Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The yellow of Bealltainn

Before I go on, I just want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support I've received since my last post, both publicly and privately - it's really meant a lot to me; as frustrating as this whole thing has been for me, I find myself in the midst of an amazing community, so really - thank you.

I asked Lady Cattra Shadow the Scarlet Cat to remove the posts, and I've since been contacted by her and received assurances that the articles in question were (re)posted by accident, and that she's taken down all of her blogs while she makes sure that everything of mine is gone. I've asked for confirmation that this time all of the articles have been deleted from the various places she's hosting them on, including something called myfreecopyright.com, which makes copies of your work and gives it a digital watermark...and stuff...She's been using it on her blog, so if it automatically makes copies of everything then there are articles of mine hosted there that need to be deleted too.

And then hopefully that will be the end of it.

In the meantime, I've been busy doing family stuff (with my sister and her family visiting) and thinking about the places I can drag my husband and kids along to when we go down to stay in Kirkcudbright this weekend (we get an extra Bank Holiday for the royal wedding, so it's a longer May Day weekend than usual). There has been some working in the garden, and I've finally had some of the veg I've sown outside sprout - radish, carrot, onions, but mainly leeks - lots of leeks. I was starting to get a bit worried that they'd all fail, there.

Seeing as we've been having a bit of a heat wave, it's not just the veg that's springing into life. Because winter hung around for a long while, round here it seems like some of the flowers and trees are quite late in coming into leaf and bloom. The good news for me, though, is that the rowan tree I planted when I moved here is coming into blossom for the first time ever:

Hopefully that means we'll have some berries in the autumn. I planted the tree a little too close to the fence and there's a branch trying to work it's way through the slats, so I'm going to have to chop that bit off at some point - I'll be leaving that job for between the two Bealltainn's, though. I can use the wood for charms for the next year.

And of course, with the warmer weather come the bluebells in the woods:

But mostly it's about the yellow - dandelion (which came out very late this year):

Lesser celandine, everywhere you go in the woods (where the bluebells aren't, at least):

And round here, gorse - lots and lots of gorse:

In previous years I've seen it flowering from around November or December if it's been mild enough, but this year it seems like it was very late to get going.

As yet, I've not spotted any marsh marigolds, I don't think - lus-buidhe Bealltainn, the yellow plant of Bealltainn that marks the start of summer - but the cowslips I planted around my little garden shrine are in full bloom:

And the primrose I put in looks like it isn't far behind.

With Bealltainn approaching, thoughts have been turning to what I'm going to be doing; seeing as we'll be away I think I'm going to have to have a fairly quiet and low key celebration while I'm at the caravan - some offerings down at the beach, a quiet bit of time for some meditation, and maybe a barbecue if the weather stays as sunny as it has been. Since most of the ritual stuff that I do centres on the house and securing protection for it in the coming year and season, I'll have to wait to do that when I get home on Monday.

Usually the kids and I churn some butter, and we make bannocks, and a seasonal picture together. Thanks to my disorganisation and then my back problems we never got round to doing a picture for Spring, and I'm not sure if we'll have time to get one done before the weekend this time round either - I haven't even thought of a theme we can do yet. We'll just have to see. It's going to feel strange celebrating Bealltainn when I'm not here at home, in my own space.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Yay! Plagiarism. Again.

And yes, it's by the same blogger as before. And yes, the title for this post should be considered to be sarcastic.

Last year I discovered that somebody had been reposting articles from my website under her own name, on her own blogs - going so far as copyrighting them herself and removing pretty much any and all mention of my own site or authorship. On top of that, she'd taken to using some of my images, and even used one to make her own 'button' or 'badge' that people could post on their own blogs to link back to hers and proclaim their support or fandom at the same time. Perhaps one of the most amusing things about it all was that she was so concerned about people stealing from herself, she disabled the right-click feature or the ability to highlight any text on her web pages in order to physically prevent this happening (unless you happen to have a bit of technological know-how). Apparently she had no such qualms doing it to other people, but it was a big no-no once she'd collected it and published it as her own.

All in all, I found the whole thing annoying. A tad irksome, in fact.

