Patron deities

The concept of patron deities in polytheism caused me a lot of trouble back in the day. I was on a polytheist mailing list and it seemed like everyone on the list had a patron deity who had approached them personally. They were also adamant that the deity approached them and not the other way around. So I thought I should have a patron deity. This left me uniquely vulnerable to what happened next.

… which was that I had a vision of Jesus. Helpfully he showed up one time with Kwan Yin and another time with Aslan… but it was hard to know what to do with this vision. I thought it was a call for him to be my patron deity.

But here’s the thing: just like with human relationships, if someone (deity, human, or wight) wants to be in relationship with you, but you don’t want to be in relationship with them, you don’t have to reciprocate or be in relationship. Consent applies to relationships with deities and spirits too.

I discuss this experience in more depth in the book, but the reason I’m mentioning it now is that John Beckett has published an excellent article on how patron deities are actually a rare occurrence in polytheism. He writes,

patron deities are a real and valid thing in contemporary Paganism. But they aren’t for everyone, and they aren’t the most important thing in the world, even for polytheists. Especially for polytheists.

John Beckett

He also points out that in the ancient world, deities were patrons of entire cities and countries, not usually of individuals.

Nowadays, the majority of people in the places that had patron deities no longer worship them, so if deities want patronage relationships, they are necessarily with individuals.

He says that a patronage relationship is not the first step to working with a deity — it’s much further along the process of interacting with them:

Are you interested in a specific deity? Do Their values and virtues appeal to you? Do Their stories resonate with you? Then start worshipping them. Pray, meditate, and make offerings. Do it consistently and see what happens. Most times They respond in a positive manner. Let the relationship develop organically – let Them tell you what They want from you, and what They offer you in return.

Introducing yourself to a God with “will you be my patron?” isn’t very different from introducing yourself to another human and asking “will you marry me?”

John Beckett

I’m so glad he wrote this article: it’s eminently sensible and helpful.

John Beckett

Changing Paths is published by 1000Volt Press and is available in paperback and ebook formats. The goal of the book is to help you decide your own path by guiding you through the perils and pitfalls of the terrain, and asking questions to help you deepen your understanding of the reasons for your desire to change religions or leave your religion. It will also help people who have already left their religion but want to process the emotional impact.

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