c_korone (c_korone) wrote in pagan_skeptics,
c_korone
c_korone
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patron gods

Per special request in the last post, I thought I'd bring this topic up for discussion: Patron Gods. As in, 'My patron is Aphrodite. What's yours?'

Perhaps this is something that comes up more often in Recon communities, but perhaps not - I find that a great number of people, especially the new folks, seem to think that they're not 'proper' until they've established a 'patron relationship' with a particular deity.

Personally, I don't deny at all that this can and does happen. But the notion that it can and should happen for everyone, in this 'choose your own adventure' sort of way, I don't buy at all. The historical precedent for having a patron deity probably varies a bit from culture to culture. In ancient Greece, there were patron Gods for the various city-states (e.g. Athena for Athens), and different trades/professions also each had their official divine patrons. In addition, some families may carry on an inherited patronage (I believe this was also true in Rome). And sometimes, individuals may profess a particular fondness or closeness to one of the Gods - usually related to something they do in life, which was thought to be the gift of this God. As you see, a lot of this was based on local traditions, and involved a shared patronage within a group. Even the individuals who expressed a fondness for a certain god often did so in relation to what activities/symbols were already established as this god's province - so this was something they supposedly shared with others who pursued the same activities (e.g. a hunter who especially honored Artemis probably shared this with other hunters). In other words, it was an external connection - related to what you do, where you live, what family you were born into.

So how is this different today? Well, today I see some people thinking they need to choose a patron, almost as if they're choosing what color they look best in ('what deity goes best with this purse?'). Often there is a sort of mystical bent to the procedure (using meditations, divination or looking for omens, dreams, etc.), but it's colored by the idea that you must find your divine patron, and that when you do it will be a close, personal friendship. There is often more emphasis on the perceived personality of said deity, moreso than their gifts. It's as if people are really searching for the perfect companion.. or dare I say it, an invisible friend? This is not the same as honoring the divine parent of your craft, or the protector of your city, for obvious reasons.

What do you all think of the idea, and what is your experience if any?

EDITED to add emphasis on my point, which a couple may have missed. I am not making a sweeping statement that patron gods = bad/wrong/etc. This is not a black & white issue IMO.
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you must find your divine patron, and that when you do it will be a close, personal friendship. There is often more emphasis on the perceived personality of said deity, moreso than their gifts. It's as if people are really searching for the perfect companion.. or dare I say it, an invisible friend?

Many people, particularly the younger and less experienced crowd that show up in some of the less traditional/non-lineaged Wicca, are drawn to paganism because they want to be cool and different. What could be cooler than having a personal friendship with a god(dess)? I think that sets you up for being very speshul.

I also think that the whole idea of forming a friendship with a god is residue from the Protestant Christian idea of Jesus as your personal lord and savior. I don't really see the precedent in pagan religions. (I could be wrong).

In other words, it was an external connection - related to what you do, where you live, what family you were born into.

I think this is much more likely. I do have a patron god that I feel I communicate with directly and that I feel takes an active interest in my life, but mostly to direct me in my professional life, which is dedicated to him. He is not my friend by any means (how arrogant of me to even think it) and he couldnt care less about aspects of my life that are outside of his purview; there are other gods and goddesses for that.

Which brings me to veneration of an entire pantheon. I think sometimes pagans havent quite gotten the monotheism out of their system and feel more comfortable worshipping just one god, when there's a whole pantheon of gods out there to help you. It would seem to defeat the purpose and negate the benefits of polytheism to focus soley on one's patron to the detriment of more appropriate gods for, say, your love life, your family life, auspicious days, etc.

Also, on a semi-related note, I see people do this for "totem animals" as well, when the whole idea of totem is that that animals represents characteristics of your tribe, clan or family - not you as an individual. It's more like a family crest. Spirit guide or animal double (nahualli) is a different, er, animal altogether, but people don't differentiate.
What could be cooler than having a personal friendship with a god(dess)?

Right. I suspect there is a real wish-fulfillment fantasy going on there - as you say, what could be cooler and more reassuring than having a God personally involved in everything you do, loving you unconditionally. I also agree this is likely a carry-over from certain Christian beliefs, e.g. 'have you made Jesus your personal savior?' Many of our Gods have carried the epithet 'Soter' or 'Soteira' (savior), but this concept of them following you wherever you go, involved in every facet of your life, that's kinda new.

