Monday, April 23, 2007

Heathen Hospitality

As I read more about Heathenry, one concept that is mentioned a lot is hospitality. It is mentioned on websites, blogs, forums, and mailing lists. It is also mentioned in the Poetic Edda, which is one of the books that Heathens use as inspiration on how to live their life. Here are few of my thoughts on the concept of Hospitality.

What does hospitality mean to me?

When I think of hospitality, I think of inviting people into my home with the intention of making them feel welcome so that they have the space and opportunity to be themselves as well as letting me be myself. They are my guest and as such I have given them a promise that while they are in my home, I will treat them with respect and take care of them.

But hospitality doesn't just have to be that invitation into my house, my space. The concept of hospitality can happen anywhere. This idea was brought to my attention the other night when I was at a restaurant. It was busy, yet the restaurant remained "seat yourself." There was a couple that was having trouble finding a table and were a bit stressed; my friend and I were waiting for our check. I invited them to sit with us, telling them that we would be leaving as soon as the waitress came back. They were grateful. I had the opportunity to show hospitality to someone and put them at ease in a situation that was causing them stress, even if it wasn't in my own home.

Just as your hosts have the responsibility of being welcoming and gracious, you also have the responsibility of being a gracious guest. To be a guest means cleaning up after your own messes, offering to help out with various task, and as well as a few other things that are necessary depending on the culture.

What does hospitality mean to Heathens?

As mentioned above, hospitality is talked about in the Poetic Edda, especially the second poem, Havamal. From the first few stanzas, you get an idea of what hospitality meant to the Germanic peoples:

Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;
say! where shall he sit within?
Much pressed is he who fain on the hearth
would seek for warmth and weal.

He hath need of fire, who now is come,
numbed with cold to the knee;
food and clothing the wanderer craves
who has fared o'er the rimy fell.

He craves for water, who comes for refreshment,
drying and friendly bidding,
marks of good will, fair fame if 'tis won,
and welcome once and again.

What I find interesting is that even though guests are to be welcomed, the guest himself is supposed to "keep his wits" and be wise to what is going on around him as shown by several stanzas including:

Let no man glory in the greatness of his mind,
but rather keep watch o'er his wits.
Cautious and silent let him enter a dwelling;
to the heedful comes seldom harm,
for none can find a more faithful friend
than the wealth of mother wit.

Is It Appropriate Not To Extend Hospitality?

When does the concept of hospitality end? I mean, is there a time and place where it is okay to not to extend hospitality? I was looking at what Bernulf wrote when he was a guest blogger back in January and found that this is what he had to say:

True hospitality does not lock itself indoors, nor does it suffer the hindrance of inconvenience. In other words, wherever I happen to be standing, it's within my power to offer hospitality, and unless I've been insulted or offended somehow, I can generally be counted upon to do just that.

Hospitality In Other Contexts

As I leave for Europe, I find myself thinking about hospitality in context with visiting other countries/cultures. Just getting a passport doesn't mean that I will be welcome in a certain country, some countries require permission (in some countries, as represented by a visa) for you to enter. When you are given this visa, you have been granted hospitality.

However, this doesn't mean that you can do what ever you want (when in the other country) just because you have been given permission to enter. I was talking to a friend about this and we came up with the idea of being like acting as a type of Ambassador - a social ambassador. As world travellers, we are required to (informally) represent our country and show respect (keeping the concept of hospitality in mind) for that country's customs by how we act. I am going to keep this in mind as I travel.


Erik said...

In Hellenism hospitality is called xenia, and we're right there with you.

I personally tend to interpret xenia quite broadly, and see it as general advice governing *all* interpersonal relationships, both between humans, between us and the Gods, and even to an extent between us and the other members of the natural world.

Erik said...

Oh, and have a GREAT time in Europe!

Persephone said...

"Because Nice Matters"

Kay said...

This is off topic, but I wanted to let you know.

Sojourner said...

Thanks for the comments everybody. :) I will get back to blogging shortly.

Kay - Thanks. :) I will have to pass on the honor when I get home.