Tag Archives: heathenry

Hospitality: My Interpretation

Here’s my sixth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Hospitality

To be hospitable is to be respectful. Hospitality is the willingness to share what we can afford to share with others. In some ways, it’s a sacrifice of the self for the good of the whole. Since Asatru puts a very high value on community, acting in a way that benefits the community is necessary.

Some people assume that hospitality refers to just their immediate in-groups, but I think hospitality refers to people in general. If I meet someone new, then I am not going to make assumptions about them, not on any front. And I’m not going to judge them based on the choices they’ve chosen to take in life. I may ask about them, in order to learn what path they have walked, and, perhaps, learn something in the process. But I do my best to stay respectful.

I think, in a lot of ways, that American society has taught us to be cruel without realizing our cruelty. I’ve heard teachers laugh at certain students when they talk about certain types of dreams, and it saddens me. Because why laugh at someone else’s dream? There is no kindness in that, and there is no respect.

Hospitality means reserving judgment. If someone tells me that their dream is to become a famous athlete, politician, writer, or anything else, why should I laugh at their dreams? At their aspirations? Even if it’s a hard truth that few people ever aspire to their dreams, why should I actively seek to disparage dreamers? The truth is, none of us know who will and won’t achieve their dreams. Some of us aren’t even sure what it is we seek in life, and we wander down many paths, just waiting for something to click.

I think that’s part of the reason I follow Odin. He is the wanderer, after all. Restless in spirit, always moving around, always learning something new – I connect with him on an incredibly deep level, and I don’t always have the words I need to say the things I mean. I sometimes read the forums on Asatru Lore, just to see what’s going on there, and I came across a post the other day about a guy asking how to spell the word “Outsider” in runes for a tattoo. He got a lot of backlash from the community. A lot of people told him that to brand himself as an outsider was to reject community, and that if they ever saw him, they would instantly avoid him.

The response I saw made me incredibly sad because no one really tried to understand where he was coming from. No one really tried to discover the story he had to tell, or uncover the reason why he felt like such an outsider he wanted to brand himself as one. They just pointed out that it isn’t very “heathen” to be an outsider, since heathens are very community focused. None of what they were saying was technically wrong, but it wasn’t a very respectful way to act. The poster even commented on how he was being disrespected (and he was), but the reply to his comment was that he couldn’t come onto an internet board and expect respect, that respect is earned.

That is, frankly speaking, bullshit. Not the part about respect being earned – it is earned. But as the old saying goes, “Give respect to get respect.” Just because the method of communication was via an internet forum, it seems people think it gives them a license to act without considering the fact the person on the other side is human.

Hospitality has to extend to all realms, whether it’s in our own homes, in our communities, or over the internet. Respect should be given to everyone until they do or say something that warrants the loss of that respect. If a person comes into my home, then I am going to offer them drink and refreshment. If someone at my school asks me for help, then I am going to try to help them, if I am able to do so. And if someone asks for advice on an internet forum, I am going to be honest but tactful about how the phrasing comes out. Because we are all human, and we all view the world in different ways. And I, personally, feel that it is vital that we respect the differences that define us. To me, that is the soul of hospitality.

Fidelity: My Interpretation

Here’s the 4th of my essays on the 9 Noble Virtues.

Fidelity 

To me, fidelity is loyalty. Loyalty to family, to friends, to the Gods I follow. I don’t always agree with my friends or family, and I don’t get along with all the Gods. But disagreements are common in all families, whether those families are blood families, friend families, or god families. And when I disagree with someone in any of my families, I still always acknowledge that my ties to them, my loyalty to them, is more important than the argument.

I’ve never understood how families can estrange themselves. How parents can disown their children or how children can refuse to talk to their parents for years. Perhaps that’s because I lost my mother when I was 15. Perhaps her loss taught me just how much family matters. Because even though there were things I hated about her, like her alcoholism, I still loved her. She was still my mother.

I’ve had friends, over the years, who were estranged from their parents for various reasons, and I always tried to encourage them to eliminate that distance without blatantly interfering. It’s not my place to decide which path another person walks, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly wrap my head around complete estrangement from family.

