Resource Center for Pagans in Prison

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

Gullveig Press is the only national Resource Center for Pagans in Prison. We network with the few Pagan Prison Ministries in the U.S. and independently search for resources that may improve the quality of life for Pagans in prison. We work directly with prison Chaplains, volunteers, and incarcerated Pagans.

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

If you would like to purchase a copy for someone in prison or work with incarcerated Pagans, a copy costs $12. For those not involved with Pagan Prison Ministries, the cost is $24 if ordered directly from Gullveig Press. Chaplains and Pagan Prison Ministries may receive a free PDF copy by contacting us.

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

Awen has sent around 35 free written materials about Wicca, Heathenry, African Diaspora Religions, and other Pagan religions directly to the Chief Chaplain of Illinois DOC, Chief Chaplain of New Hampshire DOC, and all prisons in Vermont as email attachments. She also works with Chaplains in Idaho and California state prisons. These Chaplains and Volunteer Coordinators also receive Awen’s Prison Rites, as described below.

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

Gullveig Press produces the Pagans in Prison Resource List. Copies are made for residents in prison and mailed to Pagans in prison looking for pen pals. Via word of mouth, Gullveig Press receives requests for the Pagans in Prison Resource List. If you would like a copy, please contact us or give our mailing address to any incarcerated Pagan: P.O. Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819 (A self addressed stamped envelope is appreciated.)

Awen coordinates the Pagans in Prison Marketplace. She also helps loved ones of Pagans in prison find resources on other topics about incarceration.

Gullveig Press gratefully accepts donations of postage stamps and money. To help, please contact us.

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse the advertisers chosen by WordPress.

The End

So we’re at the end.

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

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

But we’re stopping the blog. Oh, the information on resources will stay updated. There’s the guide to provide advice for those of you who want to write an incarcerated Pagan. You probably interact online with people who have committed felonies in your online community. I personally know that many of our Pagan elders are felons – they just weren’t caught growing that weed.

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

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

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

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

Which means that the blog failed.

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

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

It’s never too late to donate some books.

 

Suggested Reading:

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

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

 

Jessica Caponigro
activist- artist- Witch Jessica Caponigro

Pagan Holy Days April

garnet_watermark Alexandra Rena
Garnet card (Babylonia) from the highly anticipated, well researched, in-process Stone Oracle by Alexandra Rena

About a week before the end of the month, I post the monthly calendar so you have time to copy and mail it to your pen pals in prison. Remember that they need the Guide to the Athens, Julian and other calendars, plus the new moon (not dark moon) and full moon dates found here and here, where the Yoruban, Anglo-Saxon and Athens weekly and monthly calender are. If you want a pen pal, I suggest looking at Black & Pink‘s list for Pagans. For pointers on writing someone in prison, check out here. It’s the new Guide to Writing Pagan Prisoners!

If you don’t have a penpal but want to help, we’ll happily send free copies of Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners to prisoners and books to prisoners organizations if you donate the money! Pagan books are in the Top Five Requested Books and hardest to fill. If you have used paperback books that you don’t need, please consider donating them. There’s a books to prisoners organizations within 200 miles of most people and they’d love those books! Check out your closest one! Literacy rates are low in prison and the average book is read by seven people! Prison, as one man told me, “can be college, if you treat the time that way. You just have to keep getting books, because there’s no classes or training in state prison.”

On with the show!

April Pagan Holy Days

The Anglo-Saxon name for April was Eostre, whose name links Her to the east and dawn. Her name became Easter. As Easter is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, it is believed that Eostre was worshiped on the full moon after the spring equinox.

Akitu, the Sumerian festival of barley and Babylonian celebration of Marduk‘s victory over Tiamat, started the new year. The new moon of the 1st Babylonian month Nisannu (April-May) began the 12 day holy time. Marduk and the other deities renew their covenant with Babylon now and promise another cycle of seasons.

Fortuna Virilis, Roman Goddess with power over women’s relationships with men, was honored April 1.

April 1 was also the Veneralia, Festival of Venus Verticordia (“Heart Turner”). Venus Verticordia turned the hearts of Roman women to be faithful wives and chaste maidens. Men and women, married or single, poor or wealthy – everyone prayed to Venus Verticordia for help involving love, sex and marriage. She maintained the gender roles and morality that Roman society expected from all women.

The Megalesia held April 4 to 6 celebrated the Goddess the Romans called Magna Mater, but originally was Cybele, the great mother from Phrygia in the Near East. The rituals began with an offering of herbs at Her temple. People held big parties, visited friends and went to the theater.

