I found out about TerraCycle.net cos I love Method brand cleaning products and their refill pouches. The only downside to the pouches is that Lansing doesn’t accept plastic bags of any sort for recycling, so while it’s nice that they provide a significant reduction in waste and resources, before I noticed the url for TerraCycle on a new pouch for dish liquid, my only option was to throw them out.
So, I’ve signed up for several “brigades” (all stuff I use — Method refills, candy wrappers, hair product & make-up packaging and tubes, cheese packaging, old keyboards & mice, old cell phones[50pts], old digital cameras[250pts]) to save up for and send in; I’m also wait-listed for several others. It looks like items can be combined into a single box and sent in together, which is good, cos that makes for less boxes used at any one time.
I have my heart set on bees specifically because of Trophonios, and because bees are pretty essential to gardens. If you’re in the Lansing, Michigan, area, feel free to contact me (ruadhan[at]peacockfairy[dot]com) if you have anything to donate to the TerraCycle box.
Also, since I’m still pretty low on money, I’m going to point everybody to the donations button again, cos it’s absolutely necessary, still.
Now I’m off to put on some work jeans and my Crocs [shudder] and go dig a hole for Future Goldfish Pond™ — my goal for the hole? Not my pole, but a depth of at least thirty inches; considering that full-grown shubunkins can be about sixteen inches long, I’d really rather not have to bring them inside during the winter, so this will allow for hibernation. This is also a sacred garden feature. Plus, it also makes more sense that, if I’m going to have narcissus poeticus surrounding the pond, to dig the pond first, so as nothing gets destroyed later.
As you see, there is plenty of work to be done, and with chances of snow still looming, it’s going to take some time (a much as efforts) to really get going.
If you live in the Lansing, Michigan, area and are willing to loan out tools or come by and help (I have a friend willing to lan out her children on alternating weekends, but so far that’s abou it), it will be greatly appreciated.
In Boeotia, especially in the city of Thespiae, Eros was honoured as a major deity in His own right — unlike in Attika, where He was, at best, an important companion to Aphrodite’s cult. He’s one of a handful of deities who is perpetually youthful in appearance (unlike Hermes or Dionysos, who are sometimes bearded, suggesting middle-age), though exactly how young varies between region and era.
Eros first came to me in my dreams; as a young man nearly four years ago, or at least that was the first time I was aware of it. I can still see His face, His high-bridged nose, His sharp jawline, His calming aura, and all the soft blues about Him. Then He enfolds me, and makes His presence more specific, that nothing can separate us, and nothing ever will.
Believe me when I say that I’m not particularly keen on the idea that “everyone” should have or even should want to have a patron deity; in fact, I’d wager most don’t, and I’d even wager that most are probably better off for it. Those who talk to the Gods have always been on the fringes of society — from babbling oracles to unkempt mystics wearing rags, to those like Socrates and Joan d’Arc — outcasted and put to trial, and now considered schizophrenics by some. That’s not all there is to patron relationships; indeed, the word “patron” is from Latin for “father” and often used colloquially as “protector” and artistic “patrons” used to provide financial support, sometimes even housing; in all uses, the patron still have close personal ties with the other. But a patron relationship with a deity is typically a very close one, and simply being an enthusiastic cult worshipper or simply thinking a deity is cool beans (especially if you don’t even perform a simple devotional ritual or prayer on occasion [and yes, I've seen some-one who claims to have one or two "patrons" while admitting that he doesn't even pray]) doesn’t make the relationship one of patronage. As I’d said, there’s nothing wrong with any of this, I’d even say it’s probably to one’s benefit to not be that close to deities. Being outside the mainstream of a religion isn’t necessarily the path of the “noble introvert” or “cool rebel” — it could very well be that of the “lone wolf”, and if you see a lone wolf, he either won’t be alone for long, or he is so fucked up no other pack wants him, and as a result, he is most likely a scavenger rather than a hunter, and most likely mangy rather than healthy-looking. True lone wolves are pathetic creatures who can’t get along with social situations, even when it’s in their best interests to. Some of us with strong deity relationships can get along fine with others (the “cool rebels” of a religion), others of us prefer not to (those “noble introverts”), and then there is the third group — those of us so dysfunctional that we simply can’t; not the best idea for a religion that prides itself on community.
