November Pagan Holy Days Resources

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

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It’s usually posted on the 23rd.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

The Anglo-Saxons called November “blot month.” Blot means “blood” particularly sacrifices, given the deities to thank Them for the harvest season. All of the livestock that would not survive winter were slaughtered and their meat preserved. (In Indo-European cultures, as in West and Central Africa, most deities usually desire the blood “life force” of animals and share the meat with humans in a communal meal.)
The last 10 days of the October-November lunar month, as the moon waned smaller, the region of Greece named Attica held the Pompaia. A procession honored Zeus Meilichios (“Zeus the Kindly”) with a sheep sacrifice. The sheep’s fleece became the Sheepskin of Zeus, highly valued in Magickal purification rites.
The 1st is sacred to the lwas of the Ghede (the dead) and the graveyard: Baron Samedi and Manman Brigitte.
The Fet Ghede (Feast of the Dead) is a Vodou celebration of the ancestors on the 2nd. The Ghede (the dead) are lewd, funny, healing male lwaa. When they possess someone, they rub themselves with burning hot peppers, smoke cigars and wear sunglasses with one lens missing.
On the 11th the Orisha Ellegua is honored in New Orleans Voodoo, especially by business owners and gamblers.
November 13 (or the full moon) is the day of offerings to the central Italian Goddess of freed slaves, Feronia, who also had a temple in Rome. “The Goddess of Freedom” was originally an agricultural Goddess.
That same day Romans worshiped Pietas, Goddess of duty to the deities, Rome and one’s parents. Depicted as a young woman, Pietas was accompanied by a stork.
On November 15 the last powerful Heathen Anglo-Saxon King, Penda, died in battle. Although he worshiped the old deities, Penda believed in the freedom of religion and allowed Christianity in his kingdom.
In Rome on November 15 (or the full moon) was a ritual to Jupiter followed by a banquet.
In Germany when the first snows arrive it is said to be Frau Holle shaking her featherbed.
In New Orleans Voodoo the 22nd is dedicated to the Orisha Oshun, especially Her relationship with musicians.
There may be a connection between the ancient Norse hunting and oath God UllR and Saint Hulbert, whose feast day is November 22.
The 30th is the feast date for the Haitian watersnake lwa Simbi, a powerful but shy magician and herbalist.

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

Pagan Holy Days Calendar (Prisoner Resource)

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

Hi! Gullveig Press sends an 18 page polytheist calendar to incarcerated Pagans for $2.25. However, if you have a Pagan pen pal in prison, we’d love for you to copy each month’s holidays and send them to your friend! Just tell them it’s from Heather Awen at Gullveig Press, please, and mention Steel Bars, Sacred Waters. (I even put that information at the beginning of the Introduction!) Each month’s calendar will be posted at least a week before the month begins. Snail mail can really sometimes be very slow.

Who needs an introduction to a calendar? Pagans! We’re working with lunar months, the Julian calendar and lots of stuff that doesn’t fit into our Gregorian calendar easily. Someone working with this calendar will need the new and full moon dates, which are at the end of this post.

I got the idea for this large project when someone in prison asked me about some very made-up holidays of Mabinogi deities. Evidently a group of Pagans were sending out a free calendar zine but not explaining that they invented it. It’s great to see other Pagans looking out for our incarcerated members of our community! But I hear the same complaints: Why can’t we get researched, high quality Pagan information? When you send information to people in prison tell them if it’s just your personal way or something your tradition does. If you researched using academic peer -reviewed papers, well-regarded modern polytheists’ blogs and books and history books from several decades, please tell them that the information is subject to change or it’s one theory. Help them understand that scholars constantly find new information and interpret old information in new ways.

The education system utterly failed many of these people which is why donating fiction and graphic novels along with non-fiction serious reading materials gives them a chance. Many are functionally illiterate which means that they can’t get a job that requires filling out an application or read well enough to be promoted to supervisors and other better paying positions.

(Dictionaries are the most requested books in prison. If your pen pal has some trouble writing and reading, consider buying them the inexpensive, new paperback Merriam-Webster Dictionary from Amazon. If mailing to Ohio state prisons, check from where prisoners can receive books since Amazon was banned recently. For all facilities it’s best to check anyway! Prisoners don’t have spell check or Wikipedia so a dictionary is helpful in general.)

If you send books and essays, discuss them in letters. Encourage their opinions and show your critical thinking skills. Ask them questions and show interest in their answers. Most have been convinced that they’re stupid when they just haven’t had anyone pay attention to how they learn and teach more about how to learn.

