There are always a lot of discussions being had about divine patrons. People ask a lot about how to find theirs, how to determine if you’re just imagining things, how to approach a deity you suspect might be expressing interest in you, what sort of offerings to make, and so forth.
What I find funny is that most people who do have a patron of some sort and have had time to sort this sort of thing out aren’t any more in the know than the people asking the questions; they’re just more used to being confused and trying to figure things out.
Absent for the list of conversational topics, however, is about how someone with a patron should act. This is unfortunate, as there seems to be a rather large percentage of Heathens, Asatruar, Vanatruar, Rokkatruar who believe acting like an asshole is not just acceptable, but an unalienable privileged that no one has the right to question. That, of course, is a load of bollocks so I’m somewhat surprised not many people don’t address this more often.
So let’s start up the dialogue! First point of business: expresseing unchecked character flaws is not a form of piety.
This sounds pretty basic, but we’ve all seen example of this mentality in action. For example, I’ve seen Thorsmen say that having their patron means they get to act like idiots, bullies, and brutes.* We’ve all seen the Lokifolk who use their patron as an excuse to have absolutely no sense nor concept of proper etiquette except when they feel like.** I’ve found a fair share of those who sites following Tyr as a reason to be an unforgiving blight on their communities, and I cannot be alone in this. The trends become easy to spot after a while; I haven’t personally encountered one, but I’m fairly certain that there are Odinspeople who act as if infidelity isn’t just forgivable but a divine mandate.
No. No. No. You don’t just insult the community with that nonsense, you insult our Gods as well. Grow up, and accept responsibility for your own person.
Not that I don’t understand the thought process. You follow your patron. You may meditate upon him or her. Perhaps you partake of psychotropic drugs while doing nothing but considering them. You may even be someone who has the capacity to act as a horse for a divine presence and you have brought them into your own person.*** As such, it may be easy to mistake your own personal failings as the thumbprint of your Gods and, wow, wouldn’t that be such a relief! To be able to find divinity in the lowest, most loathsome parts of yourself and to find that they have a more meaningful purpose than you might have otherwise suspected.
The thing is, you don’t need to be an entitled prick with delusions of grandeur in order to find beauty in such things; the beauty is already there. Overcome those failings, and there is even more beauty to be found. You don’t need to use your religion and piety as a scapegoat; just be a better person. It’s that simple.
No matter what you may want to believe, your bad behaviors belong to you and no one else. No amount of divine patronage will magically transform vices into virtues unless that vice is actually conquered. The Gods are creatures exclusively defined by their vices and, in many myths, those poor actions made a whole lot of sense in context to the moment. Even if we disregard that most of the myths showed the Gods doing specific things for very specific reasons, thus making the context totally different and incomparable to 95% of the circumstances you are likely to ever face in your life? We still are left with a belief system that turns so many of our Gods into bizarre caricatures that belong in a bad cartoon, rather than upon an altar.
Need an example? Go read the myths that have Thor in them; he wasn’t stupid. He was brash and impatient, but Thor was canny and clever as well. He never went alone if he knew he needed backup, he knew to check his anger and rage when he was unquestionably unmatched, and he displayed an extremely keen sense of when was the best time to charge in and knock in some heads. Loki did things other than sling insults, Tyr is just as much about personal sacrifice as he is justice, and there is much more to Odin than “I am in your base, sleeping with your womens.” To be plain about it, if you’ve reduced any of the Gods to a few token aspects, you should probably go back and examine your religious and devotional practices.
If you worship the Gods, and you find a spark within your soul that leads you to follow one more so than the rest? Treasure it. It is beautiful, sacred, and meaningful. It can and will change your life.
Until you loose your hand, your lips, or an eye in the process of following that path, however? You have no business treating your poor social habits as divine mandate. You are no better, nor any worse, than anyone else…and it’s not our job to put up with your bullshit because you have an ardent need to feel petty and special.
To put it another way, having a patron isn’t about you; it’s about them.
*Not that they say it in this exact manner but, let’s be honest, that is what they’re saying.
*I give the anti-Lokean crowd a decent amount of flak…but hey! If any of you are reading this, know that we have this much in common: Lokeans who act like having Loki as a patron is an excuse to act like a boorish jerk-off whenever they feel like it are just as irritating to us as they are to you. Let the healing commence.
**Than again, if you have that sort of capacity? I probably don’t have to tell you that piety isn’t a permission slip for behaving like a tool.