Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Paternosters: Greatest Hits

Excuse the geekery, but I attended a talk on Google Analytics recently, and I've now installed it on this blog. Google Analytics is a free service that can provide some very interesting data on web traffic, even for such a humble blog as this one ;)

First, there must be more than seventeen of you out there reading this, since the blog is getting in the range of 100 visitors per day. This is, of course, a very modest number compared to the "super sites" out there, but it seems to be fairly steady over time.

Second, it's interesting to see which pages come up as most popular. It looks like a little over half the people that come here do so as the result of a search of some kind, and about 2/3 of those are word searches rather than image searches. The image searchers may or may not be interested in what this blog is actually about, but I'd think the word searchers are more likely to.

(By the way, many of my posts have one or more "labels" which are listed at the foot of each post. If you want to see more posts on a particular subject, click on the label.)

Overall, the most popular pages seem to be the series of posts I wrote on Protestants and the rosary. There are four of these posts and three of them are in the top ten (at least in the small sample I have right now). I've actually noticed before when I look at the "live" feed in the sidebar that these show up rather often.

Next most popular, apparently, are people searching on the word "paternoster." I'm a bit surprised by that, since I wouldn't think the word is all that well known. But perhaps these are people looking for a definition.

Third most popular -- again, rather to my surprise -- are the posts I wrote on Islamic rosaries. This isn't actually something I know a whole lot about, but apparently the dearth of good information in English that I remarked upon when I wrote these posts still continues, since I'm pretty consistently getting several visitors a day looking for this subject. And not a few of them from countries where Islam is the majority religion.

Below this, the numbers get too small to really draw much of a conclusion from. I also suspect that there may be "runs" on a specific article for a few days when someone elsewhere on the Web mentions a subject. But here are a few that turn up fairly consistently.

Bean Beads. I suspect these two posts get visitors when someone searches on a specific type of seed (such as spina-christi) or on the words "seed" and "rosary." I wish I had more information on this, because I continue to see seeds that I can't identify used in rosaries, but it's often impossible to tell what they are from a photo.

Knots. Apparently I'm one of only a few sources out there that say anything about the actual knots used in today's common knotted cord rosaries. I also get visits from people searching for "Franciscan cord knots" which are basically the same knot, at least according to what shows up in historical paintings.

Saint Anthony. I am not at all sure what people who come here are looking for, but all of the Saint Anthony posts get visits. Some people seem to be searching for Saint Anthony's distinctive Tau-shaped cross, but others go to other posts in the series and I can't tell why.

Trisagion. Apparently the Trisagion is uncommon and intriguing enough that I'm still on the first page of Google links when people search for either the prayer itself or the Trisagion rosary.

Rosary for the Dead. Again it seems that there's not a lot out there specifically about this devotion. People also come here when they're trying to identify a four-decade rosary (which this is).

Roses. I'm quite happy to see my posts on rose-petal beads get traffic, because I'm mythbusting here. A lot of people have heard that medieval rosaries were made of rose petals: as far as I have been able to tell, this is simply not true, so I've tried to show how rose petals actually *were* used, which is quite interesting in itself.

Skulls. There are quite a few posts about this, but the one that I get the most questions about (not just web traffic) is the one about skulls on the crucifix of a rosary. Apparently some people are under the impression that only nuns and monks had crosses with a skull at the foot, but actually this is not a rare style and I'm happy to explain it. Also, modern Goth culture has linked skulls and rosaries together in a lot of people's minds, although the actual history doesn't really bear out this connection in the way most people seem to think.

Subjects that have had scattered attention in the last few days include milagros, pro-life rosaries, and rosaries on belts.

The popularity of some posts is giving me ideas. I'm actually gathering material for a post on the modern "belt rosaries" or "habit rosaries" worn by monks and nuns, because there seems to be a lot of confusion about them. I've also got more information stacked up about various other aspects of Protestant rosaries. Anglican rosaries are pretty well represented on the Web, but there's not a lot out there about Lutheran versions (for instance) and I was surprised to discover there are actually beads used by Unitarians. Then there are the currently popular "story bracelets," where each color or shape of bead stands for a particular quality or incident -- I suspect these have a longer history than one might think.

Now the real challenge: to find the time to write!