Inmate says he needs Thor’s hammer, drum

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I understand he needs/wants these things but he’s in jail as well. What are your thoughts?

Fri Dec 21, 10:10 PM ET

An inmate is suing the Utah Department of Corrections for denying him his right to practice an ancient Nordic religion while behind bars.

Michael Polk is serving time for aggravated assault and robbery. He filed a lawsuit against corrections officials in federal court, accusing them of denying him religious items that he says are necessary to practice the Asatru religion.

The religion worships ancient Nordic gods like Odin, Thor, Tyr and Heimdal.

In the lawsuit, Polk says he has been a member of the Asatru faith since 2005, and in order to properly practice it he needs items including: a Thor’s Hammer, a prayer cloth, a Mead Horn used for drinking Wassail, a drum made of wood and boar skin, a rune staff and a sword.

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Information from: Deseret Morning News, http://www.deseretnews.com

6 thoughts on “Asatru mistreated in Jail… or is he being unreasonable?

  1. I’m with Hildulf here.

    All religions have there ‘trappings’ many of which help focus the mind, perticulalrly usufull for the ‘novice’.

    But at the end of the day it is what is in your mind and spirit and the God’s will accept your homage, as long is it earnestly made, not because it is dressed up iand delivered with finery.

    I would have sympathy if he was not given time or space to practice symbles, but there are limits and it sounds like he is pushing it.

    Before he, or anyone else, screams Human Rights, rights come with responsibilities. He has been responsible for his actions, which had led him into his current situation.

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  2. This man is definately trying to play the system. Hildulf is correct in all that he says about the religious aspects, but I’m still going to support the inmate. Screw the system.

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  3. I was actually asked about this, on a message board I administer… I’ll copy and paste my response, below.

    ____________________________________________

    He may be laboring under a false idea of Asatru.
    He may be creating his own version of Asatru.

    We don’t see the need for any such thing as a prayer cloth.

    Thor’s Hammers are symbols denoting one’s faith in the Gods, not necessary accoutrements of ritual and worship.

    He’s not going to be taking much Wassail while in prison, and the Drinking Horn is not necessary, just traditional.

    Drum made of wood and boar skin? Where the hell did he get that?
    First… boar skin is too thick to make a proper drum, deer skin is much preferred. Second, the only reason he might NEED a drum is for Seidhr work, and that’s not part of the religion. It’s part of the feminine magical practices of the people… not religious. And traditionally, not for men.

    He doesn’t need a rune staff. A lot of Vitki make runestaves, but it’s not necessary for religious practice.

    As for the sword, he’s taking Havamal 38 from the Hollander translation in a literal sense:
    From his weapons away
    no man should ever
    Stir one foot in the field
    for noone knows
    when need might have
    on a sudden a man for his sword.

    Two problems with this.
    1: Swords were the common weapon of the day (we use what is common for the time period we’re in…. the 21st century).
    2: He’s in freakin’ prison.

    If he wants to carry a weapon, he should have thought about that before committing crimes to get himself incarcerated.

    In short, he’s either an idiot, or he’s attempting to use the religion to play the system.
    Personally, I’d lean toward the latter.

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  4. First, for readers who don’t know, I’ve worked w/ incarcerated persons for 2 years.

    Once a person is involved in the criminal justice system, a number of their civil rights automatically fly out the window. Simple ones such as where you can go, who you can talk to, how you talk to people, where you eat, sleep, drink and defecate no longer are under your control. There are certain matters, such as the spiritual, to which inmates are given access within reason. Usually, corrections will authorize religious books (Bibles, Korans, BaghavadGitas, Watchtowers, etc.) and basic religious materials (rosaries, prayer/meditation beeds, head coverings, prayer shawls/rugs, necklaces, icon cards, saint medalions). The restriction after all of this is that the materials cannot be fashioned easily in such a way a to harm others (turn a cross into a shiv, a necklace into a garrote, a hardcover book into a bludgeoning device.)

    To say the least, if this man treasured his freedom to practice his religion the way he saw fit, he might think again before committing a crime that would forbid him from having such religious items as a sword or a mead horn (or mead for goodness sake!). A drum might be contraband for other reasons in a prison setting, but a Thor’s Hammer (small necklace) and a prayer cloth are actually reasonable requests.

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  5. My first thought is: You’re in jail, dude. Suck it up. Secondly I think that one can certainly practice any religion in their own way depending on the situation they’re in. If he were poor and unable to afford the trappings he “needs” would he go and rob someo.. What’s he in jail for, again? 🙂

    I don’t know a lot about the principles of Asatru, but I don’t think the UT DoC is being unreasonable. I’m sure they would provide him space and time to practice, but the list of items he wants/needs would give anyone pause. Personally as someone that’s been a “poor pagan” before, items become ritual items as you make them so. Maybe he has another reason for making this particular stand, but it seems like that’s all it is, something bordering on the fringes of a frivolous lawsuit.

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