Thursday, 18 October 2012

The War of Words

I had originally written a 1000+ word piece on a topic that has come up lately across the internet – I hadn’t even finished it but reading it I realized it read more like an exceptionally long rant than an opinion piece so I’ve decided to scrap my original and rework something that sounded more opinion, less rant.

The rant was originally inspired by a situation that arose on the internet. It involved accusations of imitation, intellectual property theft, stalker like behaviour and the “copying” of another’s style and personality. However it was not unique to this one situation, these days it seems that Pagans across the net are bitching at one another or throwing around unpleasant accusations on just about everything. It’s a sad state of affairs, we all want acceptance but I think we need to start with each other first.

I wanted to address each of these issues as rationally and calmly as I could without getting too carried away; I am sometimes prone to needless exposition.

Intellectual Property Theft: Not okay under any circumstances. If you’re not sure, ask the person who the work belongs to. This will get you the answer quite quickly. In one situation, a person did use without permission and removed once it was made clear permission was not going to be given. Unfortunately this seems to be the impetus of many a veiled discussion between some parties. I don’t believe that if this is a one time thing, you should suffer the “well they always” that seems to be used to define one event. I think if a lesson is learned and the action not done again, it should be left alone.

Stalker Like Behaviour: This is the one that gets me the most riled up because I’ve found in many a context the use of the word ‘stalker’ comes across as a trendy catch word or turned into something petty or asinine. Truthfully, having a similar spiritual path or blog template to some one is not stalking. I was stalked when I was younger. It was horrendous and terrifying so I know what a stalker is and it pisses me off when people use it to describe something trivial. True stalking is a terrifying; life changing thing and it is not something to be thrown around lightly as a buzzword.

Imitation: Hmm, imitation is an interesting term in the Pagan realm. You can try although I imagine it wouldn’t work. I think the problem is so many people are confusing ‘imitation’ with ‘inspiration’. A lot of the time there is no imitation but it can be perceived that way. One of the arguments of imitation that has come up is the creating and selling of flying ointments. It seems everyone is giving it ago these days. I can see that there are concerns because I believe some people are not even witches but people capitalizing or trying to make a quick buck and putting dangerous herbs together without fully understanding what those herbs do. There are some out there who are truly gifted with herbs and the ability to work them and for those individuals it must be hard to work forward knowing there are less than honest people moving in. I plan to, later down the track, make and sell ointments of varying degrees. Rest assured I am not imitating; it is a fascination and natural progression of my path.

Another charge is when websites look similar, I think in a couple of instances this was overzealous reacting without fully looking at the presented sites – and I will argue that if a template is free on the net and some one else uses it, it’s not imitating, its taking advantage of a free template.

The Copying of Style and Personality: There have been accusations of copying of style and personality of others who are well known within the community and it appears as though this thought, when presented to a larger audience, can incite some rather vitriolic hatred. I can understand if some one thinks that another witch is stealing their ideas and passing them off as their own that they may get upset and reach to the masses in alerting people of this but when the “copying” is so minimal that it barely registers, I tend to think this is more leaning toward bruised ego than anything else. You can’t copy some one’s personality because it is a unique thing. You would have to know that person intimately to be able to even begin to pull it off. As for the copying of style, this really gets my ire up. Why? Because it speak of the proprietary attitude that is so prevalent within the community today.

Some seem to think that any Craft they write about and present in their blogs, sites, or other media forum should be their own and anyone seen to be using any ideas is copying. There is this attitude of “I did it first so therefore it’s mine and everyone else is copying me”. And the truth of the matter is, some people learned about these things before one person was writing about them, and it doesn’t make it theirs alone and if the person who may have already been aware then begins to write about it themselves, it becomes an internet incident. The thing is, there are a multitude of ways people can get information and begin on different paths.

It could have been a text, anthropological studies, herbalism books, history on Native Americans and their spiritual practices, books on Celtic peoples and their practices; any number of areas, as did the idea of working with banefuls, plant spirits, tarot etc – all of it is not original to any one person. I’m not saying that developing your own style and not wanting that mimicked is wrong, it isn’t but when you post on a blog or website for the world to see, there will be some who are inspired by what you present and wish to give it a go themselves to see if it fits them.

For me, I was aware of things like banefuls, shamanism, ointments and the like well before I came across it on individual websites and blogs. I had been reading on spiritual practices for awhile and because I also subscribed to a couple of different magazines for a number of years I learned about these things on my own. (I was learning about the Craft from magazines and pamphlets – before blogs and personal websites). If I choose to blog about my adventures in growing banefuls (which I plan to do) I would not appreciate being thought of as a copycat or stealing the ideas of another’s path. It would be a natural progression, as I am studying Herbalism right now (4 subjects away for my Foundation Certification yay!). It’s a hard road we walk sometimes when anything can be subject to public opinion but sometimes one has to ignore the public and push on anyway.

The truth is nothing in witchcraft is original. No one person can claim any sort of ownership over any one path because it’s all been done before. Somewhere. However, witchcraft is ever evolving, changing and being experienced in all realms. People will come to things as they find them by the way of natural progression within their path. It’s enlightening and fun to come across some one else who has done it and has shared their experience. I would love for people to keep blogging and trying new things but I would ask that just because you were first to write about it doesn’t necessarily mean you were the first to do it and to call some one out or imply in an openly public forum there was copying is not the way to go.

Just remember, there were witches practicing before the internet doing what you’re doing, doing what another witch is doing, experiencing all manner of paths across all spiritual paths. This has to be kept present in the mind before hitting the keys and starting a war of words over something so egocentric. 

Well this turned out longer than I had planned, and it isn’t a rant which is wonderful but I hope I’ve put forth some food for thought. I worry that new witches will discover things on their own, go to the internet to learn and see witches tearing shreds off one another because of similar spiritual paths and decide to walk away from being active in the community. We want to encourage open discussion and growth but it has to be done respectfully and with forethought.

Walk your path, enjoy your practice and live it well without concerning yourself about others. Your path is yours of course, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing if some one wants to walk it too.

2 comments:

  1. Great post and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have been thinking about the idea of keeping some things secret vs sharing and I'm a bit concerned, not with the sharing, but what happens when things are shared too much, are too public. I think secrecy in witchcraft was not only to protect the witches from accusation, but because there is a power loss when too much is shared.(my opinion)And yes, I see this "sharing" is often offered at a fee of some sort which I am not entirely comfy with...but in moderation for those who are (as you said) qualified to offer products and teach. I am against blatant copying for sure, but to be honest what modern pagan isn't copying? Isn't that how one carries on a tradition?

    And finally, I think that sometimes, there is an issue with identifying too much with what you do, confusing it with who you are. When this happens, imitation is no longer flattering, it's more like stealing. To be a witch is to practice witchcraft, which means that you DO more than announce that you ARE.

    Sorry so long...your post was very timely and mimicked my own thoughts recently (but you had them first!!! hahahaha!)

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    1. *dramatic sigh* Everyone copies me, its a burden lol. You are right however, some run around yelling "I'm a witch", but do nothing within that path, it's more of a 'look at me'.

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