I say this not necessarily to scare the n00bs — but because sometimes it all really does feel like a burden that I can’t handle, and I “handle” this by not-handling it, and all but shutting myself down, spiritually. And sometimes other stresses cause me to shut myself down like that, and my religious life suffers for it, and the whole fact of that closeness ends up making things feel even harder to come back to when I finally feel like I can again — at this point, I doubt I can lose Eros in my life, even if I wanted to, but it’s still hard to bring myself out of certain stress-related slumps; it’s like calling the friend you haven’t seen in years, even though you parted on decent terms, it’s awkward, and sometimes you just can’t pick back up where you left off, which may make things confusing. I can only recommend building that sort of closeness if you can say with certainty that you can handle the bad and the awkward as well as the good — because some people can’t.
Allegory of Time (Eros & Khronos)
That said, I wouldn’t say Eros is one of those “misunderstood” deities, like Hera or Hermes (I have to agree with a friend who is routinely annoyed, largely due to her own patronage, at the “Hermes The Playful Pixie of Capitalism and FaceBook” meme) — he’s simply one of those who isn’t regarded as important as others these days. After all, much of His domain is shared with Others, and I have to agree that Aphrodite has much of the more interesting mythology, Dionysos had better cult PR, Gaia tends to be better-regarded as a creative force deity, Apollon comes across as far more mature, and his mythological connections to the gymnasia and male couples are sparse, at best — not only are Apollon’s mythos in those areas also far more plentiful, there just aren’t that many gay men in pagan and polytheist circles. Eros is easy to overlook because much of the best narrative mythology was either lost or just never written down. Furthermore, His cult centre was in Boeotia, which Athenians tended to turn their noses from; and the fact that Thespiae remained one of the small handfuls of free cities under Roman rule also left His cult centre thoroughly outside the mainstream, and outside the radar of many ancient writers of the time. The fact that there are statues of Eros readily available in a handful on-line pagan shops show He’s not completely overlooked, but the fact that there are far fewer versions of Him (and especially few when you remove any “with Psykhe”) than many others shows a disproportion. It’s kind of sad, to see such a lovable deity appear so lonely.
I have never envisioned the giggling putti (cherub), popular since at least the Roman era, as a form of Eros — at least not one I myself would pay honour to.
Eros in the skin of the Nemean Lion
The small child is devoid of His own sexuality, and devoid of His own identity — a child is the ward of his parents (be they biological or adoptive), lacks his own freedoms and the majority of his identity to the outside world (for his own opinion on the matter seldom matters to those around him, and when it does, it’s not given the same weight as an adult opinion) rests upon belonging to some-one else. His status is higher than a slave, but still no-where near the same as a free adult. This is not the way to see a deity to Whom all of creation, including the other Gods and Goddesses, is in gratitude. His eternal youth is symbolic of passion, desire, seeking a purpose in this big chaotic nonsense called “life”; and unlike the older man, he’s not entirely sure what that is, but he knows how to get there.
But with this façade of eternal youth is an aura most ancient. With His kindness and playfulness is a side that inspired ancient Hellenic depictions of Him boiling Psykhe in oil, or even Her flailing Him with a whip. Indeed, the depictions of Eros I find most intriguing are those that evoke a submissive side to Eros &mdash the most famous being Canova’s statue Love and Psyche Forgiven and the Caravaggian-styled panting Cupid Chastised (most likely by Manfredi, but its controversial authorship goes back-and-forth between he and Caravaggio). The painting depicts Ares [Mars] whipping the adolescent Eros for sparking the ware-god’s affair with Aphrodite [Venus], exposing Ares to the derision and contempt of the other Olympians — a thought often overlooked in popular versions of Hellenic mythology, perhaps even lost, but one which cements Eros’ place as a Trickster.
