Articles/Essays From Pagans
December 1st. 2013 ...
A Pragmatic Look at Neo Paganism
The Tarot as a Tool for Raising Consciousness
Leaving a Pagan Group – Part 1: To Leave or to Stay?
November 24th. 2013 ...
The Pagan and the Papacy
The Groovy Aquarian Christ: Jesus From a Pagan Perspective
November 17th. 2013 ...
For Love of the God
Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca
A Threat to Religious Liberties?
November 10th. 2013 ...
Where did Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Wicca Go?
Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return
Nine Creeds: A Statement and Explanation of My Beliefs
The Celtic Tree Calendar
November 3rd. 2013 ...
The Mundane/Spiritual Mirror: What Does it Say About Your Life?
October 27th. 2013 ...
Thoughts On a Miley-Cyrus/ Robin-Thicke Society
On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice
Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them
Banishing, Invocation and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
October 20th. 2013 ...
Weather Magick: Who is Responsible for the Weather?
Broom Closet: In or Out?
Bottle Spells and Magick in Hoodoo Tradition
On Coven and Claws
October 13th. 2013 ...
Destroying to Create: A Lesson from the Dead
Consume the Scorpion- Scorpion Energy Revisited
October 6th. 2013 ...
UPG and U: A Breakdown and Building Up of Unverified and Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis
Answering The Call from Spirit
Coping with the Loss of a Familiar
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 2 (The South)
September 29th. 2013 ...
Six Reasons Why Covens are Here to Stay
Priestessing and Titles: What's the Point?
Truth or Convenience? Questioning Motives for Spiritual Advancement
Speaking Up: The Conflict Between the Spiritualist and Our Human Experience
September 22nd. 2013 ...
Death of a Friendship within the Craft
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 1 (The Center)
September 15th. 2013 ...
Some Pagan Prayers
Lunar Insight Moon Musings: Bramble and Cerridwen
The Holocaust Survivor (Part II)
September 8th. 2013 ...
Introduction to the Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage
The Druidic Concept of Nwyfre
The Holocaust Survivor (Part 1)
Giving and Helping
September 1st. 2013 ...
Use a Flyswatter for a Fly: More on the Dark Arts
How Spells Work
Is It Really 'Energy'?
August 25th. 2013 ...
Mother Nature’s Way: Forging a Distinctly American Path
Healing Moon Ritual
Unconditional Love: The Paradox of Perfect Love
Earth to Soul/Sole
August 18th. 2013 ...
How Not to Fall in the Bunny Trap
Why Are You Like That? Thoughts on Hoodoo and Appropriation
Finding the Right Coven
The Knowledge Found in Silence
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances, Hazelnuts and Magick Wands
August 11th. 2013 ...
“I Survived a Weekend with Galina Krasskova”
The Charges of the Goddess and God with Commentary
August 4th. 2013 ...
Fair Weather Witches
Pagan Studies II: Modern Paganism in the Americas
Pagan Abbeys - A Practical Heritage for Spiritual Lay and Professional Cloistered Communities
July 28th. 2013 ...
Crystals 101: A Helpful Guide For Beginners
The More the Merrier? It’s not Only an Inaccuracy; it’s an All Out Farce!
My Pagan Manifesto
July 21st. 2013 ...
I'm a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations
Rethinking Community for Solitaries
13 Keys: The Beauty of Tiphareth
July 14th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés We Use (Part II)
Pagan Humanism: A Tradition of Rational Religion
Moon/Planetary Musings: The Holly King and John Barleycorn
July 7th. 2013 ...
Coping With Depression: Learning to Dance with the Sacred Twins
Shamanic Healing of Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Humility and Community Service
H is for Hubris
June 30th. 2013 ...
How To Feel The Energy Around You
Planning A Ritual
Why Pagans Might Benefit from Counseling Techniques
The Weight of Contemplation: When the Silent Self Grows Louder
June 23rd. 2013 ...
Magick and Play
Tarot Spell for Protection
Moon Musings and Planetary Preponderances: RE-fuse, RE-duce, RE-use, RE-pair and RE-cycle
June 16th. 2013 ...
How To Stay Spiritual Amidst This Chaos?
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Transformation from the Inside Out ~ The Need for Prison Ministry
Article ID: 10926
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,658
Times Read: 2,769
RSS Views: 79,058
Posted: August 27th. 2006
Times Viewed: 2,769
“Are we really that scary?” one of the elders of the Wiccan group asked me. “Has the media done such a good job at making us monsters that no one will come?”
My answer to both questions was soft and pained, one word: “Yes.” My heart felt like it would break.
Wicca has received its fair share of prejudice and bigotry over the last fifty-plus years. Misinformation, both intentional and accidental, has labeled us as Satanists, baby killers, brain washers. I was once called an “abomination” in a conversation about Wicca and marriage. But it isn’t the religious preference of this group of seekers that keeps good teachers, priests, and priestesses from sharing their experience of the Goddess and the beauty of Wicca. It’s the fact that they are incarcerated offenders. Prisoners. The outcast class of society.
