One of the more common concerns of newcomers to the various Pagan/Polytheist/Recon religions, that I’ve noticed, is that of “How do I get a Patron God or Goddess?” I think, usually, for many beginners, this question stems from a combination of the desire to feel close to a God (which is something that I think some us that come from the Abrahamic faiths did not always feel like we had) and the desire to feel “more like the others in the community.” Because let’s be honest, nearly all of us, at one point, have likely had that feeling of, after reading a particularly inspirational blog post or website entry on a God or Goddess from our Pantheon of interest, thinking, “But I want a relationship with ____ too!” It does seem to be the case that the more experienced or longstanding members of the Pagan/Polytheist/Recon community have close relationships with a few Gods from their chosen Pantheon(s), and beginners often look to these people for guidance and support – it would only be natural to want what they have. In college, I wanted to be as experienced and intelligent as my professors, but it takes time and practice, and most of all, patience.
I think there are plenty of excellent articles and blog posts out there already concerning whether or not we are all “meant” to have Patron Gods, or even to have “Godphone” abilities (being able to communicate with and hear the Gods), so I won’t focus on that particular aspect of Patronage or close Deity relationships here (though let me note that, it is not wrong, in any way, to practice a Pagan/Polytheist/Recon faith without having a Patron or a close relationship to a specific God. Many people don’t have a Patron/Patrons. Some people don’t even work with Gods at all. This is not a bad thing).
So, for the purpose of this particular blog post, let’s assume we all have the right/abilities to at least seek out a Patron, or a particular God/Goddess to become close to. Putting aside each of our individual “callings/talents” as spirit workers, witches/crafters, astral travelers, etc. – how can we get to know the Gods well enough to determine Who we might want to get close to, starting on a mundane level? Because I truly think that’s where a devotion to a God begins: in everyday life. After that comes deeper work with that God, on perhaps a different plane of existence. Until you can serve a God in this life, on this tangible, Earth-plane, how could a God expect you to work with Them anywhere more complicated? I know this varies by person – sometimes Gods do come to us to push us into dealing with painful pasts or aspects of ourselves that can only be dealt with in a deeper manner (often in the astral/through journey work). But, at least in my experience, most beginners are not of this sort…or at least, most beginners asking that very question of “how do I get to know a God?” in the first place are not of this sort. If a God’s calling out to help you with a personal issue, I have a feeling you might be able to tell. (But, then again, maybe not. This is not in my realm of experience thus far. It was only AFTER I sought out a specific God and got to know Him on my own, that other Gods began to pop up randomly and come to me).
Anyway, here’s the scenario I’m going to work with for this post: you are a beginner, you want to get to know a God, you don’t know Who might be best (though you have a Pantheon or two in mind), and you haven’t had any previous “callings” from any Gods seeking to help you with a specific issue/etc. I approach it this way only because that was me, about two years ago. I have experience with this. I started out with no clue Who to approach and how. So let’s go back to something I said above, in reference to the college professors I envied and wanted to be like. I’ve since learned that it takes three things to get to know a God: time, practice, and patience.
Take the time to research and learn about the Pantheon or Pantheons you are interested in. Read all of the mythologies. Get to know the Gods, if only on a one-sided, academic level. Check out websites like Henadology and Theoi.com or other such sources with detailed and accurate information on all of the Gods in a certain Pantheon. Go to the library, to museums, to book stores. Find current devotees of Gods from your Pantheon of interest and ask for advice. Make notes. Keep a journal about the Gods. Write down any personal impressions you might get about Them, your emotions and feelings in relation to the Gods you are researching. Start to make a list of the Gods that seem to really catch your attention.
You’re interested in becoming close to a God, right? Well, if you’re interested in making a new human friend, what do you do? You find out about a person, go to coffee with them, talk to them on the phone, ask others who know that person about them – find out their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, etc. Before buying a pet, what’s the smart thing to do? Research that type of animal: what they eat, how much exercise do they need, what kind of home/cage would they prefer, etc. Comparing a God, in this sense, to a human friend or a pet isn’t an insult, because a close Deity relationship is as intimate as the relationships we form with beloved friends, spouses, family members, and pets. You don’t just marry someone out of the blue (I would hope)! You get to know them first.
Now that you’ve put in the research time, take action. First, I’d recommend setting up a shrine or altar space to offer to the God or Gods in question. You made a list right? If you still have no clue which God or Gods might be right for you, I recommend doing what the Kemetic Orthodoxy recommends all beginners do: make a “general” shrine, dedicated to ALL the Deities in your chosen Pantheon. I actually have a general shrine to Netjer (the Egyptian Pantheon) right now, as I’m currently in the Kemetic Orthodoxy Beginner’s Course. Set this general shrine up with universal Pantheon symbols (for example, in Kemeticism, the Ankh would be a good one to use).