His marriage to Psykhe is very much about His connection to the Moirai. I know at least five Moirai, because Pindar names Tykhe as Their leader, and Psykhe has always seemed as one of Them to me; She is Their youngest, She is the weaver of Their great tapestry. (This is technically not Unverified Personal Gnosis [UPG], this is Shared Gnosis, as I’ve seen at least two other people on e-mail lists share similar in the last four years.) It makes perfect sense that Love & Creation would share a bond with Soul, The Weaver of Fate — don’t you agree? Whether it’s power or avarice or blood or companionship or creation or fame, our lives are defined by what and/or who we love. Our passions shape our lives — both our actions and our deeper selves; our passions feed our minds, nurture our souls — and thus Eros is a God of Passions, and Psykhe is the Weaver of the Moirai.
…He’s not just a God of Love, you see; His domain includes Passion, Sex, Creation, Beauty, Songs, Release. Through Creation and the city of Thespiae, I do believe He holds a deeper connection to the Arts and the Mousai, perhaps as deep as Apollon does, but in a different way. Apollon is, too, a passionate god, but I see Eros as the one who lights the fire under the tail of Apollon’s spit-dog to get him going. Apollon will mould that passion and drive you until your fingers are bleeding from practise; but Eros brings that first flash.
Before I knew it was Him, I first saw Him as a minor or thirteen. I met Apollon first, when I was younger, and coming back to polytheism, Apollon was right there from the start, but I’ve come to learn that this was at the discretion of the much older one — Eros. I sometimes imagine what the scene must have looked like, what They must have discussed.
There is a possessive side to Eros, one that wants what He wants because He’s the oldest and must have His way — and, indeed, has always had His way and (if I’m being perfectly honest), will always have His way, in the end. For being so old, He can be like a spoilt child — but at other times, He will prove His great wisdom, and prove His generosity. He’s a Deity Who will fight, but come out loving His opponent more than before.
I tend to describe Him as “kind of like Dionysos, but with a higher roll for Sanity”, but this, too, feels like an understatement. From what I know of Dionysos, Eros is less dramatic and more subtle, also more calculated. While They share the epithet of Liberator, Dionysos’ seems more like a freedom from convention, where Eros’ is more a freedom from oneself. It’s the difference between fellating your slave boy and the orgasm itself; the difference between putting on a mask or make-up to become a character, and going under the knife to become oneself. Like many other Deities with Trickster aspects, He exists in this liminal place in-between things; he’s like the Gancanagh that creeps into this realm from behind the shadows in those moments when you think you see something from the corner of your eye, and then turn to see nothing. This fairy is no “playful pixie”, mind you — His effeminate nature makes Him like a leanhan sidhe, highly inspiring His mark to greatness, but his skin is addictive and toxic, and will curse you to a short life as you kiss him more. There’s a give-and-take element to dealing with Him, with any Trickster, and most people don’t want to give back.
Well, the “tl;dr” version that I usually give people is “because these are the only deities who’ve ever been receptive to my worship”.
The long version goes something like this:
I was raised in a predominantly pair of Anglo-/Catholic households. My father was Catholic, though raised Episcopalian (and would often trash-talk non-Irish Catholics), my mother was raised in Catholic churches, but only because my maternal grandparents were so entrenched in an Anglican identity that they had a sort of pseudo-nationalistic issue with the Episcopalian church, and my grandparents had a more influential hand in raising me. I went to Catholic school, but on a choral charity, and while I went through first confession and communion, I was never forced by my father to have a confirmation when I was about thirteen, cos at that point, he had remarried and could tell that I preferred my step-mother’s meeting house (she was Quaker), and making me go through a confirmation that I wasn’t into would have been a greater heresy to him than letting me go to Meeting House — plus, even though I never formally threatened to, I think he was afraid that I’d make a scene if he made me do it.
