Recently I saw a Facebook meme of an artwork of a woman with a broom accompanied by Scott Cunningham’s poem “A Witch Alone,” but the poem said “author unknown” after it. The artwork was not attributed either, but it was by Lane Brown, a living artist.
It took ten seconds with Google to find out who wrote the poem. I wondered why page admins don’t investigate what they share before they share it, so I asked some friends. I was told that some people think that saying something is by anonymous covers them legally for sharing copyrighted work. I can only boggle at that. It makes no sense at all.
People really think that deliberate erasure of the creator of a work is better than just admitting they’re sharing without paying but at least properly attributing? Especially when it comes to poetry, fame is the only real reward, since the only people making money on poetry are the literal sellouts who write greeting cards and ads, (and even the jingle writers aren’t getting much business anymore) and whoever manages to sell a song to a major pop star. As a writer, my name and my work is all that I will have left to the world when I’m gone, since I don’t have children. It disturbs me that people might deliberately erase my name from my work and consign me to fade and be forgotten because they think that’s somehow better than at least crediting me when they share stuff, even if they know they’re viking it.
This disturbs me as a writer, and it disturbs me as a heathen. One of the major tenets of heathenry is that being remembered is a form of immortality, and is to be desired and pursued. Hence, this verse from the Havamal (“Sayings of the high one,” the part of the Poetic Edda attributed to Odin.)
This I know will never die:
The fame of a good man’s deeds.
As a childless woman in an ancestor-worshipping tradition, my only chance to be remembered is to become so beloved for my work that people who are not even related to me will remember me. I need fame, not just to sell books while I’m alive so I can live off the money, but to be toasted and thought of after I die, the way fans of Tolkien toast him annually on his birthday. The thought that there are people out there who might deliberately sever my name from my work just because they don’t want to pay to use it makes me very sad. That they would do that to someone as beloved by the pagan community as Scott Cunningham is just awful. He’s only been dead for a couple of decades and people are deliberately forgetting him because they want what he gave the world but they don’t want to support it or him in any way.
So I would like to propose that everyone raise a glass to Scott Cunningham. And to all the creators in the pagan and heathen communities, authors, artists, musicians, crafters, bakers, and all other kinds of creators. Honor the creators by remembering their names, by attributing their work to them, and toast them when they are alive and when they are gone. Hail the creators!
[Erin Lale is the Acquisitions Editor at Eternal Press and Damnation Books. Her writing and publishing career began in 1985. She has an extensive list of published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, etc. In the print era she was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine and owned The Science Fiction Store, and she publishes the shared world Time Yarns.]