Back on November 13, 2009, I posted my first response to the House of Night vampire series by P. C. Cast and her daughter, Kristin. I'd found the first chapter online on the House of Night website. I'm copying here what I posted then, and I've put that entire post in italics to distinguish it from what I'm adding to that response today.
In studying Marked, specifically page 240 when Zoey smudes Damien, it looks to me like the Casts borrowed word-for-word from "The Smudging Ceremony" online at a New Age site!
[Formatting note: I apologize for the too-many line spaces in this post. Not sure how to fix that problem.]
Here's the final words from the first chapter of the first book. Reading this online from the House of Night website:
I stared at the exotic looking tattoo. Mixed with my strong Cherokee features it seemed to brand me with a mark of wildness... as if I belonged to ancient times when the world was bigger... more barbaric.Exotic. Cherokee. Wildness. Ancient. Barbaric. This "Cherokee" girl is now a Vampire, too!!! And her Cherokee grandmother's people rejoice. Why? Because this girl is now going to feel like she belongs? Is that why P.C. Cast says her character's ancestor's rejoice? Or is it something else?
From this day on my life would never be the same. And for a moment--just an instant--I forgot about the horror of not belonging and felt a shocking burst of pleasure, while deep inside of me the blood of my grandmother's people rejoiced.
I continue that initial response today (December 21, 2009):
A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Urbana Free Library to pick up Marrin's Years of Dust. While there, I saw that the library had a copy of Marked on the shelf, so checked it out, too. (I subsequently wrote about Years of Dust here, which sparked a lively dialogue at School Library Journal.)
Once she's marked, Zoey must go to the House of Night. In the world the Casts imagine, vampires are a fact-of-life. Zoey doesn't get along with her mother and her mother's husband, and hopes that being marked will elicit a caring response from her mother. When it doesn't, Zoey heads for her grandmother. Her grandmother, as we learned in chapter one, is Cherokee. In chapter five, we learn that Zoey calls her grandmother "Grandma Redbird" or "Grandma." Having been marked, Zoey is experiencing physical changes. She's full of questions. As she climbs a bluff to find her grandmother, the text reads (p. 33-34):
I needed to find Grandma Redbird. If Grandma didn't have the answers, she'd figure them out. Grandma Redbird understood people. She said it was because she hadn't lost touch with her Cherokee heritage and the tribal knowledge of the ancestral Wise Women she carried in her blood. Even now it made me smile to think about the frown that came over Grandma's face whenever the subject of the step-loser came up (she's the only adult who knows I call him that). Grandma Redbird said that it was obvious that the Redbird Wise Woman blood had skipped over her daughter, but that was only because it had been saving up to give an extra dose of ancient Cherokee magic to me. [...] In the meadow of tall grasses and wildflowers we'd lay out a brightly colored blanket and eat a picnic lunch while Grandma told me stories of the Cherokee people and taught me the mysterious-sounding words of their language."Mysterious-sounding words" is another signal, to me, that the Casts are running with romantic, stereotypical ideas of who American Indians--in this case Cherokees--are. Course, their point may be that their protagonist is romanticizing her Cherokee identity, but I don't think so.
As I struggled up the winding path those ancient stories seemed to swirl around and around inside my head, like smoke from a ceremonial fire...Smoke from a ceremonial fire! Just like we saw in Disney's Pocahontas! Another signal of romantic imagery.
...including the sad story of how the stars were formed when a dog was discovered stealing cornmeal and the tribe whipped him. As the dog ran howling to his home in the north, the meal scattered across the sky and the magic in it made the Milky Way. Or how the Great Buzzard made the mountains and valleys with his wings. And my favorite, the story about young woman sun who lived in the east, and her brother, the moon, who lived in the west, and the Redbird who was the daughter of the sun.Through her veil of turning-into-a-vampire, Zoey starts thinking about drums and powwows her grandma took her to when she was a little girl. She starts to hear drumming, and then voices, and then wind...
Wind? No, wait! There hadn't been any wind just a second ago, but now I had to hold my hat down with one hand and brush away the hair that was whipping wildly across my face with the other. Then in the wind I heard them--the sounds of many Cherokee voices chanting in time with the beating of the ceremonial drums. Through a veil of hair and tears I saw smoke. The nutty sweet scent of pinon wood filled my open mouth and I tasted the campfires of my ancestors. I gasped, fighting to catch my breath.
That's when I felt them. They were all around me, almost visible shapes shimmering like heat waves lifting from a blacktop road in summer. I could feel them press against me as they twirled and moved with graceful, intricate steps around and around the shadowy image of a Cherokee campfire.