8 days before the new moon in April, Venus of Eryx was worshiped by courtesans and prostitutes. Her main temple was on the western point of Sicily in Eryx.

The 6th day of the April-May lunar cycle Athens held a purification ceremony. One woman and one man were picked to represent the adult population. Wearing garlands of figs, the couple was sacrificed on the seashore. Their burnt to ashes were scattered on the sea. In later times they were banished from Athens, symbolically taking away all evil in the city’s residents. They also were a sacrifice to Apollon, so He would not burn the crops.

The same day started the 2 day long harvest festival the Thargelia. The first day is for purification, such as fasting, bathing and abstaining from sex. The next day is Apollon‘s birthday feast of the first fruits. Artemis and the Horae (Greek Goddesses of the seasons) also received offerings from the first harvest.

During the Cerialia, April 12-19, Romans celebrated the reunion of grain Goddess Ceres (similar to Demeter) and Her daughter Proserpina. (Persephone is Her Greek name). Ovid instructs: “Ceres delights in peace; and you farmer, pray for perpetual peace and a peaceful leader. Good Ceres is content with little, if that little be but pure.” Women in white carried lit torches, like Ceres in search of Proserpina.

Fordicidia, April 15 or the full moon, is an ancient Roman fertility rite. A pregnant cow (“forda”) was sacrificed to Terra Mater, or Mother Earth. The Vestal Virgins sacrificed the unborn calf and used its ashes at the Parilia. The fields received the fertility of the cow.

On the 19th the New Orleans Saint Expedite who grants fast solutions especially in law and business and helps with overcoming obstacles to financial success is honored.

Held on April 21, the Parilia honors Pales who purifies the flocks. Ovid instructs: “Shepherd, do purify your well-fed sheep at twilight; first sprinkle the ground with water and sweep it with a broom. Deck the sheepfold with leaves and branches fastened to it; adorn the door and cover it with a long garland. Make blue smoke with pure sulphur ….when the (cakes of millet are) cut up, pray to rustic Pales, offering warm milk to her.”

On the 23rd Ogun is honored by those involved with Spiritualist Voodoo.

The ancient Roman Robigalia on April 25 honors Robiga, the spirit of mold, to protect the crops.

Walpurga’s night, April 30, is celebrated in Germany much like Halloween. Witches were said to meet on the tops of the moist remote mountains. Historically Walpurga was an Anglo-Saxon nun but She became synchronized with earlier Pagan practices. Some images of the Saint, especially in Sweden, show her holding shafts of wheat, because Walpurga is the fertility of the fields. For the last 9 days of April She runs through the forest hiding from a man who is chasing her. He may ask farmers if they have seen Walpurga. If a farmer replies no, he will be rewarded with gold by Walpurga. On May 1 Walpurga is free and brings summer to the land, much to the delight of the farmers.

On April 27, the Roman temple of Flora was dedicated, and her games and rituals lasted until May 3. “Perhaps you may think that I am queen only of dainty garlands; but my divinity has to do also with the tilled fields. Honey is my gift. ‘Tis I who call the winged creatures, which yield honey, to the violet, and the clover, and the grey thyme.” (Ovid) Flora was honored by the oldest college of Roman priests, the Arval Brethren, in their sacred grove. During a week of parties, hares and goats (animals who breed frequently) were released. Beans were scattered in the crowd as symbols of fertility. Everyone wore crowns of flowers. “When white robes are worn for Ceres’ festival, Why brightly colored clothes suitable for Flora? That is because the harvest whitens when the grain is ripe, But flowers come in a variety of colors.” (Ovid )

Belinos or Belenos? Pagans Respond to COVID-19

I’m happy with how fast word of mouth spreads. Now I send complete a Pagans in Prison Resource List along with ways to creatively practice in prison to folks who write “I found Gullveig Press scribbled on a paper, do you know of anything that or anyone who can help educate Pagans in prison?” As the only clearinghouse of Pagan prisoner information, I send letters with the list if they have specific Pagan questions. I’ll check what their facility is supposed to allow if they don’t know. Mostly I wish them good luck.

The COVID-19 virus is terrifying inmates. They can’t quarantine and buses are moving prisoners from facility to facility as if there’s no State of Emergency. Hand sanitizer has alcohol in it, so it’s not allowed, and for prisoners who have no income, the one bar of lye soap to wash body, hair and clothing doesn’t last long. I’m sure that you have all been very worried, especially because so many people in prison are HIV+ or live with Hep C, diabetes/heart disease and respiratory diseases. I’m sure that you are praying for them, writing letters to the editor of your paper, and donating money to help inmates with compromised immune systems have their medication, food, etc. (Black & Pink, the nation’s LGBTQIA 25+ prisoner advocacy group is currently requesting donations to help people living with HIV during this dangerous time.)

