“Do I need a patron god/goddess to practice witchcraft?”
I hear it all the time, and chances are, if you’ve waded even ankle deep into any community of witches, you’ve heard it, too. With so many aspiring practitioners of magic searching for a starting point from which to launch themselves into the craft, it is little wonder that many latch onto the idea that choosing a god or goddess is step one. When I first decided to take the leap and come out of the proverbial broom closet, I took a very thorough and almost clinical approach. It was as if I had a list in front of me of boxes to check off, and by the gods, not only was I going to become an accomplished witch, I was going to do it efficiently.
But it doesn’t work that way.
First of all, it is important to understand this: You do not need to believe in a god of any origin to be a witch. There are plenty of practicing witches who would describe themselves as atheistic or agnostic. There are also many who consider themselves Christian witches, Pagan Witches, Wiccans, etc. The takeaway here really boils down to the fact that witchcraft (or metaphysics if you want to be fancy) does not belong to any one religion. In essence, it belongs to anyone who feels called to practice.
Now think about what I just said. “Feels called.” That phrase right there was the wrench in my cogs. As I said, I had everything mapped out to fit what I thought was a rather foolproof path. And more than that, not only was I going to succeed, I was going to succeed alone! But, while lists can be beneficial in terms of giving you intent and focus, they don’t provide you with one crucial ingredient needed to successfully navigate this path. I wasn’t listening enough to my ‘feeling’ or intuition. I was so concerned with ‘what am I supposed to do?’ that I didn’t let myself do what felt right.
And that brings us back to our original question. Just because you ‘think’ you need a god or a goddess to become a full-fledged witch doesn’t mean that is what is right for you at the time or at all. Consider why you you think you need a patron god/goddess in the first place. Religion is an institution that predates written history. There exists a great deal of evidence to suggest Neanderthals practiced totemism and the worship of animals. Many scholars will also argue that because early man buried their dead and honored them by laying out flowers and other offerings this indicates a belief in the afterlife. As far as monotheism goes (the belief in one god), the earliest evidence of this dates back to the 14th century BCE where, in Egypt, King Akhenaten worshiped the sun disk god, Aten.
Religion has evolved, playing a large part in the human experience and condition. Regardless of your thoughts surrounding organized religion, it probably isn’t wrong to assume that you have been exposed to it. Could it be that you grew up in a church-going family? That you are used to having a central figure in your faith upon who you can call when you need guidance or clarity? Even if you didn’t grow up in a religious family, is it possible that the way western society is framed has imprinted this manner of worship in our minds? We know what religion is supposed to look like. But again, witchcraft is not a religion.
So, the simple answer: no.
The more complicated answer: That depends on you. Maybe you aren’t feeling called by a god or a goddess, and that’s perfectly fine. Do not feel like you have to follow a checklist or do as everyone else is doing. Your path is just as valid as anyone’s even if they are taking broader steps or they are going a different direction. If you aren’t feeling called but want to be, stay patient. Do not force it.
And what do you do if you’re being called by more than one god or goddess? Well, unsurprisingly, you should listen to all of them. It is okay to have more than one patron (though, there are schools of thought which would caution you against cross-pantheon deities or deities that are known to not get along well, but we won’t get into that today). I have personally known witches that have three or four patrons. Additionally, I have met many who have had different patrons throughout their journey. Understand that gods are happy to walk your path with you for as long as they are needed, but they also may recognize that you would be better suited with a different god or that you’ve learned everything you can from them. Keep that in mind so that when/if a patron does leave you, you feel encouraged rather than discouraged knowing that you have grown from the relationship you fostered.
In the end, you need to do what feels right for you. For some of you, that may mean practicing without patrons. For others, that may mean the exact opposite. So long as you trust your intuition to guide you on your journey, then believe me, you are doing it the right way.