Even more annoying was that while I initially met with some success in getting some articles and images removed from her blogs after contacting her again and again with each article I found (I asked nicely, I promise), I kept finding more of her blogs, and more of my articles posted under her own name. My requests for my work to be removed became terser and terser as I got more and more frustrated and upset at the extent to which I'd been ripped...And then, after finding even more articles, and meeting with less and less progress in resolving the issue, I eventually ended up deciding that my only course of action was to issue a DMCA takedown order for the articles and images that remained. It was something I'd initally wanted to avoid, but ended up not knowing what else to do.

After all, and as I've said before: This is the internet. It's SRS BZNS.

For the most part, although it took a while the takedown was a success; Blogger removed the remaining articles and images themselves, in as much as they could, and that was that. Some of my images remained on her blogs because they were evidently not deleted from the blog as a whole (it seems she uploaded the images to her own blogs or image host, rather than hotlinking them from my flickr account or webpages), and were still being used by some sort of widget to promote articles that were no longer live. A bit of back and forth with some of the nice folks at Blogger led to a dead-end because the widget in question wasn't owned by them and that meant there wasn't anything they could do unless I was able to link directly to the content of mine in question, that was still appearing on her blogs. I couldn't do that, because of the way the widget thingy worked, and in the end I decided to give up. The battle was mostly won, I figured, and not long after the blogs were switched to friends only anyway, so I'd be none the wiser if anything happened in future.

Or so I thought. Now she's amalgamated all of her old blogs into a shiny new one, and as a result has evidently reposted some of the pages - not all of them, admittedly, but that doesn't really make me feel much better about it all. Behold! A list for posterity (and one should always back up one's argument or moaning with evidence, if possible, shouldn't one):

Samhainn Divination - copied straight from my own article here with some additions in the references, I think
Celebrating Samhainn - Scottish Style - copied straight from my own article here
Scottish Samhainn Celebrations - a slightly different version of the previous link, with different references/links given at the bottom. I presume this is a duplicate post as a result of various blogs being amalgamated
Samhainn - copied straight from my own article here
The Festival of Samhainn - the same article again, this time without the introduction. I presume this is also a duplicate post as a result of various blogs being amalgamated
Carving - copied from my own article here, but evidently amalgamated with another post/article on the same subject

One thing that makes me wonder is that - while it's been about six months since all of this began - I don't recall seeing some of those articles in the format they're appearing in on the blog just now. I suppose I have to assume that they're from a blog, or blogs, that I didn't even know existed and therefore didn't complain about the first time, so she just left them or overlooked them. Or it's possible she deleted some pages and simply unpublished others, perhaps, and these are just the unpublished ones that hadn't been got rid of the first time round.

But as I said, some of the pages seem unfamiliar to me, and! And! Another thing that makes me wonder is that all but that last page I listed above now credits my site - which she didn't do originally. Either these are indeed from blogs I wasn't aware of, or she's knowingly reposted these articles now (and they're all notably on her favourite subject of Samhainn, whereas the ones that haven't been reposted are about other things) because she thinks crediting my site doesn't make her repostings copyright theft anymore. As if I can't complain about any of it now (and I even sent her a link explaining about what copyright is, and what's allowed, I'm sure). If that is what she thinks, then she's mistaken.

Needless to say, I do claim copyright of the articles - was forced to, publicly, when this whole thing kicked off originally - which means that nobody can copy them without my permission.* As copyright holder, I hold the rights to who can and cannot copy this work (the clue's in the name, really), and it's now clearly stated in the footer of the site that the articles are copyrighted, after a commenter previously suggested I should do that to avoid any confusion. Seeing as there's a widespread misconception that if it's on the internet it's fair game unless otherwise stated, fair enough.

So yeah, that'll do it, I thought. While I don't have to do that in order to claim copyright of my work, fair enough if that does help to avoid confusion. So I made it clear. And really, I thought I'd made it abundantly clear that I want nothing to do with this woman, and that would be that. She wouldn't just do it again, would she? It's a good job I'm paranoid.

To be fair, I suppose that this all could be a genuine oversight on her part, somehow or other. Considering the fact that she shouldn't have done it in the first place, however, let alone twice (it's a dubious honour, and I should be flattered, I'm sure), I don't think that lets her off anything - especially considering the fact that, as far as I can tell, very little else on her blog is her own work either, and also happens to be copyrighted. Clearly, as far as it seems to me, she's learned nothing.

I suppose the only thing I can do is give her a fair chance and ask her to remove the posts before I have to start hassling those poor folks at the DMCA again. It's not a prospect I relish, but I really, truly, don't see what else I can do otherwise.

