Recently I was fool enough to enter into an online discussion regarding material used within the Feri tradition. To the casual observer it would appear that this discussion centers around copyrights of said material, and the moral implications of ignoring them, but as I have been in other venues where different manifestations of this discussion have arisen, my perception is somewhat different.
What follows, is basically a rant. All comments will be screened because this is my journal, and I shouldn't have to deal with people yelling at me here, or otherwise being rude... if you don't like what I have to say then don't read my journal. Simple, yes? ;)
While it would appear on the surface that her "request" is a politely worded one, it comes with some insidious "malware". There has consistently been the expectation that others tow the line in terms of what material is secret and what is not. (This is actually where the conversation began, on the Feri initiate's list, when she brought it up in regards to Chas' request for material that he and I are planning to put up on FeriTradition.com regarding the Goddesses of the Elements.) You see, Chas had posted a link to the site in question ("The Land of the Feri", sometimes called "The Road to Faery") as a means to inspire people who might decide they wanted to contribute. She posted a polite comment in Chas' LiveJournal post (which I now see has been quietly deleted by the moderator of ) asking people to not link to that site as it contained copyrighted material from her teacher.
Sometime after that, veedub posted a link to her Dustbunnies Big Damn Handout Book, vol. 1, which is a collection of her Feri training handouts. This immediately caused a stir amongst the online initiate's surrounding issues of secrecy and "respect". (i.e. 'if you are not as secret with the material as we are, then you are "disrespecting" us'.) Immediately people started rallying around the idea of shared secrecy as a common Feri value (which it is not) and making demands in the guise of requests that everyone else treat Feri material in the same way as they do, or else be considered disrespectful by the "community". This conversation quickly turned to Chas and myself because of our plans to provide more art and information around our work with the Goddesses of the Elements. Suddenly we were the bad guys because we were about to post "secret" (sic) information and it will "ruin" future initiations. I have now been told that I am doing this to "spite the community". (!)
Now here's the thing... "community" is a tricky thing. I remember this issue being brought up when I went through all of that stress several years ago with Gabriel. Here we had a sexual predator priest and very few people did anything about it and you want to know what reason I was given? That we weren't a community and so we couldn't do anything. We were powerless, it seemed.
And now some of these same people are invoking the word community because they believe it will serve them in keeping everyone else in line. Oh sure, it all sounds nice and polite on the surface, "Out of respect I request that you not go public with that information." And that would be fine... if it were actually a request. But it's not. Because to make a REQUEST means that you are willing to accept "no" as an answer. If you are NOT in a space to accept anything but compliance then what you are actually making is a DEMAND, which is also fine, but let's not hide behind false niceties, OK? And don't expect that everyone is just going to roll over and go your way, either.
Just to be clear: The Goddesses of the Elements are not secret in my line. They were passed to us before (WELL before) initiation, and recently I even went back to my teacher to ask his opinion on it, just to make sure that I hadn't gone crazy and mis-remembered anything important. He confirmed that they were not secret, that he learned them very early on in his training with Gabriel and he was surprised to learn that anyone else considered them to be secret. (Especially since they appear in The Spiral Dance and have for almost 30 years now.)
I was using these Goddess names for years before I came to Feri. I had been teaching Witchcraft 101 classes and a series on the Elements using those names precisely because they had been made public. I developed a relationship with them, and one that certainly grew in new directions when I was properly introduced to them in a Feri context. But to assume that's it's anything short of egotistical to passive-aggressively demand that others not use them publicly just to suit their own comfort zones is absurd in my eyes.
It should go without saying but I feel compelled to spell it out: I have never --nor do I have any plans to ever-- post or write about any of the information or experiences that I have had that were passed to me as secret within Feri. I have also received some lore from other initiates outside of my training and after my initiation that was also passed to me as secret. I will continue to honor the agreements that I have made in relation to that material.
