Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pagan bloggers, beware: intellectual property theft in progress

Earlier this week, Jason Pitzl-Waters posted a warning to Facebook about a Facebook group called Blackraven Coven, whose creator and main author/poster, Bram Darkraven, who says she's from Wiltshire, UK, was stealing Pagan authors' copyrighted material and posting it as her own, with her own copyright and copyright date.  T. Thorn Coyle soon followed with a similar warning. 

In case you've ever been scathed by me for passing stuff on without verification, I verified with Jason, Thorn, M. Macha NightMare/Aline O'Brien... and by going to the group itself.  (That was an education.) 

A couple folks in the group asked her to  explain herself.  At first it looked like she might be compiling things from different sources without proper citation.  Then her posts to the discussion forum of the group became wholesale cut-and-pastes of other people's blog posts and web pages, but again with her own copyright and copyright date. 

The she lifted "Ruminations on Pagan 'Clergy'" from the Broomstick Chronicles by Aline O'Brien / M. Macha NightMare -- with certain very notable exceptions that obviously were made to take the original author out of it:
  • she changed the date she said she originally wrote it to an earlier date than the date Aline said she originally wrote it; 
  • she removed the middle sentences of the first paragraph about being the Chair of the Public Ministry Department at Cherry Hill Seminary; 
  • she added her own copyright date again.  

Those changes were no accidents of sloppy scholarship.

More people in the group asked her to explain herself.  She deleted their posts and blocked them from the group.  

But wait, there's more: when confronted by Aline Macha about stealing the work, she insisted again that she wrote it, not Aline Macha

Folks continue to monitor to see if she continues to steal other authors' work.  Some of them have been well-known, like Aline Macha; some have been more obscure webspinners and bloggers; one was even Edgar Allen Poe (!). 

There's a process to report theft of intellectual property to Facebook.  The only person who can make the report is the owner of the intellectual property. 

However, if the offender removes the violation, Facebook considers the matter resolved. 

So if someone steals your intellectual property and you complain, and the thief takes it down but then re-posts it... or keeps someone else's stolen property up... the owners of the intellectual property are stuck. 

As you can see, Facebook's response has been lukewarm at best. 

No matter what excuses people come up with for stealing other people's work, doing so is a violation of international copyright law and of Craft law.  There's no way around that.  The Craft teaches co-operation; it also teaches, through the Law of Threefold Return, what happens to thieves (and to everyone, actually). 

Variations I've heard on the Law of Threefold Return include: Your actions will come back to you threefold; at least threefold; or three times three.  

Either way, you'll get what's coming to you.  Natural law does that. 

Intellectual property theft is ethically wrong, legally criminal, and a violation of Craft Law (and Testimony of Integrity)

Don't do it.  

And if it happens to you, talk about it.  

Recommended post: "She Geek: Women and Self-Labeling in Online Geek Communities"

Victoria Janssen pointed this out to me, and I was impressed by both the research and the analysis. 

My intent in this project was to examine the labeling of female-oriented geek spaces on the internet. What I found was that self-labeling of geek women often defeats the potentially subversive act of creating a female-oriented geek community.

I would argue that the mere creation or and participation in geek communities labeled “for women” are aggressive acts towards male-dominated geek culture. One of the reasons we can see these communities as a challenge to mainstream geek culture is the still-prevailing myth of internet neutrality.



Happy Fall Equinox and Witches' Thanksgiving

Day and night are in balance; Fall Equinox is the door to the dark time of the year.

This is the second harvest festival. What are we storing away for the winter? What foods don’t store well, and so we eat them now?

Some trees are already beginning to shed their leaves. What do we shed with the coming of winter, so that we don’t waste energy bringing it through the cold, and so we have energy and room for new gifts?

In many traditions, the Goddess, or one of Her faces, begins a journey into the Underworld at Fall Equinox. What will we lose in our journeys? What will we find? What abundant gifts of Mother Earth, tangible and not-so-tangible, carry us through the coming dark and cold time of the year?

What gifts do fall and winter bring?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

What should I talk about in my talk about Feminist Witchcraft?

I've agreed to give a talk and discussion on Feminist Witchcraft at an upcoming Pagan Pride Day

So, what should I talk about? 

Pagan Pride Day events tend to draw people from different traditions with Paganism, and non-Pagans as well. 