Introduction

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

There is a Pagan zine listing holy days for deities based on nothing historical. Frankly, the days are made up. The truth is that most ancient Pagan cultures used a lunar calendar AND a solar one. This means that the dates won’t match our calendar.

Ever notice that Jewish and Muslim holy times start on different solar days each year? They still follow traditional lunar calenders. Hinduism does the same. So does Easter. Our ancient Pagan calendars also had lunar festivals that happened at different times each solar year. Plus, each tribe, city or kingdom had their own variations and regional deities. Not all German tribes worshipped Hariasa, but we know She defended the city of Cologne. Each city in Egypt and Greece had their own mythology from before the cities were unified into Empires. In the huge Roman Empire, people often honored the deities of where they were born, the deities of where they had moved and the Imperial deities that everyone celebrated. Multicultural diversity in polytheism is normal.

The lunar year and solar cycle don’t match. It takes about 29 and 1/2 days for the moon to circle the Earth. It takes the Earth about 364 and 1/4 days to circle the Sun. A year of 12 lunar months leaves many days of the solar year not included in a calendar. This was solved kind of like how we fix the difference between our solar calendar and the real amount of time it takes for the Earth to circle the sun: we add an extra day to February each Leap Year. Ancients had their own versions of “Leap Year” usually by adding an extra month. Celtic Gauls in modern France had a five solar year calendar with 29 and 30 day long months. Periodically, an extra month was added so the lunar and solar calendars matched. The only complete Greek calendar we have is from the city-state Athens, which includes an extra month every 3rd, 6th and 8th year.

As in Islam, the Pagan month usually started at the first sighting of the new moon. New moons aren’t dark moons. The new moon is a slight crescent in the sky. The dark moon is the day before that when the moon never appears. Most astrological sources for the new moon actually are dates of the dark moon. The first Roman calendar was lunar and months began at the first sighting of the crescent moon. The first day of the Roman month is sacred to Juno, the Queen Goddess married to Jupiter. Roman holy days originally occurred from the new moon to full moon, never during the waning moon.

This calendar developed into a solar year a lot like the one we currently use. Today’s it’s called the Julian calendar. Juno’s new moon rites were moved to the first day of each solar month. Full moon sacred days were held on the 13th or 15th. Waxing moon rites were held on the 5th or 7th. We know the dates for many Roman festivals on the Julian calendar from the 1st to 3rd centuries CE.

But the Julian calendar was still not a perfect match with the actual solar year. By the late medieval era European nations were off by around 11 days. So, the modern Gregorian calendar with its Leap Year was created. The 2 calendars were 11 days apart. Different places began using the Gregorian calender at different times, causing a bit of chaos. Today we still use the Gregorian calender.

For modern Pagans seeking to worship on the same days as our spiritual ancestors, it can be tricky. Irish manuscripts stating Beltain is May 1st were written by Christian monks using the old, Julian calendar. On our Gregorian calendar Beltain is May 12th. The Anglo-Saxons first used a lunar calendar, but when they converted to Christianity they changed to the Julian calendar. The Germanic names of the Pagan months tell us what cultural events happened when in the year, but the Anglo-Saxon months also don’t exactly match with the months of our calendar.

As if this wasn’t confusing enough, until recently few Europeans other than Christian clergy were able to read. Rural people often relied on natural signs to guide them in timing rituals. The climate is different in different parts of Britain and Ireland, so agricultural events like Beltain probably happened at different times, like when the first hawthrown bush flowered. Other places looked to the stars. In Egypt when Sirius rose, people knew that the life-giving Nile River ruled by Isis would flood. Farmers in Iceland started sowing seeds when the Pleiades rose.

During a solstice the sun appears to stop moving for 3 days. This probably made people very anxious. Solstices were usually celebrated when people actually saw the sun began moving again. On December 25 and June 24 we can see that the sun’s journey has resumed. Evenings of December 24 and June 23 began many solstice celebrations.

Ancient Pagan religions were mostly communal and based on ancient traditions that almost no one questioned. Festivals in rural societies often included political and legal events. Instead of focusing on the individual, originally rites were more concerned with what kept people alive: the community and ecosystem. If Ares blessed His Greek city-state Sparta and you lived in Sparta, you were also blessed. Religion was woven into culture. Removing religion from culture unravels the ancient ways. Due to this, there’s no real way to reenact truly authentic cultural rites.

