Archives For Alice Richmond

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!

It looks like a split decision last night in the battle of the Pagan candidates, resulting in a historic win for Republican candidate Dan Halloran. In a very close race Halloran defeated his Democratic opponent by a margin of 1300 votes to become the next New York City Councilman for District 19. This is a dramatic win for the beleaguered Theodsman, and his victory represents a dramatic first for modern Paganism, the first openly Pagan/Heathen candidate to gain an important political office. We await an official statement from Halloran, in the meantime, you can read congratulations from his supporters, and commentary from a snarky but somewhat humbled Village Voice (not to mention a peeved-sounding Steven Thrasher).

“But there are some less expected results, and one involves one of the “Losers to Watch” we mentioned early today: Queens council candidate Daniel Halloran (pictured), the pagan/heathen Republican looking to succeed Tony Avella. He seems to have bested Democrat Kevin Kim, 53 to 47 percent. By Odin’s beard, his magic must be strong!”

Indeed, and I look forward to following councilman Halloran’s career with interest in the coming years. Sadly, it isn’t all good news on the Pagan candidate front. While Halloran pulled off a win, Democrat Alice Richmond failed to unseat incumbent Republican Robert Griffith in the race for a seat on Page County Virginia’s Board of Supervisors. Griffith won by a very large margin, and while the revelations about Richmond being “Lady Raya” couldn’t have helped, Virginia saw a wave of Republican victories last night, and that turn-out most likely made the contest into a total rout. On her blog, Richmond inferred that the county was suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome”, and gave the following statement.

“For those 546 people who came to the polls and voted for me, thank you. For those 47 people who contributed nearly $6,500 to my campaign, I did the best work I could do. The voters of District 1 made a clear choice. The vote was not close.”

So a somewhat bitter-sweet, yet ultimately historic night for Pagans participating in the political realm. Halloran’s win, and even Richmond’s high-profile candidacy and loss, have broken down barriers that will greatly benefit future Pagan adherents looking to get involved in the political process. It has proven that while no race in the near future will be easy for an “out” Pagan, in the right circumstances we can win.

It’s Election Day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 3, 2009 — 3 Comments

Today is the day, elections are being held, and we’ll soon find out if two out/outed Pagan candidates will win their respective races. The higher-profile story, that of Republican New York City Council candidate, and Heathen Theodsman, Dan Halloran, has gotten a bit ugly in the final hours.

“Though he once wrote on his PaganSpace webpage that “Theodism regularly practices blood sacrifice,” Halloran told the paper that the ritual is similar to Jewish dietary laws. That riled up Kim supporters. “By comparing animal blood sacrifices with the Jewish dietary laws of keeping kosher, it’s no wonder that Dan Halloran’s religion is supported by neo-Nazis and white supremacists,” Michael Dovid Sais, a Jewish Kim backer told the Daily News.”

Looks like the Village Voice piece conflating racist Heathens in prison with Halloran’s campaign has been somewhat successful in putting Halloran, once again, on the defensive when it comes to his faith. He’s now dealing with protesters outside Republican headquarters accusing him of anti-Semitism, some who are directly quoting the Village Voice article. As for the Village Voice, they defend their original piece, saying that they made it clear Halloran wasn’t a racist, even if large parts of the article happened to be about racist Heathens.

“We did point out that there’s an alarming trend in the country’s prisons of white supremacists adopting neo-heathenism for their white nationalist agendas. Experts tell us that as much as 50 percent of the country’s tiny neo-heathenist movement has connections to white supremacy. But we also made it clear, several times, that we found no tie between Halloran’s New Normandy and those white supremacist groups. Yes, Halloran seems to have found some fans at the white nationalist forum Stormfront, but that’s something he can hardly control.”

Meanwhile, both Halloran’s and Democrat Kevin Kim’s camps have been accusing the other of harassment and sabotage. All of which makes me think this is going to be a close one. But while Halloran’s story has gotten most of the attention from the press, Pagan or otherwise, he isn’t the only Pagan on the ballot this election day. Alice Richmond, who is the Democratic candidate for District 1 Supervisor in Page County, Virginia, is facing Republican Robert Griffith in a race that has seen Richmond’s religion used as a weapon against her.

