When I was working on Sew Witchy, I did a lot of research. Like a lot. During that research, I consulted a book called Dictionary of Superstitions by David Pickering. It had a lot of information on sewing and clothing superstitions. What it didn’t have, though, was any sourcing on where these superstitions were sourced from. When I turned to the internet to try to verify the information, all I found was rampant copy and paste. Websites would quote information about not giving scissors as presents or being tools against witchcraft. The majority of these didn’t so much quote the book as offer up the information wholesale without attribution.
This didn’t really surprise me. From my first web searches for pagan and witchcraft information, I discovered that original scholarship tends to be limited when it comes to the internet. There are hundreds of pages devoted to topics like herbal magic, color correspondences, deity information, etc., and often those pages will offer up the same information, either verbatim or slightly rearranged.
In the end it didn’t matter, as I ended up not using any of the information from Pickering’s book in mine. Sew Witchy is my first non-fiction, first sewing and first pagan/witchcraft book. I wanted to make sure my information was well researched and solidly supported, preferably by multiple sources.
I’m now in the research stage for another pagan book and I’m finding myself running into this issue again. While researching the topic of magical houseplants I come across the same list of herbs with the same information cribbed from Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. I understand why. The book is a solid reference tome for herbal magic. But I can’t wonder if a reliance on it and other books that were published in the past haven’t stifled more research. There are huge gaps in Cunningham’s that could be addressed by practicing witches and pagans. (This current book isn’t focused on herbal magick, which is why I am looking to others for information.)
I’ve got a handful of pagan herbal books requested through inter-library loan that are on their way to me. They may contain expanded and more contemporary information. I can’t help but wish that that information would find its way to the internet, however, as not everyone has access to these books. Granted, I am writing my own book to be published and the information therein will be made similarly unavailable to a portion of pagans that might want it. The issue is complicated and not suited to a short blog post.
Perhaps twenty years from now I’ll search whatever the internet is at that time and find passages from Sew Witchy pasted on blogs and on small witch wikis.