Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Faery Gold

This site, preserved on the Internet Archive, details previous plagiarisms and misrepresentations of the tradition. The message is still absolutely relevant.

Faery Gold: All that glitters is not Faery.

"That which is stolen from the Elves profits nothing, and can not sustain life nor satisfy desire. The gifts of Elphame are not to be seized by force or fraud; only that which is freely given may be said to be of the Grey Folk. "

Friday, February 25, 2011


I said that if anyone had evidence to contradict what I wrote, to send it to me and I would take it into consideration. Strangely, no one has, though Storm did take the time and effort to write a "refutation." Apparently he discussed colored wands, and alternate colors, on in 2004. (He also says I'm a member of the Feri community there as if that makes a difference, but I didn't even join until ten months after the conversation he references happened. That's on my profile. )

What was discussed on or when it happened is actually not relevant though, and here's why:

I stated in my previous article that discussions of the colored wand system and various permutations of it were perennial; I could, if I wished, probably find evidence that alternatives to the "traditional three" had been bandied about by many people long before 2004. I'm not going to bother, because that has nothing to do with the copyright issues. You don't own an idea based on casual conversation, even Internet conversation; it's only when you sit down, develop it, and write it down as a coherent set of thoughts that it becomes yours. If you reflect a moment you will see why it has to work that way. To show that someone might have been exposed to an idea, you also can't just sit on it; you have to share it in some manner. If Storm had written up a treatment and shared it with others and Elf was aware of it, he might have an argument there...but if that were true, he should have brought it up long before now.

Elf on the other hand did both of those things. The piece of information that is most relevant to all this is that she shared her original write-up with several people, and then discussed writing an article about colored wands for WitchEye with Storm on the telephone (not in e-mail, as he disingenuously implies). Given that he is the owner and editor of WitchEye, that brings in a whole other set of professional ethics and constraints, above and beyond copyright. As an editor, if a writer pitches an article to you, you simply do not take that idea and write it up yourself. Even if you gave them the idea, you don't do that....though they are under an obligation in that case to publish it in your magazine, and you have a right to be upset with them if they publish it elsewhere.

It's also worth noting that Storm previously claimed (in his LiveJournal post) that he had never discussed his ideas about colored wands with anyone except his husband and one unnamed friend. Yet he himself presents evidence that that isn't so. To be charitable, maybe he didn't remember; I certainly don't remember everything I ever wrote on an Internet forum. But in that case he definitely should stop and ask himself if he could be mistaken about a few other things in connection with this.

What Storm should have done is ask Elf if she really wanted to pursue the article, and if she said "no," he could have written his own with a clear conscience. He should still have referenced hers in his own version, because he knew it existed and had discussed it with her. If he really didn't remember talking to her, he should have added a reference once it was called to his attention (as it was, four years ago). That's how a professional writer and editor acts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Organize and Protest

You can order a pizza which will be donated to the protesters in Wisconsin.

If you are a Pagan writer, you can also join a union. I recommend the National Writers Union; even if the majority of your work is unpublished, you can still join. Non-members can also benefit from their information on how to protect your work and what to do when your copyright has been violated.

I believe that no one who is profiting financially or by reputation from appropriating the work of others should be supported by our community. It is past time we stopped letting this go on.

Clouding the Guardians

by Sarsen

“I myself took an oath in which, among other things, I protect my 'brothers and sisters in the Craft.'” – “The Secret War of the F(a)eri(e) Tradition” by Storm Faerywolf, WitchEye #11, June 2005

If you look at the site, aside from the headache due to trying to read green-on-black text, you might come away with the impression that the "Feri Tradition" is a conveniently amorphous yet unified entity, and that Storm Faerywolf knows a lot about its practices and history. He does say here and there that the tradition is “diverse,” which is true enough, and sometimes acknowledges that people disagree with him, usually in terms that straw-man their actual objections.However, he buries those statements in his other assertions and in his methods, by speaking grandly and vaguely about “our legends” and other such verbiage as if the tradition came down fully formed from the mists of time, by not giving his sources (or in some cases giving inaccurate or incomplete sources), by....well, pretty much everything else, including the domain name. He does it even with the way the website pages are titled: at the top of the browser window it says, “The Feri Tradition presents 'The Lords of the Outer Dark' featuring the directional guardians engaged by various Feri sects. Come explore!”