* I should clarify that of course there's fair use and so on, that does allow for that sort of thing (although this doesn't generally mean that you can repost a whole article online if you feel like it), but it doesn't apply here; I'm talking specifically about someone reposting articles wholesale, without permission and proper credit, and claiming copyright of that content for themself. 

I have absolutely no objections when it comes to copying/printing for personal use, or sharing with others in groups and so on. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

Good news, everyone! An Iron Age massacre...and other stuff

Last Thursday night saw the second episode of A History of Celtic Britain, and while I wasn't blown away by the first episode as such, I figured it would get more interesting, and the shiny things were nice to look at, at least.

Things started off well, and over all I enjoyed the episode a lot more than I did the first, but I found myself getting a good dose of TV rage near the end, which kind of put a dampener on things. It started off well, then there was mmm shiny, then ooo that's interesting; good; ooo look it's Barry Cuniffe. Hmmhmm. Oh and there's Miranda Green and OH YES THIS IS HOW YOU DO DRUID DIVINATION WITH 'SPOONS.'

To be fair she did say something along the lines of "this is what I think they did," and that idea that the objects in question were spoons is an assumption at best. But then proceeded to demonstrate the whole thing and discussed it with the presenter as if it was all known fact: Crushed bones of the ancestors were blown through a hole in one 'spoon' into the other, then the same was done with blood. And then, from the resulting goop on the receiving spoon, the druids could happily pull any sort of answer out of their arse and manipulate the king, or just the plebs in general, to do their bidding with whatever wisdom the druids wanted to give. And everyone was happy and none the wiser. I really wish I could find the piece on youtube.

And I suppose that's the problem with a lot of documentaries these days; you write the script so that a ten-year-old can understand things, and don't over-complicate anything - just offer the easiest answers and fudge over the fact that alternatives might exist. So things tend to look fairly black and white, when there's really a whole spectrum in between. 

Anyway, there's exciting stuff in the news, if you haven't seen it already:

Mass burial suggests suggests massacre at Iron Age hill fort

There's a short video that accompanies the article - the find is significant because the bodies all appear to be women and children, suggesting that they were massacred after the hill fort (in Derbyshire) was overrun. It's the only burial of its kind found so far, with such marked segregation of women and men. Or a lack of any men at all, really.

And that's all I have just now - I have a review to do, but I think that deserves a separate post. Summer's here. Which if the last few years are anything to go by, will be short lived.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Life, the universe, and spaceships

It's the Easter holidays at the moment, so there's entertaining of small children to be had (and so not much room for deep thoughts). A change of pace and posting is in order, then - domestic life reigns. Aside from roping them in to help me with catching up on the housework and gardening, we've been having a few days out here and there. We were going to try an overnight camping trip over in Argyll sometime this week, but it looks like the weather's turned against us. There's a chance we might go away for Bealltainn with some friends, though, so I'm looking forward to that.

Anyway, in lieu of any camping trips, our latest mini-adventure was to go into Glasgow so I could sort out things with the library - I went on Saturday to try and sort the book I lost out, but they said they couldn't make a decision then and I'd have to come back on Monday. I'd bought another copy of the book (the original of which I think I accidentally put into the recycling bin when I was sorting a pile of paper out) in the hopes that it would get back on the shelves a little quicker, so it needed a manager to decide whether that was "the best way to move forward." So I dragged the kids into the city on Monday, with strict instructions to Behave when in the library. They did, and the manager accepted the book with the addition of a small admin fee (which I was expecting), so it's all good. My conscience is salved.

My library trip on Saturday yielded another haul of books - probably too many to read all the way through, but I'll try. I've nearly finished the first one, and at the least I want to work my way through Peter Narváez's The Good People, and Diane Purkiss' Troublesome Things (can you sense a theme?). I'm not sure I'm going to like the latter. I also picked up Katharine Brigg's' The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, mainly because it was on the same shelf as the others.

