Blog post

The 2000th article on Under the Ancient Oaks

The first post on Under the Ancient Oaks was published on June 29, 2008. Thirteen and a half years later, it is the 2000and Publish.

I did two major retrospectives recently. In 2018, I wrote 10 Years Under Ancient Oaks, which tells how this blog started and how it became what it is today. Last year, I wrote 13 Year Blogiversary of Under the Ancient Oaks, which talked more about the state of the blog and future plans. These messages are sufficient in themselves and I do not want to repeat them.

But 2000 posts is a big number, and I feel the need to acknowledge that somehow.

I started posting posts with milestone numbers (#1, #100, #500, etc.) but too many of them were posts I’d rather not draw attention to. Ray Bradbury was right: everyone’s first million words is crap. I had written quite a bit before I started blogging – I think I hit my million words at the end of 2011. It’s somewhere around #450. Most of the ones before weren’t great.

Going through the list of articles, it became clear that blogging is never done in a vacuum. My early posts were very UU-centric. Not only was I very involved in my local UU church at the time, but most of the other bloggers I read were also UU. My writing gradually became more Pagan-centric, especially after moving to Patheos Pagan in early 2013. When the polytheistic movement began to gain momentum around 2014, the focus of my blog changed again. Today, I’m a polytheist first, but I always blog about hot topics, no matter what corner of the Big Tent they come from.

Blogs are best done in community. The more people who blog and blog regularly, the better it is for all of us.

The other thing that became clear is that I really fulfill three distinct roles on the blog. Sometimes I’m a journalist, I tell people what’s going on. Sometimes I’m a columnist, offering my analysis and opinions on events and issues. And sometimes I am a teacher, sharing my beliefs and practices with those who care.

My two most-read articles of all time are analysis and opinion (“Adulting” Is an Indictment of Society, Not of Millennials from 2016 and Dude, It’s You from 2014), but all the other top articles are teaching positions.

And now I’m at 2000 posts. Rather than yet another variant of a Top 10, for the 2000sand I’d like to post a few posts that, in retrospect, are more important than perhaps we thought at the time.

#9 – Experience, belief and practice – August 2008

All those first million words aren’t crap. In my 9and Overall, I wrote 341 words that articulated the relationship between experience, belief, and practice very well. It’s a virtuous circle – you can enter anytime and move in either direction. But if you work your way to all three, you will have the beginnings of a meaningful and robust religion.

It’s important enough that I developed it into The path of paganism.

#153 – Martin Luther King Jr. on Mystery Religions and Christianity – September 2009

When the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was a seminary student in 1950, he wrote an article titled “The Influence of Mystery Religions on Christianity.” King wrote:

It can hardly be denied that Christianity has been heavily influenced by the Mystery religions, both ritually and doctrinally.

There is nothing earth-shattering in the diary – just a good religious story of the kind that mainline Protestants recognize but mostly ignore and fundamentalists actively deny. My only disappointment is that King repeated a theme that was already quite old at the time: that the imperfect pagan religions were only a preliminary step towards the “more perfect” Christian religion which replaced them.

Notes added by the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford (where King’s papers are archived) indicate that the paper earned an A.

#391 – fly at night – June 2011

My book reviews tend not to be read well. I do them anyway because books are the main way most people learn about paganism and witchcraft. I want to promote the good ones and warn people of the bad ones.

It’s one of the good ones.

It is an anthology of hedgewitchery, a practice which has “less concern for the heavily scripted and ceremonial aspects of…modern paganism and witchcraft” and which involves “the search for divine wisdom…l interacting with ancestors, fae, and other spirits…and working in the afterlife to manifest material advantage in this world.

In discussions about whether to use the term “shaman”, someone (can’t remember who) suggested that the closest Western equivalent to “shaman” was “hedgewitch”. I tend to agree.

fly at night is always printed. The Amazon link in the review no longer works, but this one does.

#487 – Common Ritual Mistakes and How to Avoid Them – January 2012

In 2012 I started writing more teaching posts – this one is one of them. Doing a public ritual is not just doing your private ritual for a few more people. It has its own set of concerns and issues, and I still see too many people ignoring them.

It’s not complicated. Just pay attention and think.

#748 – A call for piracy – November 2013

If I rewrote this post today, I would take a much harsher tone. While I still manage to navigate the mainstream world, just playing the game is getting harder and harder, and the rules are constantly changing to benefit the rich and powerful.

#1051 – Sore Quadriceps and the Reality of the Pagan Priesthood – November 2015

This is one of my favorite posts of all time. For this hour-long ritual that you attended, there were people working 6 hours before you arrived, and again 6 hours after you left. True leadership isn’t about power or fame, it’s about doing what needs to be done, even when it’s a ton of work.

When we redid the spiral maze in 2019, I led the setup, but let the younger ones place the candles and pick them up.

#1276 – Why I had to make a clean break from Christianity – April 2017

Traditional witchcraft and classical occultism were gaining popularity in 2017 – they are still going strong. Much of what we have (especially with the grimoire tradition) has roots in Christianity. It’s a valid approach, and one that works for many people. But it doesn’t work for me. Because of the trauma I went through growing up in a fundamentalist church, I had to make a clean break from Christianity.

#1446 – Paganism in the dry season – May 2018

This message turned out to be rather prescient – unfortunately. It’s about what you do when you want to keep moving, but it’s difficult and joyless, when the vision of a better world and a deeper practice is obscured by smoke and mist.

Kind of like where we’ve been for two years.

#1719 – I’m better than Vanessa Ives – I hope to be as good as Vanessa Ives – March 2020

Throughout the pandemic I have watched dreadful penny almost in a loop. It’s beautiful, it’s fascinating, and in some ways it’s inspiring, even though I hated the ending.

I escaped the toxic religion of my childhood, and in that I am better than Vanessa Ives. But the magic comes at a price – a price that Vanessa willingly paid. Would I do the same? Would I do what needs to be done, no matter the cost?

When that time comes, I hope to be as good as Vanessa Ives.