Many uprooted people in the highly mobile Roman Empire faced the same problem. One popular solution was to be initiated in secretive Mystery Religions. Replacing the old tribal community were the other initiated “brothers and sisters.” Likewise, modern people have created new initiation-based religions like Wicca and Lucumi. Others research and worship old deities, alone and sometimes in rather rare groups. Ancient rites are adapted for today’s culture. Keeping the traditional parts that work for our situation, we continue ancient religions in new variations.

What follows is a calendar based on “around when” ceremonies were held with brief explanations. Even in prison you can usually find ways to participate. Religion, for all its focus on tradition, has always been ever-changing. To stay relevant, religion must adapt to changing cultural norms, ecosystems, governments, trade partners, scientific discoveries, etc, while maintaining its cosmology (worldview).

It’s normal for polytheists to adopt deities from other cultures. The multicultural Roman Empire spread across Europe, the Mediterranean, the Near East and North Africa. Celts, Syrians, Egyptians, German mercenaries, Greeks and other peoples celebrated many Roman festivals and Romans flocked to many imported religions from other lands.

In the 1980s translation began on a 4th century CE Greek collection of Magick from the Greek-Egyptian city of Alexandria. It shocked scholars. Names of Jewish angels, secret titles for Jesus, Greek and Egyptian sacred words, symbols and deities plus parts of the Mystery Religions popular were combined in the spells. Magicians were obviously trading information, creating something new. Today Chaos Magick is similar.

As long as someone fulfills their vows to one religion, they are free to practice another. Ethnicity does not matter! The deities choose us. (New Orleans has a white Jewish vegan Voodoo Queen initiated in Haiti also trained in Western Ceremonial Magick.) Unless a rite is just for the initiated or for only men or women, worship Whomever calls you on the calendar.

The exception is the traditional religions of Native Americans. If you are invited to participate by a respected member of a tribe, that’s fine, but these ancient cultures have been raped and plundered for the benefit of white people for hundreds of years. To take more from people still literally struggling to stay alive and unassimilated into European -American culture is incredibly offensive. Cultural misappropriation pretends to value a culture while ignoring the struggles and values of the culture to make a commodity for money. Other examples include the predominantly white music industry’s treatment of African American artists, yoga classes taught as mere physical exercise without Hindu religious context and books on fictions like “Celtic Shamanism.” People in the dominant culture exploit other cultures for money without even providing financial and other practical support to those whom they’ve ripped off. Don’t be a culture vulture. If you have a traditional healing session or divination consultation with a trained African, Caribbean or Native American, pay the expected fee or what you pay a doctor.

(Today, the issue of men’s and women’s mysteries is being challenged by people born intersex (having or developing male and female genitals) or who identify as non-binary (neither male nor female). Gender was understood differently in other cultures. The Kongo Kingdoms had people Portuguese slavers called male but who demanded they were women. They had been clergy involved with funeral rites. Dahomey sold slaves who the Portuguese considered men who also insisted that they were women and wore women’s clothing. On the southern shores of the Baltic Sea 1st century CE Germanic Priests dressed in women’s clothes. Priests of the Near Eastern Goddess Cybele, in a devotional frenzy, cut off their testicles and penises as a sacrifice to their Goddess and then were dressed as women. The incredibly popular Greek God Apollon has many mythological lovers male and female. Images of people with both breasts and penises are found in Central European Celtic art. Greeks, Celts and other warrior cultures openly celebrated their gay lovers. A Roman Emperor even started a cult for his young, dead male lover that continues to have followers today. The participation of the LGBTQIA community is firmly established in ancient Paganism. However you gender or sexually identify, you’re welcomed by the majority of Pagans on the outside.)

The dates dedicated to the Orishas/ Orixas and lwas may differ from house to house. The dates honor Catholic Saints with whom West African spirits were secretly associated, but not everyone used the same Saints.

2019-2020 New & Full Moons The Dark Moon is the day before the New Moon. Remember that the new moon was determined by when it was first sighted. The new moon dates here obviously have not yet been seen by anyone because they are in the future. However, they should be a good prediction of when a Priest would see the first crescent moon if the sky was clear. During the full moon police and hospitals report more crime and accidents.

