Wicca in the razor wire jungle

Carter, Harold Sanford, III

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Wicca in the Razor Wire Jungle by Harold Sanford Carter III Here I sit in a castle styled prison in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Where I am there are many like me. Thrown back into the teeth of recidivism for breaking the law one way or another. As I see it, two things we all have in common as prisoners are our problems with addiction, and the fact that when we committed our crimes always in the picture somewhere was a woman. The biggest thing with me that differs from other prisoners is my faith. "I am a third degree witch." I was telling my cellmate just yesterday that about 330 years ago the prison guards here at Huntingdon Prison would have hung me upon my arrival here. I am lucky to have such a gap in time don't you think? In modern times people like me still experience hardships while incarcerated. The good news for me is in the past twenty years that I have been in and out of prisons and jails across the country, the acceptance of my old pagan way of life has been getting better. Practicing the craft has been a journey in the midst of the razor wire jungle. Here are a few of my experiences. Some officers in the Department of Corrections are completely ignorant of the practice of Wicca. Often they only have Hollywood movies to base their opinions. It's a shame that correctional officers do not got training on the many faiths of the prison populations nation wide. Heres a quick situation that I went through at a classification reception prison in Lake Butler Florida almost two decades ago. Prior to arriving at Lake Butler Prison I was in a jail called Middleton County Jail in Massachusetts. I was on the run in Salem and when I was caught by police the courts shipped me to Florida to deal with a carjacking case that I was running from. When I was asked at reception when I got to Lake Butler a southern officer asked me my last place of residence which was Salem. She then asked me my religious preference. I told her I am a practicing Wiccan. She asked me what that was and I told her I was a witch. Brushing my ego to the side you should have seen the look on the poor woman's face. She then abruptly said, "You got to be kidding me." There was foul language inserted in her statement as well. She instructed me to sit. I was then seen last for the remainder of my intake process. Interaction with prison staff concerning my Wiccan faith has been both positive and negative for me. On a more positive note I remember a time when I was at a county jail in Putnam County Florida. At the time I was writing manuscripts for a new age magazine on the topic of pagans dealing with recidivism issues in America. The manuscript was inspirational nonetheless. It was inspirational enough that at 2:00 AM a female correctional officer visited my cell in the deep of night to reveal that she had been involved in a coven of witches in Virginia before her career change to that of a correctional officer. At Putnam County Jail the officers read outgoing mail looking for security risks and the like. I has always been enchanting to me when she came to me in the night. On that night the goddess spoke to me thru the very people holding me captive. Another enchanting thing that happened to me was my visit to the medical department at Lake Correctional Institution in Florida. A nurse was treating me for anxiety. She told me she liked the crossed broomsticks on my neck. The besoms as Wiccans call them was a tattoo idea I had from the cover of a book on Italian witchcraft I had studied. The nurse in question started to practice reiki (auric healing) on me. Her fellow coworkers were rather surprised at the behavior of her. She was a Wiccan like I. Of course my anxiety vanished. My faith was illuminated. Even in incarceration the wise ones of humanity were present. A much needed comfort at the time. Witches who indulge in the medical field is common. I have identified them on more than one occasion in the Department of Corrections. Mose of the time they keep it secret. Keeping hush about being the children of the goddess is also very common. These Department of Corrections employees are no exception. The biggest hardship I ever faced was at Columbia Correctional Institution in Florida when officers confiscated my book of shadows. A book of shadows is a journal of sorts of rituals, holy days, meditations, and of course spells. These books are always hand written and personal to practitioners of the craft. I was devastated when they took my book. No real reason was given to me why these officers took my book. Authority hates knowledge I say. The book in question was loaded with years of occult wisdom. At the time I filed a 1982 USC civil suit against the Florida D.O.C. I am no lawyer so my litigation was weak and the case was not processed. To this day I am certain my constitutional rights were violated. This particular hardship occurred in Florida D.O.C almost two decades ago. On a brighter note it seems Wiccan tolerance in the prison system in America is getting better. I still believe there is room for growth. About eight years ago I was a prisoner at the Maine State Prison for about 3 years. At this prison I underwent what I call witch school. This prison has a full fledged working coven. A full altar including robes and candles. I still remember the sweet smell of sage as we called upon the spirits of nature in that prison. The biggest library of occult, witchcraft, and ceremonial magick books I have ever seen still resides there to this day. I never actually joined the coven of the sacred tree (as they are called) because I had a short sentence. The coven members were lifers who have practiced their craft in the razor wire jungle for the past 20 years or more. Even today I miss those guys. It's a bond that can never be broken. If you are Wiccan and you have to do time, the Maine State Prison is the place to be. It wasn't also easy for these witches. When they first started they had nothing but a cardboard box as an altar and a picture of a pentagram. They also got into a bit of trouble when they first started in the early 90's. The administration was unsupportive of Wiccan services at first. As a group they all climbed the roof of the recreation building in protest demanding the right to practice the old ways. They all of course ended up in solitary confinement because of their actions. Surprisingly enough they were shortly after granted permission to practice Wicca along with every tool of the witch. The only tool that wasn't available for me to use when I got there was the athame (a knife used to manipulate magickal current). The days of witch school in the razor wire jungle is long gone for me. Today I am incarcerated in the prison system in Pennsylvania. I am currently fighting the administration here to practice my Wicca. I actually have a meeting with the chaplain next week to discuss the possibility. The prison I am in at Huntingdon Pennsylvania Castle may have never had a Wiccan group endorsed by the administration. I am certainly not going to give up easily. Before I was here at Huntingdon Castle I had to go to a prison called Camp Hill. This prison is how Pennsylvania classifies its prisoners. Its a diagnostic type of prison. While I was there the administration started a Wiccan studies group three weeks prior to when I got there. Be assured I am not one to believe in coincidence. Synchronicity haunts me rather often. Still, let me go back to the notion that I believe there is still room for further acceptance of my faith. One particular day while I was walking to the prison cafeteria an officer stopped my to ask if I had lacrosse sticks tattooed on my neck. An old lacrosse player himself I presume. I responded they were broomsticks. As I was walking away I overheard the officer telling the other officers that I was a satanist. This is a belief of many people who are uneducated on the basics of Wicca. It is also very aggravating to hear. It may even be on the cusp of violating my constitutional rights. This is just an example of how I think it is important to educate correctional officers i the United States about Wicca. As a matter of fact they should be educated about all religions including non-mainstream ones. If they were it would benefit their role as security I say. With Wicca by my side here I sit in contemplation of my recidivism. I contemplate my alcoholism and violence that has brought me to America's prisons. My witchcraft and Wicca help me to cope. I would be a much lesser man without it. A man of much more hate. This European pagan faith we call Wicca has transformed me from a hate filled gangbanger to a loving, tree hugging, dirt worshipping hippie. Thats a different story altogether and maybe for another time. For now I must go, so I can prepare for my meeting with the prison chaplain here at Huntingdon Castle Pennsylvania; about my witchcraft. But that's just Wicca in the razor wire jungle.

Author: Carter, Harold Sanford, III

Author Location: Pennsylvania

Date: March 27, 2018

Genre: Essay

Extent: 13 pages

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