Witch at Large: Ruminations from a Grey Perspective

Seeing Paganism in terms of being a movement, explorations of our history, societal context, comparisons to other religious movements, and general Pagan culture.

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One Real Gripe, Two Frustrations

My gripe-du-jour is about people who volunteer to take on a task or role and then disappear.  I know it’s true that with all-volunteer organizations such as most Pagan groups are that the out-of-site-out-of-mind rule applies.  A volunteer leaves a meeting or gathering or festival full of zeal and ready to take on the work of whatever project(s) the group is planning.  That person may even have been provided with documents, mailing lists, etc. with which to accomplish the task(s).  He[1] may even have taken on the responsibilities of an officer within the organization.  Then he gets home and more immediate concerns distract and derail him.

This phenomenon was more damaging to Pagan efforts at organizing prior to the advent of the Internet.  For instance, within CoG, source of most but not all of my experience, membership applications must be timely processed or the applicant will wonder if her papers were even received.  And when a newsletter published eight times a year is the primary, and only official, vehicle of communication within the organization, getting every newsletter to the membership is critical.  Of course, today we can renew memberships online, and the newsletter editors of recent years have done a splendid job.  But back in the day such lapses in accomplishing volunteer tasks could have a negative impact on the group at large.

So although the matter of disappearing or non-performing volunteers does not have the same consequences today, it does affect the organizations on whose behalf one volunteered – negatively so when tasks are not fulfilled.

Were it not for volunteers, there would be no Pagan movement.  Volunteers make things happen, so please don’t let my grumbling discourage you from volunteering.  Just be sure you plan to keep your commitment.  Not coming through on one’s offer can damage the entire venture.

My frustrations relate to blogs and blogging.  I know that these frustrations have to do with the nature of the beast, but they remain frustrating to me nonetheless.

First is the tendency readers have to read only brief blogs.  If a blog goes into substance and nuance, if it’s longer than 500 words or so, visitors tend not to bother reading.  I myself am guilty of this.  One reason is the plethora of blogs, Pagan and otherwise.  There’s so much information and opinion being proffered that one can easily become saturated and absorb no more for the nonce.  In my case, I sometimes also find myself being over-stimulated as well, because what a particular blogger says about a particular topic or issue inspires me to respond.  Sometimes there are things I want to add or expand upon.  At other times it’s my disagreement with the blogger that calls me to speak up.

As a result, there are some blogs I save to read later – a goal I seldom attain.  There are bloggers whose ideas or writing appeals to me. So those are people whose blogs I tend to check more regularly.  Then there are the profusion of blogs about timely issues, current controversies, community standards, behavior, practice, theology and belief.  In the case of current controversies, I tend to try to wait a bit before I jump in so that I can respond in a way I consider to be constructive rather than replying when I’m in a tizzy.[2]

So what’s a gal to do?  If I write briefer blogs, perhaps people might be more likely to read them.  However, the flip side is that when I try to blog about a single topic, and it hinges on others topics, as so many do, I often go for thoroughness at the expense of brevity.  Although I mention in the blog the related topics I plan to address, readers tend to bring them up as though I’d overlooked them, when what I was trying to do was to focus on one smaller topic in order to keep my blog shorter.

So there you are, in fewer than 700 words.  I may or may not feel inspired to address the concept of volunteerism in another blog.  I welcome comments about volunteerism and anything else this post might inspire the reader to share.


[1]   I’m using the masculine pronoun here because my most recent frustration is with a person of the male persuasion; what I’m saying applies to all humans regardless of gender or gender identity.

[2]   Most recently I waited so long to respond in a level and non-inflammatory way, my blog was so reasoned and reasonable, that it appears that no readers picked up on the fact that in writing about inclusivity/exclusivity and boundaries I was addressing the furor about closed and open rituals at PantheaCon (and beyond) the last few years.

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Aline O’Brien (M. Macha NightMare), Witch at Large, has circled with people of diverse Pagan paths throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Brazil.  Author of Witchcraft and the Web (2001) and Pagan Pride (2004), and co-author, with Starhawk, of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (1997), Macha has also contributed to anthologies, periodicals, textbooks, and encyclopedias.  A member of the American Academy of Religion, the Marin Interfaith Council, and the Nature Religion Scholars Network, Macha also serves as a national interfaith representative for the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and on the Advisory Board of the Sacred Dying Foundation.  Having spent the last eleven years developing and teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary, the first and only seminary serving the Neopagan community, Macha now serves on its Board of Directors. An all-round Pagan webweaver, she speaks on behalf of Paganism to news media and academic researchers, and lectures at colleges, universities and seminaries. www.machanightmare.com


  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Thursday, 10 October 2013

    I definitely read -- and write -- posts that are shorter, and I harbor no guilt about that whatsoever. I've read hundreds of pages that you have written, when they're in book form, because books are something I can get comfortable with, change position, adjust the lighting or my environment more than I ever can with a screen device. Blogs will always be best for short-form reading, because the medium far too limited to be otherwise. I'm never going to take a blog into the tub with me.

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