New Sat August 3 2019, Full August 15
New Sun September 1 2019, Full September 14
New Mon September 30 2019, Full October 13
New Wed October 30 2019, Full November 12
New Thu November 28 2019, Full December 12
New Sat December 28 2019, Full Jan 10 2020
New January 25 2020, Full February 9 2020
New February 24, Full March 9 2020
New March 25, Full April 8 2020
New April 24, Full May 7 2020
New May 23, Full June 5 2020
New June 22, Full July 5 2020
New July 21, Full August 3 2020
New August 20, Full September 2 2020
New September 18, Full October 1 2020
New October 17, Full October 31 2020
New November 16, Full November 30 2020
New December 15, Full December 30 2020

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

West and Central Africa’s Gay & Transgender History: the jinbandaa

First, I apologize for using the word “Africa” like it is a nation, when I mean the Kongo, Angola, Fon, Gbe and Ewe peoples of the West coast and Central Africa. Second, I apologize for saying “gay and transgender” just because gender in those cultures did not match with 16th century European binary genders. We unfortunately don’t know exactly how these members of society were understood, just that they existed and were accepted, so I choose sexual and gender identity words closest to the descriptions we have. I just wanted a title that might grab more search engines to educate more people.

There’s quite a lot of homophobia in many African Diaspora Religions. I actually saw a Palo website say that no gay people could join the religion because the Kongo people had no knowledge of homosexuality. Frankly, that is bullshit. The person actually wrote that because the Kongo didn’t understand what the Portuguese meant by homosexual (which would have been said in a derogatory way), the Kongo didn’t have any queer people. In reality, the Kongo understanding of a jinbandaa and their Priest function would not have matched that of a Catholic Portuguese “sinful sodomite.”

There are a lot of people interested in Lucumi, Palo, Vodou, “African” Umbanda, obeh, hoodoo and other African Diaspora Religions in prison. Many learn about them from incarcerated Cuban initiates and by sharing books. I buy high quality books and print academic papers for a book club and we have moved deeper into the African roots of these religions. (There’s only so many times one can read the same descriptions of the neo-Yoruban pantheon!)

One truly amazing find are the two books by James H. Sweet, published by the University of North Carolina Press. Both are unlike anything I’ve read, focusing on specific tribal peoples’ contributions to forming a new “African” culture before the much studied Yoruba latecomers to Brazil.

His book Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World details the life of a Mina Priest of Sakpata, the vodun of the earth and smallpox, from modern-day Mahi in Benin. The Priests were captured by King Agaja of Dahomey and sold into slavery because they were a threat to his bloody reign of terror. The young man who would become known as Domingos Álvares was the child of two Priests of Sakpata and inherited their role during a time of warfare and culturally diverse overflow of refugees. As part of that war he was sold to Portuguese slavers and began a life of attempting to recreate that religious and social community in Brazil. Before being sent to the Inquisition in Lisbon, Portugal, his (and other African diviners and Priests and Priestesses from the Mina region and the Kongo) ways of ritual were recorded. It’s an amazing book for people interested in the origins of the African Diaspora Religions of Brazil or the regional Traditional African Religions destroyed and later reconstructed by the royal family of Dahomey (who used Yoruba Orishas as their primary new pantheon). It’s the biography of a spiritual ancestor.

But here I want to focus on the lie of a heterosexual-only African norm. The paragraphs below are from Sweet’s remarkable Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. It’s another book I highly recommend although it has less actual ritual detail.

“One noteworthy case occurred in the middle of the sixteenth century in the Azores and in Lisbon. Antônio, slave of Paulo Manriques, arrived on Ilha Terceira from his homeland of Benin some time in 1556. Upon his arrival, he immediately assumed the uncertain gender identity that he maintained in Benin. Refusing to wear the clothes that his master gave him, Antônio instead chose to dress in a white waist jacket buttoned down the front, with a vest made from an old woolen cloth that he found in his master’s stables. On his head, he wore a tightly wrapped white linen, topped off by a hat. To all who saw him, he appeared to be a woman.

“By profession, Antônio worked as a prostitute who went by the name Vitória. In order to lure men, Vitória made a variety of winks and gestures “like a woman.” But he was also observed removing his hat and bowing “like a man.” He apparently had a thriving business, since seven or eight men could sometimes be seen waiting outside of the little house where he worked. But within a year of his arrival in the Azores, Antônio’s ambiguous gender identity became widely known, and the scandal of his transvestism gained the attention of the Inquisition.

“During his interrogation before the Inquisitors in Lisbon, an interpreter was needed to translate, since Antônio/Vitória had not yet mastered Portuguese. He admitted to “sinning” with five men, three in Lisbon and two in the Azores. When the Inquisitors asked him whether many people believed that he was a woman, he responded that he was a woman and that men gave him money for his services. Antônio also claimed that he had the orifice (buraco) of a woman. The Inquisitors asked him if he created this orifice or if it was the result of some sickness, but Antônio claimed that he was born with it. Indeed, he stated that “there were many in his country who had the same buracos who were born with them.” Antônio ultimately was subjected to a medical inspection to determine whether he was “man or woman or hermaphrodite.” The examination showed clearly that Antônio “had the physical character of a man, without having any buraco nor other physical characteristic of woman.” For committing the “abominable sin of sodomy against nature,” Antônio was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the king’s galleys.