“On September 18th the conservative talk-show SpeakOut interviewed Alice Richmond, Democratic candidate for District 1 Supervisor in Page County, Virginia. During the program a “Jim Logan” called and asked Richmond if she was “Lady Raya”, author of two books on Wicca. Richmond repeatedly denied the allegation on the air, causing her to backtrack later when a local television channel followed up on the story .. While her outing as a Wiccan may be damaging to the campaign, it is also very likely that opponents may have over-stepped in their out-the-Witch campaign, bringing her more free publicity and new supporters than she may have otherwise gotten. Meanwhile, a commenter on Richmond’s blog points out that accusations of a set-up by the hosts of SpeakOut were all but confirmed on the program’s next episode.

So we have two Pagan candidates, both of whom are trying to move past the public revelations that they belong to minority faiths in a country where being Christian seems to be almost a prerequisite for gaining political power. If you’re not, then you have to endure increased scrutiny, and often, insinuations of anti-Americanism. It isn’t pretty, but perhaps Wilfred M. McClay, a professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is right when he says that “it’s something that these neo-pagans have to go through”. See you all tomorrow for the results.

ADDENDUM: Halloran wins, Richmond loses, more on both of these races early tomorrow morning!

Now that the Dan Halloran issue seems to be settled (at least until election day), lets turn to the other candidate who was recently outed as a Pagan. On September 18th the conservative talk-show SpeakOut interviewed Alice Richmond, Democratic candidate for District 1 Supervisor in Page County, Virginia. During the program a “Jim Logan” called and asked Richmond if she was “Lady Raya”, author of two books on Wicca. Richmond repeatedly denied the allegation on the air, causing her to backtrack later when a local television channel followed up on the story.

“A bio of Lady Raya on that site is almost identical to Richmond’s resume, including education at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. “Lady Raya isn’t anyone. Lady Raya is a fictional character,” says Richmond. “Did I, however, write that book? Yes, I did.” Richmond also writes the Page County Watch blog and has made open government a central issue in her campaign. So, why did she deny questions about her past? “Many people when they are misunderstanding and not knowing what metaphysical books are, can react badly,” says Richmond.”

Now trying to move past the outing and her initial denials, Richmond talks to the local Page News and Courier, explaining why she initially denied being Lady Raya and writing those books on Wicca.

“Richmond explained that at the time of the broadcast, she didn’t want to say “yes” because of what people may think. “I essentially panicked when that guy asked the question,” said Richmond. Richmond later publicly stated she did write the books. Though prepared to express her beliefs as a Wiccan, Richmond said she was not prepared for the books and Lady Raya to be brought up.”

While the initial denials, and subsequent admission, most likely hurt her standing with some in Page County, it has also spurred a big spike in traffic to her web site and gained her new supporters.

“Thanks to the Speakout show for invigorating interest in my campaign and traffic on the blog. The Blog pages were viewed 1,360 times yesterday. And thanks to the anonymous mass emailer, who has been sending the link to PageCountyWatch.org out titled “Page County Watch or Page County Witch”. Traffic is at new highs, and I no longer have to be concerned that my message is not being widely received around the county. In fact, the Blog has been viewed more times in the past week than the Page News and Courier has circulation in the county.”

While her outing as a Wiccan may be damaging to the campaign, it is also very likely that opponents may have over-stepped in their out-the-Witch campaign, bringing her more free publicity and new supporters than she may have otherwise gotten. Meanwhile, a commenter on Richmond’s blog points out that accusations of a set-up by the hosts of SpeakOut were all but confirmed on the program’s next episode.

[bliptv AYGi2HEC]

Interesting that the talk show hosts were too cowardly to bring up the matter themselves and instead set up an ambush. If this is the way politics are done in Page County, Virginia, maybe they really do need a change in government. As for Alice Richmond, she may just yet become living proof that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

This doesn’t seem to be a good month for politicians who want to keep their Pagan faith to themselves. Just last week Republican candidate for New York’s City Council Dan Halloran was outed as a Pagan by a partisan newspaper, and now the Democratic candidate running for District 1 Supervisor in Page County, Virginia has been outed as a Pagan on a local conservative call-in talk show.