OK... back to the issue at hand: About three-weeks after Chas' call for submissions, she brings it up on the initiate's list, saying that she had already given Chas ample time to "respond" (um... there was no question to respond to) and what happened was pretty much more of them same: A select group of people rallies together to decide what is secret and should be secret! "Let's all take new Oaths to make SURE it stays secret!" (Ahem... not all Feri take Oaths to begin with... Cora said there are NO Oaths in Feri which should give us at least a moment's worth of pause before we start ranting about the universality of them). Oh, let's form committees, and sign contracts, and throw initiate autonomy out the window... because, dammit, people are DISRESPECTING our secrets and therefore DISRESPECTING US!! Let's act like bureaucrats and Christian prudes instead of the wild Feri witches that we claim to be! No, thank you. Not today, please.
As for the copyright issue: I've been told that it plagiarizes "some material", but that's as much as anyone will say. One of the tricky problems, however, is that I remember Gabriel himself trying to claim that every exercise that had to do with Blue Fire in connection to Feri was under his copyright, whether or not he had actually written it. (He claimed ownership of a lot of material, actually, that has been found in published writings that pre-dated him, according to a couple of my sources.) Up until recently I honestly thought that this was the only problem, but am now told that indeed there is material there by Steve Hewell that he would like removed. OK... but here's the thing... I'm not in charge of that website. I did not post it. I certainly can't take it down. I do not post or reprint other people's material without their permission. I DO honor people's copyrights. But I am not interested in joining a boycott because quite honestly it would appear to me that the copyright issue is merely a convenient foot-hold for those who would prefer that less information about Feri be publicly available. People are always upset when Feri stuff is "out there". People were up-in-arms about Thorn's book, for Gods sakes... "How DARE you put the Guardians in there?!" I also hear they were upset about The Spiral Dance, back in the day... "How DARE you put the Pentacles in there?!" I'm so over that argument. Be secretive if you want, but the second you start telling others that they need to be as secretive as you are then you have fallen off your self-made pedestal and fallen into dogma. All I can say is I hope you're happy there. I'm certainly quite happy where I am.
I'm an artist. And an author. And I run a magazine. I have a lot of work that is copyrighted. I have even seen some of my work used without my permission and so I have worked to get it removed or credited. (It's actually REALLY EASY to get stuff taken down from a Yahoo site... I'm just sayin'.) That is my right as the holder of the copyright. But I do not feel that it is my right to expect that others will stop linking to websites that might be using said material. That is between me and the violator and it would be inappropriate for me to try and coerce others into taking up my cause. I would feel that to do so would be a form of censorship. Your mileage may vary... but that's where I am coming from. (So hopefully it tells you a little bit more about my position on the subject.)
Incidentally, that website is a piece of Feri history at this point, as it's been online for almost 10 years, and so I feel it is relevant to the overall community, whether you agree with it or not. It causes discussion. It's relevant. It's news. Much in the same vein as we carry books in our store, or allow fliers to be posted for groups that we do not necessarily agree with, but they are part of the overall spiritual movement, and so we feel that it is important to make them available. People should have all of the information available to them and be able to make their own decisions about it.
Steve is apparently taking legal steps to have his alleged material removed. Good! I hope he succeeds, if indeed it is his material. I really only have the ranting insistence of one of his students to back that up, and based on how she has conducted herself (and been unwilling to talk about any specifics) I just don't believe her at this point. No... I'm not calling her a liar... but I think that people who are that zealous can easily be mistaken. Either way we will see what happens.
I'm going to keep doing my own thing, which includes practicing and teaching Feri as I learned it: a path of individual spiritual evolution and personal power. Real community will happen organically around that path. False community, based on ego and initiatory status will inevitably breed more of the same venom and I just don't have time for it anymore. It's old. It's tired. And it bores me.
In other news, Chas and I would like to invite anyone who wishes to engage in respectful Feri-related discussion to check-out our LiveJournal community: . Not much has been posted there yet, but we're hoping to start discussions beginning with the various Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits that populate the Feri continuum. We've begun with a post about Nimue. I'd like to get people actually talking about how they work and practice Feri... not just in abstract or theoretical ways... but in how we are actually doing the work that we are called to do. Then we can see where it goes from there. We are planning on embedding it on FeriTradition.com since we get about 10,000 visits per month and this might make a good place for a wider discussion and certainly a good way to promote the various classes and happenings that are cropping up in various places.
**EDIT: As of a couple days ago the copyrighted material has successfully been removed from the website and contrary to popular belief I am glad for it. :)