2018 has been a great year on Under the Ancient Oaks. It’s been a record year for readership despite both Facebook and Google making it more difficult for blogs to be seen. Engagement is up, both in blog comments and on social media. Current events posts did well, as did some deeper Pagan and polytheist topics – I love it when the deep posts do well. “Conversations Under the Oaks” brought new topics to the blog.
The video series faded away. A few of you loved them, but in general they weren’t well received, and they were very time-intensive to make. But I learned some things about video, and I’ll use it again sooner or later.
2018 was a great year for Patheos Pagan as a whole. More writers, more posts, and a record number of readers. Pagan blogging isn’t a competitive thing – good writing stimulates demand for more good writing. When some of us do well, all of us do well. I don’t agree with all the writers, but I’m not supposed to – different perspectives are good. If you only read my blog, check out some of the others in the “Popular at Patheos Pagan” list on the right, or in the “Trending at Patheos Pagan” list at the bottom.
These are the top ten posts for the year on Under the Ancient Oaks, as measured by page views. Only 2018 posts are eligible. Also, I excluded the “8 Things To Do” series. If I hadn’t, Winter Solstice would have been 2nd and Beltane would have been 4th.
10. The Morrigan Calls More Than Warriors (February 2018). “What does the Morrigan want with me? I’m not a warrior.”
Maybe you need to become a warrior. In the era before professional armies, if your village was attacked, you fought, whether you were any good at it or not. Or maybe you need to serve Her causes in a support role. I am oathed to the Morrigan, but I am not a warrior. I did not promise to fight for Her. Instead, I promised to perform Her devotions, to tell Her stories, and to serve Her community.
The Gods call who They call. If the Morrigan is calling you, you can be sure She has a good reason, even if you can’t see what that reason is. Your challenge is to figure out how best to respond.
9. House Cleansings Gone Wrong and How to Avoid Them (November 2018). House cleansing and blessing is basic Paganism. It’s a good and effective way to make your living space clean and safe. It’s a way to make it yours.
But before you begin, listen. Look around. Do some research. See what’s going on, and then think carefully about how to proceed. And whatever you do, resist the urge to break out the Big Bad Banishing magic unless you’re sure that’s what’s needed.
8. A Letter To Those Trying To Convert Me (August 2018). Back in the summer I got more than my usual share of proselytizers. Their goal was to aggressively convert me to their religion, not by convincing me it’s a better way, but by insisting it’s the only way. Some were Christians, some were atheists, and a few were Muslims.
Needless to say, it didn’t work. It did succeed in annoying me enough to write this post.
Do you understand the sheer arrogance required to believe that your way is the One True Way and everyone else is categorically wrong?
Whatever argument these people make, I’ve heard it before. I’ve examined it, contemplated it, and rejected it. Paganism has been a good thing for me, and it continues to be a good thing. I’ve made my decision and I expect others to respect it.
Still, I support a free and open Marketplace of Religions. Proselytizing is bad, but publicizing is fine – and it’s necessary, something we Pagans would do well to remember.
So present your religion to the public. Let your God call who he will call. Welcome those who want to join you.
And leave the rest of us alone.
7. Enough With the Mabon Hate! (September 2018). Our Celtic ancestors left us definitive names for the four fire festivals: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Modern Paganism adopted Yule for the Winter Solstice and Ostara for the Spring Equinox. A few of us call the Summer Solstice Litha, but mostly I hear it called Midsummer or simply the Summer Solstice.
What do we call the Autumn Equinox?
There are several possibilities: Harvest Home, Cornucopia, the Feast of Avalon, or Haligmonað, which means “holy month.” For the past five years Denton CUUPS has celebrated it as Gleichentag, which means “even day.” But in 1974 Aidan Kelly named it Mabon and it stuck, and some Pagans aren’t happy about it.
I don’t have a lot of energy for this controversy.
If you just can’t stand to hear it called Mabon, then by all means call it something else. If you can get enough people doing it, it may catch on… But every time you scream “don’t call it Mabon!” or “Mabon has nothing to do with the Fall Equinox” you perpetuate the name in common usage…
The name of the Autumn Equinox has changed many times, and it can change again. But if it does, it will be because enough people flock to a new name, not because Mabon gets shouted down on the internet every September.
6. Their Ways Are Not Our Ways: A Warning And A Call (September 2018). Even the most orthodox of religions aren’t practiced at the same level of commitment and intensity by everyone. Paganism is certainly no exception. We have lots of beginners. We have people who are nominally Pagan, people who are serious about what they do, and people who could rightly be called devout and pious. One level of intensity isn’t “better” than the others – the question is finding the level that matches your needs, desires, and commitment.
Deep spiritual work and ecstatic experiences of Gods and spirits may look glamourous. It isn’t. It will turn your life upside down. It will unmake you and remake you into something you may not recognize. It will remove normal boundaries and put you on call day and night.
The line between ecstasy and insanity is exceedingly thin.
Do anything else if you can. Be a Pagan doctor or a Heathen lawyer or a Kemetic store clerk. Be a Wiccan High Priestess and coordinate the local Pagan Pride Day.
