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Photo by Jake Givens on Unsplash

I was a dedicated Christian when I first came to prison 20 years ago. I had even attended Bible college and had been a pastor in a couple of churches. There were times when I would have been considered a bona fide Holy Roller — of the “if you do something wrong, repent and you’ll be OK” variety. 

But I had some issues.

One of the biggest was that for most of my life, I was secretly gay. For a member of the Pentecostal Church of God, being homosexual is about the worst sin you can commit. 

I started coming out after my boyfriend, the senior pastor’s son, told me I was a hypocrite. He said it as we lay in bed together the morning after I had preached on the “Sins of Sodom,” telling the congregation how evil it was for a man to lie with a man. 

Though it would still be years before I told most of my conservative Christian family, I announced from the pulpit that we should be tolerant of those of different sexual orientations. The next day, I was told I could no longer preach.

Eventually, I found a local Metropolitan Community Church. The MCC is a collection of Protestant congregations that support members of the LGBTQ community around the world. But with my Pentecostal background, I always felt a little out of place there. 

I began to question my religion. I started thinking about some of the stories my grandfather told me when I was growing up about an old religion his ancestors had been part of, called Erosian.

I also remembered something that happened when I was 7. I’d gotten into trouble and was on my bed crying when a bright light appeared and a voice spoke to me. I didn’t really understand it at the time. I wasn’t sure if it was a dream, or if God was talking to me. The voice told me that after 40 years of hardship, I would have a time of intense spiritual training. The voice called me “Prince” and said that I would bring love, freedom and joy to those who had lost them.

The incident was so profound that I never forgot it. I put it in the back of my mind until many years later. 

When I came to prison, I quickly got involved in the chapel’s Open Fellowship, a nondenominational Christian service run by the incarcerated population every Sunday. I love to sing, and I became deeply involved with the choir. Eventually, I became part of the setup committee that decided what we were going to do each week. 

The primary preacher was another incarcerated individual. One day in the winter of 2004-05, he taught a familiar sermon on the “Sins of Sodom.” After the service, I pulled him aside and told him that I disagreed. Point-blank, the preacher asked me if I was gay. When I said yes, he told me I couldn’t participate in the choir or the committee any longer. So, I stopped going to the chapel. 

Later, a former drag queen that everyone called “Granny” invited me to attend a Wiccan meeting. I’d always been taught Wiccans were Satanists, so I was afraid to go. Finally, Granny, a Wiccan himself, talked me into it. I attended Wiccan services for a while and even became part of the leadership. In some ways, this religion felt good. But it wasn’t exactly right. I still considered myself a Christian in a sense. I even called myself a “Christian Wiccan.” 

Since I had a lot of time on my hands, I began to study the Bible in earnest. I also studied other religions, including many of the ancient Greek sects, which felt like they held something like what I was looking for. 

A turning point came on June 6, 2006. I was put in solitary confinement for engaging in consensual sexual activity six months prior. At the time, consensual sex was punished the same as rape. I thought this was unfair. In protest, I began a hunger strike. 

Nobody cared. After three or four days of my protest going unnoticed by the staff, my hunger strike became a religious fast. I decided to use it to try and find the right religion for me. 

Once again I heard a voice. Some of my friends said it was a hallucination brought on by my 10 days of fasting. But I choose to believe the voice was who he claimed to be, Eros the god of passions, sex and love. Eros told me that the time had come to gather my disciples.

There was some similarity to what my grandfather had told me of the ancient religion. So I began to write down everything I could remember about his stories. I meditated a lot and noted every thought and image that came to me. 

When I finally got out of the hole, after a month, I made a proposal to the prison chapel team to begin a new religion. I called it “Greek Wiccan” at first — I figured this would get it approved more easily. When it did get approved, there were some hurt feelings from Granny and the Celtic Wiccan group. They changed their name to “Eclectic Wiccan.” 

My group took off like gangbusters. I taught what little I knew, using the Wiccan format for rituals and ceremonies. My grandfather had long been gone, but a cousin helped find any information he could on the so-called “Erosian Path.” 

There wasn’t much, even online. But the dam burst when my cousin found a box of notes and rituals that had belonged to my grandfather. Since almost our whole family was Christian, he had kept it well hidden. My cousin thought maybe the religion should stay a secret. I disagreed.

To see if I was on the right path, I outlined two types of classes for my chapel group to vote on. I proposed: Greek Wicca, run similar to other Wiccan groups, with me as High Priest; or The Erosian Path, re-founding the ancient religion, with me as King. 

Out of 40 people, 38 voted for the Eroisan Path. 

Followers of Eros are called Erotes. Eros and Aphrodite are our patron deities, but we believe in countless gods. Erosian teaches the premise of “do no harm, except to protect yourself and loved ones,” as well as the Four Pillars:

  • Love (and acceptance): of all people, places, things, and concepts
  • Joy: in all circumstances; finding the good in everything 
  • Freedom: for all people of body, soul and mind
  • Magecraft: magic through the manipulation of energy; this is science that has not yet been explained

It hasn’t been easy starting a religion in prison. Fortunately, because Idaho (where I am housed) has a large Mormon population, freedom of religion is an important part of the state constitution. 

We now have a firm foothold with about 30 people attending services regularly — that’s double some of the other non-Christian religious groups. As people leave prison, they take our religion with them. I believe these principles have helped the incarcerated to be better, more tolerant people. I believe with all my heart that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Dennis “Abbadunamis” Mintun is a writer incarcerated in Idaho.