Brooms Behind Bars: witches practicing + resisting in Canadian prisons

This workshop will honour the ongoing struggle for recognition by Pagan practitioners in imprisoned by Corrections Service of Canada. I will foregrounding writing and oral history of Pagans living behind bars in Canada, with storytelling as primary methodology, grounded in my work in the chapels of federal prisons as an abolitionist witch and that of my colleagues.

The chapel will be presented as a crack in the state’s regime of domination and a revolutionary site of prisoner solidarity, spellcraft, touch and liberatory co-conspiracy. Despite the radical power of Pagan chaplaincy, the limitations of recognition within the liberal human rights frameworks of the state will also be addressed.

The 2019 short film XII (12 minutes) will be screened for participants in this session. This artwork was collaboratively written with Pagans in Quebec maximum security prisons over the course of 5 years volunteering inside. It features stories and lived experiences of magic as practiced behind bars. The film premiered on Beltane 2019 as part of an exhibition and ritual demonstration curated by Jamie Ross entitled Unscrew the Locks from the Doors: A Liberation Spell, featuring 13 contemporary artists outside the largest prison in Greater Montreal, presented by artist-run centre Verticale.


Jamie Ross

Jamie Ross is a visual artist trained outside the university, a researcher and the first Pagan prison chaplain in federal prisons in Quebec. Their current work focuses on a choral history of Queer street rebellion and the intergenerational social life of a collection of masks from a Gay Liberation street battle.

Dark background with several figures standing close together inside a scaffolding like structure, one figure appears to be preparing to hang upside down
Jamie Ross