“Antônio’s admission that there were many in his country who were anatomically endowed with buracos is an indication that there were others who also took on the dress and mannerisms of women. The role of these transvested individuals in sixteenth-century Benin is difficult to discern from the records, but they seemingly constituted a third gender category that was completely unfamiliar to the Portuguese. Antônio’s gender and sexual choices were apparently an accepted part of Benin society, an integral part of Antônio’s identity which the Portuguese sought to erase because he was a “sodomite.” Acts of sodomy had long been punishable by death in Portugal, but the Portuguese reserved their greatest contempt for passive partners like Antônio, the rationale being that male penetration was a “natural” act, while male reception was not. These social and cultural vacuums in the Western mentality affected Africans and their descendants in profound ways, confining them to sexual, gender, and family categories that were, in many cases, completely alien to them.

“The narrowness of Western gender constructions is brought into even sharper focus when we examine another third-gender category, this one from Central Africa. In the same 1591 denunciation of Joane de Guiné in Bahia, Matias Moreira also denounced a man named Francisco Manicongo to the Portuguese Holy Office. Moreira stated that he had seen Francisco walking the streets of Bahia dressed as a woman and that Francisco was renowned among blacks as a “sodomite.” Moreira went on to claim that he had traveled for a long period of time in the lands of Angola and Congo. During these travels, he had witnessed some of the “pagan Negroes” dressing like women. According to Moreira, these cross-dressing men performed the role of the woman in acts of sodomy. In fact, these cross-dressers were so prevalent in Central African society that there was even a word for them in the “language of Angola and Congo,” jinbandaa.

“Unbeknownst to Moreira, the term jinbandaa in Central Africa did not carry the same negative moral connotations that the terms “sodomite” or “nefarious sinner” carried in Christian Europe. Instead, the significance of jinbandaa was to be found in Central African religious beliefs. According to Malcolm Guthrie, the word stem mbándá means “medicine man,” and throughout Central Africa words similar to jinbandaa implied religious power. In fact, several revealing descriptions from the Angolan coast in the seventeenth century suggest that quimbanda sodomites were a discrete and powerful caste in Angolan society. As early as 1606, the Jesuits in Angola described “chibados,” who were “extremely great fetishers, and being men went around dressed as women and they had by great offense called themselves men; they had husbands like the other women, and in the sin of sodomy they are just like devils.” Writing in 1681, Captain Antônio de Oliveira Cadornega commented at length on the status of “sodomites” along the Angolan coast:

There is also among the Angolan pagan much sodomy, sharing one with the other their dirtiness and filth, dressing as women. And they call them by the name of the land, quimbandas, [and] in the district or lands where they are, they have communication with each other. And some of these are fine feiticeiros (sorcerers), for they beget everything bad. And all of the pagans respect them and they are not offended by them and these sodomites happen to live together in bands, meeting most often to give burial services. . . . This caste of people is who dresses the body for burial and performs the burial ceremony.

“Cadornega reveals three important points regarding the Angolan quimbandas. First, he suggests that they were a discrete social group that lived together in “bands.” Second, the quimbandas were respected by others in the community. In fact, the Capuchin priest, Antônio Cavazzi, who was a resident of Angola from 1654 to 1667, wrote that “there is not a Jaga [Imbangala], whether captain in war, or peaceful aldeia [village] chief, who does not try to keep some of them [the quimbandas] to watch over him, without the counsel and approval of such, he will not dare to exercise any act of jurisdiction, nor take any resolution.” The quimbandas were apparently the final spiritual arbiters in political and military decisions. Finally, the quimbandas were not only considered “fine feiticeiros,” but they performed traditional burial ceremonies, thereby exercising a wide range of spiritual roles. Taken together, these three points produce a compelling argument for the religious power and respectability of Angola’s transvested “homosexual” community, a community that clearly set itself apart from the rest of society, apparently as one of the many kinlike divining and healing societies that were prevalent in seventeenth-century Central Africa.

