Guest Post: Nick Ritter on Dan Halloran’s History Within Theodism

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 10, 2012 — 76 Comments

[The following is the second of two guest posts from Nick Ritter, a member of Axenthof Thiâd, and The Wild Hunt’s resident expert on all things Théodish. Given the rise of Dan Halloran, a Republican New York City Councilman, congressional candidate, and Théodish Heathen, I thought it best spotlight a truly informed voice on the subject of his religion. This post will specifically deal with why Dan Halloran is a controversial figure within Théodish belief. His first post, on what Théodism is, can be found here.]

With Dan Halloran cropping up so much in the news, Jason Pitzl-Waters asked me to write about why he is such a controversial figure in Théodism. In writing this, I am attempting to be as objective as possible: I am not writing this with the intention of bashing on Dan or spreading gossip. Objectivity is somewhat difficult in writing this though, because I was involved in much of the history I will be writing about. In my effort to remain objective, I will be referring to various Théodish documents, or “abannings,” that recorded the events shortly after they happened.

First it is important to outline the context in which this history begins. In the mid- to late-1990s, Théodish Belief was united in one organization, the Winland Ríce (“Kingdom of Vinland” in Anglo-Saxon), led by Gárman Lord as cyning (sacral king). The subdivisions within the Ríce were various théods (AS. þéoda “tribes”), which were semi-autonomous. After years of contact with – and membership in – various Ásatrú organizations including the Ring of Troth (nowadays just “The Troth”), the bitterness of our interactions with them, the near-continual arguments over everything including our right to exist as a distinct form of heathenry, had led us to question the value of interacting with them at all.

Dan Halloran leading a Theodish ritual.

Dan Halloran leading a Theodish ritual.

In the Spring of 1997, Gárman made the decision that we would cut all connections with Ásatrú, including all communication, so that we would no longer be involved in the issues and politics of that community. This would also mean breaking ties with friends we had made in the Ásatrú community. One such friend of Gárman’s was Dan Halloran, one of the leaders of a national Ásatru organization named Irminsul Ættir.

In June of that year, Gárman hosted a Midsummer gathering at his home in Watertown, NY. Dan was invited to that gathering, with the intention of this being a final farewell: no one outside of the Winland Ríce had been informed of the decision to sever ties with Ásatrú. The day after the ritual, a folkmoot was held in Gárman’s back yard, and Dan was informed of our impending separation from Ásatrú. The Witan had made the decision to offer Dan entry into the Ríce, and the details of this were discussed, including whether or not Dan would need to undergo thralldom for his entry into Théodish Belief. I was there, and I questioned how we could be assured that Dan would follow Théodish thew (custom, customary law) if he did not undergo thralldom – thralldom being the time that thew is inculcated into the prospective member of a théod. In the end, it was decided to bring Dan in with a relatively high rank, foregoing thralldom, and to make Dan Gárman’s fosterling. This meant that Dan would receive special training from Gárman, and would eventually be able to go and found an independent Ríce of his own, perhaps with himself as sacral king.

About six months later, during Yule, Dan was involved in an incident, and was accused of wrongdoing of a rather serious nature against someone. I will not go into the details of this, out of respect for the person affected. Word got out into the Ríce about what had happened, and just about everyone was shocked and angered by what they heard. Dan had acted unthewfully (i.e. contrary to our customary law and ethics), and this was considered a particularly serious offence for someone with pretentions of future leadership of his own Théodish group. Gárman informed him that he would have to be fostered under someone else, or else leave Théodism. Another high-ranking théodsman, Jason Thunawerd, agreed to take charge of Dan; however, as Jason was unable to find a suitable way for Dan to pay recompense for his wrongdoing, the matter was given to the Witan to decide.

Dan Halloran (left) receiving the endorsement of the Queens County GOP. (Photo courtesy Queens County Republicans)

Dan Halloran (left) receiving the endorsement of the Queens County GOP. (Photo courtesy Queens County Republicans)

Dan was summoned to the Midsummer 1998 gathering in Watertown, and Gárman told him he would face proceedings. When he arrived, he was given the choice of leaving Théodism outright, or facing judgement. He chose to face judgement, and he was given a punishment, a fine, and a trial by ordeal.

I should take a few lines to explain what “ordeal” is in Théodish usage. In essence, it is divination by contest, a way of submitting a matter to the gods and determining their decision. In the ordeals used for more serious issues, the contest is ritualized combat, which can take different forms. On that day, at the gathering, Dan and I and a few others were trained in one of the forms of ritual combat, and then I was chosen to face Dan in the ordeal. The question to be settled by the ordeal was whether Dan would be allowed to have his own following and work towards founding his own independent Théodish organization: if he won, he would be allowed; if he lost, he would be forbidden. Dan lost, although the score was close; to the surprise of many, Gárman decided in Dan’s favor, and he was allowed, after a period of six months, to begin building his own following. At the next Midsummer gathering in 1999, a year and a day after the ordeal, Dan was declared free of debt, having paid the balance of the fine set against him. In the month after Midsummer, Gárman consulted with the Witan and declared that Dan was free of shild (AS. scyld), a word that encompasses both the concept of “debt” and “guilt.” In essence, Gárman declared that Dan had paid his debts and was exonerated.

