2019 has been another great year on Under the Ancient Oaks. It’s been a record year for readership, and I’ve been very happy with the conversations that have come out of the blog, both here and on Facebook. My second book Paganism In Depth came out this year. The on-line class based on it exceeded my wildest expectations, and there’s a new on-line class starting in January.
My blogging continues to be a mixture of theory, practice, and current events – in the political world and in the spiritual world. I feel like I blogged less about politics this year (though I discussed it more in social media) but then I see two explicitly political posts in the Top 10 list.
But I also see posts on theology, spiritual practice, magic, and dealing with the metaphysical upheaval we find ourselves living in. The same pattern is there in the second ten and the third ten. My Paganism is a holistic Paganism. I hope yours is too.
These are the top ten posts for the year on Under the Ancient Oaks, as measured by page views. Only 2019 posts are eligible. Also, I’ve excluded the “8 Things To Do” series. If I hadn’t, Ostara would have been 2nd and Imbolc would have been 3rd.
10. 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Swear an Oath to a God (and 3 Reasons You Should) (February 2019). Our contemporary society doesn’t understand oaths, and it certainly doesn’t understand the gravity of swearing an oath to a God. Oaths aren’t required to have a relationship with a deity, and you shouldn’t make an oath if you don’t fully understand what you’re getting into. What is sworn cannot be unsworn.
But if you’ve been repeatedly asked for an oath, if you want to strengthen the relationship, and if you can’t imagine doing anything else, perhaps it’s time.
I have oaths with three deities. They have been positive and beneficial, but they have not been easy. Know what you’re getting into.
9. What it Means that Nobody Believes Jeffrey Epstein Killed Himself (August 2019). In August, hedge fund operator and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein died in jail. The Federal Bureau of Prisons said he hanged himself, even though the evidence is far from conclusive.
An informal survey of my Facebook feed ran about 15 to 1 that his death wasn’t suicide… and I have very few friends who are conspiracy theorists. On the contrary, some of my most skeptical and well-grounded friends found it far easier to believe Epstein was murdered than to believe he killed himself.
If Epstein was murdered, it means there are people who are 1) incredibly rich, 2) who have no problem paying to have sex with underage girls, 3) who are willing to kill to protect their dirty secrets, and 4) have the connections to reach inside a federal prison to make it happen.
And that’s a scary thought.
8. Why I Believe in the Gods (October 2019). There seem to be as many opinions on the Gods in the Pagan community as there are Pagans. This includes those who don’t believe in any Gods, or who believe They’re the anthropomorphization of natural forces or metaphors for psychological phenomena.
It’s not my place to tell those people they’re wrong. It is my place to offer a differing viewpoint.
When I say “I believe in the Gods” I mean that I affirm the existence of individual beings who are the mightiest of spirits and who exist independently of human minds and human cultures. Though They often work through humans and other persons, that is by choice and not by necessity. They are fully capable of acting on Their own.
Belief is not the most important thing, but it’s an important thing.
As for me, I believe in the Gods because I’ve experienced the Gods.
7. Druid Reading Recommendations: A Revised List (February 2019). I’m a Druid – and a rather public Druid – so I get requests for recommendations for books on Druidry all the time. In 2011 I put together a blog post of Druid Reading Recommendations – this year I decided to update it.
The list contains recommendations for introductory books, books on the historical Druids, and books on the Revival Druids. And it points out one book to avoid at all costs.
After I published this list I learned that two of the books on it are out of print. Ronald Hutton’s The Druids is currently available used at reasonable prices. This book isn’t required reading to practice Druidry, but it is very helpful in understanding how Druids have been seen throughout history. It shouldn’t be the first book on Druidry you read, but do read it eventually if you can.
Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism is currently overpriced through used sources. While it’s a good introductory book, there are other options that are more reasonably priced – there is no need to strain your budget for this one. Some have raised concerns due to the now-confirmed charges of sexual misconduct against Isaac. Isaac died in 2010 – he cannot benefit from you reading this book, nor will he suffer if you avoid it. As a society we have many opinions on how to deal with books, movies, and works of art made by people who did bad things. You must decide for yourself how best to proceed.
6. Why Pagans Don’t Proselytize (July 2019). We laugh at the memes asking “have you accepted Pan as your lord and satyr?” but the idea of Pagans seriously having that conversation borders on nonsensical. While publicizing our religions is good and necessary, there’s a big difference between that and the kind of high-pressure, fear and guilt based sales pitches of the conservative versions of Christianity and Islam.
