Lately, I have been listening to the audiobook version of Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood. As I was listening this morning, a thought came to me. I think the story of the Trojan War is a story of how one cannot blame the gods for any hardship one encounters or any perceived lack of help from the gods. The gods both work together and against each other’s aims, and this is what causes the continuation of creation, the continued existence of the universe. If I were more proficient in music theory, I’d use a symphony or some other musical piece as a metaphor, but I would quickly get lost if I made the attempt. What I mean to get at is that conflict is necessary for growth, and some conflict is not what it seems. Consider a debate, for example. It may look like an argument to spectators that just happen upon it, but it may have in reality been carefully planned with each side doing their best to cover all aspects of their perspective. At the end, there are no hard feelings, but each side has learned more about the other perspective.
Today, I have something unusual (for me) to share with you. It’s a video game recommendation. I know, can you believe it? I took a break from Animal Crossing to look up games with free demos. I came across this game, tried the demo, thought it was incredible, and bought the game. I’m not too far along because games are kind of hard for me, but if you have a gaming system that supports it (I play on a Nintendo Switch), I highly suggest that you check it out.
This game isn’t Hellenic, but it’s really solid media for any polytheist. The gods are present in the game, but they aren’t enemies, and you don’t steal from temples. Have you seen another game be this respectful? Durga is the main deity present, and she’s chosen a girl, Raji, who worked in a carnival (and thus has acrobatic skills) to fight the demons that have invaded earth. Her younger brother has been taken by the demons, and she is determined to get him back. Durga gives her a special weapon to use, and she receives blessings from other gods at their shrines to aid her in her fight against the demons.
The graphics are beautiful (albeit the main character is quite small and you see her from rather far away), and the tutorial is effective. It’s platform-like (side-scroll is the correct term?) in that you can’t get lost and not really know what you’re supposed to do next the way that I do in open world games. The puzzles aren’t too hard, either. For me, I mostly get stuck when I have to defeat particular demons using a particular skill, and I have trouble mastering the different button combinations repeatedly. I don’t recall if I was able to choose a difficulty setting, but if I did, I chose the easiest one. Even if you fly through this game (I’m not), I’d still recommend it to you. There are a lot of opportunities to learn about Durga and other Hindu deities as you play. Another bonus is that I’m learning that I’ve long been pronouncing a lot of these names incorrectly, and even a lot of sources online give incorrect pronunciations. Hearing a native speaker say the names is invaluable.
The game was created by Nodding Heads Games, which is based in Maharashtra, India. It was designed by Avichal Singh, who has done a fantastic job with the backgrounds and paid attention to detail. The main character’s braid flies behind her when she runs, which is a small thing that matters (to me). The game was released in August 2020, so a lot of you may have discovered it long ago, but I had never heard of it, and I found it to be so unique and respectful in its design and game play that I had to write a post recommending it. It’s available for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, and Xbox One.
I live in China where it is quite easy for me to visit many beautiful active Buddhist temples. I have visited the temple of the city god in my city, where I was with a friend who taught to pray in a culturally correct manner. I was thankful for her instruction, but I don’t generally pray at Buddhist temples beyond a quick silent introduction and thanks. It’s largely just that as a visible foreigner, I am self-conscious. Since I’m not Buddhist, it isn’t really necessary for me to deal with the staring and comments. Lately, I’ve been traveling with my girlfriend who is Buddhist, so when we visit temples in other areas, she prays and I carry the incense and take photographs. I’ve lately been thinking more about Hellenic-Buddhist syncretism, not because I want to pray at Buddhist temples or become a Greco-Buddhist, but just because my girlfriend will ask if I know who she’s praying to and other similar questions. I have studied Buddhism academically, but I generally didn’t learn the Chinese names for the deities and bodhisattvas. I would like to be able to explain to her the connections between who she’s praying to and who I pray to, so I’ve decided to sit down and do some research. And you, my dear readers, get the results of what I find. This is intended to be rather simplistic, so if you are interested in this topic, you will need to take it upon yourself to do more thorough research.
