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Author Topic: General/Non-Specific: Patron deities?  (Read 359 times)

wisteria27

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Patron deities?
« on: August 08, 2019, 07:25:06 am »
I stumbled upon a conversation being had between two employees at a metaphysical shop I go to for my crystals and herbs. One of them had only been Wiccan for a few months and was saying she'd chosen a patron deity. The other employee, whom I know from talking to her was raised pagan, said she'd never chosen a patron. She said she'd never really felt a pull to as specific God or Goddess more than any other. I didn't see anything wrong with that, but the other girl seemed totally flabbergasted and told the other girl that she wasn't trying hard enough, or taking her practice seriously. Which I found fairly offensive and rude considering I've been practicing since I was 15 (I'm 23) and have yet to find a patron deity.

My question is: Is that bad? Should I have a patron deity by now or is it not something that everybody does? I use a ton of different deities in my work, and have altars for several of them. Should I only have an altar for one? Am I offending them by having multiple... I'm worried now  :-\

Darkhawk

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Re: Patron deities?
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2019, 01:15:08 pm »
My question is: Is that bad? Should I have a patron deity by now or is it not something that everybody does? I use a ton of different deities in my work, and have altars for several of them. Should I only have an altar for one? Am I offending them by having multiple... I'm worried now  :-\

You don't need to worry.

What is meant by "patron deity" is a super-vague and nebulous thing in modern practice in any case.  There are any of a number of possible meanings, and many of them are fundamentally inapplicable to many people's practices.

It sounds like the first shop clerk is sort of doing the high school movie dating model of "patron": you have to be going steady with someone - one specific someone - or you're some kind of loser. :P  (As you might guess, I don't think this is a terribly mature attitude.)

Among the reasons this is not a terribly mature attitude: look at the actual ancient world with its lived polytheisms.  You'll see that people lived in an environment where the honoring of many gods was normal, and a single god was something of an aberration.  People would do the entirely appropriate thing that you seem to be doing - go to the god that was a specialist in whatever their current issues were for help.  They might choose among several specialists depending on personal preferences, or occasionally ask one god to intercede with another if they felt that was more likely to get something that worked.

The idea that one has to latch on to a specific Power and give them primacy is, very often, an attempt to hack basically monotheistic attitudes onto a polytheistic system and I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense.  (Sunflower and I compile notes on attitudes that strike us as clearly carrying over usually-Christian assumptions on How Religion Works into paganism and this one is definitely on The List.)

So, if "patron deity" doesn't mean "we're going steady", what are the other options?

In the classical world, for the most part, a patron deity was the one looking over a field of endeavour.  Basically, this is the god whose field of interests cover your job.  This meaning of patron is never about being someone's individual relationship; it's a general case thing.  (So, like: Aesclepius is the patron of doctors; any medical personnel might legitimately have a shrine to him as a patron.)  In the modern world, people sometimes come up with interesting takes on Who is the patron of each of their fields, but it's still a professonal interaction, whether someone thinks Mercury is in charge of their computer programming because it's about communication or Ptah because it's engineering, or whatever.  (And of course people who have historical pantheon-based practices will be looking within-pantheon for this match, as opposed to me writing a random post on the internet and trying to be inclusive.)

You get a more personal variant on this with gods who are the patrons of families - sometimes because of a claimed line of descent, sometimes because of some other point of interest.  (The Ramesseside pharaohs claimed the patronage of Set because of their red hair and aggressive tendencies.)  But again, this isn't about a person as an individual, but that person as a member of a group, and it's not going to be something that comes up for the overwhelming majority of modern pagans because even if we are members of kingroups that have distinct patronage that information is lost to us.

Similarly, you can have patrons of organizations, generally organizations founded in some way to further the interests of that particular god, or organizations whose goals are considered to be related to that god's goals.  Most of these organizations would be religious - a temple group might want to be focused on a particular god or subset of gods rather than an entire pantheon, one can easily imagine an organization focused on nymph veneration, say, but a group of pagan artists might choose to, for example, organize and as a group honor Freya.

Obviously, a lot of modern pagans don't parse "patron" to necessarily be about group membership.  There are also individual-linked usages.

There are people who have an intimate personal experience of being specifically chosen by a deity, who has particular demands and expectations.  This is the only case where I would expect a single shrine or any sort of exclusivity to be a part of the play, and then only if the god in question demands it.  (I think the only god I've heard of doing exclusivity demands frequently is Brighid, and for the majority of those I've seen it's been "Until you get your relationship with me sorted out" and then relaxes.)

