henotheism

My Patrón Is Tequila

Patronus

In modern-day eclectic Wicca, we come across the terms patron deity and matron deity quite a bit. This is similar to the Catholic concept of the patron saint, spirits who are the protecting or guiding saint of a person or a place, and frequently of a group of people, or a function. For example, St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items, and St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, such as people who think you can be Wiccan but not a witch.

A great example of a crossover between a patron Saint and a pagan God is the Irish St. Brighid of Kildare. Brighid is the most popular Irish saint next to St. Patrick. Her symbols are holy wells and sacred flames, and she is petitioned for healing, inspiration, and anything really, especially by tying ribbons onto a tree next to her wells. She is a syncretization of an ancient Irish goddess who appears in Irish mythology as a member of the Tuatha De Danann, daughter of the Dagda. The Dagda is so badass that he gets a ‘the’ in front of his name, because he held the Undry, a cauldron or cup that never went empty, and had an endless herd of pigs, so he’s legitimately the Irish god of bacon and thus worthy of everyone’s adoration. His daughter Brighid is a triple deity of healing, inspiration and smithcraft, and her worship continues in both Christian and pagan form to this day. I am 100% a traditional Gardnerian, and I work with Brighid about as much as I work with the traditional Wiccan gods, because she is that badass.

But what do patron/matron gods have to do with Wicca? Well, that depends on how you define godhead. You see if a patron saint is a saint of a certain group, and a patron god is the God of a certain group, then the Wica, as a group, can obviously have patron deities. But is there a patron god of witches? Yes, there are tons of them in ancient paganism.

Hekate, Aradia, Diana, Nicneven, the Queen of Elphame, Herne, Cernnunos, Uindos, Cerridwen, Circe, and a host of others are all deities traditionally associated with witchcraft. There are two more that we can add to this list, and they are the God and Goddess of the Wica, whose names are bound by oath not to be repeated to the uninitiated. Across varying lines of traditional Wicca (e.g. Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Central Valley Wicca, and half a dozen more that will never make sense to us) their names have slight variations in spelling and pronunciation, but they are the same two gods with the same lore. Some lines teach that each of them has more than one name, like layers of an onion, each getting closer to the core. But each of these names is seen in a monist fashion to be the same deity, which begs the question of how far one’s personal monist ideals stretch, covering all gods, or only the gods of your own group or tribe in a henotheistic fashion.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a witch who is not initiated into traditional Wicca, and Diana is your patron (matron sounds silly) goddess because you either work with her the most and have developed the closest relationship with her and you have decided that she is looking over you or guiding you. Or perhaps she has made herself known to you and the call is real, guiding you forward. Perhaps you just know it, from a feeling or a dream or an interaction. So you work with her and she works with you and the relationship grows to the point where she is supreme in your own spiritual work, and thus you identify her as your personal patron deity. Then one day, in the course of your life, you are brought into contact with a traditional Wiccan coven, and you want in. You like them, they like you, having noticed your devotion to your goddess, and after a year and a day, you are initiated.

Upon initiation, you are taught the secret name of the Goddess. Let’s say, for hypothetical example, her name is Hekate. What if you thought that the Goddess of the witches was Diana, and now you find out that within traditional Wicca, it’s Hekate? Does that make Diana no longer your patron? Does that mean you have to switch patron gods too just to try to match things up properly? How much logical sense does your witchcraft cosmology have to make in order for it to feel right for you? (The correct answer is none.) Can you have two patron goddesses? A personal one, and a group one? How many gods is too many gods and at what point will it start getting confusing? What if your patron was Artemis and then you found out that the traditional Wiccan goddess was Hera, who tried unsuccessfully to have Artemis and her twin Apollo killed in the womb out of jealousy and propriety? Do you freak out and run screaming away? How do you rectify opposing mythological roles? Maybe your world just collapses for a bit because the traditionalists told you something you build part of your ego on is false and you fall into darkness, but eventually another voice calls you out of your depression. (All hail the goddess Celexa!)

Many traditional Wiccan covens also work with gods of place. Diana and Apollo could be the gods of the Wica, whose names are taught at initiation and about whom the entire Wiccan cosmology and ritual cycle teaches, but your coven resides in Germany, and so you work with Frau Holde instead…or something. Which goddess is your matron? Does each have a claim on you? One is personally in touch with you, the other has been introduced as She whom your worship revolves around, except now you’re directing said worship at the goddess who reigns over your town or city, because why not?

The answer to all of these questions is obviously yes. Yes to everything. Work with 3 patron deities. Freak out about working with three patron deities. Wrack your brain about how to reconcile 3 voices, 3 beings, maybe even 6 beings. Create a personal cosmology which allows you to function fully as a witch, as a Wiccan, and as a spiritual human being. If you ring the phone and someone at the other end picks up the line, you should speak to them. Why not in witchcraft, especially if they already know who’s calling?

Human beings lay claim to an endless host of spirits. (Especially the Vodouisants. I have no idea how they keep up with all that, personally, but God bless them and all those colors for it.) Wiccans are human beings. Some are monogamous in life and may be similarly disposed in religion to one set of gods. Some are polyamorous, and while that’s wildly and hilariously confusing for the rest of us and makes for truly awful and awesome reality shows, it might be better for many people than the alternative both physically and spiritually. And some people are just boring *coughcoughatheistscoughcough.* What is important isn’t what you title each god with which you work. What’s important is the strength and clarity of each of those connections, and the mutually beneficial effects that such connections bring to our spiritual and mundane lives. As we’ve mentioned before, witchcraft is more than just doing spells for stuff; it’s also communing with spirits/gods. So if you want to have one patron or ten, go for it, and don’t let anyone stop you. Just know who’s who when you call.

Slainte,

Gardnerian A

P.S. I’m really a José Cuervo Reserva de la Familia fan, but that didn’t work as well for the title.

 

 

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