Family is incredibly important to me, despite the difficulties I’ve faced throughout my life that are directly tied to my family. But those difficulties aren’t the only things that define my relationship with my family. There is a lot more than that, but I don’t know how to express the depth or complexity of my family dynamics without writing a book, and I’m not sure I’m ready to write a book about my life just yet – even though my grandmother keeps urging me to write one.

But I have more ties than just familial ones. There are also the ties I have to my friends. I have a lot of acquaintances, but my real friends are like family to me. If they need me, I’m there, even if I’m in the middle of my own problems. My friends are the people who have seen me at my worst and at my best and have stuck around. To me, that is what defines loyalty. Not a lack of disagreements, but the ability to compromise and move past them. And I have three incredibly close friends, despite the fact we all live incredibly far away from one another, that I trust completely. I’m reminded of the verse in the Havamal that reads:

“Crooked and far | is the way to a foe,

Though his house on the highway be;

But wide and straight | is the way to a friend,

Though far away he fare.”

That’s verse 34 of the Havamal and it comes from the Henry Adams Bellows translation, which happens to be my preferred translation of the Poetic Edda. And I agree with the sentiment, since two of my closest friends live in different countries, and the third lives 18 hours away from me. The distance doesn’t matter, though, as the four of us have been close for five years. Distance, time – all those things are relative.

As well as family and friends, my loyalty to the Gods is an important aspect of my life. I can and will discuss my faith with anyone, even when doing so is a little bit scary. A couple weeks ago, at work, a man came in and started basically going on and on about Jesus – a total zealot. I listened to him patiently for about 30 minutes because he just talked on and on without giving anyone a chance to say anything. But when I found an opening, I told him that I have a lot of respect for people who are dedicated to their own path, but that I wasn’t Christian. When I told him I was pagan, he turned around and left, but I didn’t hide it. One of my co-workers, who was standing beside me and heard the whole thing, told me she was glad that I spoke up about my beliefs. It was an interesting experience, to say the least.

And I’ve had other interesting encounters. At one of my previous jobs, I was reading a book on the history of the Vikings, and a co-worker came up to me and asked why I was reading the book. I told her that I was reading it because it pertained to my faith, and I explained what my faith was. She instantly started trying to witness to me, but it stopped her cold when I told her that I’d read the Bible all the way through, and that Christianity didn’t appeal to me. She was incredulous that I’d read the Bible and wasn’t Christian, and she kept trying to push the faith on me, until I finally asked her if she had read the book. When she said no, I told her that if she wanted to continue the conversation, she needed to go read the Bible herself before trying to witness to me. Later that day, I found out that she had never met someone who wasn’t either Christian or an atheist before, and it really shook up her worldview. I was pretty amused when I found that out, of course, because by being honest, I acted as a catalyst for her to realize the world wasn’t as black and white as she thought.

And that’s what I try to do – I try to behave in ways I feel emulate the Gods I follow. I see Odin as a warrior scholar, so I do a lot of research and I also have firm opinions. I’m willing to defend myself if I ever have need to, and I do defend myself when the need arises – even if the battle is just one of wits. I see Loki as a catalyst for change and the seeker of buried truths, so I keep my mind as open as possible, trying to look at things from every perspective without allowing other people’s opinions or beliefs to define my own. Tyr I see as a noble warrior who mediates without flinching if his own well-being comes into the process. And these are the three paths I mainly attempt to walk, though I am slowly learning other paths as well. That’s the truly difficult part of being a polytheist – there’s no way to walk a single path, not when the path of each God is different.

So fidelity, for me, is walking the paths the Gods have set before me, staying true to my friends, and staying true to my family. In my mind, this is probably the simplest of the nine virtues, but loyalty, to spite its seeming simplicity, is actually incredibly complex. Because it’s not always easy to stay loyal to your friends, your family, or the Gods you follow. No wonder, then, that oaths, once made, are so heavily weighed.