Sunday, August 02, 2009

Extra Points For The Cute Title, Though. Bet You Wouldn't Do That In An Article About Xian Prisoners.

While xians far outnumber Pagans in United Kingdom jails (as they do in the UK population), the UK prison service is trying to find ways to accommodate some Pagans. These efforts are important because recognition by the military and prison systems are, maybe sadly, some of the first "official" ways that Paganism gets recognized as a "real" religion by governments. That matters because "real" religions get a host of rights in the US and the UK, from tax exemptions to days off from work for practitioners.

nmates practising paganism are allowed among their possessions a hoodless robe, a flexible twig for a wand, incense and a piece of jewellery. Pagans are also allowed to have “rune stones (wood, stone or clay tablets with the symbols of the ancient Norse-German alphabet) and a bag or box to carry them”. The Prison Service has made clear that the hoodless robe can be used only during private worship in an inmate’s cell or when a number of pagans in one prison gather for worship.

Pagan prisoners are also allowed to have tarot cards but staff say they cannot be used to tell the fortunes of other inmates. Guidance issued to prison staff said: “Some pagans use tarot cards for meditation and guidance. This may be allowed under the supervision of the pagan chaplain. If a prisoner requests to be allowed to retain a part or full pack, this may be allowed, but only following a local risk assessment to determine whether there is any reason to preclude cards. The cards are for personal use only and may be withdrawn if used inappropriately.”

Skyclad, or naked worship, is not allowed under Prison Service rules. Inmates are allowed to select two dates from a list of festivals when they are excused from work. They include Samhain, as Hallowe’en is know in paganism, the vernal equinox and the midsummer solstice. The guidance to governors also says that pagans can use wine in their worship, but “individual consumption will be one sip only”.

Yet while paganism is recognised as a religion by the prison service, Rastafarianism, which has 340 members in English and Welsh jails, and the Nation of Islam, with six members, are not. Anglicans remain the largest denomination, with 23,000 inmates, followed by 14,000 Roman Catholics.

A part of my religious practice is to read tarot for those who ask me to do so; I don't have two religious holidays; I have 34. Being skyclad is often an important part of my ritual. It's odd the things that terrify those trying to "keep order" in our societies.

Picture found here.

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