husband confess to me that he raped someone – and he didn’t even see it as rape. Evidently she was now feeling strong enough to tell people. He told me first, saying in a disgusted tone, “We were practically having sex, and SHE SAID NO, but at that point, what did it matter? We’d already done other stuff.” My heart froze and head went numb. He left the country soon after this and years later I read the online that he was sexually assaulting women, and I certainly don’t doubt them. Sisters harmed by him, I’m sorry, and I got your backs.

But did I connect the word “rapist” to a husband I suddenly hated? To someone who literally fell off of my respect radar? No, strangely, I didn’t. “She said no” were his exact words and that he didn’t care. Rapist. That an otherwise intelligent, progressive man who even did half the housework without me asking would do such a thing didn’t quite click. Maybe I was in shock. I only cried once in our break up and divorce, and always wondered why I wasn’t feeling as nearly distraught as I had been over my old boyfriend in that that break up. 

 It would not be until my second marriage, hearing my new husband – a “salt of the earth” guy – talk angrily about how he should have had sex with his passed out prom date because she’d said they’d have sex that I thought RAPE. I sat on the couch watching him clench his teeth in rage about not taking an opportunity to rape someone, and my own experience of being raped started churning deep inside, fighting to get away from him. I thought I was crazy. The more misogynistic he revealed himself to be, the more a person who wanted to rape and said felt little control around 14 year old girls (the age I was when raped by someone I trusted completely in all matters, including to respect the fact that I wanted to stay a virgin), the more my subconscious and consciousness minds fought, bringing me to a nervous breakdown.

As I did rape recovery work, I started wondering not about my friends who in their teens and 20s spoke of their rapes as if they were normal pieces in a Norman Rockwell painting puzzle that wouldn’t quite fit, but about why no guys stopped these rapes. Many girls were raped in public, like a friend who was passed out in back of a truck where all the high school kids were tailgating (except there was no game; trucks in graveyards or parked along Main Street was there all the town’s action happened). While passed out, a guy raped her as (she learned later) others cheered him on. Or in situations, like where a friend was offered a ride home from a party by two male friends when she was fifteen and was raped, where two or more guys rape a girl they know and will see every school day; how did it never eat away at one of them? Where are all these men now? Our co-workers, our neighbors, people in our religious and political communities – are they haunted? Do they try to block the memories? Are they afraid, like my rapist, that because there’s no statue of limitations on raping someone underage in that state, that at any time their victims could all tell the police now? My rape is filled with various rape related agencies. His wife, saying I wanted it in writing, collaborates with all the other evidence. The thing is, his life is so terrible, for now, I’d rather let him live in fear. The combination of crystal meth and now methadone has ravaged his body and he’s universally hated (often behind the back) by everyone I’ve ever met who knows him. His wife’s family, including a rather popular blueglass roots band, disowned her for marrying him. 

I had known a Cornell University student of poetry whose predicted brilliant career kept being disrupted by stays at state mental hospitals, then alcoholism, and finally suicide. His mother had sexually abused him. In the 80s, before the book Courage to Heal (written just for women) even was published, there were almost no resources for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and certainly nothing for men – especially men who were violated by women, and even less for those who lived through incest by the mother.

The Goddess Spiritually movement really helped me as a teenager to process what of my rape I’d allow myself to name. Mostly I was enraged and for a year my body – almost independently of my mind – physically attacked every man I knew who treated women poorly. This included the man who raped me. A local saying was “Where Heather goes, bruised shins are sure to follow.” But the Goddess Spirituality movement at that time never told me how patriarchy hurts men – although I can’t blame it, as women were *just* barely getting any evidence that once upon a time, we mattered. Instead, it led to women having to figure out how someone could have power and not be an abuser. It was like being a victim made you good, because having power was too male. We were still in a binary world, and thank the deities that Starhawk invented terms like “power -within”, “power -over” and “power-with.”

