Devotee vs. Patron

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is the difference between being a devotee and having a patron, and where they overlap. I tend to prefer saying “I am a devotee of ____” rather than “____ is my patron.” I think a lot of people probably use these terms interchangeably, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Often when I’m speaking in general conversation I will say that Poseidon is my patron because that is more understandable in most pagan circles than calling myself a devotee.

It is a small semantic difference I think, but a lot of it in my brain comes down to who belongs to who. When I say I am a devotee what it feels like I am saying is “I belong to Poseidon.” The line of power flows from me to him, and when things are unbalanced in our relationship, they weight towards him. When I say I have a patron what I feel like I am saying is “Poseidon belongs to me.” The line of power flow from him to me, and when things are unbalanced in our relationship, they weight towards me. I think another part of it for me is that there is little bit of fear laced in the idea of having a patron. Or maybe just with having Poseidon as a patron. The ocean is huge, unfathomable, and powerful. I don’t particularly want all of that focus on me. It is an awesome power to be able to tap into, but it is also treacherous. There is perhaps a likelihood that he is my patron in all of these ways that I shy away from, but I am still, after all these years, surprised at it.  I can say that I have no doubt that he supports me.  I have no doubt that he has been an integral part of my development in my spiritual life.  I have no doubt that he walks beside me and that I will continue to honor him.

The nature of our *ghosti relationship stays pretty even, and pretty balanced. There is give and take. I certainly feel like he looks out for me, has taken a special interest in me, and walks with me on my path. I honor him, I worship him, I make offerings to him, and I call on him when I have a need. Our relationship has certainly gotten more balanced than I think it used to be. I used to feel like he was demanding more of me than I was willing or able to give. I think most of the time now we’ve reached a comfortable balance. I am willing to give more, and he is willing to ask less, though he is still a demanding god. I think our relationship is at as comfortable a place as can be expected between a human and a God of the Sea.

3 thoughts on “Devotee vs. Patron

  1. I’ve often felt uneasy with the words “patron” and “patroness.” I understand where and why the usage came about, but I like “devotee.” It does feel better.

  2. See, when I think Patron, I think of it as the older craftsman term, where the Patron comes to the client/craftsman and invests time , money, or energy, whereas the devotee is someone who puts their energy into following/worship. To me, I’m a devotee, as are most people. It’s the rare(r) ones, such as yourself or Galina K. who have what I think of as patrons. 🙂

  3. Poseidon is my patron, but I tend to use devotee. That’s because the concept of personal patrons was largely unknown in antiquity, so many of my co-religionists reject it. Referring to myself as a devotee (or oath bound, which I am as well) avoids confusion for me, but I know what our relationship entails just the same.

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