Borrowing Words

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My last post about binding words inspired a calligrapher in England to create a painting with the words of my spell. She has written about her process on her blog, Spirit Whispers, and shared the self-doubt mixed with the thrill of creation. Having her borrow my words, and ask for permission to sell her resulting artwork, was a nice experience for me, having usually been on her side of the question. I’ve made artworks for many years with other people’s words, asked and been refused permission, made a very small amount of money doing it, and am always grateful when authors assent.

One of those authors, Wendell Berry, has written about “intellectual property in this way: “As I understand it, I am being paid only for my work in arranging the words; my property is that arrangement. The thoughts in this book, on the contrary, are not mine. They came freely to me, and I give them freely away.”

Now there are times when I absolutely do not want to give away my “arrangement of the words” because I do make some of my livelihood from the reproduction and sale of those words. But I also know that as soon as I put my words out into the world, they begin to have their own life. I was upset, years ago, when I posted my winter solstice poem The Longest Night in an online calligraphy forum and the next year at Christmas, when people were passing around quotes, it showed up without my name attached to it. It is so easy to cut and paste and just “forget” that last bit. But when people copy words they love and pass them on, then perhaps the words are doing some good thing beyond what I can do with them. And I have made calligraphy art myself with borrowed words, or found out the author much later. We do the best we can and the internet is a wilderness of attribution misinformation.

This spell was freely given and not “tainted” by money. I have had some crazy and heart-wrenching experiences over sharing freely/charging money for “magical knowledge”, so it’s not something I take lightly. It’s a tricky thing. But I had a strong feeling about giving these words, that many many people could use them to help themselves remember to trust the old ways, dance the knowing, mend and heal their lives and the planet, and do it with energy flowing.

It IS work to write your own words, but if you are writing a spell or making a wish, your own words are best. They come from your heart, meaning out of your own body. Below is a view of some pages of flow writing and editing I did to arrive at the finished verse. It didn’t spring fully-formed from my brow, but came slowly after a good bit of writing. That little dancing image helped too, but more on that later.

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