On October 22, 20013, Dan and his Norman théod left the Winland Ríce to set up their own Théodish organization. From this point, Dan no longer owed fealty directly to Gárman, but was still held by an oath to uphold Théodism and Théodish thew. Over the next several months, Dan and Gárman wrangled back and forth on a document Dan had written, called the “Affirmation of Thew,” essentially a document defining what it meant to be Théodish, and what thews – customs, customary ethics and values – a group had to uphold in order to be considered properly Théodish. The intent of this was to bring the now disparate and autonomous Théodish groups under one overarching authority. Such a document went against Théodish thews to a certain extent, being something approaching a document of written law, something that Théodism has long avoided; thew, for us, is an unwritten, orally-transmitted body of custom and ethics. The body of thew – as well as individual thews – can be written about, but writing them down as a list of laws is antithetical to their flexible and evolving nature, and has long been considered in Théodish thought to be the first step to subverting the spirit of such customary ethics and values.

There were several central points in this document that Gárman and Dan differed on, with Gárman accusing Dan of attempting to democratize Théodish Belief as a ploy to gain control of it from Gárman, by using his Théodish organization as a voting bloc beholden only to himself. Shortly after this accusation, on May 22nd 2002, Dan wrote a document stating in essence that Dan’s organization was no longer “in thew” with Gárman and the Winland Ríce. This amounted to a declaration of schism: one is “in thew” with those in one’s greater religious community, even beyond the bonds of one’s own théod, and one is “out of thew” with everyone else. With this document, Dan declared that he and his were no longer of the same religious community as Gárman. Shortly thereafter, Gárman outlawed Dan from Théodism.

For the intervening years between 2002 and 2010, I don’t have much direct, documented information. I do know that Dan continued to refer to himself and his group as Théodish, and that he tried unsuccessfully to unite disparate Théodish groups under the “Affirmation of Thew”. Those Théodish groups rejected this attempt for many of the same reasons that Gárman did, as an attempt on Dan’s part to take over Théodism as a whole.

Overall, then, from Dan’s induction into Théodism in 1997 to his outlawry from Théodism in 2002, his Théodish career was marked by controversy, and to questions as to whether he had really ever learned or internalized our ethics and values; essentially, whether he had ever truly been Théodish in a deep sense. This is why Dan is a controversial figure in Théodism today.

References:
“Æt Bannung,” Théod Magazine Vol. IV No. 3, Lammas 1997
“Æt Bannung,” Théod Magazine Vol. V No. 3, Lammas 1998
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Normannii-Freonds/message/530
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Normannii-Freonds/message/602
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Normannii-Freonds/message/609

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Herumori

    I’m slightly confused in regards to Mr. Halloran, I thought it had come out recently that he had ‘recanted’ his belief in Theodism in favor of more mainstream avenues? I certainly see that his past has been slightly checkered within the Heathen community, but I thought I remembered reading an article saying something to the effect that he’d left entirely. 

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I think you’re thinking of an op-ed Halloran wrote entitled “I Believe in God.”

      http://www.qchron.com/editions/north/i-believe-in-god/article_afa2e7f9-e4a0-5f94-a0d2-7f75897a68dd.html

      While he certainly tried to present himself as “normal,” religiously speaking, he has never, to my knowledge, “recanted” his Heathen beliefs. Though many Heathens feel Halloran has “thrown them under the bus” by not standing up for his faith and instead stressing his Christian upbringing.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Politician first and foremost, it would seem.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Nick, I daresay the Dan Halloran affair is one of the baleful outcomes you mention, in Part One, of initiation without thralldom?

    • Nick Ritter

      I think it might be fair to say that, yes.

  • kenneth

    I’m glad someone finally went into some depth with the Halloran issue. It’s been talked around for a long time, but very few of us outside of the circles of Theodism had much idea what it was about and what, exactly, is Halloran’s past or current position within it. 

    There is an interesting larger debate about written vs unwritten rules in paganism. I see advantages and problems with both. 

    • Nick Ritter

      “There is an interesting larger debate about written vs unwritten rules in paganism. I see advantages and problems with both.”

      Yes, it’s true that there are advantages and problems with both. In the end, the success or failure of any sort of system depends not on the system itself, but the quality and intentions of the people involved. 

      • kenneth

        The way I often think of it is “culture.” If you don’t have a good organizational culture, no amount of written rules will do any good. On the other hand, written rules or other material can be invaluable in helping to clearly impart the values of a culture.  

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        “In the end, the success or failure of any sort of system depends not on the system itself, but the quality and intentions of the people
        involved. “

        That is very true. However, I do think that having unwritten rules helps to focus attention on “the people involved”. When the rules are written down this tends to cause people to focus on the rules themselves, as abstractions.

        • Nick Ritter

          That’s very well put, Apuleius.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            The quality of the people is still the key, though. Without good people, all is lost.

