by Gregory LaValle
A friend of mine’s wife died recently. He came to me with the request that I perform some kind of funerary rite for her. She was a Pagan, and he wanted to honor her with a Pagan ceremony. I am in prison, and so this was a much more complicated request than most (all?) of you realize.
I have half a dozen or so fellow Pagans here. We have Wiccans, Ásatruars, Egyptian, and vanilla Pagans. My term “vanilla Pagan,” if it needs explanation, means someone who identifies as Pagan, but doesn’t know enough to know what that means. As a rule, I only work with those who are trying to learn (and these guys are hungry!). Ignorance is remediable.
So I gathered together my fellows and asked them if they’d be open to doing a ritual. We have not worked together in over a year, but she was beginning her new life in the beyond, and so a ritual on the New Moon felt right.
Because of the COVID pandemic, we have been restricted from meeting as the “Pagan Group” in the room allotted to us by the prison. This area has our cabinets, which contain our ritual tools: cauldron, prayer oil, etc. The other holds our library. These two cabinets hold all tools of ceremonial magic and ritual that we as individuals cannot have (legally). I found out that our area had been restored, and so we opted to do our ritual there instead of the yard (competing with horseshoes, handball, and basketball).
On the morning of the ritual we all got together so we could walk over together. My friend Nick had prepared the ritual for the occasion, and I reviewed with him the details. I am the priest/ess of Freyja and Odin. I am well-versed in ceremonial magic, occult lore, and the different mythologies and religions. My opinion carries a lot of weight here, and Nick wanted to make sure his ritual was all right (it was very nice).
We got to our (new) area: a former weight room converted into a dormitory full of bunk beds. Our area sat in the “doorway” between the bathroom and the main dorm. Not a very sacred-feeling space. We used to have an actual room, but the prison felt we didn’t need it. Oh well. What can we do, right?
So we go to the cabinet to get our implements, and what do we find? All our stuff is missing. No bowls, no chalice, no wand, candles, oil. Nothing. Nothing but statuary. We had no altar, no table. Nothing to work on. We were disappointed, to say the least. Someone asked how we were going to do the ceremony now?
A-ha! Time to earn my food. I took us all back to our bathroom grove. We made a circle of chairs, and I explained my plan. Nick’s ritual had been centered on the Norse rune Othala. I incorporated Raidho. I took a piece of paper and inscribed a bindrune with the decedent’s name underneath. I placed it in the center next to Nick’s rune stones. I cast the circle with Nick invoking a rune barrier. We called the quarters and raised energy. I, acting as priest/ess offered that energy to Freyja and Frey, the Lord and the Lady, to use with their superior wisdom, to achieve our intended purpose.
We sat after and spoke for a few minutes. There were a couple of new faces, and so we welcomed them. We did not have “cakes and ale” so we instead shared in each other’s goodwill. There was a quick lesson about grounding, and then we ended the ritual. I broke the circle, and we each offered our hand in friendship to everyone assembled.
The entire thing was effective and fulfilling. No one felt it was a crappy substitute, and everyone said they could feel the energy being moved. The whole thing was valid.
We in prison are fortunate in this regard. We are forced to reevaluate what’s important in our lives. To discover true meaning. We do not have all the luxuries others enjoy. We do not have altars, candles, or incense. Privacy we have to make due without. I teach my fellows how.
Quite simply the wand, the chalice, the incense, all of it, are only tools that the conscious mind uses to interact with the non-conscious mind. The real energy work, the “magic,” is done not with the conscious mind, but with that other non-conscious part of the self. I guide my brothers and sisters through ritual, allowing their deeper minds to do the work by guiding their conscious minds. It may seem silly, and it is difficult to explain in just one paragraph, but it works. I will explain it all in detail some other time.
But why tell this story?
First, you have brethren in prison. Please send us good energy. We are not all villains.
Second, you have brethren in prison. We send you good energy. We are not all villains.
Third, you can do whatever you can imagine. You needed to be reminded of it, that’s all.
Gregory LaValee is a participant in the Capricorn Ministry’s Prison Pen Pal Program. If you are interested in becoming a pen pal to an incarcerated Pagan, please contact Tim, the Capricorn lead minister, at firstname.lastname@example.org.