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. 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. Personally, 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 and 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.
So, in conclusion, there is no invitation required, and you shouldn’t wait around for one. Do you love playing music, or are you a professional musician? Start praying and making offerings to Apollon, to one or all of the muses, to Pan, or to any of the several other gods with connections to music. These gods are the patron gods of musicians. Are you a gardner or farmer, choose to begin a devotional relationship with Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, or any of the other gods whose domains encompass what it is that you do. If you are at a loss, leave a comment. Other readers and I will be happy to give you suggestions of gods who rule over what it is that you do. You are the key. You can make the first move.
I wanted to end with the last paragraph, but there is one final bit of advice that I feel I need to share. 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.