We Romans are far superior in religio, by which I mean the Worship of the Gods...
-- Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 2.8

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery...?

Imitation is the highest form of flattery...or is it?

When I began my blog I wanted it to be a source of information for practicing cultores and a place where new cultores could get a sense of inspiration for their own practices. In doing so I have provided ritual outlines, guidelines, examples, etc, which come from my own practices.  Initially, I was concerned regarding the "revealing" of my sacred practices to the internet but I thought it was for the greater good.  I had been worried that, in an internet savvy world, my writings, thoughts, etc would be taken for another's.  But, I thought, such is the risk in promoting the practice of the cultus deorum.  My purpose was to teach and inspire, and if I have I am glad.  But, as time does always tell, what I had feared has come to fruition. 

An individual online recently posted a wonderful ritual to celebrate the Saturnalia. It truly is a beautiful ceremony, deserving of much applause.  However, there's on section of the rite which directly mimics a practice that is very unique and particular to my own practice and the writings I have presented here on this blog.  Now, granted the piece in question draws from historical literature, it is the way in which it is used that is in imitation of my own writings and practices. Could it be coincidence?  Unfortunately, not in this case.  I have spoken with this individual in the past and gave him pointers on a ritual or two [not this one in question] and was even a short-lived member of the same Roman organization that this individual is.  Also sadly, this individual has come under fire in the past for taking internet material written by others and publishing it under his own name which ultimately led to a massive re-editing of said work which was re-published at a later date. 

So, what is someone like me to do in this situation?  It's a tough one.  Do I sit back and let it happen as someone else is credited for my own work?  Or do I challenge the status quo and assert my rights as a cultor and writer?  For now, I will merely expose the situation at hand.

The ritual piece in question utilizes the final lines of Catullus' Carmen 34 to Diana:
By whatsoever holy name it pleases You, from antiquity have You accepted our customary offerings, preserve in good faith the children of Romulus as ever You graced our ancestors. (Source)
Naturally, any cultor is open and welcome to the use of historical writings in their practices. But, like I said, it is the way in which they are utilized that directly matches my own practices as evidenced by this very blog.

When formulating my practices I reflected back on other religious traditions of my own past to gain inspiration.  In the Roman Catholic tradition of my early childhood, the priest would prepare the gifts and present them in a minor elevation prior to the Canon of the Mass where the gifts would undergo transubstantiation to become the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ.  (As a side note, I find the Roman Catholic church's inheritance of polytheistic Roman ritual to be fascinating and for something to talk about at a later and more appropriate time.).  In Wicca, at least in the Coven I practiced with, during the Rite of Cakes & Ale, the presiding priest or priestess would take a moment to pour a share of the ale into a chalice and raise it up in presentation towards the moon and follow with placing one of the cakes into an offering bowl which was likewise raised in presentation to the heavens.  Thus, drawing upon my past ritual experiences and what worked then, I wanted to utilize something similar in my own private rites and rituals because I felt that my rituals were lacking in solemnity.  I would find myself at the altar just giving my gifts, which is not a bad thing, but I wanted more to it.  I wanted a prayerful moment, a recognition of the act of sacrifice, something that just had some power to it.  

One day I came upon the hymn to Diana by Catullus and fell in love with those final lines, they just spoke to me so much and represented exactly what I was looking for.  I wanted something that recalled those ancient sacrifices and offerings that were made so as to call to mind for the Gods after nearly 2000 years that we still worship and adore Them, that Their power is still here and worthy of veneration.  Historically speaking, it was common even in ancient times for prayers to include something of a similar affect so as to encourage the Gods to favor the individual once more.  I thought "I got it!"  I was so excited to utilize this ancient piece of religious writing in my own practice!  

Thus, I edited those lines to create my own version: 
"By whatsoever holy name it pleases You, from antiquity have You accepted the customary offerings of mankind, preserve in good faith the children of Romulus as ever You graced my ancestors and thus bless and accept these offerings which I now make in sacrifice to You..." 
Having prayed thus so, I would and do proceed to then raise up each offering or gift one at a time in presentation to the Gods with a prayer.

So, to find my exact words and practice used by another, who at a time I was welcome to help and instruct, without being credited is quite sad and hurtful. To find what I considered sacred for my practice ripped out of my hands and published under another's name without a second thought, who now is gaining recognition for those words, is rather painful to see. I put a lot of work over the last few years in writing and maintaining this blog and presenting a tradition of the cultus deorum for others to learn from.  Events like these often make me feel the need to tear everything off of the walls of this blog and go back to my solitude as a cultor.  It is unfair.  And, it is frankly plagiarism.