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.
A long time ago, there were many people living in a town. They couldn’t get anything to grow, and couldn’t get any fish from the sea, and couldn’t keep any animals tame. The only thing they could keep alive was the fire. So they went to the fire, and fed it and tended it and cried into it, weeping sorrows and joys, calling out for help from somewhere.
Two gods heard their call, and they came with gifts. One came from the mountains and the other came from the sea. One brought seeds and the other brought horses. One brought oil to feed the fire, and the other brought fresh water to quench the folk and tend the land. One brought tangy olives and the other brought fish to feed the folk.
The people planted the seeds and tended the trees that grew there. They watered them with the fresh water they’d been gifted. They loved the fire so much that they thanked the one profusely for the oil for the fire.
And when one of the folk spilled the water, dousing the flames, they cursed the other and bid him leave. So he left in anger, and as the water had caused him to be cast out, he took it with him. And gods have long memories, so the water never returned.
The people got smarter, and learned to divert rivers and pump it in from elsewhere. But the fresh water, the easy water that was given as a gift, it hasn’t returned. The goddess was honored for her patronage of the city and the god was cast out, forgotten for awhile, and treated with wariness ever after.