How transvested homosexuals became powerful religious figures in Central Africa is an interesting question, but that is not our primary concern here. More important for us is the question of the jinbandaa’s transition to slave life in the Americas. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sources suggest that in Central Africa the jinbandaas were a group of religious leaders who carved out their own “third-sex” (gender defined) living space in the society. But the spiritual capacity of the transvested homosexual was so universally known that they were referred to not by their patterns of dress or by their sexual behavior, but by their roles as religious leaders. Only when these Africans encounter the Western world do we begin to see the breakdown of the gender-defined organization of this kinlike, transvestite, religious society. This disjuncture between the gendered, religious space in Central Africa and the lack of such a space in the diaspora indicates several sobering things.

“First, those transvested homosexuals who were brought to Europe and its colonies as slaves were isolated not only according to race, but also according to their gender and their sexuality. Given the evidently small numbers of jinbandaas in the diaspora, there was no way for them to replicate their gender-defined communities in their new surroundings. Second, Western/Christian prejudice and repression against the feminine and against the passive homosexual contributed to the attrition of a seemingly well-defined African gender category that defied Western norms. And finally, the institutional foundation that gave this collection of transvested homosexuals religious power all but disappeared. Because they could no longer meet collectively to share knowledge and affirm their religious power, their powers were effectively diluted. Indeed, in Brazil, the very meaning of the term jinbandaa was transformed, at least within the white community. Rather than referring to an individual with religious power, the term jinbandaa became synonymous with the passive “sodomite.”

“Despite the powerful forces of Western cultural hegemony, we should still recognize the lens through which someone like Francisco Manicongo, or Antônio from Benin, addressed their individual gender and sexual identities. Even against the riptides of Western gender, sexual, and religious norms, Francisco and Antônio continued to see themselves in much the same ways that they had seen themselves in their homelands. Just as most Westerners could not conceive of identifying themselves as anything other than either man or woman, Francisco could not conceive of identifying himself as anything other than the transvested jinbandaa. And Antônio could not conceive of himself as anything other than one of the many from Benin who had buracos like his. Thus, they each shed the clothing given to them by their masters and continued to dress and act as women, seeking out male partners with little, if any, regard for the fact that they were committing mortal sins. Though their individual identities may have endured for some time, the kinlike groupings that sustained and affirmed them in their ethnic homelands were obliterated, leaving them as isolated and alone as those who left behind their natal kin.”

If you are African American, African Caribbean or African Brazilian (and other South American countries), some of your ancestors are probably from these cultures. If you are Black and gay or transgender and have yet to find a connection between the two identities, or are of any ethnicity and denied initiation into an African Diaspora Religion, I sincerely hope that this helps. The discrimination against the queer community was absorbed from Christianity and Islam, not these indigenous peoples.

Happy Gay Pride Month!

 

Bibliography

Sweet, James H., Domingos Álvares: African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. The University of North Carolina Press (2011)

Sweet, James H., Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. The University of North Carolina Press (2003)

Today Only! Donate for LGBTQ (and Pagan) Prisoners!

Thank you for your support today!!

Black&Pink is part of Omaha Gives. Today only, the money you donate, even $10, to Black&Pink could receive bonus funding. “Black and Pink’s mission is to abolish the criminal punishment system and to liberate LGBTQIA2S+ people/people living with HIV who are affected by that system, through advocacy, support, and organizing.”

In no way do I mean to downplay the importance of the hardships of the queer community in prison, such as transgender people having by far the highest rates of rape. In fact a recent study by B&P states that queer persons in prison experience rape 6x more than other prisonersSteel Bars, Sacred Waters made clear that the ancient, highly skilled, ferocious Gauls who controlled most of non-Mediterranean Europe considered homosexuality and bisexuality to be absolutely normal. The Irish Brehon Laws mention homosexuality as a reason for divorce, but has no condemnation of gay people or laws against them, even in its Christian version. 

But aside from all the good B&P does for thousands of queer prisoners, the organization also offers one of the only free penpal services for people who are incarcerated. Many straight or “heteroromantic, bisexual” prisoners who are not racist homophobes receive B&P’s free newsletter and learn about the struggles of the LGBTQ community on the outside and inside prison.

Black&Pink is one of the best places to find a Pagan penpal for that reason. On their potential penpal list, if you go to the little drop down menu and choose Wiccan or Pagan to narrow your penpal search, you’ll find the more open minded Pagan prisoners and avoid a white supremacist gang banger who firmly believes that Hitler was Heathen – even though Hitler put all occultists in Concentration Camps, made several strong anti-Heathenry statements and thought that Islam was a much better suited religion for Germans than any other. Yep, you’ll even find Norse Heathens at Black&Pink. 