The Feri Tradition? I assure you nobody gave him permission to speak for the rest of us; he doesn't even speak to most of us (and that was true long before the split). Not that any initiate would be fooled...but we are not his target audience.

Here I am trying to place plagiarism in a context, to present why I think it's not just ignorance or carelessness, but part of a general policy of de-emphasizing the real sources of ideas or making them invisible so that the presenter can look like an authority. This practice is all too common in the history of Pagan religion, and it is pernicious.

For example...

Here is an excerpt of a Guardian description written by Steven Hewell circa 1982-83 and passed to the Bloodrose line by Gabriel Carillo:

“The Guardian of the East is called the Star Finder, and represents the power of Knowledge. He appears standing before the rising sun. His body is transparent golden yellow, his eyes are two very bright light blue stars, and he had great wings colored pale violet. In his right hand, he holds a rod of sapphire, bound with gold at the top and silver at the bottom.”

There is also a description of the Eastern Guardian as “vaguely humanoid” in an article by Jenny Sill-Holman titled “Who are the Guardians?” which was published in WitchEye #3, August 2000.

Now here is the description from

“The StarFinder wields the power of Knowledge. He may appear as vaguely humanoid, his body transparent golden yellow, the color of morning sunlight. His eyes are very bright, light blue stars, and he has enormous wings of pale violet. He stands or flies before the rising sun, his right hand holding a sapphire rod, bound at the top with gold, and bound at the bottom with silver. He may also appear as a slash of soft sunlight, carrying a gentle wind. ” (Faerywolf)

The entirety of it, excepting the last sentence, is drawn from Sill-Holman and Hewell's work, primarily the latter, but without any attribution. This pattern is repeated throughout all of the Guardian descriptions on the page.

From the Korythalia/Bloodrose class notes:

“The Guardian of the South is called the Shining Flame, and represents the power of Truth. He appears in the desert at High noon. His body is transparent ruby red, and he is surrounded by a cloud of fire like the teardrop shape of a candle flame. In his right hand he holds a sword of bright blue metal” (Hewell).

“The ShiningFlame wields the power of Truth. He also may appear in humanoid form, his body transparent ruby red, surrounded by an aura of fire like a teardrop or candle flame. He stands or dances in a desert at noon, holding in his right hand a sword of polished blue metal“ (Faerywolf).

The exact same problems appear throughout the Guardian page; that is, they aren't Faerywolf's at all. They are ninety percent someone else's, usually Hewell or Sill-Holman's, with a few rearranged words and the occasional insertion of a sentence or two of which I do not know the source. Those might actually be original, but (as with Valerie Walker's work) there's no way to tell.

One has to ask...what is the point of this? Why anger one's co-religionists by publishing other people's work without acknowledgment and then putting your own copyright on it? Why engage in that kind of deception, period? Even though the elements from Jenny Sill-Holman's article are minor, that's still a preceding instance of those descriptions in print and it is not mentioned. If the purpose is really to inform people about the tradition, explaining the sources of images and ideas is essential to that purpose. They give context and history, and give people a sense of how the tradition has developed. These are essential to understanding, and also convey the important fact that most of what we now use was written by individuals whom we know within living memory, not by conveniently anonymous ancestors. This is crucial, both for giving credit to the authors and for understanding what material did come from folk tradition and what was passed to Victor Anderson by the Harpy coven. Obscuring any part of the truth there creates an impossible tangle.

I don't care to speculate on other people's motives if I can help it; I don't claim great powers of telepathy.But I can certainly describe the effect of not acknowledging those particular sources. It obfuscates the debt Faerywolf owes to the Bloodrose line, and in particular his predecessors in it. It makes it appear that “the Feri Tradition” has some kind of unified view of the Guardians, instead of a spectrum of personal gnosis regarding them. It occludes the real history, as I mentioned. It also makes it seem like Faerywolf is an authoritative source of information on the topic, instead of merely reproducing what he was given without adding anything much new in the way of commentary, insight, or vision. By putting his copyright on it also, he is claiming the work of others for himself.

