Mocking unfaithful Heathens

The Village Voice is getting a bit of notice for a recent feature going after Republican New York City Councilman Dan Halloran. That the Village Voice might take issue with a Republican city councilman is not surprising. But one of its angles of attacks is. To see what I mean, let’s begin with the headline:

America’s Top Heathen
Odin himself might have had a hard time predicting Dan Halloran’s strange career on New York’s City Council

As you might recall from previous coverage of Halloran, much is made of his religious views. And how. The mocking headline is nothing compared to the illustration that accompanies the piece (left). Jason Pitzl-Waters over at The Wild Hunt writes “The first thing that hits you is the illustration by Michael Marsicano, complete with dead sacrificed goat, ceremonial robe and runic cloak.” (He looks at other issues in the article as well.) The thing is that nobody is arguing that a piece hitting Halloran’s politics is out of line, but the manner in which this is done is just bigoted. Particularly since part of the hit on Halloran is that he’s unfaithful to his heathenism. Let’s look at one portion of the article:

For his followers, the first sign of Halloran’s hypocrisy occurred during the campaign itself, when he penned a piece in the Queens Chronicle called “I believe in God.”

Heathens around the Internet became enraged when, responding to what Halloran called smear tactics from the Kim campaign, Halloran opened his op-ed with these words: “I was raised a Roman Catholic right here in Auburndale. I was baptized into the Catholic Church and took my confirmation at 13. I attended Jesuit schools.”

The piece said nothing about heathenry, New Normandy, or paganism.

“Pandering to monotheism,” one heathen who didn’t know Halloran put it to the Voice at the time.

Apart from the unnecessary anonymity of the last quote, that’s how you do it. You simply lay the facts out. Likewise, during a discussion about how Halloran allocated $3,500 to a crisis pregnancy center, we’re told that this is an example of flip-flopping. I’m not sure that it is, but it does appear he has some inconsistency on abortion in general. To substantiate that, we’re given this religious discussion:

The episode infuriated some of Halloran’s former followers, who not only had known him to be pro-choice, but also to be “pro-abortion to nearly the point of endorsing infanticide,” as one put it. The Voice obtained a copy of a heathen Yahoo discussion thread from 2004, in which the issue of abortion came up. A follower of Halloran asked for guidance on it. (We have reached out to Halloran about the discussion thread. He has not responded to any of our interview requests.)

Halloran wrote that when it came to the idea of the soul, it didn’t start at conception, as most pro-life Christians argue:

The lore is fairly well established here. The soul complex does not attach to the fetus until the naming, three to nine days after birth. First, if it attached before the naming it would be impossible for the fetch or luck to manifest in the manner described/attributed to naming in the ausa vatni. Specifically, our forebearers believed that the ancestor the child was named for would be the source material for the soul component attaching, and thus possess some of his traits. The sagas confirm this belief.

When it came to abortion, Halloran wrote, “since the termination of pregnancy by herbal and mechanical methods was known, and not prescribed by Heathen law, it is presumptively not an issue in elder times . . . legal anthropology and folkloric study impute this.” A child who had not gotten its luck a few days after birth would be considered “‘wild’—the child would not be ‘fully human’ unless claimed by the clan/sibb/sipp/kindred.”

Again, this is fine to just quote Halloran’s words against himself, although some heathens don’t appreciate the suggestion that they support infanticide. But considering that so much of the article is devoted to questioning Halloran’s heathenism, the headline and illustration seem even more problematic. I could hardly say it better than an early commenter to the piece:

Whatever I may think of Halloran, parts of this article are disgraceful. This otherwise a well-written and, as far as I can see, well-researched article is spoiled by both that ridiculous cartoon, and by the slurs against Heathenry and paganism in general. It reads as though it were written by a gifted-but-petty fifteen year old, trying to run down a popular opponent in a class presidency campaign. Were I to repost this article, and swap every reference to Heathenry for one about Jews, African Americans, or women, I dare say a lawsuit would be threatened (if not pending).