First, how did this happen? Well, Alexander the Great traveled from Macedonia going east. He conquered areas and left folks behind and appointed local rulers to rule cities and provinces in his stead as he went. A number of these were then conquered by the Mauryan Empire. The Mauryan emperor converted to Buddhism and spread it to those in his empire. The religion continued in the region (modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan) through several different empires and was later brought along the Silk Road into China. Now, for the syncretism.
Heracles: Heracles was depicted in art as Vajrapani, the protector of Buddha. In Chinese, this is 金刚手菩萨 (jīngāngshǒu púsà).
Apollon: Apollon was sometimes portrayed as Buddha himself. In Chinese, Buddha is 佛陀 (fótuó).
Boreas: Boreas, or possibly Aeolus, was the model for artistic depictions of Wardo, the god of the wind. In China, Wardo became 风伯 (fēngbó), who is actually a Daoist deity, but there is a lot of crossover in China and may exist in Buddhism as well.
Tyche: Tyche inspired the artistic depiction of Hariti, who depending on the Buddhist tradition is seen as either a goddess or a demon. She’s seen as a protector of children and of the mother during both child birth and childrearing. She’s also a bringer of terror to irresponsible parents and unruly children. In China, she is 鬼子母神 (guǐzǐmǔshén), and she is part of both Buddhism and folk traditions. She is also known as 诃梨蒂母 (hēlìdìmǔ), one of the 24 protective devas. She’s a figure from the 26th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, but her narrative has little to nothing in common with any story I’m aware of about Tyche.
Atlas: It’s not clear if there was actually syncretism of Atlas and the yakshas, a group of Buddhist (and Hindu and Jain) nature spirits, but there is an artistic evolution from Atlas holding up Buddhist temple walls to yakshas performing the same function.
Zeus: Zeus was syncretized with Indra, who in Buddhism is more commonly called Śakra or Sakka. Indra is a guardian god of Buddhism. He is the ruler of heaven and the king of the devas. As a Hindu deity, Indra is translated as 因陀罗 (yīntuóluó) in Chinese, but Śakra is 帝释天 (dìshìtiān). Indra wields a thunderbolt known as a vajra, and this and his kingship both seem to indicate reasons for his syncretization with Zeus.
I didn’t find as much syncretism as I was hoping for, so if you know more or have source suggestions, please leave a comment.
Α α – Α is for Άπόλλων. Apollon is the god of light. We can pray to him when in the dark of night, we need his music to chase away the monsters that with his arrows he can slay.
Β β – Β is for Βορέας. Boreas is the god of the north wind. We can pray to him when we need a break and hope for him to send a northern winter wind, so a snow day we can take!
Γ γ – Γ is for Γαλάτεια. Galateia is the goddess of calm seas. We can pray to her when we ride on a boat, so we don’t turn green and need to tote a bucket along for the ride.
Δ δ – Δ is for Διόνυσος. Dionysos is the god of wine and pleasure. We can pray to him when we meet our friends and hope that he comes to enjoy our fun, for such companions are certainly a treasure.
Ε ε – Ε is for Ερεβος. Erebos is the god of night. He works with his wife, Nyx, and his daughter, Hemera, to bring us day and night. We can pray to him to keep our secrets safe and tight.*
Ζ ζ – Ζ is for Ζεύς. Zeus is the king of the gods. We can pray to him when the land is dry and needs a drink. He’ll make rain come, so make sure you let guests come get dry inside; don’t stop to think.
Η η – Η is for Ἡρη. Hera is the queen of the gods. We can pray to her to guide us in how to help our mothers best. Hera loves when we do chores, so mom can get some rest.
Θ θ – Θ is for Θάνατος. Thanatos is the god of non-violent death. We can pray to him that we find a peaceful end at the time of our last breath.