I think sometimes pagans havent quite gotten the monotheism out of their system

Agreed. I've seen some even explain that in polytheism, you have so many more gods to choose from! How better to miss the point? Polytheism is not about choice in deity, it's about multiplicity of divinity - the sum total comprises the divine sphere. Since different people have different tendencies and skills, it's natural that some will feel especially endebted to certain Gods more than others - but not so much at the expense of the others.

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"It is why I make a bad Reconstructionist: I despise forgeries and fantasy 'traditions' but I am more interested in meeting the deities in the post-modern setting I actually live in then worry about "Is this how my ancestors did it?" My ancestors, without meaning disrespect, didn't travel on the subway, didn't have an iPod, probably saw human sacrifices + thought nothing of it, were slaves or were slave masters and didn't imagine a world without slaves, etc. My ancestors probably did hope their descendent would survive, and progress, and if the deities are at all real, aren't so whacked to think "and when you come to me, pretend the last 2,000 years did not happen."



You aren't a bad reconstructionist. You are the best reconstructionist I have ever read online. You are the heart and soul of what reconstructionism BADLY needs. And I think you are moving in the spirit of the Great Gods. May I please add you to my friends list, and copy parts of your response here, to share around?

People like you are the future of recon. If we leave the future of paganism up to the "textbook" recons who won't "do it" unless some textbook says "They did it this way long ago", and the recons who attack other people with this absurd "UPG" Charge, paganism is doomed for certain.

"UPG" is where the myths we love so much CAME FROM. Primal Humans had gnosis; their minds touched the divine reality; they codified that experience into stories that became legends and then became myths. ALL mythology is born in the cradle of "UPG".

Humans and the Gods have an ongoing relationship with each other, no matter how much some people are afraid of that. In the distant past, that relationship was primarily focused around group-to-god mechanics, with only a few mystery cultists who were prepared for the "next step" person-to-god relationship. Today, quite a few more people are ready for "person-to-god", many more than ever before, even if it still isn't a path for everyone. But it is a reality that needs to be faced. The "tribalism" of the past is fading rapidly, and "Nationalism" that we see today is not the same thing, and it does not replace "Tribalism". The "Group" mind is all but gone.


People who screech "UPG" at others are nothing but foot-soldiers of the "new pagan dogmatism", and they are joined by people who disparage any and all attempts on the parts of individuals to approach the Gods as beings that they can have a personal relationship with.


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The way I've seen UPG used in the Celtic Recon community, it has not been leveed as an insult but typically someone would say, "This is just UPG but..." just as a moment of honesty before someone yells "SOURCES!!!"

More often, I see people nod in recognition that UPG is just that when someone's clear about it, personally. But I think you're in the wrong neck of the CR woods if you're seeing it handled that way, anyway.

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lysana

11 years ago

Interesting. We have similar backgrounds (graduate level seminary studies) but very different opinions about what we learned. :) Just out of curiousity, what prompted you to go to seminary?

Anyway..I think you have a point about the influence of the larger philosophy of individualism on neo-paganism in the US. But I think when you talk about religious constructs, you cannot ignore the model that Protestantism has offered and that many who might come from that background and are familiar with that model, simply keep and dress in new clothing and call it "neo-pagan with patron god". For many there is no paradigm shift, something that I think is required to move from monotheism to polytheism. It is not an easy thing to do, and some pagans never do it, imo. So they play at polytheism and miss what it has to offer us as a world-view and a religious practice.

I admit that I am much more tribally-minded than individual. My bias is heavily influenced by the fact that I come from and still participate in a tribal culture and my world-view is very influenced by that. In fact, I find it a little ironic that to be a "rebel" in this highly individually minded society, you have to be more of an individual, when it seems like having a tribal identity would be the more natural societal antithesis.

It does matters to me is what my ancestors thought and what my community continues to think, becaues in my mind they are one and the same. Having an iPod and riding the subway does not separate me from the truths of what it is to be a Ohkay Owingeh woman, a descendent of the Mexica, a human being. Technology is just trappings, and as we have seen in the recent hurricaine tragedies, they are easily wiped away. I do not think I am so different from my ancestors in my needs and wants and the way I live; we are essentially to same.