If you DO know which specific Gods you might be interested in getting to know well (and you’re not involved in a group or class, such as Kemetic Orthodoxy, where you might feel obligated to set up a “general shrine” first), go ahead and make a shrine dedicated to that God or Gods. Take a look back at your notes from before and add things to the shrine that are specific to the God(s) in question. If you’re making a Persephone shrine, for example, get some pomegranate-scented things on there! Honoring Djehuty? Get a pen or pencil and some notebook paper on your shrine, He’s a Scribe after all! I’ve heard Odin likes ravens and runes. And so on. Decorate the shrine appropriately. If you’re more interested in the reconstructionist route, make sure your shrine is in line with academic sources concerning the way your chosen path was practiced in the historical past. Same goes for your subsequent rituals/offerings.
And that’s the next part: offer! Give the specific God or Gods (or All of them, if a general shrine) some love! Show Them you’re interested. Offer historically appropriate items to begin, such as bread and water for the Kemetic Gods (stick to what makes sense, and what you’ve researched – wine for Dionysus, for example, would be incredibly appropriate…Coke or Sprite, on the other hand, might not be). Write a ritual or use one from a trusted source (since I’m involved with Kemetic Orthodoxy right now, I use their Senut ritual, which can be found in Tamara Siuda’s Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook). It’s up to you, but actively make a point of giving to the Gods you are interested in. And repeatedly do so. I do ritual everyday at the same time. If you can’t do it everyday, maybe once or twice a week. How do you expect a specific God to come into your life if you can’t consistently show devotion? Again, it’s the same as with our human and animal relationships – we get more out of them if we actively take part in them often throughout our lives.
Now for the hard part: don’t give up if you don’t get any kind of “sense” or “presence” of a God right away. We cannot ever hope to comprehend what the Gods are truly up to – it may take time, years even, for a God or Goddess to “give back” when you have started offering and worshiping Them. Even in Kemetic Orthodoxy, the RPD (Rite of Parent Divination, a special divinatory process performed by Tamara Siuda), which determines a practitioner’s “Parent” (or, what one might consider Patron) Deity/Deities for them, does not always guarantee that that specific God will then automatically speak right up and say, “Hey, now that you know about me, I’m here!” As far as I can tell, you still have to wait, and put in the effort to then get to know Him or Her or Them. (After all, in the case of the RPD, which is somewhat unique, you may not end up with a Deity you expected or know well already. I have not undergone this process yet, however, as I am still a beginner in this branch of Kemeticism, so I invite other KO members to please correct me on anything I may have missed concerning this process).
Anyway: keep offering, keep praying, keep reading, keep learning. Stay active in the community. Discuss your Gods with others. Talk to your God or Gods every day, even if They say nothing back. I recommend learning some form of divination, such as a pendulum or Tarot…people often find it easier to “hear back” from a God through those means. Learn to meditate, or trance journey. And you know what? Eventually you may begin to realize that what you have, no matter what kind of communication you may be getting back, IS a Patronage, IS a close, intimate relationship with a particular God or Gods. You’ve devoted yourself, right? You’ve gotten this far. You’ve learned to love a God or Gods no matter what. And that counts. So much of religion is founded on faith, remember? Faith and patience.
If, in the end, it has been a very long time and you do not, in fact, feel satisfied…then perhaps it is the right time to turn to other Gods. Perhaps the Ones you were originally interested in just aren’t right for you. Start the process over. Make a new shrine. See where that takes you. Please recognize: this is a lifelong process. Even those who have found and been happy with specific Gods do not always stick with Them forever, and sometimes end up adding or losing Gods at different times in their lives. Religion, like creation, is fluid. Things change. Learn to move and mold and meld with that change. The Gods have done so for thousands of years as Their devotees have died out and been reborn and cultures have changed. Why shouldn’t we be able to do the same?
I want to end this post with a quote from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which is a work of fiction, but one that I think speaks eons of truth concerning the nature of Polytheism in the modern world. I want anyone reading this who is a beginner, who doesn’t know if they will ever meet or have an intimate relationship with a God, to take in every word of this quote, and understand that faith is what you make of it. The Gods are infinitely more powerful and complex than we can ever hope to imagine. If you want to work with One – and haven’t already been called to do so – then what you really have to do, more than anything, more than saying the words of the ritual exactly right, or perfecting the food or libation offering, or knowing every single possible myth, is to believe:
People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen. (Gaiman, Kindle Edition, Page 536)”