Ι ι – Ι is for Ίρις. Iris the goddess of the rainbow and Hera’s messenger. When the gods take oaths, Iris brings them water from the River Styx. We can pray to her when we make a promise and ask her to be our witness. No tricks.*
Κ κ – Κ is for Κλειώ. Clio is the muse of history. We can pray to her when we study and ask her to show us the currents that connect the past to the present, so that our path is clear, not muddy.
Λ λ – Λ is for Λητώ. Leto is the goddess of motherhood. She, with her children Apollon and Artemis, protects young children. When we feel scared or alone, no matter the reason, we can pray to her as easy as calling her on the phone. Leto listens.
Μ μ – Μ is for Μεσήμβρια. Mesembria is one of the horae. She is the goddess of the hour of noon and protector from dangers from the fiery south. We can pray to her to keep us safe and when it’s time to put lunch in our mouth.
Ν ν – Ν is for the Νίκη. Nike is the goddess of victory. We can pray to her when we compete, for it is she who can help us to meet our goals.
Ξ ξ – Ξ is for Ξάνθος. Xanthos was one of the horses that Poseidon gave to Peleus when Peleus married Thetis. He was also one of the horses who pulled Achilles’s chariot during the Trojan War. Xanthos is immortal, which means that he is deathless like the gods. I bet he’s still running happily, working his quads.
Ο ο – Ο is for Οὐρανός. Ouranos is the god of the sky, and he also is the sky. We can pray to him when we fly high and when we swear to try.
Π π – Π is for Πανάκεια. Panacea is the goddess of cures. We can pray to her when we are sick that she will come and help our doctors find a medicine that does the trick.
Ρ ρ – Ρ is for Ρεῖα. Rhea is the goddess of fertility and generation. We can pray to her when we plant a garden and watch plants grow, whether they be broccoli or carnations.
Σ σ – Σ is for Σπονδή. Sponde is one of the horae. She is the goddess of the hours after lunch when libations are poured. We can give to the gods and praise them to let them know that they are adored.
Τ τ – Τ is for Τηθύς. Tethys is the goddess of fresh water. We can pray to her when we feel thirst and and thank her as we drink and drink, drink until we might burst.
Υ υ – Υ is for Ὑπερίων. Hyperion is the god of heavenly light. He holds up the eastern pillar that separates the sky from the land, and he is the father of Helios and Selene. We can pray to him when we see his children fly by in their chariots carrying the sun and the moon. When one leaves, we know we will see the other soon.
Φ φ – Φ is for Φέρουσα. Pherousa is the goddess of plenty and abundance. She is also one of the horae, but she presides over not hours of the day but of a season. We can pray to her when we harvest what we’ve grown. If we don’t have much, we have to first find the reason.
Χ χ – Χ is for Χλῶρις. Chloris is the goddess of flowers. We can pray to her when we see their beauty under the clean spring showers.
Ψ ψ – Ψ is for Ψυχή. Psyche is the goddess of the soul. She was born human but later became a goddess. We can pray to Psyche to help us change bad habits and better ourselves as quick as rabbits.
Ω ω – Ω is for Ωκεανος. Okeanos is the god of the great river that encircles the earth. It is the source of all fresh water on Earth, and all the rain clouds, too. We can pray to him any time – when we’re thirsty, dusty, hot, and dry. Thanks be to Okeanosn that we can take a deep drink or dive deep into a pool and come up with a sigh.
(What I learned from this exercise is that I am not a children’s book author, especially not when hoping to get this done in a single day, which didn’t happen. To do this well would take months, at least, and lots of offerings to the muses. Maybe someday. Feel free to leave alternate verses in the comments. Some letters were really hard to choose. I couldn’t choose between Hermes and Hestia, for example, so I chose neither.)
Before I begin, let me say how both utterly horrified and mortified I am by what happened, by what I let happen. I have somewhat hidden the evidence, but I am sure it will be found when I move out of my apartment, and I will be paying a lot for this mistake. No matter how much I have to pay for what has been destroyed, it could have been a lot worse. So, let’s begin.