What would you want to know if you went to a Pagan Pride Day event, saw someone was doing a talk and discussion on Feminist Witchcraft, and went to it? 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Paganism in the news: Satanism isn't Witchcraft, and recommended post: "Pagan Reactions to O’Donnell’s “Dabble-Gate”" at the Wild Hunt

When the video first broke of a certain DE Senate candidate supposedly admitting back in the 90s that she'd "dabbled into Witchcraft" (yes, ladies and gentlemen, those were her exact words), I admit I went and watched it, and even shared it in a certain social networking forum... because at the time, I thought it was ridiculous, and even a little funny.  

I also made comments about how in talking about a "Satanic altar" she clearly hadn't a clue, because any self-respecting Witch or Satanist will tell you that Witches don't have Satanic altars, because Witchcraft and Satanism are not the same thing. 

Conclusion, somebody was trying to impress her, thrill her, be a jerk, get her to sleep with him, etc, and took her on this midnight picnic.

I put it out of my mind, went to visit family out of state, and focused on my Tradition's Fall Equinox celebration.

While I wasn't paying attention, the media got all over it, and that hasn't been all good for Real-Life Pagans.   On the other hand, times have changed enough that representatives of several Pagan organizations have been contacted, and have been quoted in the news. 

Jason Pitzl-Waters over at the Wild Hunt has some good analysis of the news coverage; check it out here: 

"Pagan Reactions to O’Donnell’s “Dabble-Gate”" at the Wild Hunt

On the whole, I wish the mainstream coverage had been a bit more nuanced. I think there are larger issues to confront than “Witches don’t worship Satan” involved here, and I’m disappointed that we may have lost our chance to raise them before the media machine moves on to the next controversy. Still, I suppose it’s a mark of how far we’ve come that representatives from several organizations and traditions were contacted by the mainstream media for our thoughts.



But wait, there's more!  Now even Democrats seem to agree that being Pagan means not being electable.  Gah!  

"The O'Donnell "Dabble-Gate" Feeding Frenzy" at the Wild Hunt

While we stick to the “it’s not Satanism” talking points of old, a larger narrative, and one harder to easily refute is taking shape before our eyes. That any taint of Paganism, of Witchcraft, of the occult, is political suicide.

Recommended article: "Commitment, the Best a Lesbian Couple Could Do"

A friend of mine passed this article on to me:

City Critic - Commitment, the Best a Lesbian Couple Could Do -

It hit home, kind of hard.  

Six months after Beloved Wife and I started dating, we got hit with heavy-duty medical shit.  We waited four years to get married (religiously, not civilly).  Then last fall, when one of us was getting ready for major surgery, we did the civil union thing in NJ.  We feel like the mayor and everyone involved at City Hall is invested in our marriage now.  But we knew that NJ hospitals don't always respect civil unions "because they're not marriages," even though the NJ Supreme Court says they're supposed to

This story brought tears to my eyes...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A little more on interfaith, Muslim, and evangelical outreach

From the Washington Post, "Jim Wallis on the story behind pastor Terry Jones' change of heart" is an informative and inspirational article in both a practical and heart-warming way. 

A few days ago, Stone told me, he got a call from a group of Muslims in a small town in Kashmir, Pakistan. They said they had been watching CNN when the segment on Heartsong Church aired. Afterward, one of the community's leaders said to those who were gathered: "God just spoke to us through this man." Another said: "How can we kill these people?" A third man went straight to the local Christian church and proceeded to clean it, inside and out.

Lately, we have heard much about hostility toward Muslims in America. We have heard an awful lot about Jones's threats and about arson at the site of another Tennessee mosque project, in Murfreesboro. But we have heard little about people like Tunnicliffe and Stone and Stone's admirers in Pakistan.

And that is everyone's loss.

Blessed be.

from/about the Pagan Newswire Collective

There's been some buzz recently about the Pagan Newswire Collective.  What is that, you ask?

The Pagan Newswire Collective is an open collective of Pagan journalists, newsmakers, media liaisons, and writers who are interested in sharing and promoting primary-source reporting from within our interconnected communities. The idea is simple: a pool of journalists and writers within the collective share sources and collaborate on dynamic and timely stories of interest to the Pagan community; media liaisons from various Pagan organizations pass along news and current events for possible coverage; editors, bloggers, podcasters, and other media outlets can call for submissions, collaborate with the collective, and negotiate with individual writer(s) to distribute finished product. All work created from within the collective remains the property of those who produced it, and it can be distributed in any number of ways, from Creative Commons to more traditional arrangements with various periodicals.  

The PNC is looking for writers, bloggers, and more, with experience in several specific content areas.  For details, read on. 

