America’s Top Heathen

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

America’s Top Heathen
Michael Marsicano

On Tuesday, November 4, 2009, American political history was made, even though it was an off-year election, with few people running for high-profile offices.

A new political movement calling itself the Tea Party had put up its first crop of candidates. The upstart party helped deliver the first electoral defeat to the new American president, who had been inaugurated just months before with an 80 percent approval rating. By the end of the evening, the Tea Party had helped turn the governorships of two blue states red (Virginia and New Jersey).

What most political observers overlooked, however, was the most magical election of the night, featuring the most colorful Tea Party candidate in the nation, in the 19th City Council District in Queens.

That was where real history was made. Mayor Mike Bloomberg squeaking into a third term was inconsequential compared with Daniel Halloran, a Theodish heathen, becoming the first openly elected heathen in the nation.

Halloran was no garden-variety pagan. He was the “First Atheling,” or prince, of his own Theodish tribe, called New Normandy. He had “thralls” who swore their allegiance to him. He didn’t just spend weekends reconstructing the religious activities of the pre-Christian Norse and Germanic gods—he led his flock, about 100 people at its height, in their polytheistic celebration of the gods (plural). They’d gather for “blot” (sacrifice and feast), “sumble” (“boast and toast of the gods”), and play games that, to the outside eye, looked like something from Dungeons & Dragons or a Renaissance fair.

Halloran was elected with the backing of the Conservative, Republican, and Tea parties.

When the polls closed that election night, a motley crew of Roman Catholics and pagans gathered at a bank branch in outer Queens to wait for the returns. Halloran’s campaign in the 19th against Democrat Kevin Kim—who had the advantage of a 3:1 registration ratio—had been bruising. The Kim campaign, Halloran’s camp repeatedly said, tried to use Halloran’s unusual religion to its advantage. Meanwhile, the Kim campaign alleged that Halloran’s supporters had hurled anti-Asian slurs at their supporters.

As one Halloran volunteer put it: “We were brought in to be white faces. In an off-year election, this one came down to: Who do you hate more? Koreans or pagans?”

Ultimately, heathen or not, the pale face won out. But while Halloran’s fans waited for his acceptance speech, they gleefully watched the results coming in from Virginia and New Jersey, their anti-Obama rage well-honed after just a few months.

“We’re going to take this country back!” they hooted and hollered.

Finally, the Prince of New Normandy was introduced with, “We’ve got a new city councilman!” Dan Halloran climbed up and addressed the crowd: America’s next top heathen.

But he said one thing that night that gave his fellow heathens in attendance pause, and, in hindsight, should have put the fear of Odin in them.

Thanking his law partner, Halloran said, “The next time you give me advice to take a website down, I’ll do it.”

He was referring to the website of his heathenish theod, New Normandy, which is now defunct. The Voice and others have used images from the site of Halloran in medieval garb, hoisting drinking horns and other regalia that he had apparently found embarrassing.

During the campaign, Halloran had promised a lot of things: to give up his day job as a lawyer (he said it was unethical for a lawyer to practice law in the city in which he was on the council); that religion, his own or anyone else’s, shouldn’t be a part of politics; that religious freedom was paramount; that he was against government pork and largesse, even for his district; and that he, like just about every Tea Party advocate at the time, was a fiscal and not a social conservative.

None of these would prove to be true, and within months, the members of his theod would largely disband.

But that election night, his speech made for a good sumble.

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

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

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

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

Disappointment in Halloran by the members of his tribe, some say now, was instant: They’d already had their doubts while he was running for office.

“If you’re a Republican, and you’re a heathen, you’re shooting yourself in the foot!” says Valadia Kasandria Kristoffersen, an early member of New Normandy who goes by the name Kasidy. “I mean, if you’re a Republican, and you’re not a Christian, they don’t like you.” (Kristoffersen, who swore her oath to Halloran’s “Luck” as a member of his “Reich,” says she “defended him to death” for years. Now, she is more likely to call him “that slimy son of a bitch.”)

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