Patron Deities- Are We Talking About the Same Thing?

June 24, 2015 at 11:24 pm 4 comments

It’s common in Pagan communities to hear people talk about their patron or matron deities. Within Neo-Paganism this could have a couple of origins- patron saints- who are regarded as in being guardians of a particular profession, family, area of life (ex: a type of illness) place, or specific person. Another origin may be the Holy Guardian Angel, who is called upon in Thelema and some types of ceremonial magic(k) more generally. The concept of a personal guardian spirit that watches over someone all their lives is found in many cultures, but I feel that is a different, though related topic to that of patron deities.

An important thing to remember, however is that the term “patron” is used many different ways and may even have more specific meanings for particular traditions. Therefore, it’s best when in a pan-Pagan community space- be it online or in person, to think of “patron” in the broadest possible sense, and narrow down from there as a person shares more about their practice and theology. Having a patron (or patrons) is not a requirement to be a True Pagan ™ though it may be encouraged, recommended or required in particular traditions.

Common Uses of Patron

A- Deity that a person feels closest to, and is their all-purpose “go to god” (this what I have with Brighid)

B- Deity that a person has formally dedicated themselves to serve, typically by swearing an oath- either temporary as for a year and a day like dedicating to a coven, or for life.

C- Dedication or devotion to a deity that involves being a priest/ess or monastic-like lifestyle. In this case, the person may still use the term patron, but typically more commonly call themselves a priest or devotee of X. The relationship is often seen like that of a parent and child, or a spouse or lover.

Assumptions and Misconceptions

There is often debate about whether a person can choose a patron or must wait for “signs” that a deity has chosen them. I think either side can be taken to an extreme with people assuming that is someone chooses a deity, then they must have randomly chosen one out of a hat for shallow reasons or at the other end, people worry about not having had enough of a dramatic “Burning Bush” type experience.

Some polytheists (especially some Heathens and Hellenics) argue against the idea of patrons, claiming that they are not historical and are influence of monotheism, particularly American evangelical Christianity a la “my personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. I do think there are some folks who have rather immature relationships with their patrons, especially when they seem to expect them to swoop down and rescue them from any screw-up they make- I call this phenomenon “My Little Loki/Hermes/Bast”, et al or My Little Totem for that matter.  But there are historic examples of close personal relationships with deities in many cultural contexts- for both priestly and lay practitioners. Having a patron also does not mean the person stops being a polytheist, they generally will worship a variety of spirits and gods, with particular focus on the patron(s). That said, henotheism- the worship of only one deity (or form of deity) while acknowledging the existence of others- or even occasionally honoring them for festivals is an acceptable norm in certain traditions such as Kemetic (Egyptian) religion and Hinduism.

Culturally Specific Terms

Heathenry & Asatru: Fulltrui–  in Icelandic fulltrui means trusted friend or fully trusted one

Essay by Morgan Daimler on Fulltrui

Hinduism: Ishta devi or ishta devata– in Sanskrit this means cherished or beloved deity- an individual chooses a form of God to focus their devotion. Looking for websites about this, but I’m not sure which ones are the best sources on Hinduism…

Kemetic Orthodoxy- in KO (note that this is a specific organization, not all Kemetics belong to it) there is a rite of Parent Divination which determines which of the Netjer- the Gods that the person will serve.

Note: I consider the topic of patron deities to be more of a 201 level, especially I haven’t gotten much into theology yet, but this is a very common topic beginners ask about on fora, and they often get many mixed messages! So I thought I’d sort things out a bit here. Not all forms of Pagan practice and belief necessarily involve deities, and some info here could also apply to relationships with other types of spirits such as totem or power animals/plants/fungi, ancestors etc.

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Entry filed under: Approaching Paganism. Tags: , , , , , , .

Pagan / Buddhist Syncretism RCAD 17, 18: Discrimination, Stigma, Preferential Treatment

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Redfaery  |  June 24, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Flight of the Hamsa.

    Reply
  • 2. Aine  |  June 25, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    “I consider the topic of patron deities to be more of a 201 level, especially I haven’t gotten much into theology yet, but this is a very common topic beginners ask about on fora, and they often get many mixed messages! ”

    This got thoughts percolating in my brain about blog series (across multiple blogs)…not really sure what exactly. Anyway – good post!

    Reply
    • 3. caelesti  |  June 25, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      Thanks! Perhaps it could something like “How Patrons are viewed by me on my personal path, or more generally by my tradition”

      Reply
  • […] 9 Patron Deities […]

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