Pan-Celtic Hoofbeats: Finding Your Patron Deity

Pan-Celtic Hoofbeats: Finding Your Patron Deity November 1, 2018

I notice a lot of new Pagans asking how to find a patron deity. They often sound worried about not having one yet, or not sure how this miracle is supposed to take place.

Newbies, this is a crone speaking. You are fine as you are. Take your time. You will never have it all figured out, anyway! Run like hell from anybody who says they have!

Matres de Vertault – public domain

But back to the deity thing. Getting into a relationship with a deity is a bit like getting into a relationship with a human. There may be parent figures, pals, people you bump into occasionally, and significant others. There may be some you enjoy seeing at that one yearly event you both always go to, and others who are your best friend for life.

If we use the metaphor of marriage for finding a patron deity, this is something you should take your time deciding about. It’s probably wise to check out a few options. The decision should be mutual. That’s probably about as far as we can go with that, because having a patron deity is not the same as being married, but there are parallels.

Some people insist that patron deities choose you. People I respect have reported deities coming to them in dreams or during rituals. Sometimes they couldn’t even identify the deity and had to do research. Other times they knew exactly who was picking them for their team. I wouldn’t discount this happening, but it doesn’t happen to everyone. You are not a lesser being if it doesn’t happen to you. Furthermore, you have a choice! If you feel that a deity is calling you, take it seriously, but if you find that deity scary or distasteful, respectfully say, “No thanks,” or “not yet,” or possibly “why me?” If this sounds like a lecture on consent culture, it probably is.

Wicker Man at Butser Hill Beltain Ceremony by Angus Kirk CC2.0

I also take some of the more dramatic tales of being called with a grain of salt. Who doesn’t love to tell a good story – especially when they are at the centre of it? I’m not saying it never happens, but don’t hold your breath!

If a deity calls you, and you like the look of them, great! I would still say take your time. Maybe offer to dedicate yourself to them for a lunar month and see how it goes. Or maybe just send them a few prayers and see whether the conversation continues. If you are new to all this (and even if you aren’t) be aware that sometimes we only think we’ve had an experience with a deity. A little soul-searching, a chat with a more experienced person, or taking a break of a few days, can bring more clarity. I once asked a goddess for a sign, and She gave me a very clear one. I can’t promise that you’ll be as lucky, but it’s worth a try if you are full of doubts.

If you don’t hear any deities calling, it’s okay to go looking. Have you read something about a particular god that touched you deeply? Do some more research, send them a few prayers and see what you get back. Are you attracted to a particular culture or pantheon? Read the mythology! Reading mythology is never a waste of time. Things will jump out at you and really make you think. You might find a deity there whose actions inspire you, or one you strongly identify with. Just remember that while most deities appreciate attention and offerings, not all of them will want to be friends. Some may simply be quiet and reserved, others will wait to see whether you really mean it, and some may know you’re not their type. Consent works both ways.

If you don’t feel attracted to one deity more than another, that’s also fine. Lots of Pagans never have a patron deity, and others have several. And like the example I gave at the beginning, you can (and I think it’s healthy) have deep, but less intense, relationships with lots of deities. Brigid and the Cailleach rock my world for a couple of months around Imbolc. It’s been like that for years. The rest of the year I don’t hear from them that much.

An Cailleach Bheara by Rob Hurson – CC 2.0

Be aware that there are fashions in Paganism. Both certain pantheons and certain goddesses seem to go through phases of being popular for awhile. Sadly, that’s influenced by popular fiction and television series. Don’t be afraid to do some soul searching, and give yourself a reality check, about these things. Are you looking to be trendy and follow the crowd, or to build something that will last a lifetime?

If it helps, I’ll tell you how it went for me. Your experience won’t be exactly like mine, though!

I was always attracted to Celtic things, so not surprisingly I never really looked beyond Celtic deities. The first deities I felt interested in were Brigid, Lugh and Belenos. Brigid and Lugh are popular and well-known, so that’s not very surprising. Belenos (a Gaulish god) wasn’t exactly big news in the 1980s. I was a bit of a dabbler for a long time, and had occasional encounters with these three, probably more coming from me than them. To be honest, I never really thought about that part. Somewhere along the way, Manannan mac Lir got added in. I was still just dabbling, but these four deities still have importance to me today.

Long before I became a Pagan, even as a small child, I was very attracted to horses. Okay. Obsessed. A lot of girls have a phase like that, but mine was intense and long-lasting, especially considering I never managed to have a lot of contact with horses until I was in my thirties. I was vaguely aware by that time that there was a horse goddess called Epona. I thought She was a Roman goddess or something. Ha! Eventually I became a horse owner. Almost immediately Epona showed up. This is where I’m supposed to describe the dream or vision that I had – except I didn’t.

Rhiannon Altar – Kris Hughes

Epona just subtly crept into my life and took up residence. Like finding pieces of a puzzle, She became more and more important to me over time. After a number of years I made a vow to Her and put up a shrine in my barn. Later still, someone I respect suggested that I start working with Rhiannon. I was skeptical, and it took some persistence, but it turned out that they were right. I never had a lot of interest in Macha, because the Morrigan kind of worries me, but in the past year I did quite a bit of reading about Her, and guess what? I wouldn’t exactly say Macha called me, but when I cracked the door an inch to peek into Her world, She strode right in and wanted us to get started. It’s been rewarding.

At the moment, I kind of feel like my dance card is full. There is definitely something going on with me and these horse goddesses. They seem to have an agenda for me that I hope I am equal to. I’m glad that I have other deities, too, for balance. I’m glad that my understanding of the mythology of my gods is reasonably solid, and growing, so that I am standing on a solid base. I wish you the contentment and security of finding the deities you need. Be patient. It will come.

About Kris Hughes
Kris Hughes is a nice, older Pagan woman who loves the gods of the Celts. She doesn't claim to be anything in particular, but she might possibly be described as a hedge teacher, a writer, a part time Druid, an exiled Scot, a poet, cartomancer, ritualist, storyteller, or just someone with a lot to say about a lot of things. In the past she has been a professional musician, a farmer, and a horsewoman. She is currently writing a book, working title The Celtic Horse Goddesses: Myth, History and Personal Reflection. Her interests include herbalism, mythology, and British native ponies. She also blogs at her own website Go Deeper. You can read more about the author here.
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