I don’t have the largest occult book collection in all of Seacroft, I think that distinction falls to my friend a few streets over, but I do have a lot of books. It drives my other half crazy because I am constantly having to find new storage solutions for the ever expanding book collection… or should I say he is.
Part of the reason for this is my need to re-refer to books further down the line thanks to my poor / low working memory which is a feature of my dyslexia. I was identified quite late in life, and had sufficient coping strategies established meaning that I have never really been supported in this, one of these being to never relinquish a book with useful and interesting information.
The other reason is that I rarely, if ever, lend out my occult books. I will show people my books so they can peruse them, and if someone was desperate to do some research out of a book I own I would probably facilitate it by having them come over or meeting up somewhere, but I don’t lend them out.
Books are expensive, even if I manage to obtain a book on the cheap it is still valuable and expensive to replace so whilst I am happy to function as a research library I am not about to turn myself into a lending library.
Once upon a time….
The realisation that books are expensive is hardly a new one, and it is a realisation that has plagued bibliophiles for thousands of years. How did the Library of Alexandria obtain the largest collection of scrolls and manuscripts? By demanding any boat docking in port to hand them over so that the library could ‘take copies for themselves, which should be better read the owner was more often given the knock off and the original safely stored in the library. I doubt those original owners were best pleased.
Medieval collectors were equally concerned about who had their precious books. Books at this time were laboriously copied by hand, often by monks or clerks, and we’re cost prohibitive even amongst those groups and classes who had the opportunity to achieve literacy. A well read man was someone who owned perhaps a book or two, or had access to the library of some noble or clergyman. Security measures such as locks and chains were employed in many renaissance libraries to deter would be book thief’s from taking anything that didn’t belong to them.
But how did the individual protect their precious materials? Through the use of elaborate book curses of course.
As one might expect these curses often invoke the name of God and his Heavenly host to protect the book and punishes it’s theft. Such invocations would have been considered legitimate apotropaic declarations as opposed to any form of Witchcraft but as history has shown the line between the two is often blurred and indistinct.
That being said there are those that fail to invoke any form of heavenly title and seem to function as warnings of dire consequence. Lines such as;
May the sword of anathema slay
If anyone steals this book away.
Si quis furetur,
Anathematis ense necetur.
It could be argued that the sword mentioned is a reference to the sword of God in the form of a rhyming couplet but then again it could be a threat of actual bodily harm by the owner towards the thief. I wouldn’t like to argue that one in a court of law.
…. and so it is today…
I am not going to accuse Pagans of being light fingered when it comes to the borrowing of books, we’re probably no worse than any other section of society, but we do have a problem with plagiarism and copyright theft.
The concept that knowledge is free is all well and good but pulling that knowledge together into a book and getting it published and produced is still a costly process even today. The cost may not be broken down into the material costs for each book as before but it is the time, energy (food and electricity) and costs associated with research.
It takes an awful lot for authors to get rich. The JK Rowling’s of the world are few and far between, and most pagan authors I know aren’t about to break the bank with their royalty cheques. Therefore it can be heartbreaking to any author to find their labour of love being effectively stolen and given away for free on the Internet in PDF format.
There are perfectly legitimate ways to get your hands on free books and articles. The books available may not be the most recent publications, or they may be self published works of… questionable quality, but they are there for free. Amazon regularly cycles through books and if you sign up to websites like dailyfreebooks.com which regularly updated themselves with the latest offers you can keep in touch with all that is available. There are also wonderful resources such as Academia.edu which is still currently a free resource for all sorts of scholarly articles. In these cases the authors have either self published through Amazon and elected to participate in the occasional ‘free for’ listing, authors have waived their rights under creative commons or the work in question is no longer within copyright.
Sadly however there are a large number of social media groups and websites which host ebooks and pdf’s which are still clearly in copyright, which constitutes the author’s lifetime plus 70+ years. Whilst there are ways for authors to tackle this, such as through cease and desist notifications and DCMA‘s not all authors have the financial clout or knowledge about their rights and the tools available to enact them. There are groups out there that provide information and moral support to authors out there, such as the Facebook group Pagans Against Plagiarism. PAP’s members often get a bad rap, usually because the group will highlight groups and websites to authors and publishers so they can exercise their right to protect their work, as well as providing information and support on how to do it. Members range from authors and publishers to artists and independent bloggers like myself and their only concern is protecting their rights as a creator. If by doing that they are infringing on the perceived rights of pirates and thieves well boo-hoo.
There are no organised campaigns or vendettas and the individual is responsible for any decision to speak up on behalf of anyone other than themselves in an offending group. Such confrontation rarely ends well and it is often best to notify the affected people / organisations and allow them to take direct action themselves as copyright holder, because they are the only people who are able to take such action.
But we are Witches, and we also have other means at our disposal. The practice of protecting ones books by magical means has never really gone away and many people creating their first Book of Shadows include a dedication a line or two invoking the protection of deity, if not just casting a spell to protect it against theft and prying eyes out right.
I am aware of a number of authors, bloggers and artists who overtly, and covertly, protect their work with curses and spells. It may seem counter intuitive that it is possible to protect a work which might be published in a variety of formats many times over but if you understand the basic mechanics of Witchcraft you will realise there are a number of ways to achieve it.
Whilst there is much to be said about keeping silent on ones methods there is no harm in being direct from time to time, hence the copyright notice to be found at the right hand side of my blog. This isn’t my only method, but rather than blab the specifics allow me to utter a dire warning – one inspired by one of the curses mentioned in the blog that inspired this post.
May whoever steals or alienates this work, or mutilates it, be cut off from the body of the Craft and held as a thing accursed. So mote it be.