I moved into my current apartment last summer. It is a furnished apartment, so I had to find a place for a shrine based on the flat surfaces that exist here. I don’t own my own furniture. After some consideration, I ended up deciding to use the desk in the spare bedroom. It was not ideal for a number of reasons – I don’t go into that room for much else, the window is drafty and lets in dirt, and even though I tied off the curtains, it’s difficult to pray in there without my arm hitting them, and they’re not clean. Regardless, this is what I chose to go with, and it looked like this.
As you can see, I typically use tea light candles that burn themselves out in anywhere from one and a half hours to four hours depending on where I bought the candles. I know that one ought to remain in the same room as a burning candle, and this is bad decision number 1. I routinely left the door open to that room and went about my business in other rooms while letting the candles burn out after I prayed and made offerings. I would pop in to check on them periodically as I was a little paranoid about a prayer card falling over or something and starting a fire. I was clearly not paranoid enough to not do this but just paranoid enough to keep checking. Don’t worry, that isn’t what happened.
I received a pillar candle as a gift. It was tall and green with dried flowers pressed into it. I bought a glass plate to put under the candle, and when I ran out of tea lights, instead of buying more, I decided to burn the pillar candle. Unbeknownst to me, the dried flowers in the candle weren’t actually dried flowers. They were plastic flowers. I don’t know if this contributed to what did happen or not, but I think it’s an absolutely terrible idea to put plastic flowers (or plastic anything) in a candle. Why? Just why would anyone even make that?
I burned the candle without incident a number of times. As I had always done, I would light the candle, say my prayers, make my offering, and then leave the door open and go about my business. Instead of letting the candle burn out, I would blow it out either before leaving or before bed. So far, so good. The candle was lovely, and there didn’t seem to be a problem.
About a week ago, I started having dreams/daydreams about something on my shrine catching fire. Each time this happened, I took it as a warning and went and blew out the candle early. It didn’t occur to me to change candles, and after this happened two or three times without there being any real problem, I thought it was just me. It was probably just anxiety or some other symptom of my atypical neurology. I kept checking and thanking the gods for the warning, feeling that it was safest to just consider it a warning and that I was catching the problem before anything actually happened, but it didn’t occur to me to change anything.
On the 9th of the lunar month (Thursday), I should have made offerings to the muses. Somehow, my brain got confused and I ended up making offerings to Athena and the Horae. I didn’t realize until afterwards, and I thought it was strange because I don’t recall ever confusing my calendar like that before, but I decided to just go with it. That confusion should have indicated to me that there was something wrong with my brain – potentially a petite mal seizure, but it also could have been just about anything. Neurology like mine is confusing because I am often not aware of problems when they happen. The clues are really small.
You may recall that I always check on the candle multiple times, and I always blow the candle out before bed, right? Well, this time I didn’t. I don’t know what happened. The door was still open, but even when getting ready for bed and getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I didn’t notice the light. It might be because the flame was deep inside the pillar candle and not giving off much light, I’m really not sure. In any case, I completely forgot about the candle.
The next day, I had the feeling of needing to check on the candle, but a quick look at the date told me that it was the 10th (when I have no offering scheduled) and that I hadn’t lit a candle. I didn’t check. My neighbors smoke, and I can often smell it in my apartment, so I figured it was just that that gave me the idea. That night, I have a feeling that I had a similar dream, but I was so tired that I wasn’t lucid enough to heed the warning, and I didn’t check on the candle. I didn’t even remember early enough to make the offering that I had planned to make to Hera (if I had, I would have caught the burning candle), and I planned to make it after I got out of work the next afternoon. That morning when I woke up, on the 11th mind you, I smelled burning. I ran into the spare bedroom to my shrine, and I found a completely melted down waxy mess on the scarf that I use as a base for the shrine as well as broken glass. The candle had completely burned down and broken the glass (was it hotter because of the plastic flowers in the candle that must have also burned?), and the desk had started to burn as well.
