Pagan prisoners incarcerated in Britain are to win the right to use wands, tarot cards and incense to conduct their worship, according to new government guidance. The guidance is included in a 104-page document, called Faith and Pastoral Care for Prisoners, that sets out provisions for worshippers of all faiths, including Zoroastrianism and Baha'i.
Among the props it allows into prisons to be used in pagan worship include "incense and holder" and "hoodless robes". Tarot cards are allowed "for personal use only", and using them to tell fortunes is considered inappropriate.
"Some pagans use tarot cards for meditation and guidance. This may be allowed under the supervision of the pagan chaplain ... but only following a local risk assessment," it reads.
According to the Sunday Times, a freedom of information request submitted in 2013 found that there were 600 prisoners who identified as pagan in the prison system at the time - more than there were Hindus or Jews.
Digby Griffith, director of the National Offender Management Service, told the Express: "For most prisoners, their religion and its practice provides a positive framework to navigate both the prison system and their journey towards law-abiding lives.
"Support on release from faith communities can also be instrumental in helping with the transition to life outside prison."
Prisoners are allowed to set up small altars in their cells, in the form of a desk, small table or box. They are entitled to meditate and chant, and even read from sanctioned books of magic rituals. So-called "skyclad" worship - which is conducted in the nude - is forbidden, as is the consumption of cider to mark Samhain, the Celtic New Year, or drinking wheat beer at Lammas, the corn harvest festival. Instead, the guidance says: "In prison an ear of wheat or piece of bread could symbolise the Lammas harvest."