While we were in the area, I took the kids over to the Botanic Gardens - I'd promised the kids a treat, and there was supposed to be a Children's Garden there, but when we got there nobody was about and it looked a bit underwhelming anyway. Instead, we headed to Kibble Palace:

It's a Victorian glasshouse (or spaceship, if you're Tom and Rosie). I used to walk passed here everyday on my way to university when I was a student (and it gets a mention or two in one of my favourite series of books, by Ken MacLeod, too), so it's a nostalgic piece of the past, for me. Fun fact: the building you can just see behind the glasshouse used to be the BBC headquarters in Scotland, and they used to film news pieces outside on the pavement a lot. I walked passed a reporter doing an interview once, and tripped over my shoelaces right on camera.

Inside the glasshouse there are lots of tasteful sculptures dotted about the place (tastefully naked, of course):

(This picture's from a few years ago, the statue is of Eve). And there are lots of different plants from around the world - various parts of Africa, America and Australia. The kids' favourite, aside from running around in amongst the paths that form an almost maze to the centre of all the plants in the main section, is the fish pond:

The best part about the place is it's peaceful (moreso when it's not the school holidays, to be fair). And always warm. I used to come here as a student for a little bit of peace and quiet, taking some time to destress from whatever essay or exams I was in the middle of. I could do with a bit of that just now, so a visit was much in order, even if I did have to concentrate on herding small children. Places like this are kind of Otherworldly, to me; completely different from the outside world, a bubble of peace and calm in a sea of chaotic life. It's good to get away sometimes, and when I lived in the city on the top floor of a tenement it was places like this that gave me a taste of earthiness and escapism that I craved.

I promised Rosie a banana tree, so we went over to the hothouse as well, where it happened that they were watering the rainforest section - which meant turning on the sprinkler system to simulate rain. Best fun ever, apparently:

Today, though, with the rain and cold back once again, we'll be off to the garden centre to pick up a few things. I've finally managed to get started with this year's vegetable patch, although so far nothing has come up yet. I put in some onions and leeks during the wane of the moon (so they won't run to seed), and some carrots and sprouts once the moon started waxing (to ensure a good crop). This year I'm trying some purple carrots as well as normal ones, but otherwise I'm not planning on much else. The broccoli and cauliflower I tried last year were a dismal failure (any broccoli or cauliflower I got were tiny buds), and my neighbour said he'd read that they need very compact soil to yield decent-sized veg - so containers probably aren't the best for them. I'll maybe try a few salad items, once I've bought more seeds, but that's about it.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Deep thoughts on mysticism...an' stuff...

Reconstructionism has a bit of an image problem.

On the one hand, some might say that it's the path of choice for Those With A Big Stick Up Their Butt™; and so as such, inevitably much of our time is spent in bickering about just who has the biggest stick. On the other hand, some might say that reconstructionism is too backward-looking (and I actually saw this said on a druid forum, no less. I found that kind of ironic) - and perhaps what's really meant is that the study of the past is over-empasised at the expense of actually experiencing any sort of meaningful practice in the present. I suppose this moves us on to the gripping hand - that reconstructionists are far more interested in reading books, and the resulting intellectual wankery, for their own ego rather than anything else. Thinking about it, I suppose that ends up taking us back round to the first hand of bickering about whose stick is biggest.

Have I just made a gigantic circle-jerk analogy? Oh dear...

But let's not forget the snobbery. As a reconstructionist, not only is my stick bigger, and shinier than yours, my books are better and more obscure, and I have more qualifications/years of experience/better teachers than you do, and by the way, you can't be a reconstructionist because UR DOIN' IT RONG.

It's unfortunate, but sometimes - maybe more often than anyone's willing to admit - these problems can dominate what anyone of us are actually trying to do. In some places, reconstructionism is a dirty word, simply because of our reputation, and there is a sort of Us and Them view of reconstructionism, from those outside of the community insofar as they view reconstructionists, but also within the community insofar as they view non-reconstructionists, and even whether one is seen as having a big enough stick to qualify as actually reconstructionist or just a poseur.

With Celtic Reconstructionism, truth - Truth - is something that is held to be a core value. It is something that is strived for, but something that is ultimately subjective. Therein lies the problem, to a certain extent, especially in terms of the recent discussions I've seen going on about Mystic Reconstructionism, which have been both illuminating (in terms of what's been said on the matter) and unfortunate (in terms of the almost inevitable side-helping of bickering). I'm coming to the debate a little late, I guess, so maybe I'm not one to judge on that front, because I didn't see how it all unfolded at the time.