If you like to write, or have a leading to write, and you have a specific area, this could be a good fit for you.  

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support of the Pagan Newswire Collective. As we enter Fall, our organization is busier than ever. I have some news and announcements to share, so let's get to it!

PNC Bureau Project:

Our new initiative to build a true Pagan news organization though the nurturing of local bureaus has been making great strides. First, let me welcome our newest bureau, PNC-Sacramento (! Co-coordinated by David R. Shorey and Isabella Wolfe, their team will be covering the Sacramento and Northern San Joaquin Valleys and the Northern Sierra Nevada in California. PNC-Sacramento joins already established bureaus in Minnesota, Florida, Washington DC, Georgia, Maine, and Iowa. Links to our bureaus can be found at the main PNC site (

PNC Bureaus Coordinator Danielle LeBrun has also had contact with several other people who are looking to start a bureau in their area and are looking for others. If you are in any of the follwing areas and would like to be part of bureau, e-mail Danielle (danielle at pagannewswirecollective dot com) and she can pass your info along to the appropriate person: Kansas City, Cincinnati, Salem MA, North Texas, Chicago and/or Illinois, or Michigan. If you don't see you're area but are interested in starting a bureau, please e-mail Danielle!

You can also download our bureau starter kit:

These bureaus will provide the backbone for the PNC's national/international coverage, empower local communities to engage in creating their own journalism, and ultimately influence mainstream media narratives concerning modern Pagan faiths. Already, bureaus like PNC-Minnesota are getting noticed by local reporters, and are being cited in places like the Minn Post.


Want to write for the PNC? There are a number of opportunities currently available! First, almost all of our bureaus are looking for writers; if you live in one of the states with an established bureau, please head to their site and contact them. Reporting on your own backyard is an excellent way to build experience and get to know your community better.

PNC-Blogs: Interested in becoming a PNC blogger? We have a number of topic-focused sites that are in development or need an infusion of new blood!


Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians (and libertarians), moderates, conservatives, progressives, Anarchists, and Pagans of all political stripes are being sought out for the PNC's political commentary site. Be a part of the next wave of recruits for this site and make your voice heard! Perhaps the PNC's most popular (and infamous) project, it's a great way to hold forth (in a civil manner) on politics from a Pagan point-of-view.

Warriors & Kin:

Are you a military Pagan? Veteran? Part of a military family? We are seeking writers to help reinvigorate our military-focused blog Warriors & Kin. Pagans in the military is an increasingly important topic, and the PNC wants to ensure that Pagan voices from within the military are heard by the wider community. Writers who can post at least once per week are ideal, but we'll consider anyone with the proper background and experience who is interested in participating.


We have a few projects that are nearly ready to be launched, are in active development, or are in the planning stages. We are seeking out writers who have a special interest in following topics/areas.

Ecology/Nature/Environmentalism, Chaplaincy (hospital, prison, military, etc), and Pagan Music.

When a project is in development we prefer applicants who have experience with, or have written extensively concerning, the topics. Please include writing samples and any applicable history with the topic.

To apply for a position with any PNC blog, whether existing or in development, please send the Projects Coordinator (Jason Pitzl-Waters) an e-mail (


The PNC's main site is currently under active development and will be launched this Fall. Our Tech Group coordinators David Dashifen Kees & Scott Reimers are hard at work and when we launch you'll have a better idea of how all the PNC projects and initiatives will be integrated towards our goal of creating a Pagan newswire.

The PNC is also planning an official "coming out" meet-and-greet at the 2011 Pantheacon in San Jose, California (to be held at the COG/NROOGD suite). We're also proposing an introductory talk to be held before the meet-and-greet. Details to come as we know more. What I do know is that several PNC coordinators and writers will be in attendance, and you'll be able to meet them and talk about the work we are doing. I can't wait!

Thank you for your support,

Jason Pitzl-Waters
Projects Coordinator
The Pagan Newswire Collective
You can also find the Pagan Newswire Collective on Facebook -- click here.  

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Two upcoming special issues of Friends Journal (and submission guidelines)

Friends Journal has two upcoming special issues: "Pendle Hill After 80 Years" (June/July 2011) and "The Ministry of Quaker Women" (October 2011). 

Submission guidelines are available at

Friday, 10 September 2010

How to celebrate Winter Solstice using A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual

Speaking of other facets of my ministry: music.  And one aspect of my music ministry is that every year since 1997, I've been part of a community-wide Winter Solstice Celebration in the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley area, which then eventually became a book and compact disc, and has spread to other parts of the US (and maybe other countries, who knows?). 