Religious coercion is unethical. Most of us have been on the receiving end of aggressive proselytization and we don’t want to do that ourselves. We understand that religion is inherently uncertain, and unlike the religions who believe their way is the only way, we understand that many Gods call many different people to worship Them in many different ways.
5. You Didn’t Learn Witchcraft To Find A Parking Space (August 2019). Another day, another mass shooting. But I refuse to accept that there’s nothing that can be done to make these atrocities less frequent and less deadly, even if we can never completely eliminate them.
A few people interpreted this title as being judgmental against beginners, or against those who use magic for ordinary purposes. That wasn’t the intent, and the widespread popularity of this post tells me most people understand that.
“You didn’t become a witch so you could find a parking space at a crowded mall. You became a witch because it brought a bit of power and autonomy into your life.” I’m a Druid and not a witch, but when it comes to working magic there’s not a lot difference.
While high magic is traditionally a pursuit of the wealthy, low magic – including witchcraft – is the pursuit of ordinary people who find the doors of power closed to them. If those in power will do nothing to protect us, we can protect ourselves, using both magical and mundane methods.
4. The Morrigan Calls People In Different Life Situations (January 2019). I’ve been writing about the Morrigan and Her calls since 2012. This is the third straight year a Morrigan-related post has made the Top 10 – what She’s telling me to say is clearly resonating with many of you.
Some people ask “what could I possibly do for Her with my life the way it is?”
Maybe the Morrigan wants you to train and study for something She’s going to ask you to do five years from now. Maybe She wants you to clear some troublesome things – or some troublesome people – out of your life so you’ll be able to devote your full attention to Her when you’re done. Or maybe She wants you now, regardless of your situation.
I do not presume to know Her mind, but I feel confident in saying She values people in different life situations with different things to contribute – because I’ve seen Her do it.
If you feel the Call of the Morrigan, do not let your life situation keep you from saying “yes.”
3. The Gods Call Who They Call (July 2019). I wish I didn’t have to keep writing about this. Feeling called to the traditions of your ancestors is a good thing, but DNA isn’t religion.
The Gods call who They call. A study of history and an observation of contemporary polytheists clearly show They call who They want, for whatever reason They want. Race, skin color, national origin, language, gender, orientation – none of that matters. What matters is whether the person in question is willing to worship, work with, and work for the deity in question.
Do you want to have to explain to Odin or to Sekhmet why you told someone They called to Their service “you’d really be better off with a God from your own part of the world”? Gatekeeping the Gods is unnecessary, disrespectful, and dangerous.
2. Sacrificing Women’s Lives on the Altar of Political Purity (May 2019). I don’t like writing about abortion. The last thing the world needs is another man talking about what women should or shouldn’t do with their bodies. But in the aftermath of new dangerously restrictive abortion laws in multiple states, I had to say something.
These laws have nothing to do with “saving babies” and everything to do with sacrificing women’s lives on the altar of political purity. They are cruel and unjust laws passed by uncaring legislators for the sole purpose of screaming “I’m 100% pro-life!” while standing on the bleeding bodies of women trying to end pregnancies they cannot or should not or do not want to complete, and the bodies of those injured or killed giving birth under impossible circumstances.
These laws are clearly unconstitutional. They’re being passed knowing they will be challenged, in the hope that the new Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade after 46 years. Trump already has two justices on the court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 87 next year and Stephen Breyer will be 81.
Remember that when you’re trying to decide if you should support the Democratic nominee for President even though he or she isn’t your first choice.
1. A Ritual to Remove Curses We Place On Ourselves (August 2019). I knew this post would be popular. I had no idea it would be this popular. It got more views than #2 through #6 combined. It’s now the #3 post of all time, trailing only two posts that went viral in the mainstream.
I’m not sure how widespread self-cursing is, but apparently it’s more widespread than I thought. Most times we don’t realize what we’re doing even after it’s done. Self-curses tend to be rather embarrassing – it’s not something most of us want to talk about.
Idle words are not curses, but words plus desire is magic. If what we say we want isn’t what we really want, or if it’s something harmful, we get it anyway – and that can be a curse.
I know it happens, because I’ve done it myself. I’ve also composed and performed a ritual that successfully removed that curse. This post describes how to do it yourself.