        • kenneth

          A system that relies primarily on written laws also tends to quickly devolve into a lawyer’s game with clever people looking for the loophole, arguing what “is” is, etc. In those systems, anyone who strives to do something out of a sense of honor or right action for its own sake is considered a fool, and an easy mark for those who know their contract language. The flip side is that systems that rely entirely on unspoken rules only work if the leadership and recruiters have above-average wisdom and understanding of people and if the recruits themselves have a high degree of “emotional IQ.”  Some people are very good at picking up the subtleties and figuring out by watching and listening what the group value system is. Others, not so much. Some of that group are twits you don’t want in the organization. Others are good folk who may be just more literal minded or even somewhat autistic, and just need things laid out in black and white.

           We try to split the difference in our own trad, with a fairly minimal set of written common sense rules with a few absolutes and other “including but not limited to” examples to try to convey our baseline values. Still, I’ve found the best defense against trouble is to attract the right people and to maintain the sort of internal culture that nourishes those who share those values and choke out the weeds, so to speak. It works because we’re not afraid of staying small. There is something to be said about the concept of thralldom as some substantial pledge or novitiate period. In one of my early covens, I saw things go downhill as that trial period was steadily diminished and then essentially dropped. The “year and a day” went to “a week and a day” as leaders grew hungry for a big “congregation.” There was no more cohesion or group identity or values at that point, just a revolving door of strangers who dropped in to “check out the scene” for a while. 

  • Zan Fraser

    Hey Mr. Ritter- thank you very much for this article, and the one preceding, on Theodish Belief: I have but one question. I am not sure if you realize or not, but One Tasman (an Australian Follower of the Northern European Ways of his Ancestral People and Cultural Heritage, as I understand) has responded to your Posts, and you have “Wassailed” him (I presume, as a Fellow Practioner of your Ways), apparently acknowledging a prior correspondence between you two.

    Are you aware that, in the Commentary Section on Jason’s post of May 30th, 2012, “Richard Land and ‘Full-Blown Paganism’ ” (page 3 of The Wild Hunt, if you currently scroll downwards), Tasman has pleasured to treat the Wild Hunt Readership with a carefully-considered, thoughtful opinion, based upon the “ancestral ways” of his Northern European ancestral past- as to why he finds himself in opposition to Same-Sex Marriage.

    May I seek understanding? (A) What might be the Theodish Stance on LGBT Pagans? (B) Has the American Tradition of Theodish Belief LGBT Members? (C) What might be the reception that I (as an unabashedly Gay Man) might find, should I seek thralldom in the Theodish  Community? Lastly (D)- how stands the American Theodish Community on the civic issue of Same-Sex Marriage? If a LGBT Theodish Believer should seek a Same-Sex Marriage Rite through Theodism- how would you, as a Theodist, respond?
     
    I beg your pardon, but the publicly-dissemanted view-points of an Australian Follower of Sympathetic Beliefs named Tasman (acknowledged by you prior): makes me curious: how stands Theodish Belief on the Issue of Same-Sex Marriage, or Homoerotic Relationship in general?    

    • Nick Ritter

      Hello, 

      I will gladly answer your questions. In general, I think it is possible to have fruitful and friendly conversations with a great variety of people without agreeing with them on every issue, provided that everyone in the conversation is well-intentioned and without ulterior motive.

      You wrote: “(A) What might be the Theodish Stance on LGBT Pagans?”

      Our stance is that we have no “stance”. We do not dictate the views of our membership, holding instead rather strongly to a thew we call “Freedom of Conscience”, i.e. the idea that Théodish folks can hold pretty much whatever views they like so long as they do not interfere with our practice of Théodism as a group. Policing our people’s views on other people’s sex-lives would be about as unseemly as policing their sex-lives. We don’t do either.

      “(B) Has the American Tradition of Theodish Belief LGBT Members?”

      There is currently a théod whose lord is openly gay and married. I do not know the particulars of his marriage rite (I wasn’t there), such as whether the ritual was Théodish. I don’t know that lord myself, but he seems to have a good reputation with Théodish folks whose opinions I trust. I know of one other in our past. There might be others that I don’t know about. I don’t like to pry.

      “(C) What might be the reception that I (as an unabashedly Gay Man) might find, should I seek thralldom in the Theodish  Community?”

      That depends: what are your other qualities? Is your sexual orientation foremost in your identity? Are your political views? We are a *religious* tradition, and would expect your *religious* identity to be the foremost thing in our dealings with you. Politics get left outside, as they are generally a divisive and reductionist way of dealing with people, and as such are not welcome into the togetherness of a théod.

      “Lastly (D)- how stands the American Theodish Community on the civic issue of Same-Sex Marriage?”

      Well, we don’t. That is a political issue that individual Théodish people might have differing opinions on, and it is not one that gets brought up when Théodish people are talking together. Those people might advocate those differing opinions outside of the théod, but they must keep it *outside of the théod*, and not bring the théod into it.

      “If a LGBT Theodish Believer should seek a Same-Sex Marriage Rite through Theodism- how would you, as a Theodist, respond?”