Join us, u-we-tsi a-ge-hu-tsa... Join us, daughter...
Zoey runs, and then falls and is in some sort of dreamlike state where the High Priestess speaks her her (p. 39):
Your grandmother has taught you well, u-s-ti Do-tsu-wa...little Redbird. You are a unique mixture of the Old Ways and the New World--of ancient tribal blood and the heartbeat of outsiders. [...] I am known by many names... Changing Woman, Gaea, A'akuluujjusi, Kuan Yin, Grandmother Spider, and even Dawn..."A unique mix! Ancient tribal blood. Heartbeat of outsiders. Sounds a bit like..... Jake Sully in Avatar!
Looks like the Casts are grabbing at all manner of spiritualities... Navajo, Cherokee, Buddhism... But where is Mary in this lineup? Why did they avoid drawing on Christianity?!
When Zoey comes to, she's in the House of Night, her grandma is with her, and Zoey tells her that she can't believe that she got Marked. Her grandmother replies (p. 45)
"I'm not surprised you were Tracked and Marked. The Redbird blood has always held strong magic; it was only a matter of time before one of us was Chosen. What I mean is that it makes no sense that you were just Marked. The crescent isn't an outline. It's completely filled in."Of course! Indians are special! The ones the Casts dreamed up are, apparently, extra special. They've got strong magic, but what else??? The High Priestess is with Zoey, too, and that High Priestess tells Zoey that she can start over, choose her true name. Zoey discards "Montgomery" and chooses Redbird.
And then, the Casts plagiarize!
Much later in the book (page 240), the Casts have Zoey doing ceremony:
"Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place, or an object of negative energies, spirits, or influences. The smudging ceremony involves the burning of special, sacred plants and herbal resins, then, either passing an object through the smoke, or fanning the smoke around a person or place. The spirit of the plant purifies whatever is being smudged."
That sounds like something you'd find in a New Age store! Or on the internet! And that is exactly what I found. That passage above, comes word-for-word from "The Smudging Ceremony" at a New Age store that sells "smudge bundles."
[Update, Dec 22, 6:38 AM. In the comment below submitted by Lou Gagliardi, Lou says that my examples are not word-for-word. The ones below this update are not quite word-for-word, but the passage above is exactly word-for-word. I did not include the passage from the website because it seemed redundant. I'm adding it now:
The Smudging Ceremony
Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person , place or an object of negative energies, spirits or influences. The smudging ceremony involves the burning of special, sacred plants and herbal resins, then, either passing an object through the resulting smoke, or fanning the smoke around a person or place.
And Kat W., a librarian in Benton Harbor wrote to say "if you can find at least 5 sources that do not reference a specific piece of information then it is considered general knowledge and does not need to be sited in your work." Of course, novels don't cite materials in the same way that nonfiction does, but Kat raises an interesting point. She suggests it is ok for the Casts to copy and paste from the internet. I did note, below, that the passage in question appears on over a hundred websites. Does that make it ok? Perhaps, but what does that say about the author(s) and their writing?
But there's more of that sort of borrowing...
Zoey says (p. 241):
"It's really important to remember that we're asking the spirits of the sacred plants we're using to help us, and we should show them proper respect by acknowledging their powers."
At the New Age store/website, you'll find this:
"Remember that when you smudge, you are asking the spirit of sacred plants for assistance and you must pay proper respect to their healing power."
And here's some more...
Zoey prefers white sage to desert sage. She tells Damien (p. 241) that
"White sage is used a lot in traditional ceremonies. It drives out negative energies, spirits, and influences. Actually desert sage does the same thing, but I like white sage better because it smells sweeter."
On the New Age store/website:
Desert Sage (Artemesia tridentata). This plant will drive out negative energies, spirits and influences. Use this as a smudge to purify people and places before any sacred ceremony.
White Sage (Salvia apiana) This sage is used just like desert sage, but many people prefer White Sage because of the sweeter aroma it gives off.
Maybe the Casts didn't take it from that site. Doing that internet search using "Smuding is a ritual way to cleanse a person" I got 273 hits (date of search, December 21).
Cassie Edwards plagiarized several people in her Savage Indian series, including N. Scott Momaday's book The Way to Rainy Mountain.
Edwards seemed to think it was ok to do that. Do you? Do you think its ok for the Casts to do it? In my view, they've not only erred in their presentation of the Native content but they're also plagiarizing. Neither one is ok.