Ongoing Copyright Hypocrisy in Our Pagan Communities

Photo courtesy of Harrogate Museums and Arts, via Wikimedia CommonsIt boggles my mind that those in the neopagan and Wiccan community that believe in the law of return also believe that it is perfectly ok to download books and music of authors in the form of PDF’s online.  There are those who honestly and sincerely believe that “all knowledge should be free and made available to everyone”, or they spout some twaddle about being “poor pagans.”  Yet these same people think absolutely nothing of quoting the “Law of Three” or “Law of Return” when it’s situationally expedient for them to do so.

A bit ago, I reposted a piece from another blogger.‘Stop stealing from your fellow pagans!’

With all the latest news about plagiarism in the news after Melania Trump copped major parts of First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech, I am always amazed at how often the plea for folks in the so-called pagan “community” falls on deaf ears  Maybe the hearers or readers of the message simply don’t care.  Maybe they simply cannot relate, and tell themselves there is absolutely nothing wrong with stealing the hard work of others and reposting it.   For years, I have seen many even dare to take entire passages from websites or books and even pieces of art and pass them off as their own.   They think nothing of using plagiarism as a way to show off to the community that they are somehow “someone in the know.”

 

Most of the books that I am seeing posted in places such as Facebook and Tumblr as in this post.Master PDF list  are also publishing scores of books that are not in the public domain but raather are under copyright (the life of the author plus 70 years).  Many of these authors are friends of mine,  and they  have given of themselves.  In this particular example, I have let a few of them know. Of course, given the nearly 2,000 times that Tumblr post was reblogged,  combatting the problem is whole lot like spitting in the wind.  When you call someone out about it, they accuse you of being a hater, a bully, or a shill for the greedy publishers who want to deny them knowledge.

That isn’t it.

What it is about are the men and women, the elders and mentors, authors and artists whose work we admire who more than deserve to be fairly and justly compensated for their work. What so many people assume is that these people are somehow rich because they are a BNP (Big Name Pagan).  Too many of them struggle with expenses just as much as their audiences do and those works are what keeps a roof overhead, the doctor paid and gas in the tank while they make it to the next gathering, book signing, appearance and so on. How many who do this sort of thing would justify someone breaking into their own home, taking stuff out of their fridge, siphoning the gas out of their gas tank or just helping themselves to whatever else and not object to that?  Why then,  should it be any different in the digital world?

In the Facebook and Google+ communities I have a policy:  If anyone posts or even so much as asks for a list of free, plagiarized material, that person will be removed, they will be reported to both the website, the author or artist and the publisher.  Much of this is based in not only self righteous indignance but just ignorance about copyright and how our creative people are compensated.  They just see the cover price and make the assumption that most of the money goes to the author. Many only see pennies on the dollar if they are with a large publishing house, and now with what Amazon is offering via their Kindle Unlimited program it can be barely anything at all.
Of course, that can be frustrating when a book is out of print, the author has passed to the West and the estate has no plan to reissue the works – or copies that can be found are in the realm of price gouging, getting one’s hands on a book that one really wants or needs for research can be maddening.  There are things such as Interlibrary Loan where a request for a book can go out to all libraries in the program who may have a copy of that work for low cost or no cost to the library patron.  Many works are in the public domain and can be gotten for free.

Another solution is that many scholarly works, for example,  are offered for free as a download from the University Press that offered them in the first place.  I have gotten some near-to-impossible books in the realm of Egyptology that way and all obtained legitimately. Companies often will release a report for free about a topic or notes from seminars for free.  There are tons of works through the Creative Commons. It really does not need to come down to copyright theft,  but too often it does.

Many of those authors who are now being blatantly stolen from on a regular basis, as well as their agents and publishers if they have them, are on a Facebook group called Pagans Against Plagiarism.  It isn’t a perfect system, but suffice it to say that those of us who write, have small businesses and care about this issue have each other’s backs.  There is regular reporting of these links among the membership – so if you have a database of “free” PDF’s of stolen works, it is likely you will be served with a DMCA notice sometime in the future.   We may not be able to fully stamp out the practice of theft amongst the hypocrites who like to quote the Law of Three or the Law of Return that is akin to the fire and brimstone many were served up in their parents’ religion, copyright laws are put in place for a reason.

In an ongoing situation such as this one, all I can say is that I wish them Ma’at in every sense of the word.

 

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Excavating Our Souls…

writing_smThe way to mend the bad world is to create the right world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s been far too long since I have updated this blog.  No doubt there have been some that have lost patience with me for my neglect. That’s ok. I realize that’s my own fault.  Sometimes, life gets in the way and making the time for blogging is something that I have intended to do but just didn’t.   In excavating my soul, in my efforts to create the right world, I made a decision that I supposedly made last year.

