Christopher Penczak – Interview with Paganicon Guest

Christopher Penczak at Stonehenge

I talked to Christopher Penczak about his appearance as featured Paganicon guest March 16-18th.  He is an energetic, prolific, and well spoken author whose writing have sought to synthesize and integrate many magical concepts with the practice of the Witchcraft.  He is offering three workshops and a ritual at Paganicon, so if you don’t come away understanding his perspective, you have missed out!

Have you visited the Twin Cities area before?

I have! Many years ago, right after I signed with Llewellyn, I spoke at Magus books, and visited. It was right after “Inner Temple of Witchcraft” had come out. I came out a few years later when Llewellyn moved, and believe I again visited Magus, and the Eye of Horus, I think they had just opened.  I am excited about my Paganicon experience, and my first real teaching opportunity in the area.

Tell me about your presentations at Paganicon?

The Awen Symbol

The Three Rays of Witchcraft is from the book I am most excited about, it is from a few books back, the first one released from my own publishing house, Copper Cauldron.  It came to me from a vision, trying to reconcile my own experience differences between Wicca based Witchcraft and more folk-loric based Witchcraft, along with my more Qabalistic side, shamanistic side, and more “New Age” side.  A lot of my influence for the book ‘Ascension Magic’ came from theosophy, New Age, and light worker material which really doesn’t fit into the Witchcraft paradigm. I was experience a schism in my own spiritual practice and this is how it all came together for me. In meditation I experienced an image, a  vision of the Awen, the symbol from Druidic tradition, that was a little bit different. It brought together all these different ideas for me.  I got bolted right out of the meditation. It was a really unique experience for me because nine days later, I had the draft of the book written. It was inspired, and is my favorite book to date. For me it gets into deeper thoughts about magic and Witchcraft. What are we seeking through magic? What is the Witches version of ‘enlightenment’ ? The The Three Rays really deals with the concept of power, and your true will; Love, unconditional love; and wisdom. How do we get to be creatures that can hold love, power and wisdom at the same time?

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Pagans in Prison – Inmates Comment

The inmates at various Department of Correction Facilities have been tracking this discussion of Pagans in Prison, and are aware of the civil rights issue in Stillwater Prison.  Nearly all Pagans in prison find that path in prison. They have no history with a ‘Pagan community’. They have the idea that we as Pagans have a spiritual community like many Christian groups do. Inmates, therefore, tend to have a real idealized vision of our ‘Pagan community’. We are presumed to have facilities, programs, ministers, outreach programs, and the dedication to help our ‘brethren’ in need, and they know they certainly need help. Maybe they suffer from the same attitude we hold, we want a lot from our community and don’t have the time or resources to put a lot into it.

Many of the facilities have functions, and  Faribault is considered an ‘exit’ facility. It houses over 2200 mainly low risk inmates, double bunked, with mainly shorter terms. They are preparing to leave incarceration in a few months to a few years, and will be approaching our community as they seek their Pagan paths.

What do you want from the Pagan community as Pagans in Prison?

 We want to be able to learn more, and to be able to meet people in a positive fashion. We want to start building  some positive relationships now, that will be available to us once we get on the outside. Ninety percent of us are here because of the people we hung around with. When we get out, if we hang with the same people, we will be back in here. We need Pagan people to hang with! Continue reading

Pagans in Prison – Women Ministers in Prisons

Emrys Anu is a Wiccan Minister volunteering for the last six years at Rush City Correctional Facility.  She has volunteered in the past at Red Wing (18 months) and Stillwater Correctional Facility (2 yrs.).

A Prison Beltane Altar

What is it like working with your “guys”?

They are funny, engaged, and interested. They are incredibly grateful for the time and interactions that any volunteers bring. Just to show up, look them in the eye and shake their hand and treat them like human beings. They don’t get that often enough except with the religious volunteers. I think that attitude sets the foundation for the engagement. We develop a give and take trust that makes education in this setting possible. The topics that we touch on are the difficult topics of life transformation. We don’t talk about their crimes, they all know that they are in their for a crime, we even joke about it. Once I mentioned, “Ya, well I get to go home after this”, and they replied, “Ya, they keep us here because we are criminals”. They know that they have made bad choices. In those moments when they are calm and grounded and connected, they want to be able to make better choices and know they don’t have the skills to do that. Continue reading

Pagans in Prison – Wiccan Minister in Minnesota

George A Edgar, Wiccan Minister and Pagan Prison Religious Volunteer at three Minnesota Correctional Institutions;  Stillwater, Faribault, and Shakopee

How are these decisions about religious civil rights for Pagans in prison made ?

The important decisions about what inmates can have or do in their religious practice are made by those that are least qualified and educated to do so. If you are pulled over for speeding it is the police officer who decides if you get a ticket, not a judge, a specialist in the law. If you say, ” I am on my way to minister to inmates”, they might just say, “Have a nice day”, and let you go. That has happened to me!  It is the same in the prison system, it is the guards and the chaplains who decide what goes on. When you get to the upper echelon, the Warden or the Department of Corrections, and they get excited, you tend to see draconian measures because they don’t want any headaches. They see things very practically, and the Pagans represent a slippery slope. They had to cave into the Native Americans. They allow outdoor ritual, the sweat lodge, the use of tobacco, now what if the Druids want that too? If you can get three or four guys together and a religious volunteer, you become a legitimate religious group. All of a sudden you may have thirty outdoor rituals a week, with special guards and space requirements. Where is the funding, where are the extra staff? They just don’t want the headache. They want to stop this as best they can.

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Pagans in Prison – Religious Volunteer In Wisconsin

Wade Mueller is a religious volunteer for Pagans in seven Wisconsin Correctional Institutions. He is tired, but receives so much from his prison experience, and sees such a need, that he can’t stop if it means letting his people down.

 Do you actively advocate for an inmates religious rights or requests?

 I have to stay away from that as I have absolutely no power as a volunteer aid, and so am in a very precarious position. I tend to be polite and courteous in order to get entry and or anything at all with the inmates. Once inside I act as a priest, a facilitator, they cannot even get together as a group unless I come in. I tell the guys, “What do you want to do with this time?”. Some really want to do in-depth, hard-core rituals. Then I encourage and help them write their own rituals, and then just watch over and maybe help them. I may facilitate discussion, help with meditation. It is different every time depending on who shows up. There are so many different paths and traditions that show up, and there is often conflict.
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