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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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Patron vs Matron: A Personal Reflection
Article ID: 14511
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Posted: May 22nd. 2011
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Picture, if you will, you're a starving artist. Your life has been painting after painting and rejection after rejection. Nothing to your name but the various artistic mediums you utilize to create your many aesthetically pleasing yet completely unnoticed works of art. When the brush hits the paper you're lost in your own world despite knowing that your art may be only for your own amusement and sublime release.
Imagine that you are gracing the local street corner with one or two paintings as you do every morning when a beautiful woman in the most glorious fine silks in the most vivid colors walks by. As she addresses you there is an angelic glow from her smiling face as she inquires about one of the pieces you have on display. This magnificent woman, who is clearly not from this area, shocks you by being interested in one of your paintings.
She tells you she believes there is something in your work that others have not yet seen and she would love to help support you in all your artistic endeavors. From that day on, she provides all the financial support you need. She reiterates the value in everything you do and, despite her own busy life and schedule, goes out of her way to contact you daily to encourage your exploits. The only thing she asks in return is annual acknowledgement of her gifts and for you to make her proud by going out and being creative. This magnificent woman has chosen to become your patron and makes your life better simply by being in it.
In the Pagan community, when referring to the distinguishing title for a female deity that has called someone to be a follower, ‘matron’ seems to be used as such a designation for such deity. I respect the right to choose ‘matron’ as the title for the Goddesses that are held dear, but I believe ‘patron’ seems a much more fitting term. There are some that believe the titles are equivalent only being gender specific so let's examine the definitions.
MATRON Origin: 1350–1400; Middle English matrone; Latin: a married woman, wife, derivative of mater; mother.
PATRON Origin: 1250–1300; Middle English; Medieval Latin, Latin patronus "legal protector, advocate; (Medieval Latin: lord, master) , derivative of pater, father. From thefreedictionary.com: One that supports, protects, or champions someone or something; a sponsor or benefactor
As we can see, both terms are Latin in origin and both originate within the Middle Ages, though around a century apart. ‘Matron’ has a very simple definition which is "a married woman" and/or "mother" (which, during the Middle Ages, would have been synonymous) . If we look to other definitions, we'll see that matron has evolved into "middle aged woman of distinction" and when one is matronly they are "dignified and honorable." While this is more than an honorable title, and a female deity can very well have matronly qualities I see it as almost too simplistic for a divine being.
When it comes to the deities that I hold dear, I don't view them as mothers outside of their own legendary distinctions. I have a mother and despite the fact that I love her dearly, I can't escape that she is human and she is fallible. In my humble opinion, to view any deity in such a manner is almost degrading in the sense of "reducing in rank, status, or degree." Mothers are imperfect human beings who raise their children from birth and through adulthood try to give advice and guidance, but are by no means otherworldly. Mothers make errors, despite their best efforts. While mothers can inspire their children, they certainly have no ability to control even in childhood. As children, they may seem otherworldly to us, but as a mother myself and former child, this vision of omnipotence wears off somewhere around the age of ten.
As we read above, ‘patron’ does have origins that can point to a sense of fatherly status, however, patron is not specific to males even in etymology alone. ‘Patronus’ refers to an advocate or protector regardless of gender. The Catholic Church has used the term ‘patron saint’ since the 1700s, regardless of the gender of the saint. This is because in this form, like many other Latin derived language terms, the masculine form takes precedence when it comes to a large group of mixed gendered people. When referring to a singular female deity patroness it would be considered the proper title in Latin meaning "a woman who protects, supports, or sponsors someone or something."
To be blunt, I'm not a child nor was I one when my patroness called me. My connection to deity lies beyond a mother-daughter relationship. That would imply a familial connection that is incorrect. She chose me; I didn't inherit Her. When She talks, I listen. When She insists, I do. She is strength, courage, confidence and determination and I wouldn't say She allows me these things; She demands them of me.
Deity, to me, is there when They choose and have many more responsibilities than my life alone. I serve Her; She doesn't serve me. But because I heed Her requests and acknowledge and honor what She does for the world, as well as what She has provided for me, She has taken me under Her wing and protects me, supports me and advocates for me. I do not expect it or request it of Her, but I know it to be true and I thank Her every chance I get. She goes above and beyond the capacity of any mother figure.
‘Patron’, in my opinion, denotes a much stronger spiritual connection that ‘matron’ doesn't quite equate to. It is everyone's right to feel whatever connection with deity as he/she will do, but to simply say a deity ‘is my matron’ doesn't at all cover the divine presence that runs through my veins. I feel divine security in every branch, every cloud, and every crow. While the term patron doesn't always seem as complete as it could it is, of the two titles, the most appropriate and eloquent.
Author's Note: All etymologies and definitions in italics can be found at dictionary.com unless otherwise stated.
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