This past Saturday night, I worked my final shift at a C-store that I spent five years at working part time. Those last two days for me were far from a walk in the park and they were grueling in the sense that I was on my feet nearly the entire day on a knee that has a torn meniscus. Needless to say, I was a hurting puppy at the end of it all.

But in among the aches and exhaustion, there is an overall sense of relief. I no longer have to be on someone else’s schedule. I no longer have to be on my feet for 8 and 9 hours at a time, to the detriment of my own health. I am grateful, to say the least, that now the freelance writing jobs that come and the herbal products etc. That I am marketing locally have allowed me the luxury to work from my own home. I have my own office,  the herb room  and workspace I have carved out in the basement is now organized and I am starting to put together product.  It all will allow me to make a living on my own terms.  I can say that taking that step is absolutely terrifying and yet at the same time exhilarating.

I have clients that give me regular work. I have other clients that give me periodical, as needed work that pays a little extra. All told, my expenses are met and I have managed to save a little, but I wouldn’t mind making more.

This morning I relinquished my key and it really started to feel official. I can now officially focus on things and career moves that matter to me and not do terrible things to my body. The truth of the matter is that things have really started to open up since I got the hell out of that C-store. It was something that I promised myself and my gods just a little over a year ago when I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. I got talked out of it or talked myself out of leaving. Now, it feels as if the possibilities are endless.

To prove that point, an exciting opportunity to attend a possible event that is due to be held in the UK next fall presented itself.  When I heard about it, I was so excited, that I called my attorney to see if there was a way to get a copy of my divorce decree from the County so that I could renew my passport with my proper name. Because it was finalized in 1996 and Cedar Rapids, Iowa had a major flood in 2008, there was a more than good chance that the record had been completely lost or destroyed in that flood.

Apparently, mine was among the lucky few that had been saved and the clerk of court was able to find it! So tomorrow, I journey back into the city and plunk down the dosh in order to get a certified copy. I can then put together my application for a new passport with my maiden, rather than my former married name on it.That is the last vestige of anything that I had that connected me to that part of my life.  So again, the excavation has turned out to my advantage.

I sometimes find it amusing just how much things fall into place when you finally listen to what your gut tells you to do and you actually follow through on it.

Now, to just hunker down and get that Sekhmet book finished – FINALLY!!

 

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Yahweh’s Divorce from the Goddess Asherah in the Garden of Eden

Mythology Matters

Hebrew Bible scholars have long recognized that the writer who penned the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and much other narrative in the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible (called the Pentateuch, or Torah) had a distinctly anti-Canaanite agenda, and that his anti-Canaanite polemic started in his Eden story. Focusing on this helps us to decipher the meaning of that story, as I have stressed in my new book, The Mythology of Eden, and in talks that I’ve given on the subject at scholarly conferences.

This author, known as the Yahwist (because he was the first author of the Hebrew Bible to use the name Yahweh for God), most clearly set out his anti-Canaanite views at the beginning of his version of the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 34:12-15, where Yahweh warns the Hebrews against associating with the Canaanites, intermarrying with them, and worshipping their…

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Heart of Red Jasper Is Your Name

Ptahmassu has written some wonderful words and painted breathtaking art representing Sekhmet.

Kemetically Speaking

Heart of Red Jasper is Your Name

The Goddess Nuit brings you with her lips when she comes;
west’s mouth opens at twilight where your flashing star rises.
Your luminescence foretells the rising flank of the naked moon;
‘lips of lapis lazuli’ is your name at the moment of his ascension.

Djehuty declares you by the enchantment of his tongue;
you glide from his divine speech as a silver crescent’s boon.
What graces my mouth is the fullness of heaven’s eye;
‘tongue of silver’ is your name when his gleam strikes my lips.

The Goddess Auset binds you to me with her girdle;
she brings at her breast the sanguine knot of sky’s magic.
Seven knots surround your center on her seat of constant ardor;
‘heart of red jasper’ is your name where my breast keeps you.

Ausir the green raises you from his pasture when he comes;
sprouting seed weaves your field as the earth my…

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Guilt By Association

metmuseum5a1(Note:  This is a blog post that I posted over on my other blog at Niankhsekhmet.com.  I am re-posting it here in its entirety. If you’ve read it before, please forgive the redundancy.)