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I am questioning the assumption that every one who claims a patron god is suffering from XPSS (Xian Personal Savior Syndrome).

Once again, not what I meant at all. I was speaking of a particular way some people are going about it, not the entirety of all patron-having pagans. I did say I suspect *some* of this kind of cultural 'tranferrence' (whatever you want to call it) is going on, but I would never make such a sweeping statement as what you seem to have read into this. My apologies for not being clearer from the beginning.

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c_korone

11 years ago

vivianstcloud

11 years ago

c_korone

11 years ago

I believe in claiming one's own bias and yes (don't hate me) I do rattle of list of patrons.

I want to address this point first - I am definitely not of the opinion (which I just edited to emphasize) that patrons are bad/wrong/stupid/impossible/whatever. Hopefully you see that I'm referring only to a particular mindset and practice that I've noticed.

Did not the Mediterranean area historically have many Mystery Cults...

Even the Mysteries did not emphasize this sort of 'buddy system' of worship. True, each mystery focused on either a specific god or small set of gods/divinities, but not generally to the neglect of the others. Mysteries were about transformative experiences and esoteric knowledge, and may or may not result in a sort of 'patron' relationship with the deities involved. There were quite a few who were initiates of every mystery they were allowed to join in - it was not an exclusive relationship. You could say it was meant to add a layer, rather than to take away other layers (if that makes sense). Even a priest or priestess of a particular God still honored the others, and I can think of no more obvious an example of 'patronage'. Besides this, the mysteries were not a requirement for anyone, and remained (with the exception of Eleusis) on the fringes of religious practice until the Hellenistic/Roman era. So there would be no reason to insist that everyone engage in their practices in any modern reconstruction of Greek religion, especially if focused on Classical ideas.

But the Ones who cared for human got worshipped

I agree with this point, that certain deities are by nature more concerned with human affairs, and therefore more likely to be worshipped. And actually, this is the kind of thing I wish more people paid attention to!

I am now, in reaction, a supreme individualist always warning people about surrendering them to Collectivist ideologies

Well, in the interest of admitting biases, I am of the opinion that an attempt to learn the more community/group-minded approach is not without merit (seeing value in group-shared traditions). That's not necessarily the same thing at all as the sort of strict dogma seen in some forms of Christianity, although I think this is a common misperception in paganism today (that any structure or consensus at all = dogma). I see a benefit in finding group consensus on just a *very* basic level - agreeing on basic ethics, common rituals, etc. This is not to say that I would try to *stop* someone from having different practices, just that I will naturally band together with those who want to do the same thing, and see value in the same things in a ritual. This is just a basic fact of human nature - for the same reason for instance, people who love basketball might like to watch it together. The fact that modern society happens to be in an uber-individualistic phase does not necessarily indicate to me that this is a superior mode of thinking, but perhaps time will tell.

I am more interested in meeting the deities in the post-modern setting I actually live in

Hm. This seems to imply that having a value for tradition is somehow incompatable with living in the present day. But to the contrary, we do exist! There are some aspects of ancient religion that I find timeless - and therefore perfectly compatable with modern living, due to their universality. This is why Reconstructionism is even possible, IMO - because the religion itself is not something 'stuck in time', only the minor trappings may be. When it comes down to it, people are still people. And the profound truths and insights of religion are precisely those things that are timeless truths about being human. My having an iPod is only as relevant to my religion as 'Joe Hellene' in 5 B.C.'s not having an iPod is to his religion (in other words, not important). But Joe Hellene and I both experience love, loss, pain, joy, suffering, hope, and many other things which are expressed in religion quite eloquently.

My ancestors probably did hope their descendent would survive, and progress, and if the deities are at all real, aren't so whacked to think "and when you come to me, pretend the last 2,000 years did not happen."

Yes, exactly. Do not pretend that history never happened. I believe strongly in learning from past experience, and in not trying to reinvent the wheel. When there is no wheel, that's another story. Or if you've got most of a wheel, it just needs a fresh coat of paint or whatnot, that's also a possibility. Do you see what I'm saying? I'm not going to wear a chiton and pine for the days of slavery and the non-citizenship of women. I see a profound difference between spiritual matters which still resonate today, and cultural anachronism. The latter is what changes most over time.