Despite having grown up with an obviously very devout father, my mother was never that into it, and I never really was, either — church was where I went to sing and develop my love of tacky art. I rarely paid attention to the mass, and since I was never quizzed on it, I had no interest in doing so.
I first learned that there were options besides Christianity when I was five and my sister started dating the HK Chinese exchange student, whose family is Taoist and retained a lot of the Chinese polytheistic traits in their household religion and mixed in some Confucianist philosophies (for some reason, I didn’t realise that there were still Jewish people until I was seven and my father bought The Sound of Music on VHS, and I got a lesson about Nazis from my mother and grandmother, I guess I just believed, until then, that after Jesus “rose again”, Jews converted — like I said, I was seven). The Chinese are pretty well-known for their very personal approach to religion — take what works for you, and as long as it doesn’t make you a burden to those communities, have at it. This strikes me as a tad ironic when you consider that the reason that Chinese Communism works for China is that their society was very Collectivist to begin with, but then I suppose this kind of makes a little sense when you consider that you can best serve the collective when you’re at most peace with yourself, and so an individualistic approach to religion can work for a collectivist society in that sense — but I digress. It was shortly after my sister married Chan when I was six (yep, pretty much right after she finished high school, as she’s about thirteen years my senior) that I started becoming conscious of other religions, but not really looking too much into it, if only cos of the hissy-fit my father put up that his step-kid “married a heathen”.
Now, in my Catholic school, as I said, I was there on a charity program, and my family was pretty poor, even for the charity cases. My father dumpster-dived and our larder had Government Cheese, Government Peanut Butter, and these ominous cans of Government Pork — my mother was a registered nurse, but my father was an odd-job man throughout the 1980s, I have a younger sister, another half-sister (who spent summers and alternating school holiday weeks with us), and after Nik moved out, we often had a couch-surfer (usually my father’s sister Karon, occasionally one of his AA buddies), so my mother’s salary didn’t go very far, and when she lost her hospital gig, the Salvation Army Rehab Clinic she then worked at paid even less. A couple of the nuns at St. Adalbert felt sorry for me, this gifted kid (both in voice an with a 157 IQ) from a dirt-poor family, who had barely any books of his own. I was often offered doubles of less-popular titles or “beaten up, but still readable” copies from the donations to the school library; one of the nuns offered me a copy of D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths when I was about eight, and yeah, it was a little below my reading level, but I took it because I loved the paintings that illustrated it. Eventually, I started reading it, and fell in love with Apollon and Hermes and Narkissos, the Gaia & Ouranos painting has made a lasting impression on me and how I regard Them. Their version of the Judgement of Paris and the war with Troy I don’t recall as being as Bowdlerised as it could have been (but then, it’s been years since I had a copy of that book, so don’t quote me on that). It broke my heart when my mother told me that the Greek gods “weren’t real” and that even the people of ancient Greece “eventually learned better” — which I now find rather odd, as my mother’s typical views on religion were rather agnostic.
Like I said, my mother’s words were kinda crushing, and so I was just kinda spiritually flailing. When my parents divorced, that was ugly, and at least at my Catholic school, I would have been better off as a bastard than with divorced parents, socially — if it wasn’t for the fact that I already didn’t get the appeal of Catholicism, I would have rejected it right then and there, cos kids can be fucking ridiculous. I saw all the after-school specials, I knew that what my parents were doing had no reflection on me as a person, but try explaining that to a bunch of vicious tykes your own age who can’t stand the fact that your teachers are reminding them all that you’re smarter than them, oh, and add to that the fact that you’re a runty kid, so yeah, I sure was popular that year. Still, aside from that, I knew Christianity and I didn’t fit, cos a lot of it made no sense, especially when you start getting to the arguments that “Jesus = Son of God = God”:
Did you watch the video? That’s seriously how much sense all of that shit makes. It’s one big logic fail, and when you have a ten-year-old pointing this out to his father, and the only explanation he can offer is “but it’s true”, serioiusly…. Needless to say, at about the age of eleven or twelve, I started looking for a new religion fast. The problem with that is, at that age, no matter what kind of a genius you are, the books in the adult section are dry and boring, and trying to find adults willing to tell you about things like that without parental consent are rather hard to come by — nay, impossible. Thankfully, this was the 1990s, and so I had a then-primitive Internet (accessed by the Lenawee County Public Library, after a heart-breaking move from Toledo, Ohio, a city which I loved very much), which gave me access to all sorts of lovely things.
