Explaining the Patron vs. Devotee Relationship

A post came up recently asking for insight on the idea of a Patron Deity, who calls to whom, and what that relationship looks like.  I’ve written about this on a more personal level before, but I’ll focus this post on a more general description of what that relationship can look like, how different people can experience it, and variations on a personal relationship with a deity.

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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.

Introduction to a New Deity

An important part of our relationship with the deities revolves around *ghosti and hospitality.  Part of hospitality is a politeness when you are first meeting someone.  A good way to meet new people is through mutual friends, and having one introduce you to the other.  This is similar to the way a relationship with a deity can develop. A devotee, or someone else who has familiarity with a deity can act as a liaison or intermediary to help forge a new bond.
This is structured to allow the devotee to call out to the deity and honor them with words and offerings, and then to introduce them to the new person who wishes to work with them.  They use their personal authority to encourage the deity that as they make offerings, there are others who also wish to do so.  The new person then speaks, and makes their first offering to the deity, asking them to come to them and begin to grow that bond so that they may continue to worship the deity.
[Deity], hear me!
[insert appropriate invocation and words of praise]

[Deity], I come here on behalf of [person].

They wish to develop a relationship with you,
And come bearing gifts.
As I have worked with you, honored you, and praised you,
I ask now that you turn your attention to [person].
They wish to work with you, honor you, and praise you.
[Deity], I am [name],
and I come with gifts for you.
*make offering*
Come to me so that we get to know each other
and so that I may work with you, honor you, and praise you.