“A local political candidate faces questions about a controversial book she may or may not have written. Alice Richmond is running to represent District 1 on the Page County Board of Supervisors. She recently denied writing a book about Wiccan history and rituals called “Thirteen Lessons for Pleasing the Divine: A Witch’s Primer.” In denying she wrote it, is she being honest about her past? It all started Friday with a radio interview. On the call-in show SpeakOut, a man identifying himself as Jim Logan had some questions for Richmond about two titles he’d found … Richmond said, “That is not me, Jim.” … Richmond denied she was Lady Raya a couple times more.”

On Alice Richmond’s blog she explains that she denied being “Lady Raya” due to fear of retribution from “ignorant morons”.

“Why is my name not tied to Lady Raya? Well, that is very simple: There are ignorant morons out there who think there are real witches who can put spells on them, and they get scared of it so they think it’s fair game to tamper with their mail, invade their offices, and otherwise threaten them physically. A “nom de plume” is used in authoring a book because otherwise, it would be dangerous to present information.”

As you can imagine, local Republicans are having a field day.

“Richmond’s opponent in this case, Robert Griffith, declined to go on camera, but did say he wanted Richmond to be clear about whether or not she wrote the book.”

While it does seem that Alice Richmond was set-up with a planned outing in order to damage her campaign, her denials and subsequent attempts to portray Lady Raya as a “fictional character” only feed into the accusations that her Pagan past is “controversial” and something to hide. Now we’ll have to see if Richmond’s campaign can move past this incident, and if her Republican opponent (not to mention his supporters) can resist using Wicca and modern Paganism as a political football.

Meanwhile, the Queens Tribune article on Republican candidate Dan Halloran, and alleged efforts by his opponent’s spokesman to spread the story to the press may be sucessful in damaging his campaign. While one local story gave sympathetic coverage of Halloran’s religious journey, and another portrayed the GOP as “having faith” in the candidate for New York City Council, the Village Voice claims that Halloran may be on the verge of being replaced as a candidate.

“Up until the story ran, Halloran was the odds-on favorite to win the November general election against newcomer Kevin Kim who won last week’s Deocratic primary against a crowded field seeking to fill Tony Avella’s vacated seat. Now all bets are off, and City Hall news blog reports today that Republican leaders are negotiating to swap Halloran for Paul Vallone, member of the illustrious Queens Democratic clan who lost to Kim in the primary.”

Are Republicans really going to swap out Halloran for a conservative Democrat? If they do, what about Halloran’s ballot lines for the Libertarian, Independence, and Conservative parties? I very much doubt they’ll all want to switch horses at this point. Rumors that Halloran would be given a judicial nod in exchange for vacating the ballot for Vallone seem to be stalled due to legal obstacles to such a plan. As for Queens County Democratic Party chair Michael Reich, he’s keeping in classy by describing Theodism as a “cult”.

“They should stick with the candidate they picked, even if he happens to be in a cult.”

So one political party is privately embarrassed by Halloran’s faith and wants to kick him off the ballot, and the other political party is calling his faith a “cult” and using it to score points against him. I think the Shakespearean response here would be “a pox on both their houses”.

Both of these stories, not to mention the recent trials of Democratic delegate Rita Moran, all point to a simple fact: In the age of the Internet there is no “broom closet” secure enough to keep your secret. If you’ve ever mentioned your faith in public, be it a message board, e-list, book, magazine article, or mass-e-mail then you can’t expect your secrets to remain secret. The only response is to acknowledge that open adherence to a modern Pagan or Heathen faith will make some voters react negatively, and embrace a new level of transparency your most likely uncomfortable with. Pretending to be generically Judeo-Christian for the sake of politics is only a recipe for disaster. Eventually, and very likely before you’re elected, it will leak. If powerful politicians with far more to lose can’t keep their affairs or sexual preferences secret, what hope is there of hiding that article about Witchcraft your wrote, or that public festival you attended?

Pagan politicians, no matter what party they are with, need to be open about their faith from the start. If the message we keep sending to our interconnected communities is that modern Paganism is something we must keep hidden, if we treat our faiths as a “third rail” in politics, then a Pagan politician will never reach high office. We must win as who we really are, or we will never win. Yes, that will make the journey harder, it will remove the short-cuts of easy endorsements and fat contributions, but we need to make that journey no matter how hard. We must remain open no matter how strong the instinct to keep hidden, and eventually, with time and work, we will win. We will win and that victory will shatter the barriers that have hindered so many who tried to run and were brought low by mudslinging and fear. We will win, but we must come out, come out, wherever we are.