Now, for some reason, I got an idea in my head that since my family is Northern Irish, English, and Cornish, I was going to go with some flavour of Celtic polytheism — and hey, I was able to find information on that on-line. I printed out some info on Celtic ritual, deities, a few holidays, and I attempted for a few years to learn about and commune with those gods and goddesses. For three or four years, in private, I tried and failed, and ultimately got a message I interpreted as a very firm “No”.
There was a big agnostic/atheistic dry-spell for me (more about that on Day 21), and this reached a sort of climax after I had spent two years in several different cities (though mostly Los Angeles; Cadillac, Michigan; and Chicago), I was in Charlottesville, Virginia, and had all but solidified a decision to move back to Ann Arbor (a move I still insist is temporary, despite now entering my sixth year back) and had one doozy of a week, so I bought myself a new set of clothes in an attempt to cheer myself up, and when I got back to the apartment of the friend whose couch I was staying on, I discovered she wasn’t back yet, and I had forgotten the spare key to get in, and it was starting to rain. I started muttering this really hopeless little prayer to Zeus, as that was honestly the only name that popped into my head, and as I was wrapping it up, my friend’s boyfriend came out (apparently he had overslept and was running late — but I had assumed the place was empty, so I didn’t knock) and the rain let up to a bright sun.
When I returned to Ann Arbor, I was stubborn for about the first year, and gave very little mind to the Charlottesville incident, but the important growth there was that I had pretty much stopped identifying my religion as anything I had previously done before. Then one night in 2005, on my computer, I was reading some batshit gay-related site a friend had sent me, and for some reason, the only thing that stuck with me was the Greek references and how this prompted searched for Hellenic polytheist groups. I found Kyrene’s site and joined HellenicPagan, Neokoroi, and Hellenic_Recons pretty much instantly, then KyklosApollon and other groups, and that’s how I ended up in the Hellenismos community.
But that’s not the question — the question wasn’t “how”, it was “why?”
The fact of the matter is, the only philosopher who ever really appealed to me was Diogenes, so the “virtue and ethics” that many Hellenists go all chest-thumpy on matter a whole lot less to me — plus, there’s a quote that Kyrene has always kept in her sig-file on the e-mail lists that always stuck with me:
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” -Marcus Aurelius
…I’m not into intellectual masturbation, and that’s what I see from the overwhelming majority of the people stressing the importance of philosophy (especially Platonic philosophy); just a bunch of gas-bags who’d rather chest-thump and argue, and look down on every-one while trotting out maxims that include “down-look no-one”. Obviously, it’s not the philosophy that draws me.
The community, I’ve learned to live with. As far as I’m concerned, the on-line Hellenismos community that I’ve come to be a part of is really not that much different from my own family (which, unlike the Hellenic community, I am thankfully estranged from): You’ve got members who love each-other, members who aren’t crazy about each-other but can still get along, members who barely put up with each-other, members who outright can’t stand each-other. I like to think I’m some-one who has settled into a position that most people aren’t crazy about me, and a handful have grown to love and accept me for various reasons; there are only a few people I consider myself close to, but like I said, it’s kind of an ersatz family — but I wasn’t really looking for that, either.