You don’t have to be an anti-capitalist or for total prison abolition and punitive justice abolition to become a penpal through Black&Pink. You certainly don’t have to be queer – I’m a pretty vanilla monogamous straight woman. (Being a person with disabilities does make my sex life very non-heteronormative, however.) Most prisoners just want someone to acknowledge that they still exist to the outside world. If they exist out here, they have a much greater chance of hope for their futures. This reflects in behavior and can help them get parole sooner and stay out of prison. When on the outside, they’ll be at Pagan festivals, Pagan Pride Day, Pagan shops and other events where you will meet them, so why not start getting to know them now?

So now you have lots of reasons to donate! The link is at Omaha Gives

“What is Omaha Gives? 
A giant, 24-hour giving drive that happens once a year in Omaha, NE (where our national offices moved to in 2018). All day long donations are able to be made to various nonprofits, including Black and Pink, with opportunities for bonus funding drawings! No matter where you are in the world, YOU can give today. You do not have to live in Omaha.

“Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing.

“Our organizing efforts are guided by a larger goal of collective liberation. We hold strong to a feminist, anti-racist, queer liberationist, anti-capitalist, radical analysis of social, ecological, and economic struggles. We understand the prison industrial complex to be part of a larger system that utilizes systems of oppression to divide people and exploit our individual and collective power. Through movement building and sustained direct action against these systems of violence we will create the world we dream of.

“We also celebrate in the beauty of what exists now including our love for each other, the strength of our planet, incredible human resiliency, and all of the power we have to continue existing. While dreaming and struggling for a better world we embody a deep commitment to living in the present.

“We root our work in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. To best maintain an accountable relationship to incarcerated people, half of those in the leadership circle are currently incarcerated. We also prioritize the voices of formerly incarcerated people as our “free-world” members of the leadership circle. We know that those most impacted by the violence of the prison industrial complex are best equipped with the knowledge of how to tear it down.

“As of today Black & Pink’s “free-world” membership is primarily Boston-based. We commit to supporting one another, sharing the work of our organizing efforts, and nurturing the growth of our family both inside and outside the walls. We intend to expand our national and international membership, creating chapters in other cities, towns, schools, neighborhoods, etc.”

(If you are wondering why liberal or conservative groups don’t offer anything to prisoners, ask them. It’s not my fault that only socialist and anarchist types are willing to do immerse unpaid work for the least fortunate.)

Gullveig Press in no way endorses any advertising by WordPress. Spend the money to make a difference and donate to Black&Pink!

 

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.

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!

Self Publishers & Small Presses! Ohio needs you!

According to the ever-busy Appalachian Pagan Ministry, one of the few active Pagan Prison Ministry in the USA where 1 in 1000 citizens are incarcerated Pagans, Ohio no longer will allow books to be sent to prisoners from publishers or even Amazon! If you were in an Ohio state prison and wanted to buy a book from Llewellyn or Inner Traditions, you no longer would be allowed. If your family or a friend wanted to send you a book from Amazon, it would be rejected. As for Lulu, don’t even think about it.

As Amazon is much less expensive and gives free international Amazon distribution to books printed by their company, CreateSpace, many people have begun using CreateSpace instead of Lulu. Others pay to have their book advertised on Amazon. These books all come as an Amazon product to the prison. This allows people in prison to read more than just the mainstream. For Pagans, small publishers are often where our best materials are to be found. If someone isn’t writing about anything trendy that won’t sell 5,000 copies, they can still share their work with those 30 or 200 Pagans who might be interested. For people in prison, books published specifically for people in prison on everything from Reentry (parole and beyond), how to make decent tasting meals, and how to follow the grievance procedures to actually get results are often available at Amazon, not just the company who publishes them.

Prisoners rely heavily on an overstock book seller, where close out books are $2 or $5 plus shipping. That company, a mainstay for people who often have no money for most of the year (which means no lotion for their diabetes, no stamps, no antacids, no paper, no shampoo, no laxatives, no glasses, etc), is a big resource for Pagans.

Ohio state prisons now accept books ONLY from Barnes & Noble and some other company so mainstream, I’ve never of it.

If you have a small publishing company, PLEASE donate copies of your book to 

THIS INCLUDES POETRY! You would not believe how many people get into poetry in prison!

If you have a favorite book you bought at Lulu or is printed by CreateSpace, please buy a copy and donate it. Any loved books you can order that are not available at Barnes & Noble, fiction or non-fiction, please donate a copy!

