Day 8: Patronage and other deeper relationships

Ya know, this could have been another short post like a couple of others but I’m gonna try to delve into this with a bit more meat because there’s a lot that can be said about this, even if I don’t get personally involved. I’ve also had conversations recently that have given me a lot of food for thought regarding deities and how humans relate to them in my worldview. As a refresher here’s my previous post going over what I felt deities were in general. In addition to that, I feel that I must add here that the term “deity” is more of a title or a class of being rather than a species of being, so to speak. They’re basically big wihts, one who rules over a major function, group, and/or area as determined by the reference culture (a wiht may be a high god in one culture, but a low god in another, and be completely meaningless in yet another culture). It all depends on who you ask whether one is a deity or not, and for me there’s a gradient or hierarchy of wiht status rather than clear categories of “deity” vs. “non-deity”.

Like I said in my Being Heathen post, I don’t believe in the concept of patronage when it comes to wihts. It feels hubristic to think that they would do such a thing for us, let alone be directly involved in our lives at all. It also feels very contemporary Christian, what with the idea that we can have a personal, familial relationship with Jesus/God and the concept of a patron saint for certain sects. I have a suspicion that the idea of personal patronage is a Christian influence due to so many Neopagans coming from Christian cultures. Yes, there is evidence for individuals to have a patron-like relationship with a god, but those individuals are usually big deals like kings or chiefs, not a regular civilian (i.e. Turul appeared to Emese’ to fortell the birth of Almo’s, in a style not unlike the angel speaking to Virgin Mary about Jesus. Almo’s becomes the ancestor of the ruling family of the Magyars and by extension the leader of the Magyars. He wasn’t just any baby that Turul got involved with). I don’t consider “gods of a group” type (such as a “god of farmers” or “god of magicians”) are to be considered personal patrons because they’re for the whole class of people as defined by their work, not any one individual as a whole.

Instead, what I feel actually happens is that a person pledges their devotion to a wiht, gives them offerings, shrine space, and attention, and the wiht might take interest in them. There is a concept sometimes used in Germanic heathenry called fultrui that references this idea (essentially translated into a relationship of trust in a deity) but there is no equivalent in Magyar culture that I know of currently. However, there are totem-like concepts present that likely have a similar relationship of trust, protection, and reciprocation for the group as a whole. Turul is the obvious one, as she fortold the birth of the founding ruler and is an important representative symbol to this day, but Csodaszarvas’s role in leading the men to their wives and thus their future cultures could also be considered a totemic one.

As you can probably tell, I do not have a lot of deeply personal relationships with most wihts, god or not. There are those who are very special to me, but it’s a matter of me being in devotion to them out of awe or gratitude rather than them patronizing me. I don’t expect them to even notice me that often, let alone interact with me or my kind. Very few of my gods are close to humans or have any need for direct, individual interaction, and most of them do not have human-like features or tendencies. Those that do get heavily involved in human lives, such as the hearth/fire wiht, are an exception rather than a rule. Other cultures tend to be the opposite, such as the Hellenic gods. Why that is, I cannot say. But coming from a Roman Catholic background where there can a ritual devotion for nearly everything and everyone, I have to say I much prefer the hands-off feel of my gods. It may seem a bit harsher and more distant, but they’re still very real and very special to me.

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