From the many copies of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters I’ve paid to donate to books-to-prisoners organizations, TWO have ended up in the same facility where there’s 130 Pagans! I know this from a letter from Jay Glenewinkel. He wrote to tell me that the Ostara ritual at Seogoville, Texas, on March 19th included a prayer I wrote in SBSW. It can actually be used as a Magickal chant to raise power, which never occurred to me. I’m sharing it here in case others are looking for a prayer or chant during this stressful time.

Seriously, I really would like to know that Pagans on the outside who have the luxury of hand sanitizer and quarantine are praying for those who don’t. Please. This is one out of one hundred Americans. It’s the parents of 27 American children. No other country even comes close to these numbers! In other nations many of these people would never even have been in prison or would have been released far sooner. Who is a prisoner is a political decision. It’s a reflection of the nation’s fear and hatred, not the people in prison.

If you were in the UK, Canada, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Finland, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Ireland, etc., they’d be probably be your neighbors and co-workers, not prisoners.

They’d be considered human beings.

Belinos

(from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners)

Belinos was a widely popular God in Gaul, northern Italy, the Alps, and Slovakia. Belinos was possibly worshiped by more Celtic peoples than any other deity. Sometimes he is shown with a female figure thought to be the Goddess Belisama. In Slovakia there was still a cult to a God named Belin in the 19th century. An ancient stone carving depicted two human forms with lines radiating from their heads. The Slavic people called it Belin, “the rock,” or “triple faced,” showing that some version of the much-loved Celtic deity, probably merged with other influences, survived that long.

Belinos was especially popular in northeastern Gaul, Austria, and farther east. Worship of him has not been found in Britian, but “the King of the Britons” was Cynobellini, a name that contains beli and appears on coins. Belinos‘ name is also found in some place and personal names, like the second half of Llewellyn (probably “Lugus-Belinos“). Belinos appears to be a solar God, but Celtic Gods are usually wise, generous, brave defenders and healers, skilled in every art, and all-round perfect chieftains. They are whatever is needed to help their tribe/worshipers: warriors are poets; kings are shoe-makers.

It’s currently believed that Belinos became confused by scholars with a Celtic name for the Greek/Roman God Apollo, Belenos. We only know Belenos from the northestern Italian city of Aquileia. Belinos was also worshipped there, but like everywhere in the Celtic world, Belinos was never named with Apollo in any inscription or shrine. In modern times scholars began “correcting” Belinos to the wrong name Belenos. Reviews of the original evidence very recently found the mistake. We can expect more accurate information about deities as Celtic studies continue. If someone has a strong relationship with Belenos, they may be worshiping Apollo by his Celtic name. Apollo‘s cult began in southern Gaul during the 5th century BCE, making him a regional Celtic deity.

Prayer to Belinos to Stop Contagious Disease from Spreading in the Prison

by Heather Awen

Body to body, blood to blood,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
The fear is gone, the people relax,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
Blessed by the fire in the sky,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
Federal prisons often allow Pagans a lot more than state prisons because Native Americans have made great legal strides in being allowed to practice their religions outside. Most state prisons don’t offer the very expensive email available in many Federal prisons. Women’s prisons usually have more receptive Chaplains and fewer restrictions for Pagans, but they still need Pagans on the outside for guidance.

 

Gullveig Press does not support any advertisers to whom WordPress sold space. We probably have very different values than these companies.

Make a Tarot Deck for Someone in Prison! Fun fun!

Even though Odinists are usually allowed to have runes in their cells, Tarot cards are often forbidden in state prisons. The belief is that people will use them to gamble, um, like you can’t gamble with chess, the weather, sports scores, “which rune will I pick?” and any other number of things. Now, IF the Pagan group had an outside volunteer, that person could bring in Tarot cards for the class or ritual. But there’s .01% of the Pagan volunteers needed.

As luck would have it, it’s really easy to make a Tarot deck for about $8.

First, go online and search for images of each card. You want to choose from the sample cards of decks being advertised or no longer have copyright. If I can see something for free online, then so can my friend who can’t go online. That’s MY rule. I don’t know what the law is, but no one makes any money from this and it actually promotes those 50+ decks, not anything I do. Prison is incredibly understimulating visually with no access to visual arts. I send photos of shrines, deity art, and cool stuff on DeviantArt.