The adage that we are known by the company we keep probably is very true within the Kemetic Community – perhaps even doubly so. It has become frustrating and disheartening to be judged by people whom you don’t know, who don’t know you, or your specific religious path – nor do they care really! For someone to offhandedly decide that you are not with the “in crowd” or that somehow, will pronounce that not to be of a certain religious affiliation, or sect will deem you unworthy to be given the time of day. Some of course, fear recruitment or being indoctrinated into some sort of cult based on internet rumours that they may or may not have heard.

I am Kemetic. I was trained and ordained as a Kemetic Orthodox Priestess of Sekhmet/HetHert in 1998. I stepped down a couple of years ago by choice, or as one internet website geared toward atheists said, “I retired.” I kind of laugh at that. One does *not* retire from Sekhmet’s service. Your service may change, but it is absolutely for life! At any rate, my reasons, initially, were because I was attending college full time and could not give the level of service required. My situation has changed a bit, and so now my reasons of not wanting to return to it again are deeply personal. I can and will say quite clearly that it was not because of any rift with the Temple, or disagreement between myself and any of the membership. I have been listening to Sekhmet’s call and it has been specific and in a direction by necessity. That doesn’t make anyone bad or wrong. It just makes it a different route that I have chosen to take.

All of us must by necessity approach our spiritual life on a personal level. We may choose to join or Initiate in a specific sect, temple or path, but ultimately, only we as individuals can decide when to move on. Each of us, who are Kemetic, have personal rites. Sometimes this entails a daily practice that follows a formal outlined structure, such as that which is outlined at the Temple of Horus at Edfu. While at other times a practitioner may choose something more fluid, eclectic or non-traditional. Each is a valid structure and approach to the connection to the Netjeru.

That being said, the only things that become annoying are those who insist on the belief of either a maddeningly absurd UPG-type of approach, or those who cannot and will not move outside the formal scholarly sanctioned type of practice. I have found by direct experience that there are deep pitfalls within each extreme and either can be deleterious for spiritual understanding or growth. Egyptology does *not* know everything. Conversely, I have seen so many ridiculous, crackpot theories that should never have made it outside of one’s own personal headspace, let alone made it into print for others to try to decipher.

One extreme, that of the scholarly community only, and especially within Egyptology’s ranks, often eschews and ostracizes those who “actually believe in any of this stuff”. In some place it becomes so much of an issue that those who have made it into those hallowed halls of the scholarly ranks take great pains to either conceal, downplay or flat-out deny that they actually do worship the old gods. These individuals dare not speak of it or it may cost them their entire career or get them passed over for any future projects because their beliefs are not considered “objective enough”. I personally know of several tenured professors or professional Egyptologists who by necessity are very guarded about their personal beliefs. I can state quite clearly that their fears are absolutely justified. Egyptology is neither easy nor cheap to take up as a scholarly pursuit. Admissions into these programmes are prohibitively expensive and generally only accept a tiny handful of students each semester or once a year. Most of these who are accepted have and/or have maintained a 4.0 GPA. Further, that high GPA must be maintained or that student will get a boot planted in their posterior and find themselves completely washed out and with student loan amounts that are nothing less than nightmarish and just shy of the national debt.

The Kemetic Community, I think, is going through something that much of the so-called Pagan “Community” is going through. I believe that there is far too much backbiting, petty, catty and deeply personal bitching among the ranks. People either are wrapped up in an idea that if you do not belong to X group, you obviously are “doing it wrong”, and if you are a part of that group – or have been trained by it, have handed your brain, your soul and your personal assets to some sort of mindless cult of personality that does not allow for personal considerations.

I call “Bullshit,” on both points of view.

Even with my training and years in the priesthood, I interact with those who are not Kemetic Orthodox. I spend a great deal of time with people who come from many different faiths and belief systems, and each gives me a perspective that I would not have had otherwise. In so doing, I am able to form my own opinion that has nothing to do with toeing a party line, a religious canon or being a spokesperson for any given temple or group.

If I see a person make an incorrect, ill-considered or socially repugnant statement to the general public, I have no compunction but to call them on it and tell them why I feel that way. Conversely, I expect to be accorded the exact same service be done to me in return. I also expect that it will be done without the need to resort to ad hominem attacks. I think that is more than fair. Of course, there will always be those who claim to be holier-than-thou, or claim some sort immunity because of the number of books they wrote, lectures at Pantheacon they conducted or letters after their names in terms of university degrees. The political correctness and personal butthurt needs to be put away and replaced with something that resembles common sense. If we cannot have that, then what’s the point, really?

maat1aAll of us who consider ourselves to be Kemetic have a single and solitary foundation. That foundation is not exclusive to any one group, or leader or anything else. We have nothing other to worry about than the idea of Ma’at. Each of us must decide what that is and where we are at personally. Under that one single idea / ideal, there is enough there that is complex enough to keep all of us occupied for the whole of our personal and spiritual lives. We are held responsible and we hold those whom we associate responsible as well. When we do this, we are held responsible for our own actions and words in the context of not only our own lives but the greater whole within the Kemetic community and within the world at large. With this single understanding, some of the petty, single-mindedness is stripped away, and we by necessity have to sit down and listen to the thoughts, concerns and observations of others. Being able to see that perspective and say, “Yes, you are right,” does not, therefore, declare us to be lepers within the groups that we are a part of – or not a member of. It means that we can each be viable on our own, and that we can stand up for ourselves and what we believe, rather than hiding behind an organization, a label or anything else than our own sense of rightness – or our own sense of Ma’at.

