Richmond Withdraws from Public and other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 4, 2009 — 22 Comments

Top Story: Outed Pagan political candidate Alice Richmond has closed down her local-issues blog, Page County Watch, and is seemingly retiring from the public eye.

“Last week the voice of the Page County Watch Blog went silent as Alice Richmond, the resident who started the blog, decided to move on. “I’m moving on to other things,” said Richmond. “I don’t want anyone to Google my name anymore.” The site gained attention most recently in September when on a local radio show, Richmond was questioned about her religion and the author known as “Lady Raya.” Richmond later admitted she was using the name Lady Raya as a pseudonym to write books on Wiccan practices.”

Richmond’s race for a seat on Page County Virginia’s Board of Supervisors seemed to get hostile from the start, with the staged ambush-outing of her “Lady Raya” pen-name by political opponents on a local talk show shrouding her candidacy with sensationalism. After a losing the election by a wide margin, a palpably disappointed Richmond inferred that the county was suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome”, noting that the vote wasn’t close. Considering the emotional wringer she’s been through, I don’t blame her for wanting to withdraw from public, though I do mourn the loss of a Pagan willing to enter into the political fray.  I fear that her campaign, and Dan Halloran’s, proves that out (or outed) Pagan candidates will have to deal with ugly smears from opponents (even if the tactic backfires) unafraid to exploit religious fears.

In Other News: Kathy Nance at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings us a local angle to the “Pagans at the Parliament” story by focusing on the ceremonial rattles created by local artist Julee Higginbotham for the interfaith event.

“On this first full day of the Parliament of World Religions (PWR) in Melbourne, Australia, a group of Pagans met to give blessings to four rattles created by St. Louis artist Julee Higginbotham. The rattles, called “Bridge to the Meeting Place,” were created to symbolize the coming together of religions and people from around our planet. Julee has blended Aboriginal and Neo-Pagan symbols into a clay prayer for understanding. They will be given to Pagans from North America and Australia, and to two PWR delegates. She got the idea from Pagan delegate and PWR board member Angie Buchanan.”

You can read more about these rattles at the Pagans at the Parliament blog, where you can see daily updates about the Pagan presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne.

Are you a Pagan metal-head? If so, this is your lucky day, because two documentaries that touch on Pagan/Heathen religion within different metal subcultures are being released. “Pagan Metal:  A Documentary”, and “Until the Light Takes Us”, which focuses on the controversial Norwegian black metal scene.

“In addition to exploring the origins and ideology of black metal, Aites and Ewell examine black metal as what Norwegian visual artist Bjarne Melgaard calls “Norway’s only culturally relevant phenomenon.” Melgaard, who recontextualizes black metal aesthetics in his art, explores the striking parallel between the emotional extremes of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and the album cover of Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger.” “Until the Light Takes Us” succeeds because it neither idolizes nor patronizes the artists involved.”

Considering the fact that a movie is being made about one of black metal’s most controversial figures, a less sensationalist documentary, academic in tone, certainly seems welcome at this point. As for “Pagan Metal: A Documentary”, it’s more informal, and had a reviewer comment that “you will feel like you have made new friends”. Both seem welcome assets for those wanting to explore Pagan and Heathen spirituality in underground subcultures.

The Good Blog gives props to Archdruid (and blogger) John Michael Greer for a piece he wrote on adopting a new model of “energy productivity” instead of the per-worker-hour standard.

“This isn’t the first time our common economic metrics have been challenged. GDP gets criticized all the time (and for good reason). But Greer makes a great point about the need for resource efficiency—especially energy efficiency—to be incorporated into the statistics we use to measure our country’s economic success. After all, we live in a world of limited resources. Acknowledging that in our numbers isn’t just about giving environmentally-friendly countries a pat on the back. It’s a real indication of how well-prepared a country is to deal with costly constraints. Apparently these days it takes a druid and Tarot grandmaster to point that out to all the Ivy League B-school grads on Wall Street. Strange times.”

Indeed it does sometimes take a different view-point to actually think “outside the box”, and who better than a (wise) Druid to address issues of resource efficiency and economics as we approach the end our the industrial age? For more on Greer’s religious activities, check out the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA) web site.

In a final note, I think the University of Iowa may have the coolest name ever for their Pagan student organization.