      I don’t know, it hasn’t happened yet: Théodish thew differs from théod to théod and is based on precedent. If someone in my théod came to me seeking a same-sex marriage rite, any response would have to do with the particulars of the situation and the individuals beyond just their genders and sexual orientations. There is more to a person than who they like to sleep with. 

      I can say, though, that someone attempting to use Théodism as a platform to advance same-sex marriage would receive a similar response to someone trying to use Théodism as a platform to retard it. One does not use Théodism.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         Nice to see a literally unbiased stance, Nick.

        So much division has been made over (essentially) petty preferences that it is really refreshing to see someone point out how irrelevant these preferences are outside of their immediate context.

        • Zan Fraser

          Hey Leoht- I’m sorry; I beg your pardon: since I know that it cannot be the Sacred Erotic Natures of (say) Alexander the Great, or Christopher Marlowe, or Michaelangelo, or Leonardo da Vinci, or Walt Whitman, or Oscar Wilde, or Harvey Milk, or Larry Kramer- to which you refer as “petty preferences”; clearly I have somehow misunderstood your meaning.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Realistically, on a daily basis, it makes no difference what anyone’s sexual preference is (or, at least, it shouldn’t.)

            How is it any of my business who Oscar Wilde preferred, sexually? It isn’t. It has no actual bearing on him as a person.

            This is what I mean. A person’s sexual preference should have no impact on anything outside of the bedroom (figuratively speaking).

            Let’s face it, self defining by sexual preference is slightly disturbing as it makes sex far more important that it really is.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            On the practical level one can find oneself identified by one’s sexual preference. It’s not a choice, it’s a situation. And with that usually comes repression. Someone of the majority orientation may be able to float above the conflict; other’s can’t.

            Some find sex so powerful a force as to demand a religious response. In some religions that response is demonization. The Pagan norm, I daresay, is sacralization, which demands that we be clear about what we are calling sacred.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             “It’s not a choice, it’s a situation. And with that usually comes repression.”
            This I get. I understand the inevitable reactions to it.

            It is those doing the repressing that are the ones putting so much importance on sexuality, really.

            I see no reason why someone saying “I’m homosexual” should be any more noteworthy than someone saying “I’m heterosexual”.

            I guess, that is true sexual equality?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Maybe, someday, it won’t be any more noteworthy. At present it is, and to bring around an environment in which it isn’t, people must keep up the pressure. Some people form identities around their justice work.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I can completely agree with that.

            But, you have to admit, it is still nice to see the rise of instances where it isn’t noteworthy?

  • Leaving.

    This is the forefront of the community?  We’re not discussing how to keep sex offenders out of positions of authority?  Nothing about how we can hold our leaders and clergy accountable?  Nothing about supporting our community, as Paganistan withers?

    Sooo I have to ask… how is what he did so bad that we can’t talk about it, but not so bad that he can’t lead his own organization within this path?

    Writing something on paper for accountability somehow makes it written in stone?  Constitutions grow/shrink and change with Amendments and new interpretations.  Gods forbid we actually commit to something.

    Meanwhile, you don’t initiate him properly and tell him he can start his own show… and complain when he does it wrong?  And somehow Democracy is a means of taking something over?

    Especially after the schism with Ásatru, this genuinely looks like the typical Neopagan “All paths are welcome, so long as you all agree with me.”

    Don’t get me wrong – I think his political views show him to be up to whims of the day’s right-wing buzz; rather than a consistent, thoughtful, compassionate human being.  He is everything that I find wrong with our political system.  However, all this hearsay of bullshit is just pushing me to side with the scumbag Teabagger, and I am really uncomfortable with that.

    This is what Paganism is today?  Screw it, I’m out.

    Here’s my face the whole way through the article, as demonstrated by a musician:

    • Dscarron

      One of the appropriate means of accountability is communication, so that folks can judge for themselves what happened. This article was news to me but I am certainly aware of a number of previous issues of Dan and his checkered past. If you do not wish leaders in Paganism to be held to account for their actions, I’m glad that you are leaving.

      If we expect to have an ethical and moral religion, that we are practicing, then we should hold our leaders to a higher expectations and standards then for others. To do otherwise would make a mockery of what we do.

      • Leaving.

        What accountability?

        You all have put off holding him accountable until you’ve well after you’ve given him a freaking charter to start his own show, and is a rising political figure.

        You’re late to trying to hold him accountable.  I find an epidemic of such in the Neopagan Movement – you give people power even after they demonstrate unworthiness of it, and then you wonder why they shit on your beliefs.

        And since we’re not actually talking about what he did, relying on hearsay for everything else, I sincerely doubt this “communication” will do much to allow us to judge what happened.

        The Wyrd of all involved withers from having touched this man after such a transgression that you, “cannot talk about it, out of respect for the victims.”

        *Now* you distance yourselves from him, and tell him that you will not support him as a legitimate Neopagan politician, and then you’re annoyed that he doesn’t try to claim such?  Instead, he focused on a “Christian upbringing” with a Christianity-centric base.  He may be a scumbag, but he’s not stupid – which is more than I can say for this movement.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           Correct me if I am wrong, Leaving, but you seem to be blaming an entire faith system for one fault in judgement.