So make your deck very diverse. I worked my ass off to find cards that weren’t just Caucasians. Also, mix art styles. Digital collage amazed my bestie because he’s never once used a computer. And he found new things in the symbolism of other cards. I have Yoruba Orisha religion, steampunk, Celtic, psychedelic, Greek, Marvel superheroes, Buddhist, pop culture, you name it, there’s variety in the deck I made my friend.

Scan the card for female nipples and any genitalia. Artists love topless women and they can be difficult to notice with a brief glance.

Second, you’ll probably need to crop most cards because they are much longer than a photograph. When you cut off the name of the card, make sure that you add big, clear text stating which card it is. I always assume that the photo place will do more cropping to make it fit exactly and stay away from the borders.

Third, upload the images to a reliable, cheap photo website. I like York. The first 20 pix are free and there’s always sales. With something this large, the free shipping deal is best. The one day pop up sale of 3¢ prints is also helpful. I’d wait for one of those deals. York can usually send the photos straight to your friend or family member. There’s no receipt with any personal information about the buyer. (The receipt is emailed to you.) If you write using jmail, which keeps your address secret, you’ll be glad to know that your address won’t be included with the photos.

The mail room is looking for nipples and labia, maybe gang symbols, so a bunch of artsy pictures should be approved. The cards all look so different that it doesn’t look like a Tarot deck. As with anything involving prison, the rules fluctuate depending on the moods of staff. Predicting what gets to a prisoner is impossible as far as I know, even with Tarot cards.

There’s probably simple short guides to Tarot online. Just copy, paste, make narrow margins, use a space saving font, print and mail.

I wrote my friend my own Tarot guide. I wrote my first guide 25 years ago (feeling old!) and read professionally for a long time. The Lovers card always meant sex, pure and simple, while 2 of Cups was a loving romantic relationship. I wrote that, and explained that’s just how it worked for me. My friend has studied Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a lot of cards suggest that you need to “CBT it!”, such as the 4 of Cups and 9 of Swords. Because he’s studied Observer Mind in mindfulness meditation, I am lucky and can note which cards need that ability to notice that emotions, thoughts and physical urges aren’t who we are. And he’s studied value-based living, so cards that indicate “You’re reacting, not choosing” have advice to re-read his values. I know his religious beliefs and practices very well, so I can add prayers and rituals.

(You can play creative games together like “Pick 3 Cards, Write a Poem” now!)

This is all added to the usual meanings I’ve memorized or discovered while reading for clients or teaching apprentices. By including a lot of “what you can do” to the Tarot guide, I reinforce what I believe is the most important use of Tarot: empowerment. The present, right now, is where the future is created. Nine times out of ten, the future will be more of the past if you don’t change. By giving examples of ways to work with the cards, he has freedom in a place that is extremely controlled and erratic. It’s not enough to tell people that they can develop a new, adaptable freedom that will serve them for their entire lives – You have to teach how. And remember that in prison, there’s no therapy, nothing to provide skills for anger management or realizing that feelings are not facts. (I suggest sending the Happiness Trap by Russ Harris and the Dummies Guide to CBT. Of course, my awesome pen pal asked for psych skills help because he’s so freaking awesome!)

This fits nicely with our discussions about Wyrd. The momentum of similar behavior joins with the path of least resistance and you’ll get a future that isn’t very different than where you’ve been. But, change your behavior repeatedly and the path of least resistance changes; the present creates a past that is a foundation for the future. This is really important for everyone to understand but especially people in prison. The brain will actually “rewire” itself to think in a more helpful way. My pen pal and I love that Ireland’s Lora O’Brien teaches that before trying for “second sight” you learn CBT and get your “first sight” clear.

Wyrd also fights any New Age “You create your reality” victim blaming or Western ideas about karma as sin being tallied by God. There’s much bigger Wyrd at work than his. There’s the horrifying history of how the United States has always treated African Americans – It’s got so much momentum, he can’t choose to escape it. The U.S. has a massive prison industrial complex and incarcerates the largest percentage of its citizens of ANY nation. The U.S. is still working with the failed 1980s “War on Drugs” mentality and gives extremely long sentences. In the 1980s, anything that would teach prisoners ways to succeed without crime and addiction was cancelled. Punishment was all that mattered and rehabilitation is no longer the goal. Prisons rely on recidivism to keep the industry strong. Parole officers no longer need social work skills; a large number of them are “tough guys” who failed the police entrance exam. The Wyrd of fatherless children, the life long poverty usually experienced by single mothers, people historically afraid for good reason of social services, the punishment of poor people who have mental illnesses and self medicated, the Puritan nonsense that the individual can do anything if his morality is “good” and bad things happen to bad people so don’t interfere with “God’s plan” by helping anyone – That’s the Wyrd he was born into, just like the Wyrd of his family and community. The question of how much free will do we get is largely based on the randomness of invisible privilege.