I began my prison ministry a little less than a year ago. It was the coming of age of a dream I’d held since I was fourteen – to reach out to lost and hurting souls with love and compassion in the hope that I could make a difference. If I could change the course of just one life, I thought, it would be well worth the time and energy. I have always believed the world is transformed one soul at a time, and I wanted to start with the souls most reviled and forgotten. What I didn’t realize is that the life course I would change so profoundly would be my own.
I volunteer at a state men’s facility. It is a Level 4 facility – just one notch below the most maximum security for a state without the death penalty. The median age of the population is less than 30. The men are split pretty evenly – black and white – with a smattering of other racial groups. Sex offenders make up the greatest percentage of inmates, having just recently moved ahead of those convicted of murder. As many as half of the men in this facility never receive a visitor. The only contact they have that lets them know the outside world cares about them and their fate is through volunteers.
Ahhhh… but does the outside world care about them and their fate? I’m not convinced it does. I have been shocked and overwhelmingly saddened by the response my ministry has received. “They don’t deserve compassion.” “Give ‘em a toothbrush and pillow and nothing more.” “Monsters.” “They’ll never change.” “I could never do what you do.”
The first time I took the long walk down the empty corridor, past the guard station, and down another corridor to the chapel with big doors sliding firmly closed behind me every so often, I admit to having been jittery. Not afraid, but anxious about what I didn’t know. I expected a group of curmudgeonly older men (even though I knew the age stats) with hardened faces and rude or contemptuous attitudes. I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I found was a young group (several are younger than my twenty-something older sons) who were grateful, pleasant, cooperative, and far more respectful than a whole lot of people I know on the outside. They were just people. Men who had made bad choices, some terrible and incredibly harmful, and were now living the consequence of those choices.
Slowly, I began to see my own prejudice in my unstated belief that I could bring transformation to anyone. I’ve spent a great deal of my personal and professional life insisting on the intrinsic value of the human being. I’ve preached that our worth is not derived from our actions, be they good or bad; our worth arises from the fact that we are human, and that no matter how atrocious our choices, we cannot extinguish the divine spark within.
Preaching is one thing, experiencing is another. As I got to know these men as human beings, the transformation I’d hoped for began to happen. Except it was I who changed. My understanding and experience of compassion grew and continues to grow. I am blessed and humbled to be allowed a peek inside the minds and hearts of a part of society we lock away and try to forget about. Seeing the good, the bad, the incredibly painful dynamics of crime and consequences is a bit like seeing into the face of the Goddess herself. Chaos and destruction – life and rebirth all interacting within some cosmic order.
I sit with the stories of childhood abandonment and abuse that created adults who perpetrate terrible crimes. I hold the pain of the murderer in my heart next to the pain of the victim and her family. I grieve for the abused children, the lost adults. And behind it all I see the human being. It is a shaman’s journey.
Bo Lozoff, author of We’re All Doing Time and founder of the Human Kindness Foundation, is adamant that the prison experience need not be one of shame. This long-time prison minister brings the experience of spirituality to federal prisons with the concept of “prison monks” creating space and awareness that allows for great spiritual growth while “doing time.” Bo’s work has received numerous humanitarian awards over the past 25+ years. But it’s not the awards that tell the story – it’s the amazing response from hundreds of thousands of convicted offenders across the country, many of them hardened criminals. These men, these human beings, respond with gratitude and tears of joy as they find a way to transform their lives and their experience.
Bo’s work is enormous and awe inspiring. My work is tiny. Other ministers, one by one, add their light to the great need for compassion in the correctional system. And still more is needed. Where I work, the Department of Corrections has instituted a new rule. If no religious volunteer is available for a particular day (or at all), then the religious service is cancelled. For the more mainstream groups, it’s not much of a problem. Sheer numbers alone ensure that our Christian brothers have enough volunteers to cover the need. But for Wiccans, Buddhists, and members of the Moorish Science religion (to name just a few) it can mean canceling a single event or the loss of religious services altogether. It was this new rule and the difficulty of finding new volunteers that prompted the question asked by one of my group in the opening paragraph.
All great religions emphasize compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness, and responsibility. As Bo Lozoff says, these are not suggestions for living – they are instructions. Not just instructions for those behind bars, instructions for each and every one of us. Prison ministry is an aching need in our society. Truly the world is transformed one person at a time. For those on the inside that transformation might begin when they are viewed as fully complex human beings carrying the spark of the divine. For those on the outside it comes when we face our own prejudices and shadows.
Consider prison ministry. Certainly it needs you. More importantly, you might need it.
Copyright: Midsummer 2006 Emrys
Location: St Paul, Minnesota
Author's Profile: To learn more about Emrys - Click HERE
Bio: Emrys is a Wiccan High Priestess practicing in an eclectic tradition in Minnesota. She is the mother of 7, an ardent pacifist, and seeker of compassion and peace. She believes her greatest gift is her ability to see the human being and not the affliction.
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Emrys... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2013 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).