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.”