“The mention of the term “pagan” often connotes thoughts of the dark arts, ritual sacrifices, and any number of Goth stereotypes. But for UI senior Kirk Cheyney, it’s not about any such thing. It’s more about nature and a deep personal spirituality that he can share with his family. Cheyney serves as the president of the Society of Pagans Invested in Reviving Ancient Lifestyles, which bills itself as the UI’s pagan student union.”

I think we could use more creative acronyms in modern Paganism, especially for college students! Congrats to S.P.I.R.A.L. for making it happen (all you other campus groups better step up).

That’s all I have for now, don’t forget to check the Pagans at the Parliament blog for the latest updates and links from Melbourne. We have a new post now up from Selena Fox, and Thorn Coyle has just sent in another dispatch as well. You can also stay on top of things with the Pagans at the Parliament Twitter feed and Facebook page. Have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.rottingcorpserecords.com Lori Dake

    "Are you a Pagan metal-head?"

    Who me? ;) Why, yes, yes I am! Thanks for passing on the release news! :D

    As far as the Varg movie, I don't condone his actions, but I do look forward to seeing it… but only when it comes out on DVD. I do not care for sitting in a theater surrounded by a bunch of little girls screaming because their little ginies tickle from seeing their boy on the big screen.

    Varg actually got out of prison not too long ago, so one would suspect he'll be in the theater, too. I wonder if he's ashamed that Jackson Rathbone is playing him. Because, y'know, that is completely unKVLT, unTROO and most certainly not GRIM!

  • Karlsefni

    This just means that people will google Alice Richmond's name more, only it will be "Alice Richmond" + Coward

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

      Let's see you run for office, Punkiepoo.

      • Karlsefni

        C'mon. Richmond totally pulled the "I'm a victimised pagan" card and waved it in everyone's face.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

          She may have; all I have to go by is thirdhand info at a distance. She appears to have made several mistakes on the campaign, not being prepared to be outed in an underhanded, chickenshit fashion being one of them. Not accurately clocking how prejudiced, punitive, and just plain nuts the local community (and the extended online one) can be might be another.

          She did, however, at least give it a try. If you haven't done the same, and done better, taking cheap potshots is just petty and tacky.

          I've heard people make the same call on her behavior, but when you mention the way the media set her up on a live broadcast, they usually say that's just radio being radio, and some people more or less gave the station points for "being slick".

          Playing dirty is laudable; deciding you've hit your limit is despicable? My dogs treat each other better than that.

        • http://Fire-Lyte.blogspot.com Fire Lyte

          I'm pagan, and I work for the government. I actually worked for a governmental agency of all Christians in Texas, and I can tell you that it is only as much of an issue as you make it. If people are curious about your religion, answer their questions with tact and intellect. As Snoozepossum said, if she was not prepared to shrug off questions about her religion, then she was not ready for public office. We have seen time and time again when politicians are questioned about their religions, and the best ones do not make it an issue. If she had provided an educated, slightly funny answer that was generic enough that it placated the masses while still maintaining her truth, she would have educated the people of her county and had a better shot at the win.

          Love and Lyte,

          Fire Lyte

          • http://www.rottingcorpserecords.com Lori Dake

            This.

            I've always said the best politicians are the ones who aren't afraid of the skeletons in their closet (even if they really aren't) and "say it like it is" (but with a humorous angle). I don't like the ones who tap dance around touchy issues but instead take them on, ask the voters what they want and make the best decisions they can from the feedback received.

            That, and I really wish I would see more politicians pull the "My Bad/You're Right" card once in a while. I suppose a politician with a bruised ego is just asking too much.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

            LOL – so far, the answer I get the best results out of when asked "Are you a witch?" is "Depends on which ex boyfriend you ask, and how good his spelling is." It derails the ones who are hoping for an angry confrontation, or to scare you, because they don't know what to make of it, and the genuinely curious think it's funny.

            Would love to import some of your agency's attitude. Around here, it can be an issue even if you don't bring it up, depending on how malicious the person with the agenda is. You can get outed here by standing in the wrong section of a bookstore, or wearing knotwork or pteroglyph jewelry, or refusing to sign petitions about reinstating institutionalized prayer and bible study in school. The annoying thing is, most people who have a problem here with people being non-Christian (or just "odd") rarely ever tell you to your face. You just find out that all of a sudden, certain people aren't speaking to you anymore, or you can't get waited on at some places, or you get your hours cut at work. and so on.