Well, there are plenty of groups that some media have no problem caricaturing. But it’s sad to see how universal this approach is when it comes to Pagans and Heathens. It’s also just lazy. I don’t share the Village Voice‘s politics in toto but this otherwise well-researched piece leaves a bad taste in the mouth solely because of the unnecessary mocking tone.

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  • Gabriel Austin

    Like many journals and periodicals in this country, the content and the writing ability has quietly eroded. They all sound alike and have the same ideas and ‘stories’ [tales]. They appear to have been written in college dormitories.

  • Joel

    and not prescribed by Heathen law

    Shouldn’t that be “proscribed?” Or would either one work in the context?

  • Judy Harrow

    Kudos to you (again!), Mollie for your fair-mindedness.

  • John Pack Lambert

    If Halloran has at times distanced himself from Heathenry, it is because of the Village Voice. They value political power over respect for religios freedom.

    The willingness to use any angle to smear an opponant is disturbing.

  • Mollie


    Good catch. I think it should be “proscribed” and the meaning would be the opposite, in this context, if it’s “prescribed.”

  • Will

    Either one would work if he is really supporting “choice”… apart, that is, from the question of who determines “heathen law”.

  • Mark Baddeley

    The early commentator was on the money. It’s a surprising mix of good journalism and cringeworthy. And, yes, the bad stuff would create a firestorm if it was done to a minority group that is currently protected.

  • Judy Harrow

    Hi, Will

    re #5 — Heathens, like several other Reconstructionist groups have access to written materials dating back to pre-Christian times. As the email from Halloran demonstrates, they discuss amongst themselves the implications of those writings for contemporary situations. It’s ultimately a matter of individual conscience and choice, but with the guidance of historical resources (“lore”) and community consensus.

  • Jettboy

    “Were I to repost this article, and swap every reference to Heathenry for one about Jews, African Americans, or women, I dare say a lawsuit would be threatened (if not pending).”

    Well cry me a river and ask me for a quarter to call someone who cares. I would say its about time someone who isn’t Christian was made fun of or dismissed in the press, but I don’t actually see what is wrong here. Everything seems accurate enough.

  • Dave

    Jettboy, what’s “wrong here” is a tone of disrespect for Halloran’s faith, whatever one thinks of Halloran as a person or of his politics. Mollie called this one just right.

  • Will

    Then didn’t he mean “old Norse law” or something such? And why not say so, rather than giving the impression of a Heathen Magisterium?

  • Will

    John, as Oscar Wilde might say, the only thing worse than being caricatured in the Village Voice is not being caricatured in the Village Voice.

  • Dave

    #4 — John, afaik Halloran started edging away from his Heathen heritage well before the VV article.

  • Lokisgodhi

    I’m a twenty year practitioner of Asatru, Norse Paganism.

    I have no problem with the Voice’s article. They nailed Dan Halloran dead on. A drunken buffoon in a costume.

    Halloran and his New Normandy Theod were and are an embarrassment to all practitioners of Norse Paganism. New Normandy was always a bad joke. The people who lived in what would became Normandy were Christian for five hundred years before it became Normandy. The most embarrassing part was that Halloran was too stupid to know this.

    If anything, the Voice article didn’t go far enough. I was at a Asatru meet up at a pub downtown a few years back (before his political career). A member of Halloran’s New Normandy Theod spent the whole evening making anti Semitic comments. Halloran was there and said nothing to his person while this was going on.

    As far as I’m concerned Halloran is a complete scumbag and a waste of oxygen. Hanging’s too good for him and wold be an insult to Odin.

  • Will

    “Stupid”, maybe, but not really any sillier than what I commonly hear from neo-pagans, who are likely to insist that Back Then “everyone” was secretly a follower of The Old Religion. (Not going further lest I get spiked)