          From what Nick has written, I gather that Théodism (like other Germanic systems of faith) is not a democracy – it has a distinct leadership – and that there are those within the faith that feel frustration at the decision you are railing against, but accept the word of their cyng.

          One fault does not a bad leader make.

        • http://twitter.com/nycflame Phoenix

           *Now* you distance yourselves from him, and tell him that you will not
          support him as a legitimate Neopagan politician, and then you’re annoyed
          that he doesn’t try to claim such?  Instead, he focused on a “Christian
          upbringing” with a Christianity-centric base.  He may be a scumbag, but
          he’s not stupid – which is more than I can say for this movement.

          No he played up his Christian roots in response to an article in one of the local papers and then later tried to back track after it went over less then well in the Heathen community.

      • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

         Let me know when the leaders ARE held accountable and maybe some folks will come back. :-)

        • Folcwald

          If there was more “accountability” you would return to a religion you have on this very forum referred to as “bull shit?”

          • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

             Ha ha ha. No, I’m not coming back and Ne0paganism, as such, isn’t a religion. I wasn’t offering.

            I didn’t leave my involvement with paganism after sixteen years because the leadership of groups act like petty tyrants or narcissists. That was just annoying but to be expected in the kinds of fringe groups that many pagan groups are and with the people it can often attract.

            I have little interest in worshiping the gods of my ancestors (or perhaps someone else’s ancestors) in an attempt to find relevance in the world and to deal with the problems of existence. Deities don’t fix our problems unless your problems are solved by worshiping someone or something.

            I’ve been happily a Buddhist for quite a few years now, though many of my friends are still pagans of various sorts.

          • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

             Just thought I’d point out that not all forms of Neopaganism involve worshiping gods.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Editor B:  “Just thought I’d point out that not all forms of Neopaganism involve worshiping gods.”

            This relies on circular logic. Only if one assumes from the start that Paganism is “Gods optional”, can one then “conclude” that not all Pagans worship Gods. But the fact is that Paganism is intrinsically polytheistic, or else it is rendered meaningless as a category label. If Paganism can mean anything then it actually means nothing.

          • Folcwald

             If you come to paganism hoping the deities will fix your problems, you failed before you began.

          • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

            Remind me again why you need to worship something or what it has done to deserve your worship? What’s the difference between you and followers of Christ?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I don’t know about that, AP, what of the pantheistic Neopagans? Or the rise of the atheistic Neopagan? (I don’t get that last one, either, but they are increasing in number, apparently.)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Al, not all of us worship any deities.

          • Folcwald

            Assuming that was a legitimate question and not a really lame attempt at making some rhetorical point: for me, it’s an expression of thanks for a world that I like living in and the many good things I have that are not my responsibility alone or the responsibility of other people, who I of course think more directly.

          • Guest

             Folcwald,
             So what if he thinks it’s bullshit, he’s not a jerk about it to his Pagan friends, not telling them what they got to believe.
             And it’s just fact there’s some majorly distorted and controlling BNP or guru-wannabees out there.

            Off subject, but since I don’t know the unspoken offense that started the row against Halloran, it’s a bit of a squick that Pagans are being this judgmental on fellow searchers should they care about or switch to completely to Christianity, Buddhism, Atheism or other faiths or blends. Or that hey, that’s cause to out this guy as someone having done a still unspoken offense.
            My Paganism is pretty open to people making their own choices. In fact, its encourages that because that helps someone find their Will, which encourages others to do the same.
            If this Theodishness means placing one’s actions or personal leadership at the entire service of some dude who gave himself a tin crown, it’s not at ALL what I recognize as liberating and healthy. I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, the justification for keeping that going is tiny.

          • Folcwald

             Jerk or not to his friends (I have no way to know this, and unless you are his friend neither do you), he’s been a jerk on this forum before by, among other things, accusing all heathenry of being white supremacist, which is patently false, and referring to the basis of our religion as bullshit. I believe this was before the switch to disqus, so I am not sure how to find the exact comments, otherwise I’d post a link. I don’t personally give a rat’s ass what he’s converted to. In fact, I frankly think that heathenry is better off without him. I just found his self-righteousness here disingenuous.

            Fortunately, Theodism does not have to rely on you, Al Billings, or anyone else for its justification to continue to exist. In any case, it is in fact nothing like what you or Billings are describing.

          • Guest

             Don’t know of that quote should it exist, but on that I’d also disagree.

            I just found his self-righteousness here disingenuous
            Applied consistently at this site, that would exclude most people.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          Yeah, because, like you never hear about any problems with da Boodist leaderz. The grass is always greener. Oh, wait, no it isn’t.

          • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

            People are people. That doesn’t change the fact that Dan tried to take over multiple Heathen organizations and here we are, more than a decade later, and people act all surprised that he got away with these games.
            Remind me again how this is different than a cult with capes and fake kings?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             It isn’t. Remind me how cults are automatically a bad thing.

            You know, you seem somewhat confrontational for a Buddhist. You sure you’re not Heathen?

          • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

            The fact that people think that Buddhists are some wispy New Age boomer types is not my fault. :-)
            I’ve always been a pretty direct person. The reason that I’m Buddhist isn’t to do with personality types, after all, it is because I see it was one of the better ways of responding to the issues of the human condition and our relationship to the universe.

          • Guest

            Not all Buddhas are peaceful

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Fair point.

            Bit like just because one guy is a power-addict, and another guy made a bunch of mistakes (blinded by friendship, perhaps?), doesn’t mean the entirety of Northern Tradition based systems are automatically at fault, I guess.

          • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

            That’s a fair point. Theodish stuff always left a funny taste in my mouth as it seems to fetishize the idea of kings as something magical, which always seemed odd for a bunch of Heathen Americans, of all people.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I’ve always thought it odd to take religions outside of geographical context, but I stick with an ‘each to their own’ ideal. It saves becoming overly judgemental (something I can be too easily).

            Théodism is (as previously stated in many places) a reconstructionist cultural system. Part of that will obviously involve recreating the hierarchal feature that is ubiquitous in Germanic tribal history.

            It can seem odd to those who dislike a rigid hierarchy, but it works for those who prefer that kind of environment.

            Remember, they are not trying to evangelise everyone.

    • Bookhousegal

       I’ve kind of got a big problem with your premise there,  namely,  blaming Paganism for how a somewhat authoritarian group seems to have broken its own rules.    I think any Pagan would have a problem with the idea that a would-be chieftain skips initiation, only to take the authority and use it to do something that can’t even be spoken of,  that ends up covered up “to protect the victims?” 

      (Which sounds an awful lot like institutionalized victim-blaming if it’s what, of course, everyone first imagines,  that sure sounds an awful lot like another authoritarian religion’s way of claiming the victims are the ones to be shamed.)

      Then what happens,  there’s a ‘trial by combat’  …which the defendant *loses,*  *before the Gods*  but is exonerated by another authority-head anyway…  And is then given still more authority.. with which he apparently goes on to Republican politics in the name of ‘values.’ 

      The problem there is *authoritarianism,*  (Which isn’t to say that in the Theodish case, they might not  have had trouble with trying to ‘democratize’ that authoritarianism,  (ie,  use such ‘democratization as a took to *take* the authoritarian control)  but that’s kind of different from the common ‘Pagan’ problems  of being so *anti-authoritarian*  that cohesion is harder when we need it.   Very different set of  problems and  *there.*   Usually a tradeoff the modern Pagan community is all too happy to make.  ) 

      Being frustrated with something going on in the wider Pagan community doesnt’ actually mean that abuses within rather insular and hierarchical Heathen groups are somehow ‘This is the same problem!’  

      (Which is my point, by the way,  not to say ‘Tribalism is always awful-bad,’ but when the chiefs get the bar *lowered*  for their standards to try and preserve the authoritarian system itself somehow,  that’s how you end up with bad kings indeed,  in that kind of system.  You may as well make a machine that turns misconduct directly into institutional corruption.  Especially in the modern world where personality types tend to be sorted more by traditions,  authority will tend to attract a disproportionate number of authoritarians and authoritarian-followers.    That’s a different set of problems than fractiousness can bring.) 

  • Christine

    I am rather confused…. Dan does something so terrible that Garman Lord decides he isn’t worth fostering anymore. So Dan is offered to leave Theodism or have a trial- a trial to form his own tribe? I feel like I am missing something here. Why would you offer a man his own branch of theodism when he clearly did something despicable enough that his own worth took a huge hit and the king of theodism itself wants to lessen his association with him? 

    Then he loses the ordeal- which should mean according to this the Gods did not find him worthy of leading, but was granted the chance to lead to anyways? It doesn’t really many any sense to me. 

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      The elephant in the room is: What was Halloran’s offense? Nick Ritter didn’t tell us in his wrap-up and thus probably isn’t going to. Without that datum it’s impossible for an outsider to say if it calls for a lifetime ban on positions of leadership. It could have been against custom that only is significant within Theodism, possibly not the business of any outsider; or it could have been against society in general. We just don’t know.

      • Christine

        This is true and we’ll probably never know.

        Despite not knowing the crime however, I did find it telling that Garman Lord decided to distance himself from Dan because of this offense. To me this means that Garman Lord was concerned of how Dan would sully his reputation/worth by being associated with him, which means the act had to be something pretty terrible. Again though as you say- we don’t actually know the crime to judge for ourselves beyond what we read here. 

      • Nick Ritter

        “What was Halloran’s offense? Nick Ritter didn’t tell us in his wrap-up and thus probably isn’t going to.”

        That is correct. I cannot do that without compromising the privacy of the person who was hurt by his actions, and I really wouldn’t want to cause that person further harm.

        • Mark Andersen

          The fact that simply revealing this offense publicly would cause harm to another person means it must be pretty bad.  Sounds consistent with other, yet to be publicly revealed accusations, I’ve heard leveled against Halloran in the past 2-3 years.  Well he is consistent isn’t he? 

