Copyright and Pagans

There’s recently been another round of discussion about copyright and Pagan uses, so this is a good time for me to rummage in my files and do the post on Pagans and copyright I’ve been meaning to do for a while. The following is based on the notes I used for a handout at a panel discussion at Paganicon in 2012, but I’ve expanded the explanations.

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • Copyright law is very complicated. (Even for people who specialise in it.) There are a lot of exceptions, and a bunch of things you’d think were common sense, but are more complicated than that.
  • Fair use or educational use is even more complicated. (There’s a section below on it.)
  • In many cases, a court is the only thing that can determine whether a particular use is legal if it doesn’t involve the copyright holder giving permission.
  • Getting permission is always a great choice. Many people give permission in advance via a Creative Commons license or something similar.

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Wicca, censorship, and the library

[So, one of my goals this year is to update this blog weekly on average. I did not quite expect to start with this topic, though.]

I’ve just seen a number of news stories come across my professional blog RSS feed about the case of a resident of Salem, Missouri (Anaka Hunter) who (supported by the ACLU) has sued both the library and various other named parties (including the library director) for blocking reasonable access to material – namely information about Wicca and Native American religious practices, among other topics.

 Ars Technica has an excellent overview, and links to the PDF of the complaint.

Reading the stories I’ve seen so far, I have both a few questions – and the thought that a lot of people don’t know how libraries are supposed to handle this sort of thing, or what the common considerations around filtering/etc. are in public libraries and schools.

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Cycle on cycle

This weekend – the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend, whatever days it actually falls on – always reminds me of how cycles begin to stack, once you’ve gone through enough of them.

Thanksgiving has never been a big family holiday. First, my parents were English and raised in the UK, respectively (Christmas was always the big holiday). Second, my father generally took advantage of the long weekend in the US to lecture and perform in Canada without missing classes. And third, we just didn’t have extended family.

(My parents are both only children: from the time I was born until my father’s death when I was 15, the people in the world I knew I was related to were my parents, my sister and brother, and my mother’s mother in England. My sister married shortly after that, but it was a while longer before there was a nephew, sister-in-law, or nieces.)

But in my adult life, it’s picked up a lot of associations. It’s almost the time my ex-husband and I got married. And it’s the weekend he fully moved out when we separated.

However, it’s also the weekend of my 2nd and 3rd degree initiations (which is what happens when you work for a school that gives you almost no discretionary vacation time, and you want a couple of days of preparation and recovery, and waiting for spring break is not desireable for various reasons.)

And of course, there are lots of memories of good times with friends, at various tables over the years.

So, one little span of time stands there, holding a whole lot of different memories and ideas – and yet, simultaneously, not holding the weight and history and complicated stuff it does for most people I know, who have much larger families, long-term traditions, etc. (I am very aware of the originating history, mind you – I grew up close enough to Plymouth Rock and Plimoth Plantation that it was a regular school trip, and Mom and I went every year or three.)

And I’ve got my own harvest cycles to celebrate, too, of course.

When I start talking about cycles in ritual practice, this is one of the things I’ve made vague handwaving gestures about for years, though.

You can stand there and say “Thanksgiving” to the end of days.

And yet, unless you get a lot more specific, you will have some people for whom that word evokes family (for good or bad), specific tastes and smells. But you’ll have people who have a dread of it because they had to deal with a difficult family situation. Or the people who come from places that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving like that. And the people for whom the word evokes a painful period in history of appropriation and loss.

When you can build a harvest gathering that brings everyone in that room to the same place about what you’re celebrating, then you’ve got a good ritual.

(This, by the way, is why I’ve preferred to celebrate with friends in an ‘orphans Thanksgiving’ mode, rather than tag along to a friend’s family: there’s a lot more conscious discussion about how this meal, this approach, this ritual serves the people who will be there this year, both physically and emotionally.

With family traditions, that doesn’t always happen so well. People and families change over time, so what worked 20 years ago or 10 or even 5 may no longer create a space of thankfulness and grace and community in the ways you want. Doesn’t mean you throw out the traditions – but that all good ritual should look at what those practices serve.)

