This page is for those of you wonderful souls who are chaplains within the prison system. You are performing a mostly thankless and selfless service, and you have to deal with the bureaucracy of the prison system as well as inmates who are often not involved for the right reasons. That said, there may be some information that can help you to understand what the average Wiccan is all about, and what you can expect from Wiccan inmates. We’ve created this site to help Wiccan inmates, and their families, and we also want to take the time to thank you chaplains for all that you do for the community.
Wiccans in Prison
Much of the information about Wicca can be gleamed from the Intro to Wicca on this site, but this isn’t an intro for prospective Wiccans or their family, it’s for those of you who are chaplains, and primarily from a Christian background, to get a better understanding of who you will be dealing with. Generally. there are many variants of Wiccan belief, similar to the various denominations of Christianity.
Wiccans are very diverse, with varying beliefs and personalities. The average Wiccan in prison is going to be intelligent, book smart, a reader in general, articulate, polite, and perhaps even a bit geeky. But they may also be black, white, Hispanic or a mixture of all of the above. Their beliefs will reflect their background, the books they have read, and the goals they have. Typically they were not Wiccan before entering the prison system, and they do not have a good idea of what to expect, what is expected of them, and what they are supposed to do. They will look to current members of the Wiccan group for guidance, and they will appreciate the support of you, the chaplain.
Wiccans have no Bible to go by, no commandments, and no central Church to provide Wiccan theology. Many books on Wicca are on the DOC’s rejected book list, mostly for “security reasons” that may or may not include a prejudice towards non-Judaeo-Christian religions, but regardless of the reason, Wiccans will seldom find any books on Wicca in the prison library, and usually few or none in the Chaplain Library either. That leaves it to their family or friends on the outside to send in books for them to study, and generally Wiccan inmates will share those books they do have with other Wiccans. Many of the free prison book programs will offer Wiccan books, though they are in high demand, and we will provide addresses here on this site that can be passed along to Wiccans at your institution.
Here are a few of the best reference books on Wicca that you may suggest to Wiccan inmates, should they be interested in learning more about the religion:
Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today
by Margot Adler
Popular demand for this clear-sighted compendium of information about the rebirth of Pagan religions hasn’t waned since its initial publication in 1979. Distinguished by the journalism of National Public Radio columnist Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon explains this diverse and burgeoning religion’s philosophies and activities while dispelling stereotypes that have long been associated with it. Most people don’t realize that pagan simply refers to pre-Christian polytheistic nature religions, such as the various Native American creeds, Japanese Shinto, Celtic Druid, and Western European Wicca. Originally, the word pagan meant “country dweller” and was a derogatory term in Rome in the third century A.D., not unlike calling someone a hick today. If you find yourself feeling queasy when you hear the words witch or pagan, a healthy dose of reeducation via Drawing Down the Moon could be the cure.
The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess
The twentieth anniversary edition of The Spiral Dance celebrates the pivotal role the book has had in bringing Goddess worship to the religious forefront. This bestselling classic is both an unparalleled reference on the practices and philosophies of Witchcraft and a guide to the life-affirming ways in which readers can turn to the Goddess to deepen their sense of personal pride, develop their inner power, and integrate mind, body, and spirit. Starhawk’s brilliant, comprehensive overview of the growth, suppression, and modern-day re-emergence of Wicca as a Goddess-worshipping religion has left an indelible mark on the feminist spiritual consciousness.
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
by Scott Cunningham
Cunningham’s classic introduction to Wicca is about how to live life magically, spiritually, and wholly attuned with nature. It is a book of sense and common sense, not only about magick, but about religion and one of the most critical issues of today: how to achieve the much needed and wholesome relationship with our Earth. Cunningham presents Wicca as it is today: a gentle, Earth-oriented religion dedicated to the Goddess and God. Wicca also includes Scott Cunningham’s own Book of Shadows and updated appendices of periodicals and occult suppliers.
Typically, it is very hard to get Wiccan volunteers to come into the prison. This is because, as we’ve discussed, there is no central Wiccan church, and Wiccan groups are very loosely organized, so their is no central group to appeal to for volunteers. There is the Facebook page of The Witches Voice, or WitchVox, but it is made up of individuals, and they may or may not respond to requests for volunteers. That said, most Wiccan groups in prison are ran by the Wiccan inmates themselves, usually overseen by the Chaplain and/or prison security staff. A High Priest or Priestess is usually selected within the Wiccan inmate group, and they usually guide the group through rituals, celebrations, initiations and worship.
Generally, Wiccans are well behaved, they are not involved with gang activity, and they usually conduct themselves accordingly. They are happy to be able to get together to worship, and will not bring trouble or drama to the Chapel. They will need a few items to worship or celebrate, and usually those items are donated by family members. They may include:
- a candle holder
- an incense burner
- fire, to light the incense and candle
- a chalice or cup to hold the water
- a small cup to hold the salt
- a wand made of natural wood
- something to represent the ritual knife known as the Athame–this can be a plastic disposable knife, a rubber “fake” knife, or even a hand-drawn cutout of a knife on a piece of cardboard
Obviously, the tools used will have to be appropriate for the prison environment, and it all comes down to security and safety of staff and inmates. That said, everything can be stored at the Chapel, and nothing mentioned above needs to leave with the Wiccan inmates. They will require an orderly or you, the Chaplain, to light the candle and incense, but otherwise they will usually be content to run the service themselves, with little assistance from anyone, in the absence of an outside volunteer.
That’s pretty much it! Please take the time to visit the Introduction to Wicca section, as well as the rest of this site, as it is loaded with resources that can be used for the creation of a Wiccan service. And again, thank you for your patience, your help, and your guidance, because without you Chaplains, there would be no religious services in prison at all!