 

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Why Can’t Hollywood Seem to Get Ancient Egypt Right?

"Tut (miniseries)" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tut_(miniseries).jpg#/media/File:Tut_(miniseries).jpgEarlier this week I splurged and bought the DVD set of the mini-series, Tut, starring Ben Kingsley that aired on Spike TV.   I confess, I was really excited when I saw it and got it a day before my paycheck was in the bank.   Hey, it’s ancient Egypt.  Some things get prioritized!

I excitedly loaded the DVD into my PC, I had a few hours before I really had to settle into watching the series.  I suffered through the previews and finally got the feature film.  I had my double espresso and I was ready to enjoy watching from the comfort of my home office.

Within the first fifteen minutes, I knew that I hated it.  There is no real mention of Nefertiti, or Kiya, Tut’s supposed mother. before we learn that Akhenaten has allegedly been poisoned and just before being sent to his deathbed, he manages to exact revenge on the plotters – or so he thinks. It wouldn’t have taken much for the show’s writers or producers to even bother to read history and center their script around it. Instead, they took the term ‘creative non-fiction’ to a whole new level.

Kingsley being cast as the elderly Ay is actually an excellent choice.  Kingsley plays at being ‘bad’ really well. The rest of the cast, not so much.   To be completely honest – I absolutely hated the show.  I hated it for the fact that the pruduction values were low enough that I could determine when the producers used repeated clips of film over and over again.  No one, not even someone who has a film background, should be able to spot something like this.    How is it in cheesy 80’s movies such as The Awakening with Charlton Heston, Stephanie Zimbalist and Susanah York can they get the film props to look like real antiquities – and in modern miniseries such as this one we have props and costuming that looks so incredibly bad and historically inaccurate? Did the costume designers even study the period? Nevermind that Susanah York, allegedly playing an accomplished Egyptologist, messes up the first lesson of translating hieroglyphs and is reading them backwards.

The one good thing about some of the Egyptian-themed movies of the past is that producers actually availed themselves of the expertise of egyptologists.  For Stargate and the subsequent Mummy movies, Dr. Stuart Smith was consulted to reconstruct spoken Kemetic.

The high priest in the movie, (of what Temple? Of What God?) is a man with an unshaven head?  Historically, that didn’t seem too likely.   And if he is praying to Amun-Ra – then they definitely  got a statue of the wrong god in the picture.  It was a statue of Horus – or Sokar, but it was absolutely not Amun.

At least the lead character playing Tutankhamun, Avan Jogia, said his name and made it at least sound right.  When Jogia even used the title, “Nisut Bity”,  I nearly fell out of my chair in shock. How can a three part miniseries where everything else is so abysmally wrong, actually get that one teeny detail of Ancient Egyptian titulary right?

The “tragic” queen, Ankhesenamun, played by Australian actress, Sibylla Deen, flounces around the set like a very bad Bollywood actress.   She doesn’t act like a woman of royal blood by any sense.  But then again, neither did Leonor Varela when she played Cleopatra VII in that particular mini-series either. Both of them sounded like shrill fish wives in their roles and the suspension of disbelief was too much even for those of us who truly wanted to believe.  I half expected a song and dance number to break out among the courtly plots that were going on unbeknownst to the King.

This show is so much like every other show that Hollywood attempts about Ancient Egypt in the last two decades. They cast the wrong people – usually Americans or Brits – to play ancient Egyptian people. In other words, they need to stop casting white people for these roles – I don’t care how good an actor or actress they are. Let’s stop with the historically inaccurate portrayal of historical figures. This is just as bad as when they cast white actors to play Indians back in the 50’s and 60’s. Egypt was a very cosmopolitan country, and the people in it were pretty much varying degrees of brown, etc. That’s what happens in places that are trade centers and there is food. People tend to go where the food is and where they can be assured of relative safety.

Coming at the end of February is the long-awaited trainwreck…erm, film “Egyptian Gods”. The buildup toward final release is beginning. Needless to say, the buzz is beginning, and not all of it is positive.