In his article “The Lords of the Outer Dark: Exploring the Guardians of the F(a)eri(e) Tradition,” Faerywolf produces similar sleights of hand. He says things like, “Our legends tell us that we do not know if the names we have for them are their own or of those beings to which they hold their allegiance.” I'm not actually sure where that idea comes from; for all I know he made it up in a rare fit of originality. It would probably be more accurate to say, “Some initiates have said at one time or another....” But “legends” sounds so much more ancient, mysterious, portentious, and vague. Likewise when he says, “At one time in our history the names given below (usually referred to as the English names) as well as their post-initiatory counterparts were considered secret...” should be translated as “Up until T. Thorn Coyle published Evolutionary Witchcraft”...that is to say, in the distant epoch of 2005...”the English names of the Guardians were kept by informal custom mainly for student non-initiates to use.” Before that people generally avoided putting them into print; Sill-Holman's article from 2000, for example, never gives any of the names, even though at that time WitchEye was only intended for a small audience of initiates and students. This fact in itself demonstrates how rapidly and radically things have changed.

It's a little dizzying to see Storm citing Ronald Hutton while in the next breath implying that choices made in the last ten years by people he knows personally are ancient history.And seriously, why? According to Steven Hewell, who was there, those original descriptions came out of the creative ferment of Silver Wheel and their work as a coven with the energies of the Guardians...creative ferment being one of our distinguishing characteristics. Any initiate worth his or her salt should be able to come up with something just as powerful and valid. Thorn's work on the same subject is allusive and evocative, but all her own. The members of Silver Wheel...which also included Brian Dragon and Eldri Littlewolf...between them came up with a body of work that is treasured by much of the rest of the tradition. That has been discussed enough to be common knowledge; certainly it is not something that Faerywolf could possibly be unaware of. I do not understand why anyone at this point would wish to replace our real history, full as it is of fascinating, maddening, brilliant people, with a false vagueness. I cannot account for it.

Carillo, Gabriel and Steven Hewell.“Korythalia class notes.” Unpublished mss. 1983.

Faerywolf, Storm. “The Guardians of the Feri Tradition.” Accessed February 20, 2011.

Faerywolf, Storm. “The Lords of the Outer Dark: Exploring the Guardians of the F(a)eri(e) Tradition” Accessed February 20, 2011.

Hewell, Steven. “The Wheel of the Cloud People.” Unpublished mss. 2000.

Sill-Holman, Jenny. “Who are the Guardians?”WitchEye #3, August 2000.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What the Dustbunnies Swept Under the Rug

by Sarsen

Recently a document was circulated among the Faery community by two initiates; it describes some ten separate instances of plagiarism, comprising seventeen pages' worth of material, in Valerie Walker's The Dustbunnies/March Hares Big Damn Handout, Volume I. In the process of reading through the book, I found those and a few others (and probably missed some). I don't necessarily intend to repeat absolutely all of them here, but will give some examples and talk about the issues involved. I want to remind everyone of these principles:

1) Rephrasing something without acknowledgment of the source is still plagiarism.
2) “Fair use” as an exception to copyright only covers some uses, and does not give blanket permission to reproduce the entirety of a work without permission no matter how short the original work is. It also does not remove the obligation to acknowledge sources. It does provide more protection to educational or non-profit uses than for commercial uses, but again that protection is not unlimited.

If you remain unclear about this, please peruse my previous article or the sources I reference, especially

I would also like to introduce a basic idea here, one that would solve a multitude of problems clearly and clearly and so simply that I cannot fathom why it has not already been universally adopted. It is this:

If you didn't write it, don't publish it.

UNLESS: 1) you have written permission from the original author or current copyright holder,

OR 2) the work is in the public domain.

Note that “public domain” has a very specific definition, involving how long ago it was written (70+ years, generally) and other matters which emphatically do not include “I was told this was traditional” or “I don't know who wrote it” or “somebody put it up on the Internet.” Or even “I want to publish it because I like it and the author is a big meanie.”

The first item, on page 15 of the Handout, is a form of soul aligning meditation. The specifics of the technique are from a particular line of the Feri tradition, but that line (and the people who passed the technique to her) are not named. Here is a point where acknowledging the source would help, at least with the plagiarism part, but this example brings up a couple of issues.

