Tag Archives: hospitality

Action and Gratitude

When you work as closely with deities as I do, you start treating them like close, but respected, friends. And you usually don’t think too hard about asking friends for favors. In the case of deities, of course, you request favors via prayer.

In a society predominantly Christian, it can be easy to backslide into the mentality of expecting things to happen. And then, when things don’t go accordingly, it’s easy to get upset with the gods.

Backsliding happens to everyone, whether you’re willing to own up to it or not. It’s hard to constantly live in a polytheistic paradigm when the world around you is shouting monotheism at the top of its lungs.

Still, prayers to deities that consist of specific requests can only come to fruition if, once you have asked, you do absolutely everything in your own power to make it happen. The gods come in and add an extra umph at the end, but if you don’t even start, then why should they do the work for you?

It’s the same with spellwork. If you do a spell to get a new job, then refuse to put it in any work to find a new job, you’re not going to land a new job very easily. Intent matters, both in spell and prayer – in my experience, prayer and spell are basically synonyms. Spellwork is just a little more elaborate.

And, after you’ve done everything in your power to accomplish what you asked for – whether it’s money, a new job, or help finding a partner – it’s important to remember to do a ritual of gratitude. It’s the equivalent of sending a thank you note to someone for their effort, especially when that person (or deity, as the case may be) was never obligated to helping you or granting you any favors.

The Havamal tells us “A gift for a gift” and it also emphasizes hospitality, where a gracious manner is essential. The gods have given us so much already – when we ask for more, it’s only right that we work as hard as we can to accomplish what we can on our own and then offer our gratitude when they come in and lend a hand to cross us over the finish line, so to speak.

These are things that are very easy to forget…and yet, these are the things that are at the very heart of Pagan faiths. Action and gratitude. That’s all it takes.

Hospitality

Generally, when we think of hospitality, we think of the reciprocal relationship between host and guest, which occurs when we open our homes to others.

Of all the Old Ways, hospitality is perhaps the most depreciated and the most undervalued in today’s age of selfish convenience. That is a fact I find sadly ironic, as hospitality is the most sacred virtue to the Gods.

That can be seen heavily throughout the Eddas and Sagas, where a breach of hospitality was considered the worst offense someone could make. The Lokasenna shows the aftermath of a violated hospitality – Loki crashes the party because the Gods didn’t invite Him, and the fact He wasn’t invited was a breach in hospitality.

The truth is, that is a breach in hospitality that most of us have committed at some point in our lives. If you’ve ever purposefully excluded someone from a group outing, despite the fact that person belongs to the group in question, then that is a breach in hospitality.

That raises the question about whether it’s appropriate to invite someone that you know will violate the unwritten laws of hospitality, and my answer is yes. I say this because every person must be given the opportunity to show that they know what the rules of hospitality are. As the host, if that person violates those rules, it then becomes your responsibility to see that person out.

To make this clearer, let me give a more solid example.

I’m the organizer for a local writing group, and when there are events, I always announce them on our facebook page, provide directions to the event if directions are needed, and greet people when they arrive at the event.

Now, if I were to message only certain members of the group rather than announce the meeting to the entire group, I would be violating the rules of hospitality. Someone would find out, and then I would be dealing with the backlash of someone’s resentment because they weren’t invited to an event they had every right to attend.

At the event, if someone starts acting inappropriately towards the other guests, then it is the host’s responsibility to ask that person to leave, and to explain why they are being asked to leave. But the person must first be granted the opportunity to act properly.

In today’s world, it is far more common to simply not invite someone, and that causes a great deal of resentment in the person who wasn’t invited. Because someone who hasn’t been invited always discovers that they weren’t invited, and they are hurt by it because they don’t understand why they weren’t issued an invitation.

If, instead, you offer someone an invitation (even though you are afraid that they will act inappropriately), you stave off that hurt, and if the person then chooses to engage in inappropriate behavior, you can ask that person to leave and explain why they are being asked to leave. While that might still anger them (that risk is always there), at least they will have a reason to cling to. And, hopefully, the next time they are invited to an event, they will remember why they were asked to leave at the previous event, and behave more appropriately.