For self-published books, many places can only accept them if the book is relevant to prison. However, I suspect things may be changing. “Self publishing” meant something different until recently, like books without ISBN numbers, often memoirs to be given to family. Ask if your book qualifies to be sent to prisoners. (It’s not personal; prisons make these rules.)

Also, all those bins at the doors of book stores for $1, or the books at the $1 store, or decent quality Goodwill finds – PLEASE GRAB A FEW AND DONATE. Tis the season for being dragged into stores by family or to get stuff for family – please spend a few bucks on dictionaries, English and Spanish “urban fiction”, graphic novels, self help books, art manuals, business management guides, LGBTQIA and whatever else you find! One books to prisoners organization had a request for a book about authentic pirate clothing and shockingly had it! (I’m guessing that the person who made the request is writing a novel or comic book about pirates.)

Of course ALL states are in need of book donations. The organizations usually have to pay rent to store the books, even though they’re usually entirely volunteer-run, so making a tax deductible donation is also a great way to help.

You can also choose Providence Books Through Bars for your SmileAmazon charity. Every purchase you make, Amazon sends a tiny donation to your charity. The tiny amounts add up when enough people choose the charity.

If you buy a copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters for someone in an Ohio state prison for $12 (the cost of manufacturing, shipping and taxes), Gullveig Press will send you a pdf of the book. It’s a huge book, so it might just be easier for reading on the go!

 “Education is the only proven method
of preventing prisoners from re-offending.” 
– Providence Books Through Bars

Host a Party, Decorating Holiday Cards for LGBTQ and HIV+ Prisoners!

I know that a lot of people don’t agree with the US policy of incarcerating more of its population than any other nation, including Russia. 80% of people in American prisons are there because of addiction related activities and laws from Reagan’s failed War on Drugs. American sentences are far longer than in other nations where many imprisoned Americans would just be on probation. Prison punishes the 1 in 27 American children who have an incarcerated parent and their impoverished single mothers or other care takers. There’s no rehabilitation provided in prison, although there is a lot of torture and then people are released, unable to find work, housing or help adjusting to a society with social interaction between different genders, Internet, and a prejudice against felons. Prison is a very different world and the more interaction people in that chaotic, ambiguous world have with those on the outside, the less chance of recidivism. Including what may seem like a small thing: a holiday season card.

You probably are going to be invited to a lot of holiday-related events in November to January, many that you won’t want to attend but feel obligated. In the consumerism frenzy, fake work laughter and family grudges why not do something meaningful? How about gather together the good hearted people you know and color around 130 little cards, write a note of support on each, and put them in the provided envelopes addressed to LGBTQ and HIV + prisoners? Play good music, break out the markers and colored pencils, and maybe make this an offering to a favorite deity or your queer ancestors (you do have millions) or – you’ll find something.

If you have invited spiritual people, maybe pray over the cards or raise energy and ground it in them. Visualize the recipients as safe, healthy, happy – and given real opportunities for recovery, personal growth and education that will allow them to become their best selves. You’re not making them do those opportunities or defining what a “best self” is, so you aren’t messing around with their free will. What you will be doing is making an actual difference in this time when so many of you are feeling frustrated, anxious and depressed about the current political climate. That actually cures the blues more than arguing with strangers who don’t care what you say on Twitter. And did I mention it’s a party?!

from Black & Pink:

As you can imagine, the holiday season is often a really rough time for folks inside prison. Whatever holidays you may or may not celebrate this time of year, our incarcerated members are often denied the ability to celebrate their traditions in the ways they choose, whether their desire be to celebrate the returning of light for Solstice, the miracle of Hanukkah, the birth story of Jesus, the tradition of Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day, or something else. All too often our members do not have family and friends to reach out to them with cards or visits, making this time particularly isolating. The cards you will make bring moments of joy, connection and kindness to our members while telling prison staff that people on the outside are watching.

Last year, our community rallied together, hosting over 300 holiday card parties across the US, and several other countries and we were able to send a card to each of our incarcerated Black & Pink members. This year, we have nearly 14,000 prisoners to write to!

Check out this beautiful letter that went out in the December 2014 newsletter highlighting the huge success of that year’s card parties and exploring important liberation stories in several of these winter traditions, and how they connect to our goal of prison abolition.

Lastly, but most importantly, the holiday card party you are organizing is about planting a seed of hope. There is strength in hope, and when we fight together, we can win. We do all of our work knowing that once there were no prisons, and that day will come again. We hope you will join us and register to host a holiday card party today!

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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!

 

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