I’ve also tried to intellectualise polytheism versus monotheism; the best explanation I’ve come to is that if we look at the universe as beginning with One, and that One was a perfect deity, then becoming Two and then Many was not forced upon One, or that would mean either a) that One was never One to begin with, and/or b) that One would be imperfect to just fall into becoming Two; therefore, becoming Two and then Many was a perfect decision, and Many is what is perfect. Even male-male pairings in birds will adopt eggs so that Two can become Three, then Four, then Countless.
Ultimately, it was always about the gods for me. It was the gods who piqued my interest when I was a small child. It was the gods who made their presence known to me in their own ways. It’s the gods who I feel are assuring me that I’m “at home” with worshipping this pantheon.
Maybe I didn’t realise it at the time, but I first started to feel the presence of Apollon and the Mousai when I started singing, and even when I was singing Catholic hymns, it was Them I was worshipping — i only became conscious of this later.
I honestly believe that my prayer to Zeus in Charlottesville was answered by Him.
I don’t remember when I first started communicating with Eros, but somehow I know that He’s always been a part of my life, even when I wasn’t yet aware that He was there.
Sometimes the “how” makes little sense to me. I have no real Greek family background (unless you’re one of those whack-a-doodles who believes that the Hellenes and the Keltoi share more in common than a Proto-Indo-European background, like the Milesians of Anatolia are the same thing as the Irish mythological Milesians [seriously, I've seen this from some people]), and it’s not like I have a background in Popular Wicca or ADF or even Norse paganism. I didn’t get a classics degree (no, I dropped out of an English major), and aside from Diogenes, the ancient philosophers are of little interest to me, and I’m more of a Diogenes groupie than one who follows his teachings to the letter (after all, I like my possessions too much to free myself of them) — though I have no problem with those who genuinely use Hellenic philosophy to truly better their lives.
The history, though it’s something that Western culture likes to chest-thump about, is still truly fascinating to me, but it’s not just the history for me. Ultimately, it’s about the Gods, the Heroes, the Daimones, all of these faces and personalities that weave their very essences into the universe and drive it. The gods were how I learned about this religion and all of its own facets and tribal sects, and the gods will be here long after the philosophies are forgotten or rendered redundant, and long after all else has ceased to be. They are the deathless ones, and I’m a part of this religion not to chest-thump and wank intellectually, but to worship those deathless ones.
Maybe not every single facet of my life is entwined with religion, but ultimately, I live this life for them, and on their gifts, and I recognise that, and I love them for it, so that’s why.
Now why I came to the Boeotian tribes was ultimately my love for Eros. His cult led me to learning about Thespiae and Boeotia, which led me to an ever-growing love of those tribes. There is no way for me to do things in perfect replication of ancient Boeotia, but I can make it as close as I can, and that’s all I’ve ever tried to do.
At the very least, you don’t want to know Eros like I know Eros.
He’s a possessive Theos. He has this distinction of being one of the oldest of all the Theoi, one of the Protogonoi, yet is in this timeless form, appearing at first glance to be one of the youngest. If you have more than one sibling, you’ll know that the oldest and the youngest tend to get what they want and keep it — at the very least, until they either don’t want it or have no use for it and send it down to the next one or it gets thrown out or given to a charity shop. I don’t see Eros outgrowing me anytime too soon. I also get Him implying all over the place that the only reason I have any sort of relationship with Apollon, and any direct contact with any other Theoi is because He OK’s it. He likes to wave His Proto- status around like half-naked guy with a string of sausages at a Bear Night. Sure, I had my “first contact” with Apollon, but I guess that’s not what’s important — what’s important is he keeps repeating that damned line from the closing cab scene in the Breakfast At Tiffany’s film — and what He says, goes. He’s a billion years old and was here before all of them but Nyx and Erebos. He caused the birth of the Moirai, with the implication that He can steer fate, when he chooses. And if Eros wants you, Eros can have you, and if you think The Others will contest this, you’re wrong.
He’s got a “trickster” element to His personality, so he’s not subtle. He’ll even throw two, maybe three very similar things at you within the course of a week and make you guess which is yours. If you guess wrong, He’ll let you know — and it won’t be subtle. This also means that he’s a tease.
