Convicted Murderer Sues State Department For Not Allowing Wiccan Rituals
A convicted murderer in jail for killing three people more than two decades ago is taking a state department to court because he claims they won’t allow him to have spiritual healing medicines and items like “dragon’s blood” to practice his religious beliefs. But pagans from the Boston community say the prisoner’s requests are giving them a bad name.
Daniel LaPlante, a prisoner currently in custody at the MCI-Norfolk jail, where he is spending life behind bars for the murder of a Townsend woman and her two children in 1987, is suing the state’s Department of Corrections claiming they have kept him from carrying out Wiccan rituals while serving time.
The Wiccan faith is a neo-pagan religion that focuses on nature using “mysticism, and natural magic or ritual.”
According to court documents, there has been a recognized Wicca presence at the jail where LaPlante is since the 1980s. In a document filed in U.S. district court, LaPlante, who is representing himself, claims the DOC has “hindered” his ability to practice his faith by not allowing him to obtain ritual oils for worship like “dragon’s blood,” “black opium,” and “honeysuckle.” In his court complaint, LaPlante lists more than 30 oils he says are essential to practicing his faith during the various cycles of the moon recognized by Wiccans.
LaPlante also claims that the DOC bars him from accessing healing herbs that remove jinxes, chase away demons, create connections to goddesses, and drive away negative spirits. LaPlante lists nearly 26 different herbs he says he needs to be able to use during regular meetings with other members of the Wiccan community within MCI-Norfolk, as well as varying robes and more than a dozen medallions, like “Thor’s Hammer.”
The plaintiff also argues that the group should be allowed to make an “earth offering” during certain celebrations, such as the celebration of a Full Moon, but currently, they are stuck in a basement during meetings and cannot even see the moon.
According to the plaintiff, cakes used during certain sermons within the Wiccan faith are meant to “excite the senses,” but the cake served by the DOC is “always the same,” and creates a somber environment during worship. To mix it up, LaPlante requested a different cake for each month, including a carrot cake, known by wiccans as “Wolf Ice.”
But Von Thompson, a practicing pagan from the Boston area, says LaPlante doesn’t “need” any of these items in order to be an active member of the Wiccan community, and that he is giving the group of worshippers a bad name. “We get so much misinformation spread about our religion, about our practices, that even a hint of anything out of the ordinary associated with Wicca gets blown out of proportion. It’s difficult to be Wiccan or pagan. Not only is our religion misunderstood, those misunderstandings also attract to us more than our fair share of crazy people,” says Thompson.
Thompson said in an email that group members often fight against the stereotype that LaPlante represents, including their association with Satanism, child molesters, murderers, and even animal abusers. “The list could go on,” says Thompson. “The funny thing is, I think were this man on the outside he would be terribly disappointed in most [Pagan] circles. We most of the time have one, maybe two, pieces of ritual jewelry, which might or might not be recognizable as a Wiccan symbol. Most of the time we wear street clothes. We serve gluten free cookies and organic apple juice for our ‘cakes and ale.’ We’re just not all that exciting.”
In court documents, a lawyer for the DOC says LaPlante has not “exhausted all administrative remedies” in order to obtain his requests, a statement that the plaintiff disagreed with.
UPDATE: The photo above has been changed to more accurately reflect a Wiccan ceremony, based on feedback from members of the community.