Now I’ve moved from blaming patriarchy to blaming kyriarchy: “derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination… Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.” – Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation

Today most rape crisis centers have absolutely nothing to offer the 1 in 6 men sexually assaulted or raped as children and teenagers. Liberal Vermont has terrible services in general. The same goes for domestic violence – if a man or transwoman wants to stay at the shelter last I heard only one Vermont shelter allowed transwomen and none allowed men. Lionel Richie was the first famous man to speak out about domestic violence against husbands. (Maybe he was also the last?)

Queer people rape and sexually abuse children, too, but finding ways to talk about it without giving fodder to homophobia has been difficult. A gay friend with a gender neutral name was drugged and raped in college. He called 911 and the police arrived with the rape kit – and made jokes when they saw the victim was a man. A woman I met was sexually abused by her mother’s lesbian partner in the 80s. For liberals*, how were we to process this? Gay women were capable of sexually abused 3 year olds? Stand by the victim and risk looking homophobic, in a world that already too often thinks homosexual and paedophilia are the same? Meanwhile, domestic violence in gay and lesbian couples was causing a similar issue. Do victims speak out and ask for help – knowing that some people would call them “traitor” and remove them from their part of the queer community?

This was happening in activist circles, too. Only a couple years ago did Earth First! finally support a woman raped and manipulated by an older male guru type when she lived in a group with him protecting wolves. She lost her entire support network when she left and told.  Her story is so common, it’s why leftist groups lose women so frequently to feminist women only groups. When your male heterosexual lover values everyone in the world more than you, and everyone working for change ignores the kyriarchal, misogynistic status quo in the leftist scenes, it’s hard for a self-respecting women to remember why she bothers in the first place. (A woman who was a working member of my old food co-op said of meetings “The two men in the collective argue with each other loudly, we watch unable to get a word in, and they arrive at decisions we approve because we just want to leave. I don’t think they realize that they’re not in charge of the collective. They never make any space for how we, the majority of the working members, all women, discuss and make decisions when alone. 90% of the membership are basically tokens. If I yell and interrupt like they do, they say I’m being emotional.”)

So if it’s *this* bad for women and people in the LGBTQ community, two groups that are proven to have less equality in this society, to have people believe that we’ve experienced sexualized violence plus deal with the fall out against us, imagine how hard it is for the supposed “winners” in kyriarchy? But I’m not writing about adult men – that’d require more research. I’m writing about children who are physically small and vulnerable, and teenagers who are psychologically not adults and, like children, dependent on adults. And when they are at an age and place in life when they feel they can (or must, for their sanity) tell, they ARE men.

I’ve known a lot of men who honored me by sharing their pain with me before anyone else. Some had been sexually abused by the so-called “typical pedophile” – a person who doesn’t care what sex the child is. One was “lucky enough” that the Uncle violating him had also sexually tormented his mother, the pedophile’s younger sister, so the family was not surprised. Some classist people assume this is “white trash shit” – this was a wealthy family. Another was sexually abused as a child by his Wiccan High Priestess’s boyfriend, the current High Priest. Others had female babysitters who called the boy “gay” in order to confuse him for not wanting sex with her (these women ranged in age from 17 to mid 30s) and while his mind said no, his body responded to her touching. This can happen to women, too, and doesn’t mean that the rape was desired. It’s just a normal, basic physiological response. Others woke up after a party and found themselves tied to a bed with a woman having sex with them. (How many parents are teaching their sons about rape and the dangers of women, including girlfriends?)

It’s not “just” things done to the body. Sexual abuse includes seeing things inappropriate for the age or that the person didn’t want to see. One man told me about seeing a pornography video with older guys when he was a child. It gave him insomnia,which he still had when stressed, the images coming back. A group of siblings told me about being at a Wiccan wedding in the 80s where the Great Rite was physically enacted by the couple as everyone watched. (If Paganism doesn’t own the disgraceful aspects of its past, we’ll be like the Catholic church and have others tell the media for us. All religions have people in power who abuse it, especially sexually. Those who clean house on their own like the Episcopal church in the 1990s don’t have to deal with being “outed” like the Catholic church, in its attempts to keep things “hush hush.” The New Age movement has a lot of abusers to name as well.)

