While I’ve never particularly liked that line, it’s been a welcome part of many rituals that I’ve participated in for the last fifteen years. That line served as a balance point to the more well known We all come from the Goddess, and to her we shall return, like a drop of rain-flowing to the ocean. (A friend of mine calls “We All Come From the Goddess” the Pagan “Kumbaya.”) That last line there, the one about the Goddess, was written by Z. Budapest, as was apparently the tune its sung to, and Z’s none too happy with people covering her song and adding verses to it.
This became a public issue yesterday (I’m writing this on April 18) when Z put up an angry note about other people recording her song, and individuals adding new verses to it. For the record, if Z has a copyright on that song, then no one should be recording it or using it for “for profit” purposes without her getting a cut. That’s how copyright works, and I’m not against anyone enforcing their copyright. Anytime you record a songwriter’s song (even if they don’t like you recording the song), they get a share of royalties, that’s how it works. Anytime your song is sung at a bar or club (or possibly the main stage at a Pagan Festival) you get a cut. When that song is played on the radio, you get a cut. When that song is played inside of a business or coffee shop, you get a cut. That’s fine with me, and should be fine with everyone else.
Z’s post sent Facebook into a flurry yesterday (I had 56 comments on my Facebook page about it alone), with various levels of outrage being attached to that flurry. Some people were upset about her attempting to enforce her copyright (as stated above, I’m not one of them), and they tried to argue that “We All Come From the Goddess” is now a folk song and beyond copyright protection. There’s a thing known as a “traditional” song that is often beyond copyright, but folk songs can certainly be copyrighted. People are still writing new folk songs, and the people who write those songs enjoy eating, they should certainly be paid for their work.
What was so upsetting about Z’s comments yesterday were totally unrelated to copyright, and directly related to belittling the beliefs of others. There’s a long history out there of people adding new words to established songs, or adding an extra verse or two when it suits them. “The Star Spangled Banner” is only half an American song for example; Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics, and the tune its self is an old English drinking song. Saturday Night LIve featured a skit just last weekend about people changing the words to Jay Z’s “New York,” and those parodies are easy to find online. As a sport fans I’ve seen dozens of clips on Youtube featuring expanded and altered lyrics to promote a specific team. People can be proud to be a fan of the Yankees but not the Sun God?
I’ve had a few people tell me that I’ve misinterpreted Z’s comments, but I’ll repost them here (emphasis my own, grammatical and spelling errors, Z’s) “I would like you to help me spread the words that Singing “We all come from the Goddess” should NOT BE rewritten. It is my intellectual property. it is NOt a folk song, which by the way is the fate of many composers whose songs are stolen. You steal my song from now will have consequences. You put men into the song, like God,a hex will be activated.” I’m not even going to comment on the hex (not everyone follows the Wiccan Rede), but the part that upset me was “You put men into the song, like God.” In so many ways, thanks for belittling my beliefs. I guess I don’t deserve the love and attention of the Goddess if I’m going to worship the God right alongside of her. How dare I worship Pan!
Perhaps Z’s post yesterday might have been written under duress (it’s been removed). There’s a part in there where she calls out a group named Serpentine for recording her song without giving her a song-writing credit. I’m sure if someone stole one of my columns and attached their name to it I would be angry (though I wouldn’t hex anyone)*. She should call out people who violate her copyright, I’m fine with that, as are most people. What’s bothersome is that a verse about the Horned God is so offensive to her. I’ve always sung “We All Come from the Goddess” because it’s a beautiful piece of music, and the words speak to me. As a Wiccan who likes to honor the idea of balance in his rituals (I worship a God right alongside the Goddess) and to do that in song, next to a beautiful verse that so captures Her essence, and to love that moment . . . . . . hearing the composer want to take that away from me is heart breaking.
As people have reacted to this little controversy, it’s important to remember that we should never wish each other ill. I’ve seen a lot of nasty comments about Z the past 12 hours. I understand that people are upset, but calling her a “sexist scumbag” doesn’t improve the situation or add any clarity to it. While Z’s brand of Paganism has never been my chalice of cider, I’m sure she’s empowered thousands of women and improved their lives. As I find myself disagreeing with her on various issues, I always try to remember the good that we all know she’s done for the community. I hear from many that she’s a very warm person with a wicked sense of humor, I hope that she is, and I wish her no ill will and hope her copyright issues are cleared up. I will miss that song in ritual though, because it’s obvious that the person who wrote it, doesn’t want me to sing it. People adapt things for use in ritual, and instead of being upset about it, I think it makes more sense to be honored by it. Enforce your copyright, but also lean back and enjoy what your magick has created.
Z’s Facebook posting in full from yesterday:
I would like you to help me spread the words that Singing “We all come from the Goddess” should NOT BE rewritten. It is my intellectual property. it is NOt a folk song, which by the way is the fate of many composers whose songs are stolen. You steal my song from now will have consequences. You put men into the song, like God,a hex will be activated. I have found that people actually sell their wares with my song in the Title,like Serpentine for example. These people are NOT having my permission, especially when they don’t even credit my name. Women are fooled that its from me, or fooled that its Serpentine. .Theft is theft. I cannot be everywhere, but i have experienced women making up new words,attaching it to my song that NEEDS NO attachments. Have you ever heard a man writing a song about the gods, and then put females in it?? Never. So stop you generosity attacks with my songs, write an original .Men who had Mozart and Schubert amongst them,surely will come up with their own songs .
Women like to give away and include but please do it with your own intellectual property.
I wrote that song for the Goddess worshipping women. Its gone around the globe. I don’t mind you singing it, only selling it and not giving me credit.
Its a sacred song, and i will protect it! Speak up when you hear this song abused, and write to me. Blesssed be!
*You might argue that a blogpost is nothing like a song, and I’ll grant you that, but I can offer another example. Several years ago I wrote my own “Charge of the God.” It’s a piece I’m very proud of, and it’s been used in ritual all over the country (and not just by me). People have emailed me and asked if they could change a line or two, or re-arrange the verses, and my response has always been “Yes! Of course you can!” The only thing that might ever bother me is if someone took it and claimed that they wrote the whole thing, but changing it up? Certainly. People have changed Valiente’s “Charge of the Goddess” over the years to suit their own needs, I don’t recall her ever being offended by it.