Aside from self awareness, artistic inspiration and broadening occult knowledge, Tarot could be a legal way to make some money when released. I worked at everything from Lords of Acid concerts to Planned Parenthood fund raisers. It’s a chance to offer something as a volunteer and meet decent people. As long as prison is hoping for your pen pal to fail in life, any useful skill is greatly appreciated. In many ways, prisoners who were good hustlers have an edge in the “gig economy” – as long as we demand “Ban the Box”* on job applications.

* “Ban the Box” seeks to eliminate the box on job applications asking if you ever were convicted of a felony. If someone has (in some Sadistic way) “paid their debt to society” by eating hi-fructose corn syrup sandwiches trying not to be raped or beaten for 10 years because they were charged with possession of crack cocaine without intent to sell and kicked cold turkey, then why the constant penalties to prevent them from getting a job at Old Navy or Wendy’s?

O’Brien, Lora, A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality (Sli Aon Dhraoi). Wolfpack Publishers (2012)

Thank you for sharing about Ohio! Celebrate the 3 Pagans volunteering in prisons!

Some of you made my month by sharing the information about how incarcerated Pagans in Ohio cannot receive any of the books specifically for incarcerated Pagans OR receive books from Amazon, which means that they are dependant on the Athens Books To Prisoners volunteer organization. Although no one went to the Athens Books To Prisoners website, at least you spread awareness of the situation.

I have been depressed and filled with dread when I get letters from prisoners asking how to find Pagan volunteers, pen pals, free information for their bigoted Chaplain, discounted or free Pagan resources, or legal help to be able to practice their religion. What can I say besides “Sorry, you don’t matter to other Pagans”? Honestly, I really don’t know what else to say. Sometimes I ask them who they helped when they were on the outside, and write that whatever excuses they had for not being involved are the same ones as Pagans on the outside have. There’s no difference.

I just am so disappointed in the Pagans who blog about activism, social justice and changing society, especially if they’ve complained about how there’s so little for incarcerated Pagans. How did I become point person for everything? Pagan Prison Ministries come and go, without exploring more cost effective and less time consuming ways to serve as teachers.

I applaud the three people who are still serving as Pagan Prison Ministries: CrowMoon who visits about 6 South Carolina prisons, which means she’s driving hours, paying for gas, preparing Wiccan lessons and rituals while staying active in her local Pagan community and writing a 1 sheet newsletter for each Sabbat that is sent for free to prisoners in North Carolina. Shoot, I may have mixed up my Carolinas, but she doesn’t even have a website for donations. Also there’s Alexandria Temple of Universal Metaphysics, one man in Colorado to whom I believe I donated about 75 books about 9 years ago. If that’s him, he’s really shown endurance! And Mother Earth Ministries-ATC, who have consistently been focused on the Pagans in one Tuscan prison. That’s smart: doing what is manageable. Too much activists don’t have sustainable, achievable goals and so they burn out. The more likely that you will have success, the more likely you will enjoy it. It also brings enthusiastic support, because as my long time activist Mom taught me, “Go where the energy is.” (The fastest way for a young organization to crash is by focusing on getting a physical building. Stay manageable and you stay successful.)

These three people deserve a lot of support on all levels. They make me feel less alone and are probably the folks who could give you advice on volunteering. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners has a few pages for potential volunteers which I can share. Dixie Deerman has a rather adversarial, vague Pagan Prisoner Advocate’s Guide that may unnecessarily scare you and heavily promotes her book, but is still a free reference to download at smashwords and more than anyone has provided!

I notice that people seem to feel like there’s nothing they can do to “change the world” but forget that it’s not all on their shoulders. It’s easy to do one action that improves life for your greater community, however you define that, than to despair or call people Hitler on social media. You don’t know what all the other people may be doing, but trust me, there’s lots of us doing. It adds up. Even if it didn’t, it still feels much better to just be creative and find ways to live your values than it does to be angry, afraid or depressed. You’re responsible for what you have contributed and that’s very empowering. In a time of so many feeling helpless, whenever you make a difference, you take back power. It may not be the aspect of oppression you want to transform, but bloom where you are planted. We often don’t know how the deities, ancestors or land spirits need our experiences and skills to be their hands and voices here and now, so please stay open to the call. You’re needed and valued.

