Some More Ways in Which Inmate Circles Differ from Civilian Circles
In previous blogs I’ve mentioned various differences and restrictions that affect how we can work and what we can and cannot do. We can burn candles and incense, and we have created a temporary temple space.
If you're old enough, you may remember a television cartoon series from the 1950's called "Crusader Rabbit." He was, as I recall, sort of a Don Quixote-type character - tending to tilt at windmills which most folks would judge imaginary or not worth the effort. Whether that memory is correct or not, it's the way I often feel. Very few people ever seem to share my sense of injustice at the little subtleties in our culture.
My wife and I receive healthcare in Arizona from the Banner Health organization. Banner is one of the largest healthcare conglomerates in the U.S., managing hospitals and medical practices all over the country. Yet, when we are admitted into the hospital for a procedure and are asked on the intake form to indicate whether we have a religion of choice, only certain ones are on their computer list and they do not include Pagan, Neopagan or Heathen. Most surprisingly, in light of recent acknowledgment by the Armed Forces and the Prison system, the Banner list doesn't even have Wiccan! (We are not Wiccan, strictly speaking, but it's close enough for Jazz. We'd take it.)
Last year at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies I spoke about PTSD, what it was like coming home and what many of us are dealing with. While my dealings with some of experiences in Iraq may be rough and troublesome, the hardest part was coming home and returning to civilian life.
After everything that I had been through, and strangely enough, everything I have become accustom to, I had a much more difficult time integrating back into "normal" life and relating to "normal" people (civilians). I soon discovered that most people had equal difficulty relating to me. There were many awkward silences because they didn't know what or what not say, and neither did I.
Synchronicity is a mysterious muse who has always danced in periphery of my life. I have seen her out of the corner of my eye on what often seems to be a daily basis. Today was no different except to say, this time she danced across my news feed.
The other night as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed and came across a post by Witches & Pagans editor Anne Newkirk Niven. She had written that she had just gotten her a** handed to her by some readers regarding her editorial. Being no stranger to having my a** handed to me, I was among the first to offer a supportive comment.
Years ago I started a little blog called The Ink Blot Tarot, and most people know me from that blog as WitchDoctorJoe (all one word, please just humor me.) It started as a publicly-private journal of one of my second degree CraftWork projects. I may not a good writer, but I know I'm not very good at writing. I'm very self-aware that my spelling is a borderline disability, that I am punctuationally impaired and that I drive the grammar Nazis completely insane. Mostly because I tend to make up my own words, which I enjoy, because somehow you always know what I mean when I do it. My favorite thing is to take a few words, capitalize them, and then smash them together into one word like CraftWork. Regardless of how bad of a writer I may be, I am in fact extremely comfortable writing.
Or at least I was until I realized how many people were reading my blog, then I became nervous, uncertain and uncomfortable. I became very careful and very guarded with my words and feelings; and my interest began to wane. I am simply not the guarded type. I have no problem spilling my guts, sharing my intimate thoughts, feelings and fears. For example, I love chick flicks like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and I wet the bed until I was almost ten.
Back in July 2012 I wrote a piece announcing the establishment of the National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association. Since then the association has accrued a decent number of members. Considering how few Pagan Chaplains there are, we're looking pretty good. A little over a week ago we held our first annual forum at PantheaCon and again I was pleasantly surprised by the turn out. Among those in attendance were Patrick McCollum, Selena Fox, Macha Nightmare and Glenn Turner. I personally felt honored by their presence.
Our presentation consisted of a brief introduction to the association; its mission, vision, membership, structure and development plans. I gave a short instructional vignette on essential texts related to chaplaincy within the field of corrections. This transitioned into an open discussion forum which covered a wide range of topics. Both Patrick and Selena shared valuable experience and insight on the past, present and future of Pagan Chaplaincy. The highlight of the evening for me personally was Patrick's heartfelt expression of support for the success of the association. And in the interest of full disclosure, I got a little misty eyed.