But if nothing short of the repeated intimate knowledge of your patron deity will do, if the Morrigan or Odin or Hermes won’t leave you alone until you join Their team, if there is nothing that can take the place of running wild with the God of the Forest, then do it.
“So surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.”
They’re running me into the ground. And I love it. Dear Gods, I love it.
5. Why I Don’t Like Sexy Morrigan Imagery (January 2018). Go looking for pictures and statues of the Morrigan and you’ll find a wide variety of themes, from regal queens to bold warriors to sexy temptresses – and some that attempt to combine all three. Some people have raised objections to these images grounded in various political and gender theories. Those are valid, but they’re out of my area of expertise. I simply don’t like sexy Morrigan imagery.
It’s inauthentic. It’s a distraction. It often crosses the line from sex-positive to sex-obsessed.
The Morrigan is not a Sex Goddess. There is one time in the literary record where She had sex, and that’s with someone who may have been Her husband. She made an offer to Cú Chulainn which may or may not have included sex, but in any case was refused. That’s it.
My devotion to the Morrigan and my work for Her has nothing to do with sex, or even with fit and attractive bodies. It has nothing to do with being sex-positive. It’s about the decidedly unsexy work of devotion, of communication, and of dealing with the aftermath of conflict and war.
Sexy Morrigan pictures and statues are mostly inauthentic and they’re a distraction from my work for the Great Queen. And so I avoid them.
4. 9 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was A New Pagan (January 2018). I have mixed feelings about trying to tell newcomers all the places we screwed up as baby Pagans. So much of our journeys are personal and individualized – the problems I had may be very different from the ones you face. And many times we have to learn things the hard way because we refuse to listen to anyone else.
But these stories can be helpful to beginners who read them at the right time. This is my list of things I wish I’d known as a new Pagan.
The list begins with “you have to deal with your own issues first” and “examine your worldview mindfully.” It ends with the reminder that how you make a living and how you make a life are two very different things.
3. 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan (March 2018). Different people come into Paganism for different reasons, but some of those reasons are bad reasons. In doing so, they set themselves up for disappointment, and they distract our movement from its higher goals.
Instead of seeking power, seek virtues. Instead of seeking secret knowledge, read and study. Too much knowledge is secret not because it’s hidden but because it’s ignored. Concentrate on honoring your ancestors, not on trying to find a direct connection to the ancients. Instead of looking for free sex, work to build a culture of consent.
2. Celebrating Wolfenoot as a Pagan (November 2018). Wolfenoot is the new holiday on November 23 that celebrates wolves, dogs, and people who are kind to dogs. It was invented by a seven year old boy in New Zealand and quickly took over social media. I expected this post to do well, but I had no idea it would end up the #2 post for the year.
Wolfenoot isn’t religious, but it’s definitely spiritual, and it has a quasi-religious tone to it. It’s a great example of organic religion – how we humans celebrate and memorialize things that are meaningful to us. It didn’t come from anyone’s holy book. It has no theology, doctrines, or creeds. It arose organically – and then it spread with the speed of 21st century technology and interconnectedness.
I marked the first Wolfenoot with a small donation to a group that rescues wolves and wolf-dog hybrids that people foolishly try to turn into pets.
1. Did You Think The Gods Were Lying? (July 2018). Sooner or later there comes a time when it hits us: “oh, shit – this is real.” And in an instant we have to make a decision. Do we accept what our senses are telling us and begin the process of rearranging our lives to accommodate the new reality? Or do we pretend we didn’t really see what we know we saw and go back to watching reality TV?
The political situation in the United States has been bad for a long time. But the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (who was ultimately replaced by Brett Kavanaugh) seemed to be the “this is real” moment for a lot of people.
It shouldn’t have surprised anyone.
For the last seven years, many of us heard a warning: “a storm is coming – get ready.” I have four major posts on this, in addition to discussing it on an on-going basis in other posts. And it isn’t just me… other knowledgeable, experienced Pagans and polytheists heard and saw and wrote about the same things.
Did you think we were making it up? Did you think Loki or Puck or some mischievous spirit was playing us for a laugh? Did you think the Gods were lying to us?
This was the most widely read post on Under the Ancient Oaks since “Adulting” in January 2016. It has more page views than the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th posts on this list combined. If I re-did the Top 10 Posts of All Time it would rank 5th, after less than six months.
I think most people understand the Gods weren’t lying to us. This post was popular because it confirmed what so many of us have been thinking and seeing for quite some time: the storm is here.
2018 has been a mixed year. It was better than 2017 and far better than the Year of Death (2016), but it was still a reminder that while the weather varies from day to day and year to year, the climate is shifting steadily in an unfavorable direction. And I’m not just talking about meteorology.
The good news is that where ever you turn, illusions are breaking. We now have no choice but to see the things we either couldn’t see or refused to see in the past. That’s painful, but when we see things as they are then we can begin doing what must be done to make them better.
Thank you for all your support this year. In 2019 may we grow deeper and stronger in our in our devotion, our magic, and our work in the ordinary world.