I still wish that all the people hanging out at Occupy rallies (a tactic that is outdated) had planted a tree. There are some things you need to consider when choosing what action you will do. First, what’s your goal? Second, what ways can you actually meet that goal? I can’t attend an important governmental meeting about an issue that affects my health because I have severe Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. It would benefit both this cause and further education about the hidden people with disabilities of someone put a poster board torso and head in a seat with my name on it and why I cannot participate in democracy. So that’s what I’m asking the organizers to do, because I don’t want to stay invisible. You can find creative tactics to change the world. Working with allies who share common goals is one important way.

Peace and power,

Heather

 

January Pagan Holy Days Resource

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 so you have a time to send it.

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. As the mail is slower this time of year, try to send it at least a week in advance. 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.

January is named for Roman God Janus, who rules over beginnings and the transitional space of doorways. He’s depicted with a face of both sides of His head. January became the 1st month of the year later in Roman history. Originally it was March.
January 1 is Janus Agonalia, when Romans gave sweets like jars of honey, dates and figs to Janus and their loved ones so their year would be sweet. Ovid instructs: “Now must good words be spoken…. banish mad disputes straightaway!” They believed that you must only say positive, kind words when beginning anything.
Vediovus, a Roman God of the manes (the dead), was active in the barren month of January. He’s depicted as a young man carrying arrows with a goat.
During the 1st two weeks of January Greek healing deities Aesculapius, His mother Coronis and His daughter Salus (Hygeia is her Greek name) received offerings in the Roman Empire. Aesculapius had a staff with a snake coiled around it, still the symbol for doctors today.
January 3 is the Roman Festival of Pax, Goddess of peace. Her symbols are an olive branch, cornucopia and scepter.
Crossroads are places of transition that attract spirits. The Roman countryside held the Compitalia from January 3 to 5 to please the crossroad spirits. By hanging a head of garlic for every household member, their real bodies and minds would stay safe. In towns, families on the same block brought honey cakes to a festival.
The 8th is sacred to the tough Haitian lwa of the Revolution, abandoned children and lesbians, Erzuli Dantor.
The Carmentalia is January 11 or 13 (or full moon), when the nymph Carmentis was invoked as Postvorta and Antevorta, names that refer to Her power of looking into the past and the future. The festival was mostly held by women. No leather or blood sacrifices are allowed in a grove or temple of Carmentis. Instead of wine, She wants milk as a libation (drink).
The 17th is dedicated to Ogun in New Orleans Voodoo, focusing on work opportunities and protection.
During the waning moon of January rural Romans celebrated the Sementivae and Paganalia. While sowing of seeds, sacrifices of baked goods were made to Tellus (Mother Earth) on one day and Ceres (grain Goddess; similar to Greek Demeter) on another. The community prayed for a good harvest, peace and prosperity.
2 days before the dark moon of the lunar cycle of December-January, Hera, Greek Goddess of marriage, was honored with Her husband and the leader of the deities, bright sky father Zeus, at the Gamelia.
The day after the new moon was sighted in the lunar month of January-February began the Anthesterion (Older Dionysia) in Athens. Focus was on the flowers of spring. (The climate was similar to Southern California.) After sunset clay jars of wine were broken as a libation for Dionysus, God of wine. The next day featured drinking competitions as the dead wandered amongst the living, receiving water and wheat flour mixed with honey. The day ended by banishing the dead, yelling, “Get out, Keres (spirits that work harm), the Anthesteria is over!” The next day people ate pottage (boiled grains with honey) and offered it to Hermes in His role as psychopomp (guide to the dead).
The 27th Romans celebrated the birth of Castor and Pollox, horse riding sons of Zeus. Gauls also worshiped Them.

