Posted on June 14, 2017
“<X> is my favorite deity!”, an anonymous Pagan scrawls on the internet.
This has always struck me as an odd statement. I understand where it is coming from, in the same vein as “<Name> is my favorite person”. We play favorites as social animals, and it’s been something that’s been criticized for a long time. It’s in the Bible even – well, one of them (The Message). No, seriously. Check out Proverbs 28:21-22. It’s there.
If one were to ask me which one of the pets I have known, or friends I have known, were my absolute favorite, I wouldn’t be able to answer. I’m a person who tries to approach people on their own merits. The people I am friendly with are not better than the other – they have different strengths and weaknesses. To me, reducing them down to “favorites” creates an unnecessary bias towards them, in which one is necessarily diminished compared to the other. The same thing goes with living beings – each one is different. Each one has its own unique personality.
I feel the same way about the deities.
Sure, there are deities which we approach with more familiarity (for lack of a better word). Individual beings which we’ve entered a more intimate gifting cycle with, perhaps a formal relationship of patronage and obligation, or beings which have more interest in us as individuals. We have more in common with some of them, less with others.
I have a favorite color. I have a favorite food. A favorite smell. A favorite place, a favorite time period, a favorite architectural style, a favorite band, and a favorite song. I favor a side, a firearm, a writing or artistic medium, a type of beer, and a hundred other things which inform my tastes.
Like Mary Martin said: these are a few of my favorite things.
This way of treating deities – like treating people – is, to me, like reducing them down to these things. While it isn’t intentional, it feels like they’ve less agency and are somehow reduced to mere qualities that aren’t necessarily experienced in reality. Sometimes it comes across as finding favoritism with the idea of a deity, instead of the deity itself. What they can do for us, or what qualities they have on paper which we find preferable.
I know that the definition of “favor” isn’t negative in its initial definition. But in modernity favoritism has enough of a negative connotation that I’d avoid falling into that mindset. A parent showing a son more favoritism than the other is considered negative. A boss showing favoritism to an employee is considered unethical at best, and illegal in some spheres. Family showing preference to family in a professional or political setting is nepotism and is largely considered undesirable.
Showing favor to someone implies an unequal power dynamic. And I don’t profess to hold that level of influence with the gods. We enter into a mutually sustainable relationship with them, except in very rare circumstances. There are deities that will hold to more unfavorable (ha!) relationships. They are the ones in charge of the dynamic, here after all.
At least as far as I see it.
There are beings that I like, just like there are people who I like. There are some who I am afraid of (the overwhelming majority of greater-than-people, to be honest, but I digress). There are some who I routinely offer to on a week-to-week basis (tutelary deities, ancestral deities, a few big name ones with outstanding obligations), and some I will not unless absolutely necessary. There might even be some that I dislike.
But I’m not sure I could say that I favor any, over another.
However, I just got off an eleven hour shift at the office. So I’m not entirely sure I’m making much sense. But. I’m going to throw it up here, anyway.