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Patron Deities

An Unexpected Controversy

Hellenic Reconstructionist symbol

 

Patron deities are a surprising subject of controversy within modern paganism. A patron deity is a deity with whom one has a special or personal relationship, or a deity to whom one owes special devotion. The concept of patron deities could have come into Wicca by analogy with the concept of patron saints in Catholicism, but it seems to be a natural enough development. Most pagans are drawn to certain deities more than others.

 

The controversy stems from the fact that not everyone- particularly in the Pagan Reconstructionist communities- believes that ancient paganism ever had the concept of personal patron deities. Deities in the ancient world might patronize particular cities or crafts or types of situation, but not (or so the argument goes) individual worshipers.

One argument against this position, although only in a Celtic context, is the existence of personal names beginning with “Mael” or “Giolla” and ending with the name of a deity. “Mael” and “Giolla” both mean “servant.” A name like “Giolla Bride” (Bride's Servant) would seem to imply that the individual bearing the name was devoted to the goddess Bride above all others.

 

The opposition to patron deity practices is so intense among some Hellenic Reconstructionists that they have even declared it to be “objectionable veneration”- a phrase with implications of heresy. While the evidence of Celtic naming customs is not directly relevant to Hellenic religion, this does seem to be a bit too much. Even the Reconstructionist pagan religions don't normally speak in terms of heresy.