You say (in another comment here I think) that you see Recon not as a religion in itself, but as a tool. Well, yes of course, so do I. My religion is Dodekatheism. Reconstructionism is just a confusingly-named approach towards religious practice. Confusing, because IMO most of us are actually NOT trying to reenact the past (self included). But we do aim to learn from it, and respect it as our roots. Maybe we're not coming from such different directions after all, maybe we are, not sure.
I've been leaning more and more toward calling it "restorationism." We're not trying to rebuild the past. We're trying to restore something that is a combination of lingering remnants and lost material and make it useful in the modern age.
i don't think that it is a particularly confusing name, in itself. somewhere, though, some people have gotten the idea that it means "re-enactment", and they have spread that misunderstanding to others. "reconstruction" is the process of rebuilding, as when the widespread repairs of the damage to the American South after the American Civil War were called "Reconstruction". no one expected everything to be rebuilt precisely as it had been, but rather for the damage to be repaired.

c_korone

11 years ago

Yes, I have always thought of Reconstructionism as a methodology, as I think most Recons do. Unfortunately it is a methodology that is minunderstood by those who do not use it.
Ah, thank you! That last paragraph expressed what I was trying to express. You just said it better, as usual. :)

c_korone

11 years ago

'Patrons' are a natural part of my practice, which is fairly traditional Russian shamanism. They are inherited through family, and you are called. And to be honest, I don't particularly envy a lot of people when they are called, some of the deities aren't particularly pleasant to associate with. And amongst like-minded practicioners, saying 'I have Vavale as a patron' can make you seem 'stranger' than if you didn't have a 'patron' at all.

I don't think patron gods and goddesses are necessary, just as I don't think it's a requirement to be a shamanist without a totem (though I do think it's a requirement for a shaman, but that's a different story). On the whole, I think it's inevitable in my experience, that if a person is dedicated enough, mature enough and practices for long enough, they will likely eventually be 'Called' by someone.

But I don't think it's a necessity, and I don't think it necessary bestows some sort of 'oh well you're definitely a pagan' aura to people who have patrons.

It's as if people are really searching for the perfect companion.. or dare I say it, an invisible friend?

This bothers me, as it does when people go 'horses like me, so horse is my totem!' (heh, Devil's Advocacy clearly over). Patrons aren't always, or even often, deities we necessary love instantly, or associate with ourselves. Sometimes the connection can seem obscure, and sometimes we may not like the connection at all.

But some people seem to think it's fascinatingly cool to just peruse through an 'Encyclopedia of Gods' and pick whatever is the flavour of the day or the month and go 'yeah, I'll swear myself to him/her and that can be my patron.'

*sighs*
Thank you for understanding what I was saying.

But some people seem to think it's fascinatingly cool to just peruse through an 'Encyclopedia of Gods' and pick whatever is the flavour of the day or the month and go 'yeah, I'll swear myself to him/her and that can be my patron.'

Exactly the sort of practice I was getting all annoyed about. And apparently this makes me a Fascist Meanie PooPoo Head™.

They are inherited through family, and you are called.

As I mentioned in my original post, I certainly do not deny that people can and do establish real 'patron' relationships. Being called is one way that can happen, especially in terms of priesthood. What bugs me is the push I have seen to get /everyone/ to pick a patron, even as beginners. As you say, it's not necessary, most especially at the beginning of anyone's religious practice. That might be comparable to getting married before puberty is over - while for some that might be ok too, it's not IMNSHO.
Pushing for a patron is ridiculous. As is using bibliomancy to do it. In my personal experience, the god picks you. Or gods; I've seen people's patrons go higher than one and also change over time depending on what their real needs were. I witnessed that in an Afrodiasporan tradition, even, where such events are considered all but impossible (your parents don't change, so your "head" isn't supposed to, either).
I'm 52 now, and Ishtar began calling me when I was a young girl. I finally answered that call in my late 20's. I am not actually a polytheist, but a henotheist. I realize that it's not this way for everyone, but I have met others to whom the same thing has happened.
I came late to the party it seems.