He’s not merely a Lover, He’s a Creator — and you better live up to what he knows you can make with your maind and hands. And like any young human lover, He’ll let you know when he’s dissatisfied with your prezzies. Just like a Starfucker at a WeHo party, he wants his offerings from his adoring creative people to be custom made especially for Him, and if that’s not possible, He wants it expensive. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear He’s been hanging out with Aphrodite for far too long.
One of His epithets, Eleutherios (one He shares with Dionysos), is very telling. He will not only inspire the ever-day worshipper to casting down that which holds them back, but if He wants you to, He can very well make you break out of those chains. He won’t make it worse, no, I’m grateful that He’s one of the gentler ones, but he won’t be subtle, either. He can start with giving you just a little taste of what you’re missing out on, even if “breaking free” from whatever is going to have this long transitory period where things are going to be far more difficult difficult and seemingly heartbreaking, what he will show you will be that good that you’ll be willing to go through damned near anything to do what He knows you should.
He’s also very sexual. He’s quicker than any other Theos I know about to use sex as a metaphor. This makes sense, though — as a liberator, the physical motions of orgasm, tension and release, can be potent. Regardless, prudes need not approach Him. I’m under the impression that He has little use for them, and that they may even confuse him, probably considers them “icky” (though this may be largely due to my understanding of Him).
As much as I love Him, though, He can be frustrating, sometimes even infuriating. If you engage Him in a battle of wills, you will not win. If you don’t keep up your end of the relationship, He will not remind you subtly. Subtle is the last thing that occurs to Him, as is sitting back and just waiting for you to get your shit together.
First off, I want to make it quite clear that the more I learn of ancient Boeotian practises, the more I love the way the ancient Boeotians did things. The more I see photos of the modern region, the more apparent how beautiful it is. The more and more, the more I start thinking that the best descriptive for my religion of “Boeotian”. That said, what led me to this was Eros — after all, it where there, especially in the ancient city of Thespiae, where His cult was maintained long before any other region.
Would I say that this is a “patron relationship”? In a way, yes.
Unfortunately, I often find myself having to specify what this way is, because there is a certain “fluffy-bunny school of NeoPaganism” (to differentiate from those more serious NeoPagans) who treat the term “patron relationship with deity” as if it has no meaning. I’m not going to say that they’re “actively working to destroy all meaning” because not only is that paranoid, it’s just not true — and anyway, I highly doubt that these people are even thinking that far ahead, in fact, I doubt that they even can.
But regardless of the facts, there are always going to be those who will misunderstand what I mean, for whatever reason, so here’s a quick explanation (as quick as I can make it, anyway) for what it means to have a patron relationship with a deity:
First off, just like any relationship, this is one that takes work to make real (and just like any relationship, it can become either healthy or dysfunctional, depending on how it’s fostered). You can’t just pick a deity like drawing a card from a fan in a parlour trick and make that Deity your patron. Nor can you just pick a Deity who “seems cool” and declare Them your patron without doing anything to foster a relationship — when you do that kind of thing to people, you’re not their friend, you’re merely an “acquaintance”, at best, or “tag-along”, or at worst, a “stalker”. When you just pick a Deity and decide that they’re your “patron”, best that could happen is the Deity will ignore you — worst that could happen is that They’ll actively work to make you go away (oh, just like with people — except that when a Deity is doing it, you’re probably going to like it a lot less).
