In the past, I’ve written about connecting with deities and have made a few videos of general tips about how to find a connection with a deity. But I keep getting questions along the same theme, and these questions come from people who are new to paganism, people who are beginner or baby witches, and even judgmental non-polytheists who insist that paganism is an exercise of fantasy. Those questions all essentially boil down to: What does it mean to have a relationship with a deity at all?
Early in the path or during the phase of exploration, eople want to know what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to have a “patron.” They want to know specifics. Do you pray? Can you hear the gods, or see them? Do they come to you in dreams? Do they perform magical spells in your life? Just how suprasensory is this relationship, and just how grounded in reality is it – or is it not?
To be truthful, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m sure every person who is pagan or simply religious will describe their relationship with their god or gods in a different way. But what I can do is explain what my relationships look like, how they differ between gods.
What’s different about the pagan gods from monotheism?
Many people who approach polytheism come from an Abrahamic upbringing. The majority, at east in the American context, are Protestant Christians and a few are Catholics. Leaving these religions for a pagan path doesn’t have to mean a complete rejection of the spiritual value or ultimate reality of those entities. For me, Judaism and the god of the Jews is still very real to me, even though I consider myself a pagan. I still observe, to some extent, Shabbat, read Torah, and feel a sense of reverence for Hashem. But my relationship to that god and the Jewish tradition in general is much more about feeling a connection to my ancestors, my people and my culture. It’s about acknowledging that these are the teachings and ways of life that enabled us to survive these centuries and have given us our distinct ethnic and spiritual identity. Hashem as a god is, to me, the inspiration and divine source of my people. I don’t feel a personal relationship with Hashem, not in the way that I hear Christians describe their relationship to figures like Jesus or Mother Mary. The Torah teaches us that Hashem is a mysterious god, one who we wrestle with throughout our lives, disagree with, contemplate, and seek to understand. What I imagine when I picture Hashem in my mind is the Big Bang and Hubble telescope photos of strange nebulae.
But my relationships with pagan deities are deeply personal, sitting somewhere between worship, friendship, and mentorship. The pagan gods are more relatable to me as a human being because they are so intimately personified through their mythology, artwork, and connections with the natural world that I myself can observe. Pagan deities feel much closer to my lived experience as a homo sapien in this planetary sphere, whereas Hashem, the Jewish god, relates more to my contemplation of this planetary sphere whizzing through the vast reaches of spacetime.
So, what constitutes a personal relationship to a patron deity?
Now, what does my personal relationship to my patron deities look like? Well, it’s a little different for each one. I work with or worship a variety of deities from a few traditions, such as Celtic, Baltic, Canaanite, Norse, and Kemetic. Depending on what pantheon the deity in question is from, my practice shifts a little. I try to incorporate as much of the traditional or ancient ways in which a deity was worshipped while still appealing to my modern sensibilities.
One example is my worship of Kemetic deities like Bast, Isis, or Nephthys. These goddesses are representative to me of personalities and traits that I would like to inherit in myself, so spending time with them is key in growing more like them. When I feel righteous anger or rage, I lean on Bast; I might light fragrant incense, put oils on my skin, and sit in a dark space illuminated by candlelight and let myself slip into a trance with Bast as my guide. She helps me explore that anger and find a suitable, healthy outlet for it. Isis is the ultimate woman and divine mother, a devoted lover who embodies the throne upon which the royal line sits. I find inspiration from Isis particularly in my professional life, allowing her to teach me to be more confident, forthright, and daring in my workplace. I would pray to her to give me the words to ask for a raise or speak to an intimidating client. I would also lean on her when I feel that I haven’t been engaging my husband with romance, and I might try to embody her mentally in expressing seduction and love.
So yes, I do pray to my gods. Many of my prayers take the form of whispers under my breath when I need guidance or inspiration, while other prayers might consist of spending all day working on a poem I read aloud under the full moon before lighting the paper on fire as an offering. I’ve also taken strongly to rewording ancient hymns to suit me and my needs, and enjoy using these on sacred days, special occasions, or with my daughter.
How to have magickal and psychic experiences with your deity
As for the really woo-woo bits, I find it interesting that people who come to paganism are always really preoccupied with whether or not they can expect to have visions, dreams, or clairaudient experiences with their deities. The short answer is no, you should not expect this from a spiritual relationship with a pagan deity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate that kind of relationship.
If you’re like me and come from a Biblical background, whether that be Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, you’re probably familiar with stories about Bible characters suddenly experiencing the presence of God. There’s a burst in the heavens, a crack in reality, or an angel suddenly descends. These moments herald major prophetic changes to not only the character’s life, but the world around him or her; and, usually, send the character into a fit of fear or terror. Similarly, these moments can happen in our personal lives and aren’t that uncommon. I had never heard of the Baltic deity Laima or the Norse deity Nanna, but both appeared to me in dreams and announced themselves, their name, and were surrounded by their symbols – things I in no way couldn’t conjured on my own in the dreamspace. These were visions, sent to me by the goddesses themselves. But my relationship to Isis, who I love most dearly, has never had a visual element to it. She speaks to me in subtle ways – she makes her presence known by events in my life, strange objects appearing in my path, and whispers I hear within that I could easily confuse with my own intuition.
If you crave this suprasensory experience with a deity, don’t try to force it. Instead, focus on improving your own psychic senses so that when a deity decides to reach out to you in this way, you might actually experience it rather than miss out. Simple habits like keeping a dream journal, practicing meditation, going on silent nature walks, eating or drinking mindfully, getting up early or staying up to stare at the moon – these are all ways you can begin exploring your own psychological and spiritual depths in a manner that will allow you to notice when something is there that isn’t coming from you, but coming from somewhere – or someone – else.
If you’re not psychically inclined, then don’t think that these experiences are what validate your spiritual practice or your relationship to a diety. If we think back to the ancient world, we know that it was the role of priestesses to help the community communicate with the gods; they acted as mediums, because not everyone can, or is meant to, have that sort of psychospiritual conncetion with other dimensions. Some people have, through occult study and ritual, forced that connection open, and descended into near madness because it simply wasn’t the right thing for them. Be okay with that too.
Just because some people have these skills doesn’t mean that you’re lacking spiritual skills of your own. Maybe you can’t hear or see your deity, but you have a strong telepathic connection to the animal world. Maybe dream visions don’t come to you, but you have a magickal green thumb that enables you to cure any stricken plant that comes your way. Maybe you’re not a spiritual healer, but you are a physical healer.
The physical world we live in is just as important as the spiritual one, and both the physical world and spiritual world have multiple dimensions. Deities aren’t the only spiritual entities; there are ghosts, spirits, sprites, nymphs, elves, and all manner of beings that I personally have never connected with. Maybe you do.
We need people with all sorts of talents to help us navigate our spiritual life and our life here on this planetary sphere. So don’t think that your relationship to deity needs to look or feel a certain way just because some teenager on WitchTok thinks her gods appear in her bedroom as literal apparitions to scold her for skipping school.
Find what makes your heart and soul sing, and get good at it.