All of us were passed “the tradition” with some common concepts but the specific ways it is practiced vary quite a bit; it is therefore possible to discern where an initiate “comes from” in terms of how they do certain techniques. The simpler versions are almost always the most widespread and represent what most people got from Victor; more elaborated versions often mark that practice as part of a particular line. While no one particularly owns the “rights” to the core meditations and concepts, a person's specific way of doing it could be said to belong to them, if they originated it. A person's written-down version of one does definitely belong to that individual.

Feri is an oral tradition, we keep saying, and it's sometimes odd to juxtapose copyright law onto that. However, there is a precedent for dealing with such issues in an oral culture context. In the traditional storytelling community, the stories are generally from folk tradition and therefore belong to no one. However, the particular way a person tells a story, all of the flourishes and particular turns of phrase, are considered to belong to the teller. You can tell any story you want. But if you want to tell a story the particular way someone else tells it, you ask that person's permission.

Of course, all of that presumes two things: one, that you keep the oral tradition oral, that is you don't put it into print (which invokes a different set of rules) and two, that everyone involved is honorable. Mostly, it works in the storytelling community because while nobody is making big bucks, storytellers are essentially performers and reputation matters. I'm hoping to bring some of that power of reputation here to the Internet, in case you're wondering.

The second problem with the meditation as given in the Handout is essentially this: The people who passed it to Valerie have stated over and over again that they don't want it published. Regardless of their reasons, whether she or anyone thinks those reasons are good or bad, they don't. Whatever she says on the matter, she is absolutely aware of this fact; if she wasn't before somehow, I'm saying so here. She might have a legal right to publish her own version of it, if she attributed it properly. But the ethics of doing so remain murky.

On pages 31-32 of the Handout, there is an Iron Pentacle meditation reproduced in its entirety. Here again the verdict is almost but not quite....that is, the exercise is attributed correctly, but because the whole thing is there it still violates the original author's copyright. He has stated that he did not give permission for it to be published, and since the substance of the work is included (rather than a few quotes or a paraphrase) the reproduction of it is not covered under “fair use.” Here again also we run into a puzzling problem: the Iron Pentacle is nearly universal, reams of material about it have been written, and it seems like it would be no big deal for an initiate (who presumably has worked with the concept at great length) to write her own. It's true that sometimes you see something that is so apt that you just don't think you can do any better...but if someone doesn't want you to use their work, you don't have a choice. And as I say, it shouldn't be difficult. I could write an Iron Pentacle exercise with my hands tied behind my back while falling off a log. So why would anyone ever want to appropriate someone else's?

On page 64, she repeats a list of God and Goddess names, only saying that they are used “by many Feris.” The chants are in fact part of a liturgy written by Victor Anderson. One might be forgiven for not knowing that, even if it seems like an obvious thing for an initiate of the tradition to know. One is still responsible for finding out the source of something before one puts it into print.

She quotes Starhawk's creation story from The Spiral Dance in full on page 74, along with ones from Francesca de Grandis and Brian Dragon. I am willing to assume she did get permission from Brian Dragon who is usually very generous with his work. The other two are dubious; they are from published material and do not include permissions which would be required; I still have to acknowledge previous publications when reprinting poems and stories that I wrote and own the rights to. The stories are part of larger works, but the quote is substantial. At least she gets the attribution correct this time.

She also quotes a poem by Gwydion Pendderwen in full; I don't know which of his heirs owns the copyright to that particular poem, but no acknowledgments (other than his name) are given. His poetry is used as liturgy by many people in the tradition, and he clearly intended for that to be so; however, only specific people have the right to publish his work.

On pages 82-84, there are quarter calls written by Steven Hewell; not only did he never give permission to publish, Valerie was specifically asked (more than once) to remove them. They are unattributed. At one point she claimed that she had removed them, but both versions I have (from 2008 and 2011) have them. She also reproduces the quarter calls used by another line of Feri; I am told those were written by Alison Harlow, possibly in collaboration with Gwydion Pendderwen. They are in any case based very closely on quarter calls from Paul Huson's book Mastering Witchcraft, a matter of common knowledge and much previous discussion.

Additionally, the Guardian descriptions on the same pages are obviously drawn from the Korythalia material which was co-authored by Steven Hewell and Gabriel Carillo; the Guardian material in particular was mostly written by Hewell. Again, unattributed.