My opinion on the film is that it’s meant to be a money maker. Hollywood producers and financiers especially have no imagination and are obsessed with profit margins over quality by putting out things with lots of special effects and flash but very little else. Investors in major motion picture projects like this one want a sure thing so that they can not only get a return on investment (ROI) but also make a profit – whether at the box office or in DVD sales and streaming or a combination of all of the above, that is what their chief motivator was and is. Right now, Egypt sells. In fact interest in Egypt is at an all time high with the latest discoveries of a possible additional tomb attached to that of Tutankhamun, and by the Gods, the studios want to cash in.

I have heard lots of screaming in various forums, and not just on Facebook, about what color the actors playing the Gods are. As I mentioned earlier, I do agree it is both sad and frustrating that actors of color for the most part were passed over and the major roles went to mostly white, A-Listers such as Gerard Butler.  Let’s set that issue aside for just a moment.

Brian_Prince-Vultan

Brian Blessed as Vultan, Prince of the Hawkmen in ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980)

Going beyond that argument and taking it a step further, in my not-so-humble opinion, the most objectionable part of this film is the absolute bastardization of our mythologies to the point where they no longer resemble the original at all. I’m sorry, Kemetic culture was more poised and gracious than that gaudy mess! The costumes with capes for the men and plunging metalic-clad cleavage ever seen since Flash Gordon in the 80’s! Maybe that’s what they were going for with the color palette and the “Hawkmen” getup.

Hathor, of course, certainly looks expensive. The sets look more Greek or Roman than they do Kemetic. Why? Multi-million dollar budgets, that’s why.

I don’t believe for an instant that even an all black cast and crew could salvage any of what promises to be just more vapid, Hollywood dreck. If this film had been true to it’s real Kemetic roots and written decently, I doubt that the investors would have ever let it be made into a movie. That to me is the deepest crime of all; that Hollywood culture thinks nothing of insulting the intelligence of everyone with more bullshit and glittery crap that has nothing to do with historical or cultural accuracy. We Kemetics are going to have to explain the glaring inaccuracies to people who think of entertainment films as being just spicier documentaries.

Will I watch this film?

Probably. But I definitely won’t purchase it or stream it until it reaches the used book store.  I don’t want them to make a single penny of profit off of me.

Piye Victory Stele from the 25th Dynasty

Piye Victory Stele from the 25th Dynasty

My biggest dream for a film on Ancient Kemet is to see the entire film first of all follow accurate history, and be done entirely in spoken Kemetic – like Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, which was done entirely in Mayan and Yucatec with English subtitles. I know such a thing is possible in Kemetic because of the bits of the original Stargate and The Mummy films employed the language. Ancient Kemetic history is filled with good stories that could be used such as the Harem Conspiracy of Rameses III, or the re-unification of Egypt by 25th Dynasty Pharaoh, Piye.

Would it be difficult?  Absolutely. Would such a film be a high budget expenditure? I don’t see how it could possibly be done any other way.

But then, that’s the point, isn’t it?.   The 1963 release of Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor was originally 8 hours long and it ultimately caused the studio that produced it to go bankrupt!   I actually own a shooting script for that film, and I have to say that for all its faults, they got much of the look and feel of Alexandria during the Ptolemaic period correct even if bits of history were wrong here and there.   Today, however, instead of Hollywood spending all the money that it does on inaccurate, digitized imagery that looks like it was pulled out of a graphic novel or a video game, give audiences something that is real and respectful and maybe worthy of lasting long past the box office or DVD receipts are calculated and banked by the suits in Hollywood who no longer care for or believe in anything else except return on investment and profit margins – that is,  if they’re lucky.

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10 Ways for ADD Writers to STAR WARS! …Be More Productive

Sometimes having ADD is a blessing and at other times it’s a curse. It’s nice to know that as a writer afflicted / blessed with this condition, that you aren’t alone. KristenLamb wrote a great piece about it.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 6.29.09 AM

Other writers frequently ask how I somehow manage to get a lot of stuff done, despite my having the attention span of a ferret…with a bad crack habit. Here are 10 ways to help you be productive even if OOH! SHINY!

…even if you tend to be a tad majorly ADD. The following tips are what help ME stay focused. I am NOT a doctor or psychologist or ADD expert. I’m a Jedi master, warp engine inspector, and WRITER so you get what you get.

We’ve been talking this week about how to be able to do all it takes to not only be a digital age author, but to freaking ROCK IT while we are here. Truthfully, the explosion of social media is just proof to me that ADD people will rule the world…which probably explains all those “End of the World” prophesies.

In the meantime? We have dreams…

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