As I mentioned in the last post, 2020 has been just as bizarre in blogging as it has in everything else. As a result, all of the Top 10 posts of 2020 are from the first four months of the year. I thought about trying to come up with some sort of weighted average, but at the end of the day, the numbers are what they are.
But I am going to include the “Next 5” – the top five posts from May through December. They’re important too.
These are the top ten posts of the year on Under the Ancient Oaks, as measured by page views. Only 2020 posts are eligible. The Solitary Rituals and the 8 Things To Do series are always very popular, but nobody wants to see the same posts on the Top 10 list year after year.
10. A Modern Pagan Guide to Cursing (April 2020)
Some people say that cursing is the new “in thing” and they’re throwing curses left and right over trivial matters. Others say no ethical witch would ever curse, and if they did the Threefold Law would make them regret it.
As I see it, cursing is the big hammer in the toolbox of the magician. You don’t need it often, and if you try to use it when you need a smaller tool you’ll just make things worse – for yourself as well as for everyone else.
But when you need it, you need it.
9. The Morrigan Demands Persistence Not Perfection (January 2020)
It seems that every January I end up writing about the Morrigan. I never plan it, but when the Battle Raven says “you, Druid – write this!” I write it.
In January I saw people who work with and for the Morrigan express sadness and regret that things they had planned to do for Her hadn’t goen the way they hoped. After the last one, I heard the Great Queen say “I demand persistence, not perfection.”
8. For Beginning Witches and Pagans Who Want More (March 2020)
I see so many people calling themselves witches who seem more concerned with how they dress and what they buy than with the actual witchcraft they work. It’s not my job to tell them they’re wrong or that they’re shorting themselves – that’s for them to decide. My job is to be here as an entry point for those who want something more.
Speaking of beginning witches and Pagans, this post was the outcome of several questions for Conversations Under the Oaks (which I probably should do again in January). There was some concern for beginners moving too far too fast… and also some “get off my lawn.”
At the end of the day, age and experience are secondary concerns. Either you can do something or you can’t. And sometimes even very smart people have to learn things the hard way.
6. 5 Things to Pay Attention to During the Lockdown (March 2020)
As the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread across the United States we all found ourselves in some degree of lockdown, resulting in disruptions to our mundane lives and our spiritual practices. And here we are again in late December <sigh>.
Maintain your spiritual practice. Don’t just pray to your Gods, listen for Their direction. Don’t just make offerings to your ancestors, listen for their wisdom. Don’t just say hello to your local land spirits, become their allies.
5. 6 Pagan Roles To Fill During The Quarantine… And Afterward (April 2020)
By mid-April most states started “reopening” and we hoped the worst was behind us. It wasn’t.
But the disruption to our lives – including our religious and spiritual lives – showed that there are roles our wider community needs filled, now and in the future. Technology Chief, Pastoral Care Coordinator, Philosopher and/or Theologian, Shrine Keeper, Hedgewitch. And there will always be a place for Pagan lay people – those who want to honor the Gods but otherwise live ordinary lives.
4. The End of Beltane as “The Sexy Holiday” (April 2020)
Early modern Paganism emphasized the idea that sex is natural and sacred, not sinful or shameful. That was a good and necessary thing. But somewhere along the way we ended up with the idea that Beltane is a time for orgies in the woods, or at least, a time when everybody should be having a lot of sex.
And every year, we’re reminded that too many people exploited the idea of sacred sexuality for abusive purposes, and some still do. The sexual imagery of Beltane is often unwelcoming to people who aren’t cis, straight, and partnered.
This post generated a lot of comments, some here and more on Facebook. A few people really like the idea of Beltane as the sexy holiday and they push back on any attempts to change it.
I’m already thinking about a follow-up post for Beltane 2021…
3. Our Gods Are Not Jealous Gods: The Importance of Building a Pagan Worldview (February 2020)
From time to time I see people talking about how a certain God is angry with them for paying attention to other deities. Or how they’ve been told They want an exclusive relationship, and hinted that Bad Things will happen if They don’t get it.
This is almost always an inaccurate reading of the situation. Our Gods want what They want, but beyond that They are not jealous Gods.
Why we think they’re jealous is a symptom of an even larger problem.
2. A Pagan Response to the Coronavirus (March 2020)
This was my first post about the pandemic. At the time (March 15) there was still some denial among well-meaning people. I needed to make the point that it was – and still is – very real.
A plague is not an individual thing – how we respond has an impact on other people in the world. I encouraged everyone to read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.
But also, remember that as magical people, we have skills that others do not. Magic alone won’t keep you safe from the Coronavirus, but magic can give your mundane efforts some extra juice. Maintain your spiritual practice. Remember your ancestors.
And remember that while someday the pandemic will be over, things will not go back to normal, because this is Tower Time and normal is an illusion.
1. How to Do Paganism Wrong – Nine Arrogant and Offensive Ways (January 2020)
A UK tabloid writer picked up a book titled The Modern Witch’s Guide to Happiness and decided to become a witch – for a week. What she wrote about her experiences was pretty much what you’d expect: superficial, sarcastic, and condescending.
But one good thing came out of all this – the writer gave us a prime example of how to do Paganism wrong.
This post would have been #1 even if it had come out in August.
The Next 5
The Hard Cure for Conspiracy Theories (June 2020, #11 overall)
As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough on its own, we’ve seen an explosion of conspiracy theories. It doesn’t help when the President of the United States is spreading them.
Conspiracy theories are popular because people want simple answers to complicated situations, because they lack basic knowledge, and because conspiracy theories provide meaning – they let people feel like they’re in on a secret.
The only alternative I see is mysticism. It’s not an easy alternative, but it generates real and authentic experiences in which we can find the kind of identity and meaning that conspiracies can never match.
What Did You Expect From Tower Time? (June 2020, #14 overall)
Those of us who’ve been talking about Tower Time and The Storm for years should not be surprised by anything going on, in politics, in Nature, or in the world of spirit. Let’s quit trying to act respectable and become the strongest, most competent witches, Pagans, and other magical people that we can be, that we need to be, and deep down, that we want to be.
I’ll be teaching “Navigating Tower Time – Magic For an Era of Change” early next year. Registration opens in January.
The Darkness is Returning – And That’s a Good Thing (August 2020, #16 overall)
This was a post I wrote for myself – that it was so popular with others was a bonus.
Texas summers can be oppressive. When the days start getting shorter, it’s a reminder that cooler weather is coming. And this year, it was also a reminder that even pandemics won’t last forever.
The Election Continues but the Referendum on the Soul of America Is Over (November 2020, #17 overall)
I am beyond relieved that Joe Biden won the US Presidential election and that Donald Trump’s days are numbered – that number is now 22. But while the election ended up being not as close as it seemed on Election Night, it was still far closer than it should have been.
This election was a referendum on the soul of America. I honestly believed that after having watched and listened to Donald Trump day in and day out for four years, a significant number of people who voted for Trump in 2016 would recognize their error and vote him out.
74 million people decided they like the way Donald Trump governs. Or at least, they’re OK with it.
The soul of America is rotten.
Why It’s So Hard To Work Magic Right Now (September 2020, #19 overall)
There are times when magic is a lot of fun. But this isn’t one of them, and if I wait for it to become fun again I may not be doing anything for a long time. That would make things even worse. Sometimes working magic is work. But sometimes work is necessary.