- (mythology, religion) Especially in pagan religions, a minor god or goddess functioning as the protector of a home, household, and/or family, worshipped by members of the household and sometimes conceived as an animistic or ancestral spirit.
1990, V. Geetha; S. V. Rajadurai, “Communal Violence in Madras: A Portent?”, in Economic and Political Weekly, volume 25, number 38, ISSN 0012-9976, page 2122:
- […] Ganesh (Pillayar in Tamil), here is not associated with militant Hinduism; Pillayar is a lovable household deity here, a free and familiar god who craves no chauvinistic devotion.
2005, Michael Como, “Silkworms and Consorts in Nara Japan”, in Asian Folklore Studies, volume 64, number 1, page 127:
- [O]n this day, as throughout the New Year's period, rites of divination for the following year were performed along with rites for the spirits of ancestors and other household deities.
- (figuratively, by extension) An exemplar or revered individual within a group.
1954, Marshall Fishwick, “American Heroes:Columbia's Path”, in Western Folklore, volume 13, number 2/3, page 155:
- In our day Roy Basler's The Lincoln Legend and Lloyd Lewis' Myths After Lincoln have demonstrated that the most popular and admired of all American heroes has long ago been made superhistorical in myth; he has become, at least north of the Potomac, a household deity.
1967, Donald K. Pickens, “The Sterilization Movement: The Search for Purity in Mind and State”, in Phylon, volume 28, number 1, page 94:
- Sigmund Freud has replaced Darwin and/or Hegel as the household deity of sterilization.
1970, N.B. Penny, “The Whig Cult of Fox in Early Nineteenth-Century Sculpture”, in Past & Present, number 70, page 101:
- Thus everyone, from Byron to Macaulay, who presented their cards or waited to be announced at Holland House must have been conscious of [Charles James] Fox as a household deity.
minor god or goddess who protects a home or family
(figurative) exemplar or revered individual