Recently I have run into lots of people who have recently been claimed by a Patron Deity. Sometimes they have been the ones to initiate the contact, but more frequently the Deity in question has swooped in out of the blue to claim ownership. When this occurs it can be intense, disorienting and a bit scary, especially if the Deity in question is from a different tradition or pantheon than the person in question expected. This is something I’m quite familiar with, since I was scooped up by a Norse God after primarily practicing Afro-Caribbean religion for most of my life. Even when the Deity is from the expected tradition and pantheon, suddenly being God-Owned always comes with a big paradigm shift.
Let me take a moment to say that not everyone who is pagan will be scooped up by a Deity. For whatever reason, some folks can work quite well as free agents and will be given the latitude to do so and others will get claimed. Bottom line is; if it is your fate to serve a Deity, whether you consent consciously or not, you cannot outrun Wyrd. I know this concept is controversial; that a God or Goddess can pop in and lay a claim on whom They choose without the express consent of the human involved. We do live in a very individualistic society in which personal freedoms and human dominance are treasured ideas. So when a Deity shows up and behaves in ways we do not expect and They do not give a fig about the concept of human agency, it can ruffle feathers.
I have seen a lot of people struggle (and have struggled myself) when they want to belong to Deity A and Deity A says “no thanks, since you belong to Deity B”. This usually leads to a lot of readings, a lot of stress and bemoaning, “but I really want to serve Deity A and I am more comfortable doing things in a familiar way…” It is hard to realize that the Gods are not here for our comfort and convenience and that, in the end, it is up to Them who they choose. This does not mean that They don’t care about us, They do. But They have their own ways that are not human ways and Their own agendas. They also know far better than we do what we need as opposed to what makes us comfortable and complacent. In the end They will do what needs to be done for our long term spiritual growth, even if it means dragging us kicking and screaming down the path. Ultimately, where our agency comes in is in our response: we can choose to fight and whine and melt down and make the process of winnowing away all that holds us back from being Useful all the more protracted and messy; or we can get with the program and earn some Brownie points for being smart enough to cooperate.
So, when I run into folks who have not been claimed yet searching around to find their Patron, I caution them to be wary of what they ask for. I also advise them that, if they are meant to be Deity owned then the Deity in question will surely lay claim in good time and to take the opportunity now to build the skills that will make the claiming process less challenging. First, I’d say get your ancestral house in order and develop a good working relationship with the land spirits and the Dead. This will build good habits, build lots of protection and the Ancestors especially can teach us how to serve a Deity with grace and humility. If you learn to serve your ancestors well, you will build the skills you will need to serve a Deity. You will also make yourself far more interesting and valuable to the Deity who is watching from the wings waiting to swoop in on you at an opportune moment. The Gods like people who are useful and know how to serve consistently and well.
Now, if you have been claimed by a Deity before you have had time to get your bearings…that is a rougher road, but all is not lost. If you do not yet have a strong ancestor practice, you can start now. Most Pagan Deities will want you to develop a strong connection to your ancestors in addition to your connection to Them. Ancestor veneration was a significant part of every Pagan culture and our Gods expect that we will honor our dead. This is because it is right to do so and also because we are strengthened when our ancestral house is in order and it adds to our usefulness and our ability to serve our Gods well. Our Deities want to see us strong and will forge us into tempered steel. In retrospect we will see how necessary this process is, though at the time of our honing all we know is that it is distinctly unpleasant. All I can say is if we hold on, we will come out better, stronger people with an ability to be sustained by our faith and an ability to do our duty under any conditions. This is the paganism of our ancient kin.
Before everybody starts to wonder why anyone would ever wish to be Deity-Owned, I have to say that, for all the challenges and hard lessons, there are great blessings in service. That is because true happiness does not come from self-centeredness, but from knowing one is a part of something greater than oneself. So many people in our culture chase happiness and run from any discomfort…and find themselves alienated, disconnected and in despair. This path, while difficult, brings great rewards, connection and self-respect. Seek to do what is right and happiness is the byproduct of a life well-lived.
Walking this particular road requires a lot of faith, trust and willingness to be fully honest with ourselves and our Deities. They do understand that we may struggle…but They want our complete honesty and openness within that struggle. They want us to turn ourselves towards Them and ask Their aid and learn to rely on our relationship with Them to sustain us. They want us to be willing to get up each time we stumble, dust ourselves off and begin anew. Trust is built inch by inch…They do not always tell us in advance where the road leads. Sometimes this is a mercy. We have to have faith that They are carefully guiding us for a purpose and will get us through the challenges we will face. As we follow Their lead we grow closer to Them. Deity relationships can be astoundingly sustaining and intimate and our Gods are capable of great tenderness towards those They love.
And, ultimately, this is a love relationship. What else would you call pouring yourself out for another and learning to trust instinctively and give fully, withholding nothing? On a final note, all I can say is that the love we give to Them is returned abundantly. I am owned by Loki and He has blessed me so much even during the hardest moments. He has never turned away, even when I was raging about the price I was being asked to pay. He has loved me unreservedly, the good and the bad, even as He nudged me forward towards the person I was meant to become. Loving me didn’t prevent the honing process and its attendant pains…our Gods do not coddle. Our Gods, however, do sustain, remake and lift up those who love Them.