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

December Pagan Holy Days Resource

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! 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 December and January Yule.
In one Yoruban region of Nigeria, Ogun, the Orisha who literally is iron, traditionally had an annual December Festival.
The Romans held a ritual for Neptune on December 1.
On the 3rd Roman women held a private rite for Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”), the earth fertility Goddess. Her priestess was called Damiatrix. There was a play, music, wine called “mother’s milk” and an offering of a pig. In this Mystery rite, sacred objects were shown to women only.
The 4th is dedicated to the Orisha of thunder, justice and courage Chango who repels all enemies and negativity.
Rural Romans asked Faunus, God of wilderness, on December 5 to bless the countryside and farmland. Worshipers built altars of sod where incense burned, made wine and other sacrifices and then joyfully danced in the fields. The Hymn to Faunus: “Guarantee me a fertile and bountiful year, and I will not fail in pouring a libation of wine to you… The valley resonates with the beat of music and dancing feet in your honor.”
On December 8th the Geledé Iyamí Oxorongá & Eshu Agbo festival is held in Brazil. An ancient mask ritual from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, it celebrates the power of sexuality. The Iyamí are the female Orishas and mothers, often called birds, while phallic Eshu represents male sexuality. Later under the influence of Christianity, the Iyamí became associated with evil witchcraft.
During the waning moon of the November-December lunar month was the Haloa, a fertility celebration of Demeter, Kore (a young Goddess similar to Persephone) and Dionysos in Athens. The new wine was tasted and a vegetarian feast (with fish) was served. Women brought models of female and male genitals and had raunchy, erotic discussions.
The lunar cycle of December-January was a very popular time for weddings in Greece.
On December 13 (or full moon) the Roman Senate honored the earth Goddess Tellus. Ceres, Goddess of grains, also received a banquet.
The 15th (or full moon) was dedicated to Roman God of the storage bin of harvested grain, Consus. His sacred animal the mule had races, while other mules, horses and donkeys rested with garlands around their necks.
On the 17th the Orisha Babalu-Aye is honored, for He grants healing especially of skin conditions, looks over those with smallpox and HIV/AIDS and brings us the abundance of the earth.
Rome’s Saturnalia, held from December 17 to 23, reminded people of the Golden Age of Saturn, a time of peace and prosperity. The statue of Saturn in His temple normally was bound, but He was freed now. After sacrifices held at Saturn’s temple, Romans changed into comfortable clothing for the banquet. For the next week official business stopped and stores closed, while parties and feasting took their place. As a misrule festival that allowed the oppressed some release, role reversals occurred: masters waited on children and slaves, while children and slaves led the rituals and attended the festivities. Pine boughs and wreaths hung over doorways and windows, with ornaments of stars, sun symbols and the 2 faces of Janus. Gifts were given, especially on Sigillaria, the last day of the Saturnalia. Saturn’s wife Ops (“plenty”) was honored on the 19th.
A couple days before the December-January full moon and continuing for 4 to 9 days was the Greek Lenaia (“feast of vats”). Statues of Dionysus Leneus were dressed in ivy and He received sacrifices. Attending the theatre was a large part of the holiday.
Roman festival for Epona was honored by the military horsemen on December 18. Epona is a Gaulish horse Goddess whose image was kept in stables and barns. Not only the protector of horses, She led people to the Afterlife.
December 21 is the Roman Angeronalia, a day of sacrifices to Angerona, Goddess of disease angina. Angerona also causes and stops anguish and anxiety. Her mouth is bound, because Jupiter covered it when Angerona told Juno of His infidelity. Jupiter ordered Mercury to take Angerona to Hades. Mercury seduced Angerona, and in the Underworld She gave birth to the Lares (household protectors). The Divalia was the secret rite of Angerona.
On the 23rd funeral rites were performed before the tomb of Roman Goddess Larentina, who may be connected with the Lares (household protectors). Offerings to Di Manes (the dead) were made by Priests.
The same day Dea Tacita (“silent Goddess”), an earth Goddess, received offerings in Her grove.
Yule is a Norse 12 day celebration of returning sunlight that starts on the night of the Winter Solstice or the evening of December 24. In Germany Frau Holle demands that all spinning be put away for the 12 days of Yule. Some Heathens interpret this to mean that there should be no work done during Yule. It probably has to do with the weaving of the new year’s fate by the Norns in this transitional time. The Yule log was as big as a tree, decorated with garlands of greenery and carried to the house in a happy procession. (Some Scandinavians lived in “long houses” which held a couple dozen people or more.) The log burned for 12 days. Pork, Frey‘s sacred animal, is eaten, with the belief that wishes said over it will be carried to the Gods.
The Anglo-Saxons called December 24 “Mothers Night.” Some Pagans speculate that it was to honor the Disir, the female ancestors; others think that it continues the worship of the popular Celtic-German Matres (“Mothers”), and others connect them with the three Norns, the Norse Goddesses of destiny. Each family is said to have their own Norns, who may be the Disir.
On December 25th ancient Romans celebrated Bruma, the winter solstice. In 273 CE it became the sacred day of Sol Invictus (“Unconquered Sun”), patron of soldiers. Emperor Constantine decreed Sunday a day of rest: “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.” Sol Invictus probably was imported from Syria. He is associated with the popular military God imported from Persia Mithras and the date may have become His birthday.
December 31st is commonly the Festival of the Yoruban Orixa Yemaya in Brazil. As the sun sets, people release little boats to the Pacific Ocean. The boats hold flowers, pastries, jewellery, white candles and other gifts to Yemaya.