You can’t “prove” a patron relationship exists just by pointing out a lot of random coincidences as evidence that the Deity likes you — especially when you admit that you’ve done next-to-nothing to foster a relationship. A genuine Deity relationship is generally rather hard for a person to prove, except to those who also have one (especially one with a Deity you’ve claimed is a patron), and that’s one of the reasons that I’m not particularly “loud” about my own with Eros. Sure, I can illustrate anecdotes that make it clear to me, but if you’re an Atheist, or even simply a pagan or polytheist who doesn’t believe that Deity relationships are at all plausible, then chances are good that there’s nothing I can say that will convince you, so I don’t (and anyway, a lot of my “evidence” is very personal and tend to avoid sharing too much of it with others, anyway — keeping arguments to a minimum is, like, a bonus, if you ask me). But if you’re talking to a person who has a genuine Deity relationship, or one who does simply happens by what you have to say, and it strikes them as total bullshit (and they may even say such, politely), then perhaps this should give you pause to think if this is genuine “evidence”, or if it’s just random coincidence or, at worst, the wishful thinking of somebody rather delusional.
Despite what some few and rather vocal polytheistic traditionalists may want people to believe, there is sufficient evidence that the ancients did believe that Deity relationships were at least plausible. The pythai are one example of this. The Vestal Virgins of Rome are another. The eunuchs in service to Kybele are another. The meneads of Dionysos are yet another good and easily searchable example. There are examples in The Iliad and The Odyssey. If I wanted to spend a week on Google Books, I could dig up more examples, I’m sure. What this says to me is that patron relationships, in ancient Hellas, were something that was sort of on the periphery of mainstream practise — it’s no more required of Hellenic (or any other) polytheists of today to have a strong and genuine Deity relationship than it was then, nor should it be. Trust me, sometimes I feel my Deity relationships with Eros and Apollon (especially Apollon) can be downright antagonistic, and wouldn’t wish this on anybody (well… maybe on a few people… just so they can see what it’s like before opening their fat mouths).
The Hellenic religion, in all it’s forms (both ancient-traditional and modern) should be something that encourages people to grow, and hopefully grow up. This is possible without a Deity relationship — but having one just puts a whole new angle and set of expectations on a person. Trust me when I say that I don’t mention mine as a means to “feel and seem special” — hell, I’m a Leo, so I highly doubt I need Eros or Anybody Else to make me “seem special”. Heck, I have two cats, and to them I’m the Supreme Ruler who gives pettins and stinky canned food, so for all I know, I may already be somebody’s hemitheos in need of appeasing. LOL
There is a concept in ancient-traditional Hellenic polytheism, kharis, often translated as “reciprocity, giving with delight” and it works both ways: If you give with delight to the Theoi, They will give back to you with delight. This goes double, maybe even triple or more (depending on the Theos) for those with a patron-Deity relationship. If you think that just getting up in the morning is enough to give your “patron deity”, then the Deity you want that sort of relationship is probably just sitting there and thinking “uh, dude, you should be doing that anyway, only a weak character will simply do the menial every-day things for a God.”
As many differences as I’ve had with Todd Jackson of Kyklos Apollon, he once said on his group’s discussion list:
The story of Abraham and Issac would have looked very different if the God was Apollon and not YHWH. If it was any of the Greek gods, the point of the story would have been to be so devoted to one’s family and community that sacrificing your own son would have been unacceptable.
I have to say, I agree with that. That’s one of the things I never liked about Christianity — weak character is a virtue to mainstream Christianity. The Theoi, on the other hand, want us to be creative, Deity relationships or not, and think beyond the every-day hum-drum of things that we can do especially for Them. The enrichment of our own lives should go along with that, sure, but unless you’ve been bedridden after a major surgery or an accident or something equally traumatic, don’t assume that simply getting out of bed is going to be especially pleasing to Them, when you should be doing that, anyway.
Eros and Apollon, as well as the rest of the Theoi, have enriched my life in so many ways that if I were to thank Them by simply thinking what I would have done anyway is good enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if I started getting a lacklustre response.
I have just created a chat room so that I and other Hellenists can converse with each-other as a group. I’m not thinking of any regular scheduled chats except for topic chats on the 4th of the lunar month on Eros & Aphrodite cult, at least for a while, just to see how it works out. First chat is March 31; 10pmEST/GMT-0500 (7pmPST/GMT-0800).
If this is of interest to you, please feel free to spread the word to others.