I've written before about my struggle with mysticism. Mysticism, to me, is something that's essential to any path, but as someone who likes the books, the research, the extrapolating from sources that I can cite, I've had a hard time getting comfortable with something that is less concrete, even as someone who's previously been inititated into a mystery tradition, and experienced such mystical revelations as the initiations I was subject to.

In the end, though, as much as it's been something I've wrestled with at times, it's something I've found to be freeing as well. My experiences are my own, and sometimes they don't make sense; mysticism itself isn't a logical process, first and foremost, because it comes from somewhere unseen. Because I'm a reconstructionist, while I see that mysticism is a key element of how I experience my spirituality, how I approach my spirituality is one that is primarily informed by what can be known (or perhaps, more accurately, extrapolated) from the sources. But that's not the be all and end all of it, because as a Celtic Reconstructionist the sources that help to inform us aren't all that explicit, or transparently pre-Christian in origin.

The first stop, then, is what can be known. What we can't know, we have to rely on UPG to help guide us, and for Celtic Reconstructionists we have to rely on a healthy dose sometimes. In this respect, not everyone is going to agree with how one approaches and extrapolates from the sources, and forms into actual practice. I'm well aware that I'm not the strongest ritualist, for example, and in part this is perhaps because I'm weaker on the (perhaps being as comfortable with the) mysticism element of practice than others within the CR community are.

A lot of the disagreements, though, seems to be centred upon the degree of which UPG is emphasised, and the way in which it is applied personally, or shared with others. In the debates, 'mysticism' seems to be seen as synonymous with UPG, and that's something I can get on board with in some ways, because in my own practices, any mystical revelations I may experience are just that - extremely personal. That's why it's difficult for me to see the problem in terms of these things being shared - or not being shared as I've often seen it lamented. I may share them with a few people who I know and trust; I may share them with a wider audience if I feel the need. But ultimately, they're not something that generally has any meaning or value except to myself, and this in itself is perhaps why it's been so difficult for the CR community as a whole, or (perhaps more relevantly) CRs within specific cultural contexts, to agree on commonalities of practice.

This all comes back to certain problems emerging - accusations of snobbery, intellectual wankery, and so on. Sometimes - maybe more often than anyone's really willing to admit - these accusations are justified (and to be fair, pretty much all of these problems aren't unique to reconstructionist groups, it's just the kind of sticks, books and qualifications are slightly different if you go elsewhere. You like Scott Cunningham?! You're self-initiated? What's your lineage? Who's your High Priestess? You can't possibly be Wiccan...In this respect, I've had the exact same sort of arguments as a Wiccan as I've seen in the reconstructionist community).

The unfortunate side-effect of all this is that when bickering flairs up within the various reconstructionist communities, points can get lost in discussions because people start taking it personally, and/or start arguing from ego, and the discussion turns from actual debate to defensive back and forths or (worse) simply point-scoring. That's the difficulty of online discussions - it's difficult to interpret tone, and that can make things seem more blunt and snarky than they might have been intended.

So where does that leave anyone? Community can be - and should be - a wonderful thing. There is something deeply wrong with a community when civil discussions can't be had without accusations flying, due to ego, paranoia, past experiences and hurts, or whatever. We as a community are never going to grow up, mature, evolve in healthy way if that's all these discussions end up as.

Friday, 8 April 2011

A History of Celtic Britain

I'm something a bear of very little brain at the moment, so apologies for not being the most scintillating company right now. My continuing back problem and the cocktail of medication I'm on for it is making my brain rebel against the thought of doing any serious thinking, writing or research these days, even though I want to, so any deep sort of thoughts are probably not going to surface any time soon...I've been picking at stuff, but there's not much doing at the moment. It's a little frustrating.

One thing I thought might be of interest, given my lack of anything else to say, is a new series by the BBC called A History of Celtic Britain. The first episode aired last night and focused on the transition from Bronze to Iron Age; it was a little dry, I thought, but well-presented and factual, although there wasn't really much about the Celts...Next week there's mention of druids, from the looks of things, so it'll be interesting to see what they have to say.

The iPlayer episode is here (for folks on this side of the Pond), and there's an accompanying article to go with it. Obviously there are geographic restrictions on iPlayer, so if you're not in the UK it's kinda tough unless you can obtain it by other means, but I've found a few excerpts from youtube:

Hopefully these will be viewable outside of the UK (I couldn't see mention of any restrictions).