This is what religious bigotry looks like

Editorial by Cara Schulz

If I told you this was the illustration placed at the top of an article on a Heathen politician in a Pulitzer prize winning news publication, would you believe me?  What about if I told you the article was titled America’s Top Heathen?

The target of the article is Dan Halloran, elected to 19th City Council District in Queens in November of 2009.  The election was hotly contested and towards the end of the campaign things got ugly when Halloran’s religion, Theodism (a branch of Heathenry) was used to smear the candidate.  Disparaging articles appeared in the press and jokes were make.  Yet Halloran was still able to win the election by a narrow margin.

Now this article comes out which shows that religious bigotry is still alive and well in the New York press.  Oh good.  I had thought for a moment that NY journalists had come to their senses and realized that ridiculing a minority religion is against journalistic ethics.

The lengthy editorial appears to have been written to highlight what it perceives as Councilman Dan Halloran’s political failings while weaving in his alleged religious shortcomings.  Because of the prominent and vile cartoon and the mocking of his religion it also paints Heathenry as a joke.

Byron Ballard, who commented on the article, says it best, “But this piece takes pot shots at an elected official through the lens of his religion–mocking both interchangeably. And if that wasn’t enough, the author also takes a cheap shot at Wicca. This is a nasty piece, illustrated as offensively as possible, Sure it’s about Halloran, but the title of the piece leaves no doubt about what makes him so preposterous (and somehow amusing)–his religion.” 


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Heathens purchase building for public Norse temple

Volkshof Kindred, a Heathen 501c3 organization located in the Twin Cities, recently purchased a building to be used as a Hof.  A Hof is the name for a temple building in Old Norse.  The group says this is the first dedicated, group-owned, public Heathen Hof in North America.  The residential building, which the group is currently renovating, is located in a northern Minneapolis suburb.

Site of Volkshof Kindred’s new Hof in Brooklyn Center, MN

Volkshof Kindred on Facebook
Hof location:  5319 Oliver Ave N, Brooklyn Center, MN
To donate:  Paypal (link on website) or  send cash or check
to PO Box 290241 Minneapolis, MN 55429.
Donations are tax-deductible.
For more information:  email



The Kindred says the Hof will provide space for their board meetings, rituals, symbels and other religious and social activities.  It’s also available to other Heathen groups to rent for workshops or retreats.   Previously, the group met at the home of one of the group members. As the Kindred desired to have a public Hof, Chris ‘Gunnar’ Miller, who heads the Hof, says continuing to meet in a private home was no longer a viable option, “As a public entity, we have a responsibility to open our doors to newcomers. This sometimes means opening our doors to strangers, which carries a much higher potential for problems when our meeting space is someone’s home. In addition, as our kindred and our regional circle of friends widens, we are becoming more pressed for space when we get together, which has become more and more stressful for me and for my family. We needed and wanted a space that was truly sacred and dedicated to the gods and goddesses and that was the responsibility of the group. We wanted a space and a resource that we could share with the larger community to foster the growth of our folkway.”  Miller hopes that this will be the first of many dedicated, group-owned Hofs in the United States.  He feels public Hofs could  lend Heathenry some legitimacy and credibility.

Miller says the building was purchased through a fundraising effort that started several years ago, “So far, our fundraising has been slow and steady in general, although we were able to obtain a building much sooner than expected due to the very generous donations of a few friends. Now that we have the property, we need to continue raising money to repair and remodel the space, and on an ongoing basis to cover operational expenses such as property taxes, utilities, maintenance, etc. We are in the process of creating a short and long-term budget plan that will give us a better idea of how much money we will need on an ongoing basis.”

He stated that persons who donate “notable amounts” will be commemorated with a plaque in the new Hof.

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Kari’s Thingtide Travels – Northern Folk Gathering

Kari Tauring is hitting the Heathen summer festivals and gatherings and is  reporting back on her experiences in this series. This festival is the Northern Folk Gathering, former known as the Midwest Thing.  The festival moved to a new location this year, St Croix State Park, and was held June 10-12.

This was the first annual gathering of Heathen kindreds and individuals representing the Northern half of the Midwest. Hosted by Volkshof Kindred (out of Minneapolis) at Norway Point State Park near Hinkley, Minnesota.

Photo credit: Chris Gunnar Miller

This three day event was attended by just over 100 people with about 30 children in tow. Though it was the first annual event by its name it was by no means the first event hosted by Volkshof Kindred and it showed in the organization, food, and fun that everyone enjoyed without a hitch. This mid-sommer festival was an opportunity for the kindred Chieftains (or leader representation) to meet and discuss issues within the Northern states and the region. The Gothis (god-persons or religious officials) of kindreds also met as well as the Valkyries (those women who serve the kindred as horn bearers, connecting the luck of the kindred to the wells of the world tree).

The cabin camping at Norway Point is quite nice. Everyone was settled in a little “village” with the main hall being the center of food and festivity. There is a lovely swimming beach and lots of woods to wander in.

Specific programming for the children was carried out through the event from workshops by Sara Axtel (Minneapolis, Powderhorn Cultural Wellness Center), members of Volkshof kindred and myself. I worked with the older kids teaching the Jim Johnston Norsery Rhyme “This is the world of Midgard” complete with dance steps, pantomimes, masks and a sun-disk parade.

It was different than Trothmoot because the intention of the event was to bring the regional Heathens together to form bonds and friendship. So the emphasis was on festive activity such as a Maypole and flower crowns, hall decorations and a whole lot of dancing. I presented a performance program especially written for the event, “The Transformation of Groa.” Drew Miller (Boiled in Lead) came up for the show to add his magical laptop sounds and there were six staving women who performed a stav dance leading the human Groa into the mound to become a mound-bride.

A special moment
The childrens performance was a moment that the entire hall found exceptional. Here we are, modern humans of Nordic ancestry watching our children re-create the story myth of our deepest root. It is this realization that our ancestors are alive in our children that made this moment of the event a sort of pinnacle. Listening to each person in the hall raise a horn to their parents, grand parents, great grands…by name and by deed really marks a huge difference between general pagan events and heathen events. There is a deep understanding that we are creating the world for our children based on how healthy our relationships with our ancestors are. There is a sense in each raised horn that deep healing is going on in the family of origin issues we all face and that there is a commitment to maintaining a high level of functioning for our children’s sake. I find this compelling whether at a small kindred meeting or a large regional gathering. This path is for our ancestors and our descendants, not just for us here and now.

Also, discussion was had on how this event could open up to individuals who, while not practicing Heathenry in a strict sense, are connected to heathenry through ancestry and interest. In Minnesota, our large Immigrant folksoul is beginning to seek their deeper roots and Heathenry is reaching towards the songs and dances of the Immigrant Era. A natural bridge is beginning to form and Volkshof Kindred is leading the way towards total folksoul healing.

Next year and other events
The site is already booked for the second annual Northern Folk Gathering and attendees said their fare well’s with “we will see you at LATP in September!” There is such a homecoming/family reunion feeling within these Heathen gatherings that growth is the natural outcome. I will be attending Lightning Across the Plains in Kansas this September for my third year. Last year I was recognized at the Midwest Thing held at LATP as volva (staff carrier) for the region. I look forward to reporting on it!


Editor’s note:  Interview  with Brody Derks of the Thule of  Volkshof  Kindred, about Heathenry and the Northern Folk Gatheringcan be found here.

Kari’s report on Trothmoot 2011 can be found here.