This post is written for the Kemetic Round Table (KRT), a blogging project for providing useful, practical information for the modern Kemetic practitioner.
Some of the most popular questions I see in Pagan communities concerns patron deities. How do I get one? How can I tell who my patron is? What is a patron deity? And so on. In this edition of the KRT, we are asked a few questions about patron deities and what our options are concerning them.
First of all, what is a patron deity? The answer to this will vary some between individuals but, in essence, a patron deity is a deity with whom you have a strong, personal relationship and who usually has a prevalent role in your life. My patron deity is Anubis. How can I tell? Well, he came to me during a rough patch in my life when I was quite young. Looking back on my life, I can see his guiding hand on even the small details in my life, to the point where I wonder if he hasn’t always been around. His role in my life takes precedence over most religious things and most mundane things. These are just a few examples of how I know Anubis is my patron. That said, there may be other definitions that do not include these types of occurrences and influences. This, however, is my definition and how I interpret the use of “patron” in a modern setting.
Now that we have a working definition and example of a patron god, I can address the first question: Do I need a main deity to practice Kemeticism?
In short, no. I don’t believe you need a main deity to practice any religion outside of Christianity. Many of the polytheistic religions have so many gods that it’s easy to have one or two that you prefer, but if you work solely within one pantheon, it is easy to work with them all. For example, in Kemeticism, one would work with Ancient Egyptian gods (predominantly, at least). That said, different elements of the world and our experience therein are associated with different deities: Ra is a sun god and so the sun is associated with him, though there are many other solar deities and one that are specifically associated with different times of day; Anpu (Anubis) is a god of the afterlife, of death, and of the dying and so when we approach death, we may look to him or Wesir (Osiris); Geb is the earth; Nut the stars and sky. If we appeal to one aspect of life from a Kemetic context, we appeal to the god who rules over that aspect, for we work within that pantheon. The same idea goes for different pantheons, such as the Hellenic or Norse.
When you work with multiple pantheons, however, you may find yourself preferring certain deities or certain types of deities over others. In my practice, I have found that many of my deities are associated with death, spirits, knowledge, magic, and are chthonic in nature. Why this is, I’m yet unsure, though I have a few inklings. Does that make them my main deities or my patrons? Not necessarily. They are just the ones I work with most often in a religious context, since in our modern world, there has become a large divide between religious life and secular life.
The second question is phrased so that I do not have to answer it, since my answer was no to the former; however, it’s something worth talking about: If so, how do I get a main deity?
There are numerous ways to begin working with a deity, which is the context I am going to approach the question from.
In my experience, I have waited for deities to come to me. I may have had an interest in them, but it is not until I have begun seeing signs and receiving nudges that I have begun a relationship with them, at least on my end. Anubis, as I said, came to me when I was a child. It is to him that many of my prayers are devoted to, though I have chattered wishes, desires, and what counts as prayers to others to all the gods I work with.
However, others have approached their deities on their terms, versus waiting around. They find a god who appeals to them and begin leaving offerings or prayers to that god in hopes of reciprocation. This is not wrong, though some people may think it’s less than ideal to approach a god without their permission. Since I am not one to speak for the gods, I believe it is up to the practitioner to decide how to begin their relationship with a deity: to wait or to pursue.
There are other ways to approach a god. Sometimes it occurs within a third-party context. A few months ago, my friend Red posed a question concerning what deities she might be associated with. I replied and told her Freyja from the Norse pantheon and the more I read on Freyja, the more I thought she might fit my friend. So I told Red she might be interested in looking into this Norse goddess and moved on. Shortly thereafter, I was informed that Red had realized that one of the goddesses she had been feeling poking around for awhile was, indeed, Freyja. How you interpret this situation is up to you.
Divination is another way one might find a deity to work with. Tarot, bibliomancy, pendulum readings, all are ways to connect to the Divine. They do, after all, stem from the same source word. How one might do this is up to the individual; this is not one that I have used myself but others have.
Our next question is “Am I able to say no to a deity that shows up at my shrine?”
You can always say no. Gods can be dickish and persistent, so you should take that into account. See: my relationship with Persephone earlier this year. I said no as often as I could, though, in the end, she won out. I relented, knowing it was best for me. And you may end up being similar, deciding that now is not the right time for you to work with that god. You may feel you have too many to work with at the moment and you wouldn’t be able to give this new god their due. Or they may just not appeal to you, despite the god feeling otherwise. It’s entirely up to you who you allow into your personal practice, god or otherwise.
Our last question for this installment of the KRT makes me pause: Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?
On the one hand, I believe that an individual who works with a historic deity, such as one from an ancient pantheon, should do their best to learn what they can about that deity. Don’t just read the Wikipedia article and go on from there. (I have strong feelings about Wikipedia as a source as it is.)
On the other hand, however, some people prefer to learn about their gods in a mystic format, through personal interaction, astral travel, etc. Am I allowed to say that is wrong? No, not at all. One can still have a strong, personal relationship with a deity and have never read a single thing on that deity (though, then I wonder how they came to associate that historical name with the deity they work with, but we get into more convoluted territory there, a part of the map that says Here Be Dragons and I’m without a sword). Again, as I am not one to speak for the gods, I cannot deny an individual that experience or opportunity. That said, we should put emphasis on the “personal” part of that sentence. If one were to work with Anubis and have never read anything on him and begin making claims about him, I’d cock an eyebrow quite high. Discussing your UPG is fine but once you begin to label UPG as historical fact without any evidence (aside from your own personal experience), then we hit troubled waters.