(Which isn't to say that some gods Just Don't Get Along and may not be happy if followers hang out with both sides - I've heard that about Manannan and Neptune, for example.  Just... aside from those very rare "him or me" situations, separate shrines are generally fine, if expecting folks to share living arrangements try to see if they'd get on as roommates first!)

There are people who are particular priests or servants of one particular god, who may choose to use "patron" language.  There are people who have extensive personal commitments as part of a long-term relationship, and that may rise to the point of "patron" - but again, that's part of long-term, serious work with the Power in question.

There are also people who have chosen a particular focus of veneration, in which they are placing themselves into a god's sphere of influence - sometimes to the point of henotheism or monolatry - and where they filter their entire spiritual experiences through that one Power without denying others.  I find this a bit trippy, but it's legit (and has ancient antecedents), it's a particular form of intense personal devotion that some people are just wired up to prefer.  Some of them might use the word "patron".

And none of these are "And this is the one I found at the bottom of my Cracker Jack box, what's your prize?"
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

wisteria27

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Re: Patron deities?
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2019, 03:00:39 pm »
Thank you, that's what I thought. I found the entire thing to be childish and out of place. I felt like it completely defeated the point of being polytheistic. Like I have a handful of Goddesses that I have shrines for because I use them a lot, but I'm not going to stop using one because I feel closer to another. Her reaction to someone having different beliefs is what really irked me.

SunflowerP

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Re: Patron deities?
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2019, 02:50:22 pm »
Thank you, that's what I thought. I found the entire thing to be childish and out of place. I felt like it completely defeated the point of being polytheistic. Like I have a handful of Goddesses that I have shrines for because I use them a lot, but I'm not going to stop using one because I feel closer to another. Her reaction to someone having different beliefs is what really irked me.

A Reminder:
Hi, wisteria27,

Just a quick note:  Please remember to quote, even if you're just replying to the first message in the thread.  It makes the discussion easier to follow, and it's required by our rules. (If you're using tapatalk on a phone, please hold your finger down on the message you wish to reply to until the quote function pops up.)

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(I expect to be adding a topical reply shortly.)
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SunflowerP

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Re: Patron deities?
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2019, 08:21:42 pm »
(I expect to be adding a topical reply shortly.)

But not today; I put too much of my time into responding to your 11:11 post, Wisteria.

Sunflower
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“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” - Oscar Wilde
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My much-neglected blog "If You Ain't Makin' Waves, You Ain't Kickin' Hard Enough"

SunflowerP

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Re: Patron deities?
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2019, 02:23:47 am »
(I expect to be adding a topical reply shortly.)

And here it is, finally.

And none of these are "And this is the one I found at the bottom of my Cracker Jack box, what's your prize?"

Hanging it off of Darkhawk's snark (and adding some of my own, along with expanding and hopefully clarifying it more), but directed at Wisteria's OP.

There seems to be a notion, in some parts of Pagandom, that each practitioner is issued - already has, appointed by the cosmos or destiny or something, and only needs to identify them and make contact - one or more entities upon commencing their practice. This 'kit list' may include (different assumption-sets vary in which they include; I don't think I've ever seen one with all of them): one (1) deity, female; one (1) deity, male; one (1) spirit guide; one (1) totem animal; one (1) guardian angel... you get the idea.

This is, of course, nonsense; it's rather like (to continue Darkhawk's 'high school movie dating' analogy) assuming that, on entering high school, one will be assigned a best friend/sidekick, a love interest, a rival, etc., along with one's class schedule and library card. Of course, the reality is that whether one has those sort of people/roles in one's life or not, and with whom, depends on who one meets, who one likes (or dislikes), what relationships one chooses to form and develop, and whether the other party also wishes to form such a relationship - relationships with deities, assuming one has them at all, tend to conform more closely to that reality than to the imagined 'cast of characters'.

We're snarky about it, because we see it from time to time in new members of the forum, nearly always with the unstated assumption that This Is How It Works For Everyone Of All Branches Of Paganism, and if they ask, say, 'How do I go about finding My Goddess and My God?' everyone will see it as a perfectly normal routine query about a perfectly normal universal practice. It's that assumption about This Is How It's Done, by everyone, that's frustrating and sometimes irritating, rather than the querent's supposition that this is how they, personally, want to do it - which comes back to the incident in the witchy shop that you recounted, in which the one clerk was indeed rude and offensive in accusing the other of not trying hard enough/not taking it seriously.

Sunflower
I'm the AntiFa genderqueer commie eclectic wiccan Mod your alt-right bros warned you about.
I do so have a life; I just live part of it online!
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” - Oscar Wilde
"Nobody's good at anything until they practice." - Brina (Yewberry)
My much-neglected blog "If You Ain't Makin' Waves, You Ain't Kickin' Hard Enough"

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