Are there any books specifically for these different men? Go to Amazon and search. Ok, now go to your yellow pages or DuckDuckGo and find the local Men’s Rape Crisis Center. Check the therapist listings at Psychology Today for therapists who are trained in working with men who were sexually abused as children. Think about how our society talks about men who were sexually abused or raped as children and teenagers.

What’s the recovery option? For a lot of survivors of all genders it’s self medicating.

If about 1 in 100 Americans men are in prison, and drug possession is the reason 7 in 8 prisoners were convicted out of the 80% there for drug related crimes, and we know that many survivors of sexual abuse and rape self medicate, do you suspect that maybe some of the 1 in 6 are in prison for possession of drugs that lots of people have tried? Or were like 14 year old me, kicking and punching every jerk I knew?

If you get the trust of someone in prison, and that can happen quickly as they’ve been ignored and dehumanized for so long, you will hear secrets. As you show that you are trustworthy, reliable and honest (including about setting and maintaining boundaries), like with any close friend, you may get the “I was raped by my Aunt” or “My family’s pastor molested me” one line, followed by “But it didn’t affect me. I don’t know why I’m even telling you since it’s not a big deal.”

And you might  learn this NOW especially, with media coverage of things like #metoo, R. KellyCorey Feldman, and Afrika Bambaataa.

A lot of the trauma of sexual assault and rape depends on how the people closest to you react when you tell them. Remember that you can make a huge positive impact if you listen, believe, and respect the desires of the person telling you about their experience. Do not explain their experience to them, tell them to confront anyone, or tell anyone. Trauma is about powerlessness, so recovery has to be in their control. Prison does not offer decent psychological services to inmates who have a psychological disorder on record. They certainly won’t offer anything for a man who experienced childhood or teenage sexualized violence. Often the few psych workers at a prison don’t even have private meetings with patients. Instead, very personal matters are yelled about through the cell door, allowing the other inmates and guards to hear. The guards have no education about psychological issues, especially at state prisons. So if you were going to say “Tell someone,” don’t. If they had someone to tell they would have already. When we push others to get help, we’re often responding more to our own (difficult to tolerate) feelings than to the other person’s needs.” – 1 in 6You’re it. You’re the only resource the person has. 

When this happens, go to the 1 in 6 website. Copy everything, print it and send. Next write with your pen pal or talk on the phone/ in person about trauma, discussing how it’s affected you and people you know (don’t use names) plus how our culture is a rape prone society. They are probably sure that they’re the only one this has happened to, and you want to let them they’re not alone, without triggering them by sharing traumatic details.

If they decide that the event(s) may have affected them, ask if you may email the organization 1 in 6 and have them mail a free copy of the book Stages of Recovery to your friend. It doesn’t have triggering content, which is something that always concerns me. I don’t want my friend freaking out in emotional flashbacks and end up retraumatized, naked in the hole without even a blanket.

Yep, that’s how Texas deals with prisoners having psychological problems. That’s rehabilitation, I say sarcasticly.

It’s important that you have dealt with your own sexualized violence issues. People who are in denial about a facet of reality will try to shut up anyone who mentions it. I have experienced this about disability and chronic illness, where people really need to believe it can’t happen to them, so they make up some spiritual, ethical reason why a tick bit me and millions of other people, or why I have a strong genetic response to pollution. This kind of social Darwinism “where we get what we deserve” was part of the Christian Calvinist predetermination that allowed capitalism to blame the poor for being poor. Rape survivors and people with disabilities get a lot of hurtful comments meant to comfort the person who superstitiously clings to karma or pop psychology they don’t fully understand. Don’t be one of those cowards. The person was raped because there are people who rape and this is a society that maintains the status quo.