 

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

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.

October Pagan Holy Days Resource

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 so it arrives in time sent by snail mail.

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-Saxon name for October translates into “Winter Nights.”
October comes from octo-, meaning 8. When the Roman year started in March, October was the 8th month. This also explains September (7), November (9) and December (10).
Roman Goddess Fides (“Good Faith”) was honored on October 1st (or the new moon). Fides was concerned with faithful relationships between deities and mortals.
The 1st is dedicated to the Orisha Oya in New Orleans Voodoo.
The dark moon of the September-October lunar cycle was the Chalkeia in Athens. Artisans offered baskets of grain to Greek smith God Hephaestus and the patroness of artisans Athene Ergane (“workwoman”). Weaving Athene’s robe for next year’s Panathenaia began.
October 4 is a day of fasting in honor of Roman grain Goddess Ceres. The next day the Pit of Ceres was opened for the second time of the year. The manes (the dead) could leave the Underworld. Businesses closed and weddings and battles were forbidden.
On the 7th Jupiter Fulgur (“Jupiter of daytime lightning”) and Juno Curitis were honored by Romans.
October 9th is the birthday of the Heathen Queen Sigrid the Proud. She refused to convert to Christianity to marry a powerful king, saying others may choose Christianity, but she would continue the religion of her ancestors. He called her a Heathen bitch and tried to kidnap and rape her, but her soldiers defeated him. She swore revenge. She married another king who later would be involved with her former suitor’s death. Heathens honor her commitment to her religion; women honor her for not changing just to get married. She may have been Polish royalty.
The Meditrinalia (“to heal”) on October 11 celebrates the end of Roman grape harvests. The God receiving offerings was probably Jupiter. Ill people made a libation of new and old wine, hoping that tasting it would cure them.
The 15th is dedicated to the Orisha Oya in New Orleans Voodoo.
On October 15 two-horse chariot races were held to honor Mars.
Winter Nights was an important holiday in Iceland, held in October, perhaps on a Thursday near the full moon after the autumn equinox. A blot was held for the Disir (female ancestors and perhaps Valkyries and Goddesses).
Rome held the Armilustrium on October 19 as the war campaign season ended. Mars was honored and the soldiers and their weapons, polluted by having killed other humans, were purified.
In 1st century CE Rome, initiation into the Mystery Religion of Isis took place during October 28-November 3. A beautiful procession was lead by initiates in fancy clothing. A female chorus in white spread flowers on the path. Next came the people carrying torches, then musicians, followed by a youth choir dressed in white. “Make way for the goddess,” Priests and Priestesses yelled. More people already initiated came next, wearing white linen. Men were shaved bald and women wore white silk veils. They rattled a sistrum (a ritual instrument kind of like a metal tambourine). The rituals of the Isia were secret. The devotees probably reenacted Isis’s grief as She searched for Her murdered husband, the green Underworld God of barley Osiris, and then Her joy when She recovered His severed body. With Her Magick Isis put Osiris back together and had sex, conceiving the important God Horus. Like the other Mystery Religions, it guaranteed a deity’s help and a great Afterlife. At an older time Romans prepared a model ship for Isis, Goddess of the life-giving Nile River. Devotees purified the boat with flame, egg, sulfur and chanting. After the boat was filled with gifts, people poured libations of milk and grain into the water. Finally the little ship was put in the water, sailing its gifts to Isis.
Samhain is the Old Irish name for the the New Year, celebrated at the first frost or the evening of October 31 and day of November 1 with much feasting and divination. Samhain may come from the word “assembly” or “summer’s end.” Cattle and their young male protectors returned. Animals that could not be kept over winter were slaughtered and preserved. The dark half of the year began. Remains discovered at ancient British Celtic temples show that animals were sacrificed around Samhain and Beltain. The Gauls acknowledged this time as the new year, too. Called Trinoxtion Samoni (“three nights of Samhain”), it probably became involved with the rebirth festival of Isis of the Roman Empire. Samhain is a transitional time when communication with the spirits is easiest.

 

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