      • MertvayaRuka

         I think the other elephant in the room would be that Halloran was a direct result of the aristocracy that’s supposedly more incorruptible than democracy. He got a pass because he was one of those “betters” that naturally should be in leadership over us common folk, the ones who would have no choice but to begin as thralls. After committing some heinous offense and then failing his trial, he still gets a pass, one that I have no doubt would not have been offered to some common thrall. Doesn’t look like that all worked out so well, nor do I see any greater level of accountability for his actions. I only see the usual abuse of power common to aristocracy and anyone else who believes themselves superior to the rabble below them.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           I think that everyone, here, agrees that the handling of mister Halloran was bad.

          It doesn’t follow that the entire system is bad, it is more that not sticking to it is.

          Seems to be an emerging trend to be slamming an entire belief system for the actions of a minority within it.

          Strikes me as not the best way to foster understanding and communication between divergent systems that fall under the ‘Pagan’ umbrella.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          He got a pass because he was one of those “betters” that naturally should be in leadership over us common folk, the ones who would have no choice but to begin as thralls.

          I think Nick was pretty clear that he considers it a mistake to make exceptions when it comes to thralldom, as was the case with Halloran.

        • Nick Ritter

          Hello,

          I think you may be reading patterns into Théodish culture that aren’t there, actually. It is easy to see why, since modern Western cultures have a persistent narrative concerning aristocrats abusing – and seeing themselves as above – “the rabble” (as you put it). Such narratives – patterns of thought that make up a worldview – can obscure the truth, though, and should be set aside as much as possible when examining a culture with a different worldview.

          Let’s place Dan’s situation and history aside, for a moment. The general pattern that one finds in Théodism is that the higher one’s place in the hierarchy, the *more* accountable one is, and the *easier* it is to get busted down in rank or even outlawed. 

          One of our sayings is “Thralls have the most freedom, kings have the least”; this sounds counter-intuitive, but it has to do with varying degrees of responsibility. A thrall is responsible to no one but him- or herself; a thrall is only expected to be present to the degree that he or she benefits from being present. Once a thrall decides that being part of the théod is no longer personally beneficial, he or she can leave without any hassle, no questions asked. Additionally, thralls are *expected* to make mistakes, as part of their learning process.

          On the other end of the spectrum is the king, or the lord and/or lady of a théod. None of these can just leave, and they are expected to put the well-being of the group before their own well-being. Any mistakes that these people make have serious and lasting consequences, and could well spell the end of the group. For this reason, lords, ladies, and kings are held *more* accountable for their mistakes.

          This is the cultural pattern that we have tried to cleave to, and it has produced (or, perhaps, polished and revealed) some truly exceptional people of high ethical quality, most of whom you will probably never hear about. 

          When it comes to Dan, exceptions and allowances were made that I don’t personally think should have been. My stance on that issue has always been clear, including in a conversation with one of Dan’s erstwhile thanes in this forum a few years back. If you will, perhaps Dan can be seen as the exception that proves the rule: the Théodish system produces exceptional people of high quality at the highest ranks *when that system is cloven to with as few exceptions as possible.*

    • Nick Ritter

      Christine, I understand your confusion. This is a puzzle that I have wondered over for some time.

      In the article above, I have done my best to keep my personal voice out of it. Suffice it to say that I have often asked myself the question you pose in your last paragraph above. 

      Théodism, like any tradition, has made mistakes, and we have had to deal with those mistakes. Luckily for us, I think we’ve learned from them.

      • Christine

        Thank you Nick. That clears things up a bit. It seemed liked the trial was part of the punishment which was part of what confused me. I am still confused by the rest of what I wrote but I doubt that will be cleared up as it seems to confuse many. 

      • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

        I am puzzled by your account of the break between Asatru and Theodism; when you say you could no longer be in contact with Asatru practitioners…would that be as pertains to religious matters, or at all?

        In context, it sounds as if all social contact was proscribed, which in my mind is a disturbing level of control for a group to have or even desire over its members. I’m certain you have social contacts outside of the Theodish faith — why would such contact be forbidden towards members of another tradition? 

        The entire trial by ordeal situation you describe (not the concept, but the actual incident above) would appear to me to illustrate a weakness in not having written down laws about such things. While it’s likely a system of written laws would result in the same outcome through careful parsing of syntax and similar lawyerly wiles, that somehow seems less capricious than it coming down to a single person more or less voiding the results.

        • Nick Ritter

          “when you say you could no longer be in contact with Asatru practitioners…would that be as pertains to religious matters, or at all?”

          I believe it pertained primarily to not being involved in Ásatrú organizations or the politics involved therein.

          “why would such contact be forbidden towards members of another tradition?”

          Because, at the time, all such contact turned toxic within short order. Théodish people were very much persona non grata among a large number of Ásatrú folks, and we kept getting pulled into confrontational situations. It may seem like an extreme sort of thing to ask of people, but it is important to understand that we were (and continue to be) numerically much smaller than the national Ásatrú groups we were dealing with: at the time, perhaps a few dozen people in comparison to thousands. The amount of work that such interaction required of us – mostly negative interaction that gained us nothing – was exhausting our people. To you, it might seem like Gárman was being dictatorial; instead, he was trying to allow us a chance to rest and regroup, and to focus our efforts inward instead of wasting them outward.

