Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tiw's Day's Man

In one of the more picturesque results from this week's American elections, a worshipper of the Norse gods has been elected to New York City council. Dan Halloran - seen here clutching his mead-horn - becomes (it is believed) the first out-and-proud pagan to win any public office in US history. He is, incidentally, a Republican. And a lawyer. He comes from a long line of Catholic police officers. His full name is Daniel J. Halloran III. No tree-hugging eco-feminist he. Halloran is a red-blooded, all-American, gun-totin' patriotic pagan, a Palinesque Pagan. The local GOP chairman described him as "a traditional person" and "a regular guy".

Perhaps that's why he won. A witch by the name of Star Ravenhawk, spokeswoman for the New York City Pagan Pride Project, claimed never to have heard of Halloran (despite his being the Project's legal adviser) and told Village Voice, rather sniffily, that "Most of us are Democrats," adding (as though it settled the matter) that "To be a pagan, you have to have faith in a higher power." She wasn't sure Halloran qualified. An Odinist Republican, Rob Taylor, hit back saying that "Wicca is just smearing the competition" and that Ravenhawk's religion was "a leftist thing -- not just Democrat, but far left politically. Theodism and heathenism are more conservative."

Mr Halloran belongs to something called the New Normannii Reik of Theodish Belief, which is an offshoot of the revivalist Asatru religion. The Voice described it as "an inclusive, family-friendly pursuit" whose members enjoy dressing up and try "as much as possible to live within the customs and beliefs that one might find in 12th century pagan Denmark while actually living and working in 21st century New York." In photos, they look rather like a convention of World of Warcraft enthusiasts. Theodish rituals include oath-swearing, mead-drinking and sacrificing sheep - the latter potentially controversial, though a spokesman claimed it was no different from kosher butchery: sacrifices climax with "a kind of sacral barbecue." Halloran himself rejoices in the title "First Atheling". On the group's website he explained that he wanted "to reconstruct the pre-Christian religion of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European peoples, within a cultural framework and community environment". He certainly sounds like a politician.

Nevertheless, Halloran's religious convictions discomforted some people. A Catholic priest upset many of his Republican-leaning parishioners by writing an anti-heathen tract which was then distributed by Democrat campaign workers. After a local newspaper revealed details of Halloran's unconventional religious beliefs he hit back in a published letter which stressed his Catholic background and described himself as "a man of faith". He didn't say which faith. Accusing the newspaper of mounting a politically motivated smear campaign, he wrote that he had "never lost faith in God". This, in turn, upset some of his fellow heathenists, who wondered why he felt the need to use the singular.

Halloran explained that he was, in fact, a "henotheist" - i.e. a worshipper of one particular god, but who acknowledges the existence of others. He had every respect for "the Gods of the North and the Wights of Middenyard." His personal god of his choice though, was Tiw, the god of war, for whom Tuesday is named. His two cars, he noted, bore personalized license plates that read "Tiw Tru" and "Tyr Tru."

No doubt Tiw giving him a helping hand this Tuesday. Halloran's British equivalent would, however, be better off looking to Thor.