When Julie (my co-author) and I put together the book and cd package, one of the things we thought could be useful would be if groups of different sizes could use it to put on these same Winter Solstice Celebrations (WSCs).  We'd only worked with large-ish groups, with Celebrations open to the community, but what if individuals and solitaries, and isolated Covens, and small groups who weren't Covens and maybe didn't know each other well, and groups we hadn't even thought of yet, could use the book and cd to do this Winter Solstice Celebration?

From the feedback I've gotten, and from the experience I've had during the time I lived in other parts of the country, it works as we'd hoped.

I've used (experienced!) A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual in a bunch of different ways:
  • with small and medium-sized vocal groups and volunteer narrators and readers, in celebrations open to the community
  • with a group of drummers and the cd, narrating myself and sharing reading
  • with 13 people who sight-sang it in an unheated gazebo and no artificial lights, passing reading around the circle
  • by myself in my living room in the dark
  • with four other adults and a preschooler in my living room during a snowstorm, with the cd, with one narrator and sharing readings
Groups that Julie and I have worked with, or know have done this (often working together) include:
  • a number of Unitarian Universalist congregations, either with their own choirs or in partnership with community choirs
  • community choirs, especially feminist and LGBTQ choirs
  • Pagan community groups 
  • churches
  • Quaker Meetings
  • YM/YWCAs
  • LGBTQ community centers
  • peace centers
  • private covens
  • individuals
  • families
  • community groups that aren't Pagan or religious at all, who have wanted to do some interfaith community-building around/during the winter holidays, and have wanted to escape the commercialism of the season
Okay, that sounds like fun!, you say.  How do I do it?  How do I use A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual for a Winter Solstice Celebration?  

(I'm so glad you asked!)

Host an event on your own or with some family or friends.  
  • You can do it by yourself, using the book and cd. 
  • You can do it with a small group of friends and/or family, using the cd for music, and volunteers to narrate and do readings. 
  • You can get together a group of friends to learn the songs, and do it at one of your homes, either as a performance or just for yourselves. 
Partner with an organization
  • Find out if a choir or chorus you know is interested in doing this as an alternative to a Christmas concert, as a community-building event, and/or as a fund-raiser.  (For example, a women's choir or LGBTQ choir somebody you know sings in.)  
  • Find out if your spiritual community or congregation is interested in doing this as a service, as an interfaith community-building event, or as a fund-raiser. 
If you're part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation
  • ...and your congregation has a music program, talk to your music director or some of your musicians to see if they're interested in this as a service.  Julie and I are members of the UU Musicians Network, and we can put you in touch with other UU folks who have done this.  
Feel free to contact me directly for encouragement, advice, practical assistance, and spiritual support.  

There are lots of practical suggestions in the second half of the book.  If you need to order books and cds for your group, please contact the publisher.  (She will charge you less than Amazon, plus she's an independent bookseller.)  

For lots more information, see the Winter Solstice page at my website

But most of all, have fun!  Enjoy the music, sing along, take time for the silence, and appreciate both the gifts of the sacred Darkness and the rebirth of the Light.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Difference and discrimination, part III: Minority Quakerisms?

(continued from part II: Pagan Friends and Pagan Quakerism)

Pagan Quakerism?

So, we've talked about whether or not I, by myself, bring Pagan Quakers into existence.  Now, let's talk about Pagan Quakerism.

I could be wrong, but I don't think it exists.  Except maybe in "The Princess Bride" alternate universe.

Difference and discrimination, part II: Pagan Friends and Pagan Quakerism

(continued from part I)

Sweeping Pagan Friends and discrimination against Pagan Friends under the Meetinghouse rug

No one has actually sat down to have a real conversation with me about this next issue, which I find interesting.  And I have had lots, and I do means lots, of long and chewy conversations with other people -- in person, over email, on blogs, on Facebook, and on email list-servs -- about theaology, Paganisms, Quakerisms, where different Paganisms and Quakerisms intersect, where they don't, and more.  In July, I had two weeks of travel in ministry where sometimes eating was a challenge because in-depth or far-ranging conversations over meals didn't leave much time for actual eating.

So even though I "do" conversations, people don't generally have this conversation with me; but some Friends are happy to report to me that other people have this concern:

Difference and discrimination, part I: Difference and discrimination don't exist until they're named? Wrong.