On page 89 she repeats the God and Goddess chants, and again doesn't attribute them to the founder of the tradition, even though she quotes him quite a bit elsewhere.

Pages 97-99 give a version of circle liturgy originally written by Victor Anderson. Unattributed, also printed in full without permission.

On page 100 are some lines added to the five-fold blessing that appears on page 191 of The Spiral Dance. That in turn was based on a blessing from page 222 of Mastering Witchcraft.

Valerie has claimed at various points that no one ever said anything to her about anything in her book; this is not true. She has been spoken to by a number of different people over the past several years, by report and in my own direct observation. When confronted with that fact at one point on an e-mail list, she responded that they hadn't asked nicely enough. When asked very politely would she please not publish material written by other people, she simply refused and then left the list. Subsequently she has complained about being “talked about” in her absence, not bothering to mention the fact that she chose to withdraw from the conversation and could have re-entered it any time she wished.

I will say that the Handout is somewhat representative of the kind of stuff that has been passed around the tradition for years, and Valerie sometimes indicates that material in her book was not written by her even if she doesn't say who did write it. The difference is, it's one thing to hand someone a stack of copies of material you have collected (with or without good notes and provenance) and quite another to publish it under your own name with a copyright statement. The former is perhaps sloppy and deplorable; the latter is asserting a false claim to the work. It is also, as I have just demonstrated, not that difficult to find out who wrote something.

There's more here than just the purely personal ethics of it; what happens when you obfuscate the origin of a piece of Pagan liturgy or practice is not just that the original author is not credited, but the true history of it is lost; the circumstances, the influences, the historical moment. The development of Pagan religion in the United States has been rapid, and in some cases we know less about what really happened forty years ago than we do about what happened one hundred or five hundred years ago...Sometimes because people just didn't keep track, but also sometimes because people were more interested in creating a false aura of antiquity or asserting a claim to material they didn't write. Things that were written only a handful of years ago become "traditional"...thus lifting them neatly out of the hands of the rightful author, who is likely to have more good work in him or her but who is much less likely to share it henceforth. Just as bad, sometimes actually traditional material gets overlooked because it doesn't suit modern sensibilities so well as the faux tradition. All of this is inextricably tied up with the question of the true origins of modern religious witchcraft, and it does real harm to cloud the issue further.

The tragedy from my point of view is that some of what Valerie says in her book is both interesting and insightful. I cannot, however, in good conscience recommend it to my students or to anyone, because I can't know how much of it she actually wrote herself and how much she took from someone else without bothering to make note of it. Therefore even her original work, however much of it there is, becomes lost in a morass of deceit and carelessness.

Anderson, Victor. "The 'Little' Feri Ritual." Unpublished mss. (prior to 1968)*

Carillo, Gabriel and Steven Hewell. Korythalia class handout, unpublished mss. 1983.

Huson, Paul. Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks, and Covens. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1970.

Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. San Francisco: Harper, 1979.

"The Long Night of the Night Hares." Unpublished mss. February, 2011.

Walker, Valerie. The Dustbunnies/March Hares Big Damn Handout, Volume I. 2007.

*I'm giving it this date because that's the earliest version of it I personally have. I would also like to point out here that while we all feel a sense of attachment towards this liturgy in particular, and it was clearly meant to be used...we still don't own the rights to publish it, as individuals or as a collective. Only Victor Anderson's heirs do.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

About the series

As I said, I intend to write about the instances of plagiarism of which I am aware. It's entirely possible there are more than I know. If you have documented evidence of such, please let me know.

Additionally, if you have evidence of the same nature (e-mails and documents with date stamps, published material, or statements by two or more people with direct knowledge, etc.) to refute anything I have written here, I will post either the counter-evidence or (if sufficiently convincing) a retraction. You need not agree to have the entire document posted here, but I do need to see it and possibly quote it. Bald assertions by a single individual, or one without direct knowledge, are not enough.

You can reach me at siblingsofthecraft at gmail dot com. WARNING: Your communications with me there are not private. I will absolutely respect reasonable requests for confidentiality, BUT you must request it in so many words; any hostile or threatening material especially is likely to be reprinted here or elsewhere with your name attached. Your choice to e-mail me is a demonstration that you understand and accept that.