How to Find Your Patron Goddess or God

This is a common question for beginners: How do I find my patron goddess or god?  Those who are beginning their spiritual journey oft look to others in their religious community asking this question because they desire a mentor or deity to connect with.

My advice to you, if you find yourself asking this question, follows:

No one can answer this question for you directly, only give you a compass and tell you what landmarks they saw along the way.  It’s a bit like finding the right job, and right employer – that “right fit” isn’t “right” for everyone but you can approach it in about the same way. It may come to you from a combination of research (to open your mind to different pantheons), ritual (because the gods respond to ritual and it also cultivates your awareness of the divine), and self-reflection coupled with introspection (you must know yourself before you can know others, including the gods). You could design your own ritual, appealing to “Whoever will accept me as a devotee”, give an offering, and see who chooses you. It may not happen the first time, but your chances are better with persistence and the right approach.

Behave like you are applying for a job interview: clean and dress well, make an appropriate offering, approach respectfully, and be open-minded. Know what you can offer in return and include that in your ritual. Some deities accept food or libation, others accept music or art or poetry, some even accept blog posts praising them.  If you have decided to approach a particular god, research what He or She is known to favor and accept (like you would when researching an employer).

Finding your patron or matron god is kind of like an interview with a potential employer.

Finding your patron or matron god is kind of like finding the right employer.

If you are a poet or musician, then Apollon may be an appropriate patron and you can offer song to Him. If you are a medical technician or some sort, then Asklepios may be appropriate and you can offer your services in His name. If you are talented with crafts, then you can offer artwork, weavings, or pottery to Athene (and you don’t have to appeal to Her aspects of crafty warfare).

Like I said, it’s a lot like a job interview to find not only who matches you, but who you match with. Essentially, asking for a patron/matron is also asking to be His/Her priestess. So cultivate the qualities that would honor Them and offer your services or what you can make or earn to Them in return like you would cultivate your skills and experience to put on your resume.  Make yourself a valuable devotee, and your chances of being chosen will improve.

Addendum: It’s also important to consider what kind of person you want to be and who you want to be associated with.  Again, like applying for work in which the reputation of the company and your supervisor are important for your career, your patron or matron deity will be important for the cultivation of your spiritual life.  If you are serious about becoming a devotee, you will be cultivating aspects that the god or goddess is known for and asking for aid in realms they have control over.  So be sure to research before committing yourself to a particular deity.

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News: “Reconstructionist pagans are reviving the polytheistic religions of the ancient Greeks, Druids, Egyptians, and others”- Beliefnet.com

Parthenon from west

Image via Wikipedia

For those unfamiliar with the modern movement towards reviving ancient polytheistic religions, this article is for you:

Reconstructionist pagans are reviving the polytheistic religions of the ancient Greeks, Druids, Egyptians, and others- Beliefnet.com.

It was written back in 2004 and these religions are still going strong.  Here is an excerpt describing the movement to reconstruct the ancient polytheist religions into religions for modern practitioners living in today’s cultures:

Reconstructionists are a group of neo-pagans-people who look to pre-Christian cultures for their faith-different branches of which worship the gods of ancient Norse, Roman, Egyptian, and Druid peoples. And while scholars say their numbers are only a fraction of the neo-pagan community, they also say they are a vibrant illustration of the rejection of traditional religion in the United States. And, in a curious boomerang effect, they are part of a movement away from the more eclectic forms of neo-paganism, like Wicca, taken up by pagan pioneers in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Honoring Athene Ergane Agoraia, Patron of Craftsfolk

Pallas Athene

Pallas Athene via Wikipedia

I dedicated my artistic labors to Athene today and asked for Her to be my patron and give her blessing.  With barely cleansed with khernips and an olive oil sponde, I fed an ink-and-watercolor painting I created of Her to the hearth fire as an act of dedication.

This is the ritual outline I designed, based on Old Stones, New Temples by Drew Campbell and hymns researched on theoi.com.:

  • Wash hands and face with lustral water (khernips).
  • Process to the altar or shrine in a respectful manner.
  • Light incense.  Frankincense is generally applicable.
  • Read or recite a hymn.
    • [Orpheus] XXXI. TO PALLAS [ATHENE]A Hymn.
      Only-Begotten, noble race of Jove, blessed and fierce, who joy’st in caves to rove:
      O, warlike Pallas, whose illustrious kind, ineffable and effable we find:
      Magnanimous and fam’d, the rocky height, and groves, and shady mountains thee delight:
      In arms rejoicing, who with Furies dire and wild, the souls of mortals dost inspire.
      Gymnastic virgin of terrific mind, dire Gorgons bane, unmarried, blessed, kind:
      Mother of arts, imperious; understood, rage to the wicked., wisdom to the good:
      Female and male, the arts of war are thine, fanatic, much-form’d dragoness [Drakaina], divine:
      O’er the Phlegrean giants rous’d to ire, thy coursers driving, with destruction dire.
      Sprung from the head of Jove [Tritogeneia], of splendid mien, purger of evils, all-victorious queen.
    • [Homer] XI. TO ATHENA  Of Pallas Athene, guardian of the city, I begin to sing. Dread is she, and with Ares she loves deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go out to war and come back. Hail, goddess, and give us good fortune with happiness!
  • Plunge a burning twig (of rue if possible) from the hearth (hestia) into the clean water.  Sprinkle this water (khernips) over the offerings.
  • Place offerings (olives, flax, wool, crafts, & intellectual labors) before the statue or other sacred symbol.
  • Stand erect with palms up and make your own prayers.
  • Call upon the deity to listen to you, evoking as many epithets as are applicable.
    • Pallas (forename, as in “Pallas Athene”)
    • Glaukopis (Grey-Eyed, Owl-Eyed)
    • Ergane (Workerwoman)
    • Agoraia (of the Market)
    • Khruse (Golden)
    • Meter (Mother)
    • Nikephoros (Victory-Bringing)
    • Polumetis (of Manny Counsels)
    • Promakhos (Champion)
    • Soteria (Savior)
    • Sthenias (Mighty)
  • Remind Her of previous assistance.
  • Make your request and state what you will do in return when it is fulfilled.
  • Pour libation (sponde) into a cup or bowl and place on the altar.
    • Wine (best mixed with water)
    • Milk and Honey
    • Olive Oil (especially appropriate)
  • Process away from the altar.
  • Place offerings in the hearth fire or else outside in a sheltered place by the door or fence.

You are welcome to use this ritual, or modify it, as you like.

What rituals have you performed for Athene?

Dedication to Pallas Athene, Patron of Craftsfolk

Pallas Athene Statue

Pallas Athene Statue via Wiki

In this month of April, I’ve returned to my roots.  I’ve delved into art (particularly production design for media like film, TV, illustrated stories, etc.) through immersion in classes, correspondence with others in the business, reading, and tutorials.  The more I learn the more I am energized.  This may be my new career.

I am going to pray to Pallas Athene to be my patron, and at the same time, ask for Her blessing.  I am going to ask if I can integrate Her symbol of the owl, perhaps as part of water-marking my freelance art, as a way to honor Her.  To do this, I will need to perform a ritual. Continue reading

Clash of the Titans 2010 Review

As excited I am to see Greek mythology in modern media (and media inspired by mythology, like Percy Jackson), and as much as I like many of the actors in this movie, I was underwhelmed by this movie. Warning: spoilers below…
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How We Relate to the Theoi (Gods)

So-called "Velletri Pallas": Helmete...

Velletri Pallas Image via Wikipedia

1. How important is it for you to understand such things as “the nature of the Immortals”? Is it enough for us to merely understand what the Immortals define as an ethical life? And how does this choice impact both worship and daily life?

I doubt I ever will succeed, but it is important to try to understand Their nature. The reason is that by studying, discussing, and contemplating Them we draw closer to Them. By understanding Their nature, we know how to approach our relationship with Them – to who we might pray to and what we may offer, and who to acknowledge when our lives are touched and how to compose a hymn in thanks.

The gods can be perceived literally as deities who can take the form of a fellow human, even one asking for the shelter of your oikos as a guest, and They can be perceived more figuratively and Their interactions for analogies for natural forces and concepts. Both perspectives are equally valid, like light being both a wave and a particle. It is the paradox, and ultimately unknowable, in which They dwell.

After-all, to understand is to stand under a concept. One has to put the concept (in this case a god) above oneself to comprehend it.

Following this desire to approach and acknowledge and revere is worship and daily life. They are not separated. Worship is the unity of mind with body (thought with action) and celebration and reverence with daily life.

2. How do you view the nature of the relationship between God and man? Do the Gods deserve worship simply because They are Gods? Or is there a deeper relationship?

The only way to avoid hubris is to accept our limitations. By worshiping that which is greater than ourselves, we accept our limitations because worship requires acknowledging that which is greater.

We seem to be the only mortal beings that have self-awareness and seek to understand the nature of the universe (the Immortals). That is what defines us and our relationship with the gods. That need, that hunger, to understand flows deeper than simply realizing that They are more powerful than us.

3. Is your practice focused on all of the Gods, or only some? When you perform ritual or make offering, do you try to balance your practice among all of the Gods, or merely focus on those you feel closest to?

I more regularly need to pay homage to Athena and Asklepios than others because of the nature of my work and interests, so it is right to give Them more than the rest because I ask for more of them. In exchange, I know that Asklepios and Athena are more likely to answer my cries than the other gods are, and sometimes, I can ask Them to speak to the others on my behalf. However, I am one who establishes relationships with all of the gods so that when the need calls I may ask for Their aid, whether I anticipate it or not.

Even if I did not need to ask more of some than others, it’s not very practical to give equally to all of the theoi. There are just so many of them, and I don’t have the resources to pay equal tribute individually. However, I have seen examples of festival and group libations in which the first offering is given to Hestia (by tradition), the second to Zeus, and the third to all of the theoi. That seems both practical and appropriate for holidays. but not for household worship.

