30 Days of Paganism: Beliefs – Patronage and other deeper relationships

A lit pillar candle sits in a make-up case that has lights on either side of the mirror. There is another smaller candle, a Brighid's cross, some sage, a Buddhist mala, a few crystals, and a wand resting on the altar.
My travel altar/shrine.

I suppose I’m odd in that I don’t consider patronage a particularly “deep” relationship.

I mean, I did used to, when I first started out in paganism/polytheism and everyone else kept calling the Main Attraction in your pantheon your “patron” (or “matron”, which is even more wrong). Which, ok, whatever floats your boat, I guess, but the fact is that “patron” is a very inaccurate term for many of the deity-mortal relationships it’s used to describe. And “matron” should only really refer to goddesses who don’t mind being seen as matronly — because, you know, that’s what the word means.

As I came to understand the meaning of patronage, and saw that it wasn’t a very accurate term, I stopped using it for the Morrigan.

I sometimes use it for Brighid, as one of Her purviews is the fire of inspiration/creativity, and I’m a writer. She’s a patron of my art, in the specific, correct sense of the word. But She and I also have a relationship between patron/artist, so I only sometimes use patron to refer to Her.

When referring to a deity, the definition of patron is closer to the definition of patron saint: “a saint regarded as the special guardian of a person, group, trade, country, etc.” [1]. Deities have certain things — people, countries, trades, areas of influences — that They watch over. Often we don’t talk about more than the well-known associations — Morrigan’s a bloodthirsty warrior; Thor’s got dat hammer and dat thunder; Aphrodite is hella hot and super into you getting your groove on in the bedroom or wherever you wanna screw. Etc. But there’s more to all of Them, and often Their patronage extends to more than just one area.

And the thing is, you don’t need a personal relationship to call upon a deity who is patron of your area; you don’t need a personal relationship for a deity to be your special guardian or the guardian of your family. They’re still your patron — or another deity with the same purview is. There are many deities in charge of love, or of being warriors, of natural forces…the list goes on. You can choose the patron you feel most comfortable with.

Now, you could argue that because I’m an activist that tM is my patron — indeed, I’ve spoken many times on how activism is the Work She has me do. But that doesn’t mean She’s my patron. Activism is something I do for Her, yes, just as picking up trash at the beach is something I do for my Father. Neither of Them are my patrons because I do something for Them, even if it was something I was doing before I knew of Them.

Writing is my career. Writing and publishing. Brighid is my patron there, yes, but not the only one possible. She’s about the fires of inspiration — not so much the wrangling InDesign and Scrivener to produce readable paperbacks and ebooks. I’ve yet to explore patronage from another deity whose area would be more suited to publishing, but I do plan on doing so.

If I get a job outside the house, Brighid won’t be my patron for that — unless it somehow falls under Her purviews, but I don’t see myself working as a blacksmith or a nurse anytime soon. She’s not the patron of my family, either, or my homeland. If I started a group for polytheist pagan writers, though, and everyone agreed, She could totally be the patron of our group.

The practical application of realizing that tM isn’t my patron just because She took a personal interest in me, just because we have a close relationship, is that I don’t call on Her for something in my life if it’s not in Her purview. I see this sort of attitude in NeoPaganism, that your patron is there to call upon for everything. That may be true in some relationships, with some deities. I know there are plenty out there who are cool with that sort of thing, and I’m totally not judging if that’s the sort of relationship you have with your deity. tM’s not, though, and that’s not the sort of relationship I have with Her.

She’s not the sort to spend Her energy on every little thing that I ask for help with. She conserves Her energy, She maintains Her boundaries, She utilizes the power of no — something She’s been trying to teach me to do for a while now. This doesn’t mean She doesn’t love me — it is because of Her love for me that She demands I learn to stand on my own two, or three if assisted with my cane, feet.

Standing on my own feet doesn’t mean never asking for help; it means learning discernment — who should I turn to with this issue? Is it actually more a mortal issue? Should I be turning to my mother, or my fiancé, or my support network, slim as it is? Or does this require divine attention? And if so, from Whom?

Just as I wouldn’t go to my fiancé for Latin translations, or to my Mom for video game discussions, I shouldn’t be putting all my eggs in one divine basket. (Unless I am actually offering eggs to one of Them, that is — and even then I wouldn’t be giving all my eggs.)

This is the same with Brighid. I light a candle to Her when writing; I call upon Her when my services are required in the healing arts (which doesn’t happen as often as it used to these days). Sometimes, She drops in with an assignment for me, and I do it, feeling filled up with Her love, Her trust. I don’t trouble Her with things that don’t relate to Her.

And my Father…yes, I tell Him about things that aren’t His bag. That’s not me asking for help; that’s me calling my Dad and letting Him know about my life. I do things for Him — I pick up the garbage at the beach, I write about the dead at His shrine, I offer Him apple crisp at Samhain. I theoretically offer Him things at the Summer Solstice. (I have been falling down on the job lately, but I have plans to make it up to Him.) Someday, He’ll be getting my left arm, just as Brighid is getting my back. I don’t know what the ink will look like yet, but I do know that my left arm is His, from shoulder to wrist. I don’t do these things for a reward. I do these things because He is my Father, and I love Him.

These relationships go farther than patronage, they go deeper than transactions. I am utterly devoted to the Big 3 in my life, even if Brighid is also my sometimes-patron. The basis of all my devotion is love — love so complex, so deep, so queer, I cannot possibly put it into words except to say I love Them and hope it makes sense.

-Morag

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