These are the top ten posts of this year, as measured by page views. Only 2017 posts are listed. The Solitary Ritual series ranks high every year but they were written in 2014 and 2015 – they aren’t eligible.
Blog traffic has been good this year. Patheos management made some server upgrades and some improvements to search engine optimization that has more than made up for what we lost with the Facebook algorithm changes of mid-2016. On the other hand, I haven’t had a post “go viral” this year. In absolute numbers, all 10 posts in this 2017 list would have ranked higher than 4 but lower than 3 in the 2016 list.
I find that fascinating, but I imagine most of you just want to see what’s on this year’s list. So here they are: the top 10 posts of 2017 on Under the Ancient Oaks.
10. The Otherworld Needs to be Experienced, Not Escaped (October 2017). The Big Tent of Paganism is big enough for all kinds of beliefs. But when people who call themselves Pagans describe the land of the Gods and ancestors as “escapism” that demands a response.
I’ve seen the Otherworld. I’ve had first-hand experiences of Gods and spirits that are more real than anything in this world. Those experiences changed the way I see this world and the way I live in this world. My life is better for these experiences, and not in a small way.
9. 7 Spiritual Practices for Difficult Times (May 2017). If we are consistent with spiritual practice when times are good, we will build a foundation that will support us when times are bad.
These are the spiritual practices that work for me in difficult times. They won’t prevent bad things from happening – nothing will do that. They don’t keep me from getting upset or stressed or stuck. But they help me regain my center faster and they help me respond to difficult times in the ways I want to respond.
8. The Inspiration of Badass Park Rangers (January 2017). One of Trump’s first acts was to ban government agencies from communicating with the public. He wants to control their message and suppress inconvenient facts. But the people at the EPA, FDA, NASA, and the National Park Service don’t work for Trump – they work for us, and they decided to do their jobs anyway. They set up alternate twitter accounts and continued doing the work we pay them to do. And that started a Facebook meme:
First they came for the scientists…
And the National Parks Services said, “lol, no” and went rogue and we were all like “I was not expecting the park rangers to lead the resistance, none of the dystopian novels I read prepared me for this but cool.”
You don’t have be a hero. Just take inspiration from the badass park rangers and do whatever it is that you do best.
7. Spiritual Treatment Is No Substitute For Mental Health Care (March 2017). Pagans like to think of ourselves as better educated, more open minded, and less judgmental than everybody else. But too many of us jump to wrong conclusions because they’re nice and easy, or we reject mainstream treatments because they’re part of the mainstream and we want to be countercultural. So we suffer needlessly and we commit spiritual malpractice by encouraging others to avoid necessary treatment.
Spiritual practice is no substitute for proper mental health care. This isn’t a difference of opinion. This isn’t a case of “agree to disagree.” This is a wrong and dangerous belief that I see too often in Pagan and alternative spirituality circles.
Spiritual treatment is no substitute for proper mental health care.
6. When You Hear The Call of The Morrigan (July 2017). Of all the deities that are moving in our world, the Morrigan is perhaps the most active. Many people are hearing Her call. But what do you do when you hear it?
Begin a devotional practice. Read good books about Her. Reclaim your sovereignty – rule your own life and resist those who would control you for their own purposes. Find your place – the call of the Morrigan is almost always a call to service. Do the work She puts in front of you. Share your experiences – people are craving knowledge of Her. And stay with it – this is hard work in hard times, and it isn’t going to be over any time soon.
There are many ways to respond. This is one way, but it’s a way that’s been shown to work.
5. It Ain’t Necessarily So: Five Falsehoods in the Pagan Community (October 2017). In October there was a trend going around to write a blog post listing ideas that are popular in the Pagan community that aren’t as true as we like to think. While some things aren’t worth fighting over, it didn’t take long for me to come up with five things I hear on a regular basis that are like fingernails on a chalkboard. Some of them are more half-truths than outright lies, but all of them are troublesome ideas that need to be challenged.Religion isn’t all about what you believe. Deep down all religions aren’t the same. Interfering with other people’s free will not only isn’t the greatest sin, it’s a regular and necessary occurrence. Everything is not sacred. And yes, sometimes we do need priests.
4. The Call of the Morrigan is Louder and More Urgent (January 2017). Many of us have heard the call of the Morrigan over the past six years or so. Early this year that call got louder and even more demanding. The storm She warned us was coming is now here.
There are literal battles going on right now. There are metaphorical battles going on right now. There are metaphysical battles going on right now. For those of us who hear the call of the Morrigan, it’s time to join them. Choose your weapon. And know the difference between the enemy and those who are fighting on your side in a different function or service.
Gather your gear. Buckle on your armor. Pick up your weapons. The order to engage is imminent.
3. The Aesthetic of Witchcraft and the Return of Real Magic (November 2017). There have always been witches – people who use magic for unauthorized purposes. Today, those who feel threatened and excluded by those in power are attracted to the image of the witch and to the forms of witchcraft. And since there’s no risk of being burned at the stake, more and more people are not only willing to visit the witch, but to call themselves witches – even though their witchcraft is mostly a fashion choice. This is upsetting some people for whom witchcraft is serious business.
But witchcraft survived literal witch hunters – it will survive this too. And the publicity is good. Those of us who practice real magic need to be concerned with welcoming and teaching those who want more from their witchcraft than a fashion trend.
2. Why I’m Not Participating in the Mass Binding of Donald Trump and What I’m Doing Instead (February 2017). In his first month in office, Trump attacked refugees and immigrants, tried to silence scientists, removed federal protection for transgendered students, tried to silence the press, and appointed a cabinet dedicated to destroying public education, prioritizing economic exploitation over environmental protection, and ending net neutrality. It is no surprise that many witches and other magical practitioners decided to combine forces to oppose him.
But the group working that got the most publicity was poorly timed and even more poorly constructed. I declined to participate in it. But I’m not sitting out – I’m doing my own combination of magic and mundane action.
1. The Re-emergence of the Fair Folk in the Ordinary World (March 2017). The Fair Folk never really went away. Perhaps they came into this world less often, but mainly we stopped noticing them. Now we’re seeing them, hearing them, and feeling the impact of their presence on an increasingly frequent basis. We’d best pay attention.
Not only was this the most widely read post of the year by a considerable margin, it generated a ton of comments, some on the blog and many more on Facebook. Some criticized my North American / Celtic-centric approach, while others suggested that the changes aren’t with the Good Neighbors or with the Otherworld but within ourselves. Those criticisms have merit, and I addressed them in a follow-up post titled What’s Changing: The World or Us?
Ultimately I don’t know who’s right or to what degree. But I do know our world is changing rapidly and not for the better. We need the help of all our allies, which means we need to be allies worthy of help. The Fair Folk are re-emerging in the ordinary world. Take the time to learn a thing or two about them so they will be more likely to see you as an honorable person who they can deal with honorably.
In 2016 it seemed like a new horror was dropping on us every week. 2017 has been less shocking, but only because the reality of the times has started to sink in. This is the new normal.
The good news is that more and more people are realizing that things don’t just get better on their own. It takes work. More people are engaged: some politically, but others magically and religiously.
Who can stand against us when we align ourselves with the currents of Nature? Who can stand against us when we ally ourselves with our Good Neighbors in honor and respect? Who can stand against us when rank upon rank of mighty ancestors surround us? And who can stand against us when we ally ourselves with the Gods?
Thank you for all your support this year. Here’s to a year of deeper practice, stronger devotion, and more powerful magic in 2018.