If it isn’t practical, then it won’t fit into mortal life. Our lives are brief, and we must find the balance between extremes.

My aim is to burn incense the household gods (Zeus who watches over our oikos, Hermes patron of travelers, Hekate of the crossroads, and Apollon far-shooting) once daily, devotee a portion of my main meal of the day to Hestia and keep Her fire lit, give sponde to the theoi when my demos gathers or once per month in their absence, and celebrate the Olympians on Their feast days. I am sometimes more and other times less successful. Hestia’s light goes out, I am sometimes too tired to make full offerings and instead bid kalimera (good morning) and kalinihta (good night) to their images, and sometimes I dine out and am unsure if and how to make an offering to Hestia. Thus, I aim to gain some small favor with all, and more with They whose realms I walk in.

4. Choose one God http://www.theoi.com/ and examine the various epithets associated with that God. How do the different epithets have an impact on worship of that God? How would you approach this issue? Would you try to worship that God in all of His or Her identities, or do you focus on one or two aspects of the God/ess as you major focus?

At this time, the theoi site is down. I used http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena instead.

I would focus on a cluster of epithets for the purpose of which I was praying, thereby evoking that aspect of Her.

Athena Ergane as the patron of craftsmen and artisans.
Athena Promachos she led in battle Athena Polias (“of the city”), Athena was the protector of Athens and its Acropolis, but also of many other cities, including Argos, Sparta, Gortyn, Lindos, and Larisa. Athena Hippeia or Athena Hippia, horse as the inventor of the chariot
Athena Hygieia (“healer”)

Epithets sometimes overlap, such as with Athena Polias – because being “of the city” captures several aspects, from patronage (or matronage) over the craftsmen, to those needing healing, to warriors. I apply to the epithet that is related to the reason I am asking for blessing (or blessing for another). Thus, if it concerns establishing or maintaining the good of my demos, I would apply to Athea Polais and all the aspects that covers, whether they relate to Her other epithets or not. However, sometimes my need is more specific, such as when I am composing art (and applying to Athena Ergane).

In short, my approach depends on the situation. If my need is broad, I appeal to a broad epithet or more than one. If my need is specific, I tailor the epithet I invoke when I appeal to Her.

Modern Views on Pre-Hellenics

1. How do your own practices relate to those of the pre-Hellenics?

The more I learn, the better I can answer this question. I give sponde in spontaneous thanks, made in good faith as part of a prayer and promise of more sacrifice if the god(s) answer my prayer, or as part of a routine ritual or celebration. I also resonate with the ancient practice of sacrificing artwork to one or more deities. I find natural settings moving in the same way the pre-Hellenics did, I imagine. I might witness a clear day after the rain, smell the clean air, see the sun lighting vibrant leaves, and feel truly alive. At times like this, I pause and acknowledge it – with a kiss on my fingertips, a drink-offering, and perhaps say out loud, “Oh, you are beautiful.” or “Thank you for this beautiful day.” I also have erected an altar to Gaea and Zeus in our home, as well as an image of above the stove/hearth which itself I consider both an embodiment of her and an altar itself.

Ambrosian Iliad, Achilles sacrificing to Zeus

Ambrosian Iliad, Achilles sacrificing to Zeus Image via Wikipedia

2. What is the relationship between deity and the natural world? Do the gods control physical phenomena, do they personify it, or do they have some other relationship?

It depends on the deity. Chaos, Nyx, Gaea, Uranus, the Titans and some of the gods after them like I think are embodiments of the ‘natural world’ and concepts. Mnemeosyne can’t be anything but Memory, for example; compared to Apollon who is light, music, archery, and plague. I think it would be a stretch to say that Chronos literally ‘controls’ time if He was subdued by His son. Rather, I think that because Zeus overtook Time and exiled Him, the gods became time-less or ‘distanced from time’ and thus unaffected by Him directly.

However, with each generation of the gods Their spheres of influence become more complex and overlapping. As Yvonne so eloquently says, “Poisidon is the horse and Athena is the bridle.”, there is more control involved with each successive generation, and in a way of speaking, more consciousness that rises out of that realm (at least, that which we can relate to). That is why it’s easier to pray to Asklepios than it is to Apollon, and Apollon compared to Zeus, and Zeus compared to Uranus, etc. They become more personable and thus more like personifications.

3. What is the significance (if any) of the origin and history of a deity?

The origin and history of a deity is a lot like the origin and history of a word. For example, in Old English a ‘reeve’ was a royal official responsible for keeping the peace. A reeve of a shire (county) was a ‘shire reeve‘ or Sheriff. Knowing the roots of a word deepens our understanding of the word. It is so with the gods. Understanding Their roots enables us to understand Them more deeply. By understanding Their origins, we can also understand what They might embody or personify in the modern world.

Which god should I pray to when my computer breaks down? Should it be Hephestos for His realm of all things metal-work? Or should it be Hermes for His realm of speed, commerce, and communication? Examining Their roots enlightens us as to Their root meaning or root concerns, and therefore, how They apply to us today (or how we can apply to Them).