Heathens in Prison

In a recent letter from a concerned mother, she expressed worry that her Heathen son was not being allowed to practice his religion while in prison. It occurred to me that this may be fairly common in our world. Here is the advice I gave to her, in the hope that it may help others as well.

First, we must all be aware that there will be some restrictions in prison. That's just one of the conditions of prisons and there is no getting around it. As a result, a prisoner may not have access to mead (alcohol), fire, or things that may seem like a weapon. That is OK; you don't need the ceremonial trappings of our religion to be a member of our religion.

Another thing of which to be aware is racism. In American prisons, people tend to divide along racial lines. Even a prisoner who harbored no racism before going into prison can be taught to hate in such an environment. Since white supremacists use many of the Asatru symbols, prison officials may look at Heathen prisoners as just white supremacists and deny requests for what they see as propaganda tools. That means that prisoners must be careful to distinguish between the religion and that racism.

Our religion talks of Gods fighting a large battle to maintain dynamic balance between order and chaos. Humans are Their allies in this battle. That is all humans, not just white humans. We are not a white supremacist group and we must make sure that all of society knows the difference. If a black, Hispanic, or oriental person wants to worship the Gods, then we will encourage that behavior because it is part of job as allies of the Gods. This must happen in prison as much as it does anywhere else.

It is important that prisoners take the time to strengthen themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. They should take advantage of educational opportunities just as much as they make use of exercise equipment. Even the prisoners who are unlikely ever to get out should do this. Why? Because we strengthen ourselves so that we may strengthen our community. Prisoners should be trying to help other prisoners better themselves.

Despite all of this, there will still be problems with being in prisons. Some guards or other prison authorities will still be cruel just for their own amusement. Others may have a religious agenda of their own. That requires extra help. Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union has a branch devoted to prisoner rights (https://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights). It is important that the prison or his or her outside people contact the ACLU at the earliest opportunity.

Naturally, the best course of action is to stay out of prison, but we all have our own paths to follow. If you find yourself incarcerated, keep the faith.