Sometimes I wonder if we have too narrow an idea of what a "patron deity" is. I think it's a shame that so many newcomers feel pressure that they should all have a patron deity right off the bat. Tell me if one or more of these sound familiar:
- You have One True Patron Deity, and they are with you for life.
- You don't choose your One True Patron Deity; they choose you.
- Your One True Patron Deity should have made their presence known to you, ideally since childhood. Things like your birthday and your astrological signs should all be clues to who they are. Your One True Patron Deity should reflect your very soul.
- Your One True Patron Deity should share all your likes and dislikes (favorite animals, colors, etc.)*. So, if you like cats, you must be connected to Bast!
- As soon as you know who your One True Patron Deity is, you should dedicate yourself to them. (some people take this a step further and say you're not allowed to work with anyone else).
These assumptions about your One True Patron Deity have led to confused questions that I have heard like:
- Am I doing something wrong or am I not special enough to be called? (I can definitely relate to this one!)
- Can I be a real witch if I haven't found my One True Patron Deity? **
- What do I do if my One True Patron Deity and I are not perfectly alike? I feel really drawn to Athena, but I don't like owls! Does that mean she's not my One True Patron Deity?
- Can I work with other deities who aren't my One True Patron Deity? (in most cases: yes!)
All of these misconceptions, I think, are easily avoided if we can just let go of our notions of your One True Patron Deity, which are really about as sensible or probable as having One True Love romantically. Some people do have soulmates whom they meet and know right away that they're supposed to live with them Happily Ever After, sure. But many of us (I'd venture to say most of us) have many loves across our lifetimes -- romantic and platonic. And even in my monogamous relationship, though I love Mr. Xiao very much, I don't expect him to fulfill all my emotional needs; I have many other friends and companions for that too.
Similarly, with deities, even if we have one main deity we work with, it is natural and normal for many Pagans to work with many patron deities over our lives. It is also natural and normal for many of those relationships to come and go over time. We can even have many patrons over our lives. For what it's worth, historically, most people did not dedicate themselves to a single god either; that was usually reserved for the rare clergy.
Here are some examples of many different kinds of patron deities that you can have and can connect with:
Your Personal Patron
Many cultures have the idea that each individual person has a personal patron, sometimes known as a daimon, that is indeed with you for life. In Ancient Rome, this was your genius (if you were a man) or your juno/iuno (if you were a woman). One could also argue that this is your God/dess self, your divine spark, your Higher Self. You can always connect with your personal patron.
Patrons of Place
Many places have their own patron deities. You may have heard of Athena, who is the patron goddess of Athens (duh!). Cities, villages, towns, trees, lakes, mountains, rivers -- these all have deities and spirits that you can connect with.
Patrons of Profession
I learned early on that Catholics have saints for many professions
(did you know that St. Basilides is the patron saint of Italian prison officers? Thanks, Wikipedia!), and Pagan deities are no different. Brighid, for instance, was historically the patron deity of poets, smiths, and healers. There are many new jobs that might not have a perfect analog to Pagan deities, but one can always reach out to a deity whom you think would probably take an interest in your work. I could imagine that Hermes might patronize someone who works in social media marketing, for instance. In my own life and career as a social worker, I consider Guanyin to be the patron saint for my profession.
Patrons for Life Stages
We have different patrons for different stages of our life, too. Hera was the goddess of matrimony, and many brides (and wives, and widows) called out to her for aid. Artemis was, among many other things, patronized both maidens and women in childbirth.
As you can see, "patronage" can mean many different things, and there are a multitude of different ways you can connect to deities, beyond the One True Patron Deity! I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.
On Patron Deities
* I have even known some people to turn to online quizzes to find their One True Patron Deity (which is absurd, since there are of course millions of different deities out there that couldn't possibly be accounted for in a single quiz!).
** I also feel this way about newcomers who come into Paganism/witchcraft believing they should have One True Element too -- when the whole point (in my humble opinion) is to develop relationships with all the elements!