The fire was completely out by the time I found it. The area was still warm, but nothing was burning. I don’t know what stopped the fire. I don’t know why the wood of the desk didn’t burn completely. I don’t know why the prayer cards or photo images didn’t burn. I don’t know why the curtains didn’t catch. I don’t know why I’m still alive.
I live on the 18th floor. My girlfriend was asleep in my room. There are children in the neighboring apartment. We all could have died. This could have been completely catastrophic.
I have moved the shrine. I put it on a smaller and lower (why I didn’t put it there to begin with) surface on my 晒太 (it’s indoors and connected to my living room but juts out a bit – it’s where we hang clothes to dry. In English, the best translations would be terrace or porch, but none of these are really accurate). I also bought a metal lantern to hold the tea lights so that they will be entirely encased and there is no more risk of a prayer card falling over and hitting a burning candle. It’s now mere feet away from the sofa where it will be very obvious when there is still a candle burning.
I am so thankful to the gods who stopped this disaster. Was it the agathos daimon? Apollon? Hermes? Athena? one of the horae? Someone else? I won’t know without divination, but I will continue to thank them all regardless. I know that it was my fault, and the consequences could have been so much worse than the loss of my security deposit. The gods saved lives that would have been on my hands.
Please, even if you have become complacent or think that you’ll notice if there’s a problem, please reevaluate where you have your shrines and your choices of candles, candle holders, incense, and anything else that burns. Are you making the safest choices that you can? If there’s something that you can change to make your practice safer, please do it. Please don’t have to learn the hard way.
My last trip to the sea was over a year ago. I learned to scuba dive in the Philippines (and then saw the sea from Busan in South Korea on my way home). It was an incredible experience that allowed me to feel the grace and power of Poseidon, Amphitrite, and so many others. I wish I could go diving now, but alas, pandemic. I am stuck in a landlocked city.
Apollon also has connections to the sea and some of the various sea gods. I will attempt a short exploration of that side of him today. If any of these epithets sound interesting or inspirational to you, I do hope that you’ll consider exploring them for the devotional. There is no current deadline in the CfS because submissions trickle in too slowly. When I do have enough material, I will publish the volume. I realize that this devotional is quite different and has different requirements than others out there, so please do follow the directions. If your submission is off-topic, I won’t be able to include it no matter how good it is.
So, Apollon and the Sea.
‘Ακτιοσ – As Apollon Aktios, he is a god of the foreshore, seashore, or coast (whichever translation you like). He shares this epithet with Pan. In Actium, once upon a time, Apollon Aktios “cast aside his lyre, took his stand above the ship of Augustus, and flashed an unexpected light into the face of the enemy, while he grasped his bow and exhausted his quiver in defense of Rome and Augustus.” This anecdote was relayed by Propertius, and you can read more about it in the Transactions of the American Philological Association. There was a temple to him built there in Actium and another on the Palatine Hill in Rome, where he was called Phoebus of the Sea (Navali Phoebo).
‘Αποβατήριος – As Apollon Apobaterios, he is a god who protects travelers as they disembark from a ship. He shares this epithet with this twin sister, Artemis and his father, Zeus. There was an inscription to Apollon Apobaterios found at a temple in Cyrene. Dio (63.19.2) relayed the story of how Emperor Nero, after surviving a shipwreck, made an offering to Apollon Apobaterios as the God of Safe Landing.
Δελφίνιος – As Apollon Delphinios, he is a god of dolphins and of sailors, among other things.
Εμβασιόσ – As Apollon Embassios, he is a god of embarkation. He is who is prayed and offered to when people embark on journeys ask that he keep them safe. If you would like to see this epithet in use by characters praying and making offerings to Apollon in ancient literature, try The Argonautica.