I've had a piece of writing brewing for a looong time -- for more than two years, when I go back and look at scraps and drafts of things -- about this fallacy in both American society, and the Religious Society of Friends, that equates naming or identifying something with actually creating it. 

I witness, and experience, how this inhibits discussion in two areas in particular: difference and discrimination.  With difference, the myth is that differences don't exist until we name them -- and that when we do, we threaten unity and cohesiveness, and therefore organizations or communities themselves.  With discrimination, the myth is that prejudice and discrimination don't exist until we name them -- and that when we do, we're the ones who are prejudiced bigots.

What bullshit.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Whose reality?

This started out as a comment on someone else's blog, but then I realized it ought to be a short post on my own blog:  

I often hear people trash both theism in general, and Quaker non-theism in particular, as something that just cannot possibly be true at all, if it cannot be true for the speaker or if the speaker cannot understand it.  Yet, as a broader society, and as a Religious Society, we don't have that standard for, say, Christianity.  (If someone can't understand Christianity, or if it's not true for them, society locates the problem with them, not with Christianity.)  Why can't non-theist Quakerism (or Pagan Quakerism) be true and valid for someone else even if I just cannot grasp it?

Perhaps I have more humility here because I'm already used to that experience with other things that plain don't make sense to me, but obviously have great meaning, and work in real-life practice, for other people.  And therefore I accept them, even if I don't understand them, or agree with them, or even if I think they're kind of (or way) out in left field. 

This is part of the reality of life for folks who are minorities. 

Whereas, the belief, the fundamental assertion that if I can't believe it, or if it doesn't make sense to me, then it's just plain not true in an essential, basic sense, often comes from a position of some kind of dominance, privilege, or power-over that needs to be protected.  It's part of the experience of being a member of dominant culture. 

Suggestions from American Muslims for how non-Muslims can support you?

I'm having several conversations right now in different electronic fora (Merriam-Webster does say the plural of forum is fora) about how American non-Muslims can best support our American Muslim neighbors, especially this year.

Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan, falls on September 10th this year, sparking fears that some non-Muslims might think Muslims are actually celebrating the attacks of September 11th, 2001; there has been a recent spike in hate crimes and domestic terrorism against American Muslims; and there are promised Qu'ran burnings on September 11th, which, while protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, are nonetheless alarming.

Some proposed actions have included:
  • Reviving scarf solidarity -- wearing scarves on September 10th, September 11th, during all of September, in support of Muslim women in particular.
  • Writing letters to the editors of local newspapers supporting Park51.
  • Intervisitation between local mosques and Islamic community centers and other religious and spiritual groups.
  • Calls to lawmakers.
  • Calling local mosques and community centers and asking if visitors of other faiths are welcome at Eid celebrations. 
  • Raising money to help pay for cleaning and repairs to damage to mosques and community centers and construction sites after recent vandalism and arson events. 
  • Hosting interfaith peace events co-planned with the local Muslim community.   
    I don't know how many of these ideas come from Muslims, how many come from well-meaning non-Muslims (of which I count myself), and how many come from Muslim/non-Muslim partnerships (which I consider preferable). 

    So, in this space, I ask any Muslim readers: what actions can American non-Muslims take that will help support you?  What would help you?  What would build community?

    What would help you feel supported and help you know you do not face this alone?

    Recommended post: "The Discipline of Listening as Tool for Christian and Pagan Friends in Conflict" at Plainly Pagan

    I have been mulling over similar topics recently...  
    Oftentimes I have read Christian Friends' comments regarding the frustration of Meetings and online conversations that are, if not openly hostile to the Christ-centered Friend, at least not supportive of him/her. This is a serious concern and a hard thing for me to hear. It is especially hard when Christ-centered Friends suggest or even openly advocate that Friends be limited to Christians only. My perspective is often the opposite and so I want to argue and bluster when I read such things. To hear these things makes me feel unwelcome and defensive...  (Read more)

    FCNL: We Stand with American Muslims

    According to Friends Committee on National Legislation, here are some ways to support American Muslims right now:  

    FCNL: We Stand with American Muslims
    • Ask 5 friends to sign the petition too.
    • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper supporting the Islamic Cultural Center.
    • Find out if the American Muslim community in your area might welcome a public or private opportunity to get to know your own local church, meeting or community group;
    • On Friday, September 10, many local American Muslim communities around our country organize public celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr -- the end of the holy period of Ramadan. Find out if Muslims in your area might welcome the participation of people of other faiths.
    • Write your senators to ask them to speak out in support of the Islamic Cultural Center.