So, what I wish this Thanksgiving, is that you have one (if you celebrate it) that leaves you and everyone there feeling included, well-fed, and grateful for the wonderful things in your world. There are lots of ways to answer those questions, and you don’t need to get there by the same roads as anyone else.

And if for some reason that doesn’t happen this year – well, the good thing about cycles is that we get another one next year.

Changing perspectives

I still have lots of posts I’m mulling over that will be more in depth, but a relatively quick thought. (erm. For me. It’s still about 600 words.)

I’ve alluded here and other places that the medical foo of the last year has changed some stuff for me. That’s been true in terms of managing energy in ritual and magical work, but I’ve also been mulling over what’s changed for me in other ways.

One of them, apparently, is how my intuition kicks in.

Last week, I went to Boston for a combination of a job hiring conference, and in the hopes of arranging a few other visits with jobs out there in the process (and seeing my mother and college friends who are in the area.)

Now, as you all probably know, Boston was one of the places that got hit by massive snow storm last week – about 18″ in the course of 36 hours (and on top of masses of other snow that mean clearing the new stuff is particularly difficult.)

When I was booking my flight, I got the very strong pull that I should do two things. First, that it would be very smart to fly in on Tuesday, rather than Thursday (the hiring conference started Friday), and second that flying non-stop would be a very smart thing.

Both these things are logical, in their way. It’s been a *weird* winter for weather, so not flying through another city that might get snowbound (Chicago and Milwaukee are my two most likely stops, and I’ve done Indianapolis in the past) might make sense. And leaving time for travel delays in general is also smart.

As it turns out: all three of those cities shut down for snow: I would not have made a connecting flight on Tuesday out of any of them, and might well have gotten stuck at whatever airport for the duration.

Equally, my original flight (10:45am on Tuesday) got cancelled, but in enough time to reschedule me on the 7am flight. Which was, at it turns out, the last flight into Boston’s Logan airport before they shut down the airport on Tuesday for a bit. (With a superb landing.)

So, all at once, that initial intuition – fly Tuesday, fly non-stop – and the circumstances lined up in a way to get me where I wanted, when I wanted, and safely. (And as a bonus, *because* of the weather, I got a chance to go see a dear friend and her toddler and the rest of her family when I wasn’t expecting to be able to make it out there, because someone was handy to leave work early to pick me up from the bus. Worth every minute of travel.)

While I’ve had things like that in the past, those moments where the intuition comes alive and connects and everything falls into place, the way this felt was different. Previously, that kind of intuition had a rapid crescendo behind it, for lack of a better way to phrase it, a sudden burst of “Oh, *that* thing, this big shiny thing over there.” This time, it was just … there. Very firmly, but also very quietly. Waiting for me to do the needful stuff with it. Like a bit of granite, slowly being revealed by a retreating glacier, rather than fireworks.

It’s cool that it worked. But it’s also a reminder of the fact a lot of fundamental things have shifted for me, and that I can’t assume that what worked in the past is going to continue to do so (or if it still works, that it’s the most effective way to do so.)

I’m still figuring out what that means. And in particular, what it means about how I should change my practice, my daily attention, etc. to take advantage of it.

Today

Today, I am thirty-four.

Today, some celebrate Mabon, the second harvest festival. So do I, though I prefer the name Harvest Home, these days. A day of bringing in the fruit of our work, of celebrating our labor.

Today is also the second in my personal string of new years. There is the beginning of school: the beginning of a cycle every year of my life since I was born in some way: as the child of a professor, as a student myself, or as someone working in education.

Today is my birthday: the day when night and day balance, when the days truly seem shorter, when my desire to come home and nest and reflect in the quiet competes with the growing work of the school year. They are both good, both necessary, and they continue to dance in their own helix until June. And following that, there comes Samhain (the pause before the dawning sun of Midwinter and a new cycle of potential) and the calendar’s New Year.

And I am reminded, always, of my birthday’s place, falling as it sometimes does between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Neither are my celebrations, but they were the celebrations of some of my ancestors, in the not too distant past. A time to reflect on the things I’ve regretted, as well as walking forward into the new year of blessing and potential.

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