Walking Alone (Part I)

So, it’s confession time.

I’m one of those polytheists who has never managed to acquire a patron.

Now that the gasps of shock and horror have quieted down, I have to say that it’s not for lack of trying.  I would love to have some deity looking out for me, guiding my steps.  Instead, I seem to have and endless, cyclical parade of Gods traipsing through my life.  Now, they’ve limited themselves to the Anglo-Saxon and Welsh pantheons over the past few years, but compared to many Neopagans, I seem to have an overabundance of deities.

My history with the Gods is long and checkered.  When people ask about why I’m a polytheist, I have difficulty explaining my reasons–mainly because they are so ingrained and seem, to my mind at least, so logical.  I have been listening to the land wights for as long as I can remember, and as I perceive them, they have personalities as varied and distinct as any human.  Making the jump to a multiplicity of Gods, then, isn’t that hard.  Add to that a father who was a history professor, and you end up with a worldview in which all religions are relative to the cultures in which they evolve.  If humans have such variations among individuals, why would the Gods be any different?

So, after reading D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths at the tender age of seven, I started building shrines and leaving offerings for Demeter and Zeus in the back yard.  During high school, a merry band of tricksters crashed into my life, Raven being the most prominent.  In college, Athena (who was also the patron of the school I attended) strengthened and inspired me—as well as kindling a love for research and a respect for the integrity of the cultures whose Gods whispered to me.  But none of these beings interacted with me in the manner of a patron.

My junior and senior years in college, I tried to work solely with the Greco-Roman pantheon.  I thought that maybe focusing on a single culture would lead me to the guidance I sought.  However, in 2004 I traveled to Greece and it became painfully apparent that Olympians were not my Gods either.  Then, after joining OBOD and ADF, I tried to make myself at home with the Welsh pantheon (which admittedly had given me glimmers back in 2002 when I was in the UK) in keeping with the Celtic themes of Druidry.  Again, a few nibbles wiggled my metaphysical fishing pole, but it was clear that I was casting my line in the wrong pond.  By this time I had at least discovered that Druidry was the perfect framework for my spirituality, but the patron component was still elusive.

Then, in 2007 I was whapped upside the head with the ol’ cosmic clue-by-four when I scried a rune during an eclipse ritual.  Ultimately this vision led me to the Germanic Gods, after a brief exploration of Asatru (which, being Icelandic in focus wasn’t quite my cup of tea).  The Anglo-Saxon flavor ultimately meshed the best, particularly after I took a crash course in Old English while studying Beowulf.  It was as if learning the language opened my awareness even wider to these Gods.  Bingo!  I finally had a pantheon!

My practice became even further refined when I realized that I gravitated towards the Vanir (or Wenan, as it’s reconstructed in OE). Aside from Woden’s occasional cameo appearance, it’s Neorð and Erce, Ingui and Fréo, Habondia, Wéland, and Holda whom I see reflected in the land and sky.  From the Welsh side, Arianrhod, Cerridwen, and Gwynn ap Nudd also lend their influences.  (Interestingly enough, the Vanacelt theory covers my own peculiar experience of the crossover between Germanic and Celtic pantheons with regard to the Wenan, as well as the experiences of several other members of the Vanaheim Fellowship.)

But even though I’ve settled into the Vanacelt paradigm, I’m still patronless.  While my experiences of the Gods has certainly calmed down compared to what they were in my youth, I still get quite a bit of variety in my life.  And after many years of feeling inadequate or less devout than those who have patrons, I would like to propose that being patronless is as viable a form of divine interaction as any other.

Please join us next time for “Practical Patronlessness.”
—A.V.

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3 thoughts on “Walking Alone (Part I)

  1. I don’t think having a patron Deity is required, though. Now I say this as someone who has a patron, and has received benefits from being a patron. But I don’t think it’s ‘doing it wrong’ to not have a patron, or that anything is necessarily lacking. As one added bonus, you have a lot less restrictions in Who you can spend your time with. Having a patron does not a monotheist make, but it is a high-maintenance enough relationship that it limits my ‘spoons’ for other Gods.

    The important thing is that you do and continue to do what is right for your soul. Some of us have patrons, some of us don’t – we all have a place at the table. There are many ways to interact with the Divine. One of the wonderful things about being a polytheist is there truly is no One Tru Way. 🙂

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    • “I don’t think having a patron Deity is required, though.”

      Yep, I agree completely. That’s what I hope to explore in an upcoming post, the advantages and tactics for meaningful interactions with the Gods without a patron.

      Heathens are the only group I’ve encountered that actively discourage patronage for the most part. This piece is more a reaction to the general Neopagan attitude that I’ve encountered (VHF excluded, of course!), where if one hasn’t discovered a patron, you’re clearly a “newb”—which I find irritating to say the least. I just want to put it out there that there are indeed a variety of ways to go about this thing called worship, and as you put it, “we all have a place at the table.” 😀

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      • Yep – I find that because of my experience with Heathens, who as you put it actively discourage patronage, I come off as a bit defensive when the topic of patronage is discussed. I really did try to be a ‘general practitioner’ and it didn’t work out that way. But I think it’s important for everyone to keep in mind that the Gods are individuals and deal with us individually – some of us are ‘wired’ to be in a patron relationship, some are not. There are pros and cons with each. I think it’s important for both sides to be discussed, and unfortunately, there is a strong bias in Neopaganism-as-a-whole towards ‘how I found my patron God’, and not enough information exists for those who don’t have one. So, kudos to you for addressing this topic online 🙂

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