          Regarding written law, I think that the same outcome would likely have come about through “careful parsing of syntax and similar lawyerly wiles”, and would likely have laid a precedent for that sort of thing. As it stands, though, Gárman’s voiding of the result struck a number of us as wrong, and we would not accept that as a precedent. That might be a hair’s-breadth of difference, perhaps, but I still prefer the system where wrong might be done but without real justification, to the system where wrong is done and cynically justified.

          You might well have a different opinion, and that’s fine. As I wrote elsewhere, Théodism has made mistakes in the past, and I think that the outcome of this particular trial by ordeal was one of them. I don hold out hope that we have learned from those mistakes, however.

          • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

            Your reasoning behind what I felt sounded a bit dictatorial and troubling at first sounds completely rational. 

            You are an excellent spokesman for Theodism and your articles have been among the most interesting I’ve read. The various Nordic traditions have always seemed to me among the most misunderstood folkways.

          • Nick Ritter

            “You are an excellent spokesman for Theodism and your articles have been among the most interesting I’ve read.”

            Thank you! That’s very kind.

          • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

             As I recall from my days in the Ring, etc., this game of making kings and lords into religious fetishes left a bad taste in the the mouths of a lot of rather democratic, traditional Asatru.

            After all, we had a king once. We got rid of him.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Personally, I’m used to living in an actual monarchy (England).

            It’s funny that it would leave a ‘bad taste’ when you consider that, for  most of the ‘Pagan era’, Germanic tribes had a hierarchal system of leadership and it was only towards the end of this period that they moved away from it in any notable way (The Icelandic Alþingi was set up in 930, with Christianity arriving around 70 years later.)

            There is a lot to be said for and against both systems, but, is it really so hard to have an ‘each to their own’ attitude?

          • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

            If you want to fetishize “being king” as part of your religion, go for it. Don’t be surprised when it never grows much though, especially in America. It tends to attack the Dan O’Halloran’s of the world after all.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Depending on how you set the system up, being ‘king’ is far less a privilege and much more an obligation.

            After all, they do make good sacrifices.

  • http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/ Peter M

    This is a frustrating post. I thought it was supposed to
    clarify the Dan Halloran “situation”, but Nick can’t say what the offense was
    without harming the victim further. Was Dan’s offense something that was
    illegal in the U.S.? If it was, then someone needs to call the police. If it
    wasn’t illegal, this post just seems like a salvo in a gossipy witch war.
     

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      We expect people who write guest posts to have strong opinions on germane matters that some of us disagree with. At least he gave some insights about both his subjects.

    • kenneth

      I don’t know that it was anything that would even have any meaning outside of Theodism. It sounds like there are a lot of customs within the tradition that one could fall foul of without ever breaking a secular law. 

    • Jim Davis

      I remember there was a discussion on this on alt.religion.asatru back in the usenet days

    • Nick Ritter

      I understand your frustration. I have intentionally left out things that might be satisfying to everyone’s curiosity; the reason I have done so, though, is to avoid further harm and, also, to avoid making this into a “gossipy witch war.” For that latter reason, I have stuck to documents rather than hearsay.

  • Leaving.
    • Guest

      Hold them accountable for leaving?? 
      Is leaving a SIN now? If Theodish people say so, I think they’re full of crap and not representing any ancestral views

  • Nick Ritter

    To those of you who are seeing the timing of this article as an attempt on the part of Théodish people (or me, specifically) to “distance” ourselves from Dan Halloran, I wish to reiterate what I wrote in the first sentence: I was *asked* to write this, I did not volunteer it. Specifically, at the time of the Podcast interview, Jason asked me to write an article on Théodism and why Dan is a controversial figure within our tradition. I agreed that this would help shed some light on the issue of Dan’s candidacy for congress, so as to better inform the readership of The Wild Hunt.

    I had to do some work, though, to not write this post as a collection of rumor and innuendo of the kind that typifies the “gossipy witch-war” that some feel this is, and I had to make some decisions to leave out certain information that would damage others’ privacy. All in all, some folks seem to feel that I provide too much information, and others seem to feel that I did not provide enough. I suppose I cannot please everyone. All in all, I do not think it is necessary anymore for Théodish folks to distance ourselves too much from Dan, as he has rather distanced himself from *us*. To my knowledge, Dan is not currently active in Théodish communities: I imagine his political career takes up too much of his time.This is also not an instance of me reacting antagonistically to the political success of a religious leader. Dan was never my religious leader, as I was a member of a different théod than his. All of my interactions with Dan have been on a rather level plane. As I stated in that podcast interview: regardless of one’s personal feelings towards Dan or his political views, I think that it is on the whole a positive thing that someone known to belong to a minority religious tradition can pursue a political career at the national level.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       “some folks seem to feel that I provide too much information, and others seem to feel that I did not provide enough.”

      I’d take that as a good sign that you’ve provided just the right amount. Both sides are equally unhappy with the disclosure.