Friday 15 March 2013

A note on patrons

There are a lot of misconceptions concerning patron deities.  A lot of people I run into will talk about gods as if they are the personal patrons of individuals.  I hear of people claiming things such as "Manat is my patron", "Baal is my patron", "Ea is my patron", "Teshub is my patron", "Ra is my patron" etc.

To clarify, deities do not specifically watch over specific humans.  They can if they choose to, but you as an individual cannot simply 'choose' a 'patron god'.  You do however have your own guardian spirits who watch over you.

Now, patron gods are usually gods who watch over professions or skills or crafts- and so anyone in these things can claim that said god is their 'patron', but only in the sense of them ruling over that specific profession, trade, craft, or skill.  For example, as a student, I can say that Nebo is my patron god.  Not because I 'chose' him, but because he is the patron god of scribes as a profession.  I will leave my offerings at the temple of Nebo.  On the other hand, soldiers can leave offerings for Anat, as she is their patron.  Athletes can worship Melqart as their patron, craftsmen can worship Kothar, sailors and fishermen can worship Yam, farmers can worship Dagon, administrators can worship Sakkun, government officials can worship El, doctors and healers can worship Eshmun, and so on.  There are many different gods for many different professions or aspects of life.

A good comparison to make would be with the saints in Christianity.  The Christian concept of saints is very close to the polytheistic one, probably because it was borrowed directly from polytheism.  I'm going to take a look at a few churches which I live close to (in city, villages etc.) and which saints they're consecrated to.  I know of churches to St. George, St. Michael (the angel), St. Gabriel (the angel), St. Nicholas, St. Athanasius, St. Paul, St. Joseph, St. Mary, St. Aidan, and St. Ignatius.  These saints obviously rule over certain professions or aspects of life, and Christians will consider them their patrons depending on what profession or trade they are in.  So, St. George is the patron of soldiers, St. Michael is another patron of soldiers, St. Gabriel is the patron of diplomats and messengers, St. Paul is the patron of writers, St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers etc.

So, they aren't guardians of specific people (in the way that a guardian angel would be), but are instead patrons of groups which they preside over or are linked to in some way.

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