* Interesting fact: a study entitled “Ideologues without Issues” looked at data from 2,500 Americans and found that both liberals and conservatives lean left on most issues from gun control to same sex marriage. Americans actually have a lot in common – except what we label ourselves! Once we’ve labeled ourselves “conservative” we won’t vote for the Democrats who actually represent the values we say we have when labels are removed!

Prayer to Brigantia for Ruling Yourself (for PTSD recovery)

This is the prayer that began the PTSD recovery process for a transwoman raped in prison. Learn more here.

Prayer to Brigantia for Ruling Yourself (for PTSD recovery)
by Heather Awen

Brigantia, heavenly Goddess most exalted,
Please grant me memory of this primal truth:
Everything between here and here* is under my own sovereign rule.

I am territory in my own possession
Where the past is merely a phantom procession,
One no longer my obsession.
My mind is my own, and my thoughts are free.
Nothing done to my body makes it less holy.

Whatever torments my spirit had, have now released me.

I’m responsible for my behavior.
That’s a truth I shall not belabor.

Who I am is within my own control,
I am owned by none within my soul, and
My psyche is mine, still and always, pure and whole.

Hail, Brigantia, heavenly Goddess most exalted!

* Put one hand under your butt if sitting on the floor, feet if sitting in a chair or squatting, or knees if kneeling. Put the other above your head. If you have only one hand, swoop it around your body. If you have no hands, move your eyes from the top to the bottom. Always adapt all ritual actions to any physical impairments or differences. No gets left out!

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse WordPress ads.

Transwoman Rape Survivor Finds Help in Book, or, Ally is the New 4 Letter Word

A Pagan transwoman in a men’s prison was raped about a decade ago. She’s been since transferred but writes “I’m terrified of men. I’m not safe. The men think I am a whore. I like men, but I want someone I can trust.” This woman has been doing hormone therapy for two years. She gets up to shower by herself at 4:45 am. After that she’s with men who have not had a touch from a woman in decades, many of them convicted of sexualized violence.

She doesn’t have a support system. No transgender penpals. Family isn’t accepting.

She received a free copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, and began practicing the Brigantia Prayer for Sexualized Violence Survivors. Something began to change for her. She realized, really realized, she was not alone. Others throughout time and all through our rape prone society (where 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are raped) have experienced the soul violation of having your Sovereign control over your SELF destroyed. Transgender people have the highest rape rates in prison. There’s a very good reason for why she’s in fear.

She began the PTSD breathing meditation. It actually turns off the hormonal flood that causes the fight flight or freeze reaction. She felt better. The “Truth” essay, with instructions for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Radical Acceptance, the most popular and effective therapies along with mindfulness meditation (which her breathing meditation is), taught her how to determine what was happening now and what was her own feelings.

Because these things worked, she joined the prison PTSD group. She likes it. Federal prison is often considered “Club Med” compared to most state prisons. If she was not convicted of a federal crime, she probably wouldn’t have a PTSD support group. (That it’s minimum security doesn’t hurt either.)

She wrote to say thanks. That without the book she would have been to afraid to get help. And having someone write for imprisoned Pagans, especially including transgender Pagans in prison, made her feel like some cared.

I put together a little list of resources that are free for people in prison. She makes $5.25 a month, so using the money for stamps really cuts into her meager income. If she sends me her list with one stamp, I’ll go online and order the free resources. Plus I’m collecting rape recovery and PTSD recovery information to send her. I’m hoping that a transgender Pagan who said they’d write her actually does.

We need solidarity in our actions. I read this a lot. Saying you are an ally like it’s your identity is considered bullshit. Either you are taking (often emotionally painful) action to support people who don’t have the option to take a break from “the issues” or you’re not. Ally is the new four letter word.

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse WordPress ads.