Έπιβατήριος – As Apollon Epibaterios, he is a god who conducts people aboard a ship, as well as being a god of seafaring in general. In Troezene, there was a temple dedicated to Apollon Epibaterios founded by Diomedes in thanks for escaping a storm which befell the Greeks on their way home from Troy.
Έύρυαλος – As Apollon Euryalos, he is the a god of the wide sea.
Μυρτώω – As Apollon Myrtoos, he may be a god of myrtle trees or of a particular grove of myrtle trees, but the stretch of sea between the Peloponnese and the Cyclades is also connected to this name. In Cyrene, Emperor Nero also made an offering to Apollon under this epithet, and it could have been just an offering to him under a local epithet, but it could also have been an indication of where Nero’s shipwreck took place. You can read more about this Two Notes Concerning Nero by Keith R. Bradley.
Σαληγενα – As Apollon Saligena, he is rising from the sea. This epithet refers to his birth on the island of Delos.
I wrote a bit about connections between Apollon and Poseidon here. There are also a number of sea gods that share similar functions with Apollon under the epithets explained above, but that will have to be another post for another day.
Dionysos never ceases to amaze me at how present he is and how he so often makes his presence undoubtable.
Lately, I’ve been offering from a bottle of wine that I received from my company as a gift about a month ago. Quality-wise, it’s ok. Personally, I don’t love it. It’s a bit too acidic for my tastes. Today, is the 13th of the month, and I’ve been offering from this bottle since Noumenia. Most days, I drink the sip or so that is left in the pitcher after I’ve finished making offerings. Each day, I make a similar face and say another prayer to the effect of “I hope you enjoy this more than I do.” Last night, I made an offering to both Hestia and Dionysos. When I took my sip afterwards, I thought to myself, “wow, that’s much mellower than before.” A moment later it hit me. Thank you, Dionysos! He is one of the most ever-present gods I have had the privilege to know, and he is one of the most generous with his signs and gifts. It is no coincidence that today is when the wine tastes good!
Today, I was introduced to a very cool website. It’s Hero Forge, where you can design your own statuary. It’s actually meant to be for folks to design figures for tabletop gaming, but I think it’s an amazing new resource for the polytheist communities.
When you go to their website, I suggest that you create an account first so that you’ll easily be able to save your designs. I have not yet been able to have my first design printed because I live in China, and importing things is…. not fun. I didn’t even check to see if they would ship here. If anyone does end up buying a design, please post a picture in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with!
Anyway, you do have to choose from two basic gender (or sex) models at first, but all clothing options and attributes seem to be available regardless of what you choose. This choice seems to only affect basic body design. Then you get to choose all of your body parts, and you can make them bigger and smaller and whatnot. They have lots of attributes that your figure can hold, wear on their side, wear on their back, and there are even some that can sit on the figure’s base. Oh, did I mention? It’s not humans only, and there are even some animal heads for our Kemetic friends.
I suspect that if this company had any idea that the polytheist communities would want in on this as much as the tabletop folks, they would add more attributes for us. So, email them if you want something that you don’t see!
They use 3D printing to create the figures, and they have several quality levels of plastic, bronze, and steel. The option that I think is most exciting is the colored plastic, which starts at $45US, which is not bad at all. They have a hand painted option that starts at $150US, but it’s only for their Kickstarter backers at this time. All of their other options are ones that you could paint yourself, though, if you have the miniature painting skills. The cheapest plastic option that you can paint yourself is only $20US, so it’s definitely worth giving it a shot if you design a figure that you really like.
It took me about two hours today to design a figure of Apollon that I am absolutely in love with. Pictures below.
The idea of patron gods is one that is simultaneously very simple and one that is shrouded in misinformation and controversy. At its simplest, a patron god is a god whose domain encompasses that which you are – in your stage and station in life, your profession, your passions, and your endeavors. A person can have one, many, or no patron gods. A patron god can be both constant and temporary. A mystic or devotee can often operate with two concurrent definitions, yet this can be confusing for newcomers and laypeople.
