I once heard Aidan Kelly tell a story about attending a Pagan handfasting, where he heard words which he had written years before rehearsed by the ritual participants. But rather than crediting Kelly, the ritual leader said the text was ancient Pagan lore. It must have been an odd mixture of jealousy and pride that Kelly felt.
I felt a little of that recently when I perused John Beckett’s recently published book, The Path of Paganism. I will be writing a more detailed review in a subsequent post, but I wanted to quickly address something that popped out at me. In his book, Beckett writes about the “Four Centers of Paganism”, a model for understanding the Pagan community not in terms of a single center or core, but rather multiple centers: Nature, the Gods, the Self, and Community:
Beckett doesn’t cite his source for this idea in his book, but he had done so previously when he wrote about it on his blog. The first time Beckett wrote about the multiple centers concept was in 2013, in a post entitled “The Three Centers of Paganism”. At that time Beckett gave me the credit for the concept and quoted extensively from my earlier 2012 post entitled “The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism“:
In my Three Centers post, I had identified the Three Centers as Nature, Self, and Deity. A few months later, I wrote a second post, in which I identified Four Centers of Paganism, adding Community as the fourth center:
Beckett had not yet read my second post when he penned his first, but someone pointed it out to him in the comments:
Beckett apparently liked my idea of a Fourth Center, because the following year, in 2014, he wrote a second post entitled, “The Four Centers of Paganism”, in which he added Community as a fourth center. And Beckett again gave me credit:
Beckett continued to refer to the Four Centers concept frequently over the years, adding to it the “Big Tent” metaphor. He didn’t continue to cite the source of his idea, nor did I expect him to. Doing so would have been tedious and he had already given credit where credit was due elsewhere on his blog.
But it was curious to see that Beckett omitted the source of the Four Centers idea in his recently published book. For one thing, the book was a different medium, and people who read the book may not be familiar with Beckett’s blog or inclined to track down the source of his idea — so a citation would have been nice.
In addition, in the book which I recently edited, Godless Pagansism: Voices of Non-theistic Pagans, I gave Beckett credit for the Big Tent metaphor, because I wanted to give credit where credit was due.
And I think it would have been courteous of Beckett to return the acknowledgment.
I imagine what I am feeling now is a little like what Aidan Kelly felt when he heard his uncredited words recited back at him: both a little jealous and a little flattered that Beckett didn’t credit me either in the text or the bibliography. (I see he did cite Aidan Kelly though.) Maybe Beckett forgot the origin of his idea. Or maybe it has something to do with me (and a couple dozen other Pagan bloggers) leaving Patheos, where Beckett chose to stay. In any case, I’ve decided that plagiarism is the highest form of praise.
I credited you in our early on-line discussions, which are still available on my blog. At some point in the wider conversation, you dropped the Four / Three Centers model (or at least, you stopped talking about it) while I developed it further.
At this point, the model is as much mine as it is yours, although questions of “ownership” are moot.
Honestly, if I had thought about it, I would have credited you in the bibliography, if only to make the origins easier to trace for anyone who finds such things useful.
The book was finished before you left Patheos, by over a year.
It’s nice to have attained the status of “ancient Pagan lore”.
Shows how much that status is worth, huh? 😉 thanks for sharing this story, it’s such a problem in the communities these days…