Now, to turn this towards what it means to be hospitable in someone else’s home, there are different sets of etiquette for the host and the guest. Some of them can be gleaned from the Havamal, but most of them are common sense.

If you invite someone over to your house, then, as the host, you should expect to adhere to the following:

  • Offer food and drink
  • Offer place to sleep (if hosting overnight)
  • Accept any help a guest offers
  • Accept gifts offered by guests (this can be the help offered)
  • Be attentive to guests

If you find yourself at someone else’s house, then, as the guest, you should expect to adhere to the following:

  • Graciously accept food and drink offered to you
  • Offer gratitude for having a place to sleep (if staying overnight)
  • Offer help where it is needed
  • Offer gifts (this can be in the form of help and doesn’t have to be a physical item)
  • Be attentive to the host and respectful of house rules

These all seem like common sense, but a lot of people fail to adhere to them. If you go to someone’s house and you have a strict dietary regimen, it’s important to check with the host first to make sure that the host will not find offense to you bringing your own food. You should never expect the host to adjust their meals to suit your diet as the guest. As a host, you should always be willing to allow guests to bring their own meals if they need to stay on strict diets.

Now, there are people who will argue with this and say that a host should be willing to provide any type of food a guest desires, but that’s a selfish motivation fueled by today’s world of convenience. I don’t go to a Mexican restaurant expecting to be served Japanese food, so I don’t go to other people’s houses expecting their cuisine to meet any special dietary needs. Any dietary needs a guest has is the responsibility of the guest. While a host should always offer food, a host shouldn’t be expected to offer food that they don’t normally keep on hand. That’s just common sense.

I mentioned being attentive for both the host and the guest – that means that entertainment should be agreed upon between both parties. For example, a host shouldn’t play video games without including the guest in the activity, and a guest shouldn’t be playing games on their phone when the host is attempting to have a conversation with them.

While I wanted to touch on those two examples of hospitality – events and homes – I also wanted to discuss larger group settings, like classrooms. A lot of people, especially students, assume that a classroom is a place to goof off and do whatever you want. There is little respect between teacher and students, and respect is the spring hospitality flows from.

In a classroom, especially a college classroom, where the students pay to attend, it amazes me how disrespectful other students can be towards teachers. A lot of students will speak up and tell a teacher he or she is wrong without any discernible reason (except, perhaps, to be disagreeable), and I find that to be crass behavior. If a teacher has asked students to point out flaws in their logic (which they do sometimes, especially in math classes), then it’s okay – the teacher is essentially “the host,” while the students are “the guests.”

If more people viewed classes as events with hosts and guests, then perhaps there would be more respect, but I doubt it. Respect and hospitality seems to be a thing of the past, for the most part, and it’s sad that our world has turned into a culture of selfishness in the name of convenience.

There is a ton of disrespect in the world at large, and most of it started with my generation – the one where smartphones, computers, and technology became the main source of communication. I see it in my peers all the time, and it deeply offends me when it happens to me because I believe that respect should be given in order to be obtained, and when someone fails to offer that respect to me, then I have no reason to offer it back.

At a very basic level, if I go to lunch with a friend, I shouldn’t have to worry about my friend constantly checking his phone. The conversation should be occurring between the two of us, unless we are both in agreement and trying to get in contact with a third person to invite. Or if one of us is dealing with a crisis and makes the other person aware of it – respect is very easy to give, but very few people make the effort.

A lack of respect can also be seen in the way people go about disagreeing with one another. If your first response to someone who has a dissenting view from yours is to call them names or tell them how wrong and stupid they are, then you are violating the rules of hospitality. It is possible to disagree with someone and still treat them with respect. According to the lore, it is even possible to go to war with someone and still treat them with respect.

Respect and hospitality go hand-in-hand, and until we reinstate respect as a mandatory way of life, then hospitality may continue to fall by the wayside. As Heathens, we are called to act with hospitality, as the Gods consider hospitality the most sacred of all the natural laws. Our faith is founded on goodwill between us and the Gods, and that goodwill is found through the sacrifices we offer the Gods – the very act of sacrifice is hospitality in its purest form, and it is vital that we remember that in everything we do.

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.