From a mystic’s point of view, I could consider Apollon to be my patron because he is a hugely important part of my life and my devotion to him goes beyond that for any other god. However, I don’t generally use that term myself to describe him. I am devoted to him out of love, but he’s not really my patron in any capacity. As a professional and when I was still a student, Athena was/is a patron. I consider her to be the patron god of education and educators. I prayed to her very consistently while a student and sometimes now when I encounter something that I am having difficulty teaching in a way that my students are able to understand and retain. However, during the gap between my own education and when I became a teacher, Athena was not my patron. The patron relationship is not always, and in fact usually isn’t, personal. I travel quite a bit, I live in a foreign country, and I speak another language (one I did not grow up speaking) daily. Because of these things, Hermes could also be considered a patron. I do have a very close relationship with Hermes, and some of that may be because of these areas of my life, but I think some is just personal connection. Prior to my paradigm shift to Hellenismos, I had similarly close (though different) relationships with a few gods from other pantheons. That those relationships were strong and close did not mean that those gods were my patron gods, either.
What a patron is not is a god or pair of gods that you worship to the exclusion of all others. While some people do only worship one or a few gods, it is not because that god is their patron. Patron is also not a gendered term. There is no such thing as a “matron deity.” Goddesses are also patrons of people working in the domains that they rule.
If you have ever wondered who you should try to build a relationship with so that you can ask for help in a specific area, what you are looking for is a patron. That god may only be with you for a short time, if they choose to respond and help you with your request. You might begin looking for a patron to render assistance and build a relationship so strong that it does not fade when your need fades. At that point, this god is no longer your patron, though some may consider them so from the perspective of that second definition that we talked about earlier.
The gods don’t generally appear to people and demand or request their worship out of the blue. If you are waiting for something like this to happen before you begin worshipping anyone, you are likely going to wait for a very long time. I made offerings to Apollon, not regularly but occasionally, many times before he ever took an interest in me. I even met him “in person” while he was riding a human horse during a large ritual where I felt like he saw right through me years before he ever took an interest in me. The gods don’t run on the same timelines that we do. I don’t know why he finally took an interest in me, but when he did, I was either about to turn or had just turned 31 years old. I had already been some flavor of pagan for 16 years and a polytheist for more than a decade.
I am profoundly lucky and blessed to have the relationship that I do with Apollon. I am not the only person with this type of blessing, but it is not the norm. Most people never experience something like this. It can be difficult to meet other polytheists and feel like everyone has this type of relationship but you. It only feels like this because our communities are so small, and it is generally the mystics, the priests, and the other specialists who share their experiences the most, who are the most vocal. The people who fervently love a god (or several) and hear nothing are usually quite private about their practices and lack of experiences. They may feel that they have nothing to share or simply that they don’t measure up.
Beginning around the age of 22, I became involved with a community of pagans and polytheists that had quite a large group of shamans and spirit workers. I wasn’t one. I always felt like they knew things that I didn’t know and did things that I couldn’t do. Some of that is true – they did have experiences that I hadn’t had, and many of them have skills that I didn’t and still don’t possess. That didn’t make them better than me, though, and I am not better than you. When I made an offering, the gods thought no less of my offering than theirs. In fact, a lot more was required of them than of me because they had the ability to do more, and they had made commitments to do more.
I recently read concise and spot on advice written by Kate Kwiatkowski that I thought was one of the best things I’ve ever read on the topic, and she gave me permission to share it with you here:
“1. It’s not necessary.
2. You can have more than one.
3. You can get a different one as you grow and change.
4. You’re more likely to get one if you put in the work of identifying who has something you want to learn rather than waiting for them to find you.
5. It will also go better if you work on developing the reciprocal relationship first than just showing up to office hours asking for the relationship.”
You can worship a god for any reason at all. You do not need a patron god, and it’s ok if you never have one. The most important thing is to find a god (or quite a few!) that inspires you to love them.