            I had police officers in my house awhile back from a neighbor's complaint, and they weren't really thrilled with some of our decor (archaeological replica statuary, fossils, swords, two altars, and a sort of funky "new house blessing" broom gift that hangs over the mantle). One of them finally pointed at it and said in a mildly snide tone "so I guess that's your broom that you get on and ride?" The other two snickered when I asked him if it looked like it would hold up my fat ass, and nodded and looked a lot more friendly when I pointed out that if gas went up to $4.50 a gallon again, he might wanna get one too. They said they'd speak to the neighbor about me being a threat to the neighborhood, and I haven't heard any more about it.

          • http://www.rottingcorpserecords.com Lori Dake

            I see your snarky sense of humor runs parallel to mine! ;) I'm all about the laughing at myself thing, because I'm usually the first one to dish it out to others. It would be hypocritical otherwise! :P

            I can't really say I've ever directly had any problems with discrimination, and I'm a pretty open person. Even the one time a cop brought up an issue over the "666" being on our label's business cards and thought I was an EbiL SatanisT (boogidy-boodgidy-boogity), I just rolled my eyes at him and said we don't even believe in a devil because we're not Christian (and pretty much left it at that) – that it's a logo for a metal label, set there to raise eyebrows and get kids interested in the forbidden fruit thing ;)

            Nor can I say I can point a finger at any one time where I was treated as a second class citizen anyplace or by anyone based on my faith. I have had that happen for dressing down at high end department stores, but I just figured they didn't want my money and left it at that. :P

            I guess living in a midwest bubble (Chicago) has its perks that I may take for granted.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

            Take 'em when you can get 'em – you lucky dogs get the little mammoth girl next March:

            http://blog.everythingdinosaur.co.uk/blog/_archiv

            The closest she's likely to get to us is DC or Atlanta. If nobody down here gets her, ROAD TRIP!

          • Calla

            I was at a party with my husband, a business/social type event with a ton of people from where he works plus some of their big clients. My husband's immediate boss knows my religion and couldn't care less. But the company is owned by 7th Day Adventists and they WOULD care.

            So we are sipping a cocktail (we were at a restaurant) with a group that included one of the owners and a few clients. One of the clients I know a bit and he is a historical sociologist. Usually in a business setting you can count on the fact that religion won't come up, but the owner wanted to know if Tracy and I would come to his church if we didn't already have one.

            I said we "did have one, but thank you".

            That should have ended it, right?

            Nope. He said…."Oh, what religion are you?"

            I said, "Greek Orthoprax". *grin*

            He said something about how beautiful our churches are then wandered off.

            The Historical Sociologist had a puzzled frown on his face as he worked through that one…took him about 30 seconds…and then he burst out laughing. He toasted me with "May Hermes always grant you such charming misdirection when you most need it" and then he walked off, too.

          • Nick Ritter

            I like that. I like that a lot.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

            (salutes Calla and HistoSoc Guy for being cool)

    • Bookhousegal

      To be fair, in spite of all the smearing/ambushing, all Ms Richmond failed to do in the actual election was beat the spread. One might speculate that the ambush may have neutralized her community activism via that blog, but the fact is, if you look at the entire local election, her returns were consistent with everyone else's: the election went down party lines for everyone and that's that.

  • Alex

    The UMass-Amherst student pagan group has been called S.P.I.R.A.L.S. (Student Pagans Integrating Religion and Life Spiritually) for about ten years, just FYI. Though UI has a better acronym meaning!

  • Heather

    Lancaster University arguably has just as cool an acronym, in addition to being among the first public student pagan organizations out there: S.O.U.L. Society for Occultists at the University of Lancaster. :)

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=35406708032

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt Jason Pitzl-Waters

    That is a good one!

  • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman @thelettuceman

    "Are you a pagan metal-head?" Yes. I am. And I think that Pagan metal doesn't do much for the whole. I see entirely too many people basing their entire misguided opinions about history. Youtube, in this instance, is particularly profitable to see the amount of people who adopt more tongue-in-cheek themes and hold them up as absolute truth. It is a fun genre of metal, yes, but one with a community that I could probably do without.

    S.P.I.R.A.L: Forced acronym much?

    I am disappointed, yet understanding, as to the reason why Richmond decided to pull out of the public spotlight. Life is as life does, and politics are particularly nasty when it comes to a show down. But still, strength to her and maybe some day she can get back out there and show strength to the people who caused her so much grief and stress.

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