I think that within the recon community (and sometimes within the greater pagan "community") that there are differences between patron gods and gods which they are dedicated to. I think I only notice this difference because of my own experiences. I was not called by a god or goddess in particular but as many tend to do, I drifted towards a particular favorite out of my pantheon. I chose to dedicate myself to Tyr just this August after a year of finding myself more impressed, more in awe, and generally in line with what he stands for.

As for historical basis, pretty much none. From the readings I've been doing recently (Nordic Religion in the Viking Age by Thomas DuBois), I've seen evidence that much of the local cults were not those who were chosen by or who chose to dedicate themselves to a deity. Most often, deities were locally popular and the community would have a particular patron. But as trade strengthened through the areas, many different god cults came into contact with each other and either competed for dominance or merged together (as was the case with the temple at Upsalla that had Odhinn, Freyr, and Thor as patrons). Or so Professor DuBois has theorized.

I think the change has been that there has been so much more of an emphasis placed on having a personal relationship with deity in the more modern age rather than a localized choice patron deity. It could be a throwback to modern Christianity or even new age feel-good stuff. My own thought is that the times have changed and people feel that they need a loving, guiding parental figure at all times. The modern society sees more visibility of divorce, dysfuntional families, broken friendships and realizes some innate need to get this support that could go missing at any moment from a "higher power". (This tactic is actually often used in 12-step programs to cure alcholism/drug dependency/etc.)

Sorry the comment is so rambley. It's been a long day at work.
late to the party

But not unwelcome!

there are differences between patron gods and gods which they are dedicated to.

Actually that's an excellent point. I think people like using the word 'patron', but it's not *always* the best choice of description IMO. I wonder if this is something similar to the phenomenon of so many solitary pagans deciding they should be priests of [fill in name of deity], when simply being dedicated to this deity is just as worthy and perhaps more appropriate to their situation. Athens had a patron. Smiths and potters had their patrons. But is it correct to say, for instance, that Sappho also had her own patron? Would it be better to say that the poet simply appeared to be dedicated to Aphrodite? Socrates was said to consider Apollo the patron god of philosophy - but I don't recall where he called the god his patron. But he did say he was the 'holy property' of Apollo (well, according to Plato).

some innate need to get this support that could go missing at any moment from a "higher power"

This is a fascinating point, and something I will have to think more about. Thank you for mentioning this, and how 12-step programs use the concept.
There is in some groups pressure to have a patron/matron. I believe ADF requires you to have at least one. Or people assume you have one.
I also agree that for _some_ patronage may be "monotheism lite" esp. if they are neglecting the worship of other deities.

As with a lot of spiritual things, I have the attitude of "what's meant to be is meant to be". Lately, I've been seriously considering dedicating to Brighid, as I have felt drawn to Her for a long time. I didn't pick Her out of a hat. But I don't know if that would make her my matron/or me her priestess. I wouldn't make assumptions about my relationship with Her. Though being drawn to a deity can be not just your personal preference, but the deity pulling you towards them. And then they are people who get "claimed" by a deity, and going along with that is generally a good idea.


I also agree that for _some_ patronage may be "monotheism lite" esp. if they are neglecting the worship of other deities.

Why shouldn't anyone "neglect" the worship of other deities? I don't worship deities for whom I have no affinity and with whom I have no relationship. I don't think of my spirituality as a smorgasboard from which I pick the god of the day.

Henotheism is the worship of one god while acknowledging the existence of others. This describes the kind of situation you seem to be talking about.

And then they are people who get "claimed" by a deity, and going along with that is generally a good idea.

Yes, it is :)
When I first encountered pagans, they were insistent on patronage. Not only was I directed to find a patron, but I was directed to find TWO: one male and one female. I was told that it would be best if I found a patron from my ancestry.

In fact, I had already been chosen by my own Patron. I just didn't know it yet. And when She made it quite clear, I denied it because She wasn't from my ancestry and I don't particularly like Her husband.

Stupid, I know. I was trying to force myself into a mold, letting myself be convinced that the way I had been doing things was all wrong.

It's as if people are really searching for the perfect companion

Theya re looking in the wrong place. The search for the perfect companion is an old and honorable one in occultism: that companion is the Holy Guardian Angel.
Oh, and there is some historical precedent for a personal god: the Sumerians had them, and the conceopt has made its way into the present as the HGA.