Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Hospitality

23 12 2013

ADF defines Hospitality as “acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humour and the honouring of a ‘a gift for a gift.'”

The dictionary defines it as

1) Kindness in welcoming strangers or guests

2) Receptiveness.

Hospitality involves many things. Just as the ADF definition says – it is acting as a gracious host or appreciative guest, it is honouring a gift for a gift, it is benevolence and friendliness. But in my opinion it is more. It includes welcoming the stranger, it means being generous and compassionate, sharing what you have with others, especially those in need. And to me it is that word – sharing, which I use to define hospitality. Indo-European cultures used the word *ghosti which is the root of both guest and host. It was a very important concept for them, as can be seen in a variety of ways from their myths. In Irish myths the king Bres loses his authority when he is satirised against by the poet Cairpre for his lack of hospitality. Later in a poem in the Dindsenchas, Lugh offers Bres a poisonous drink and Bres, who is under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drinks it and dies. In his book, the Real Middle Earth, the author quotes Tacitus’ writings on the Germanic tribes. He reports that they “regarded is as bad to turn anyone away” and “to close the door against any human being is a crime.” In fact, hospitality was very important to everyone in the ancient world. In a time of no welfare state, travelers and the poor relied on the hospitality of others, there was a sense of honour in being able to share your prosperity, and exile was the ultimate punishment as it was unlikely you would survive long in the wild. It was also said that gods and ancestors would often visit people to test their hospitality.

Hospitality is a sacred obligation, a duty. It is the foundation for building relationships, whether with people, the gods and spirits or with the land. When we talk of virtues like generosity and compassion, they can seem quite abstract, but hospitality brings things back down to earth and shows clearly how to be a virtuous person – welcoming someone into your home for a meal, providing a seat, giving them a cup or tea e.t.c. It means to make your guest feel welcome and offer them the best you have. It can also include helping the homeless, fostering a child, supporting immigrants or giving offerings in ritual. Guests too have reciprocal obligations – to be a good guest, to say thank you, maybe to bring a bottle of wine to share. Yule exemplifies hospitality brilliantly – giving gifts to each other, enjoying meals together and visiting family. By viewing hospitality as a virtue, we make sharing a meal into a sacred act, and extend our religious practice into all areas of our lives. In my own life, one way I try to practice hospitality is by having parties on the eight high days, inviting friends and providing food.

Whereas asking for something without giving in return can devalue the asker and become begging, the concept of a gift for a gift, which is inherent in the ideal of hospitality, turns these transactions into an opportunity to build friendship, trust and kinship. Stanza 42 of The Norse Havamal in the Poetic Edda says “To his friend a man should bear him as friend, and gift for gift bestow” emphasising the importance of giving a ‘gift for a gift.’ In ADF it is considered a foundational theme for practice and worship.

It is important to remember that Hospitality also extends to the land. After all, when we are in nature, we are guests of the spirits of the land. Caring for the land is how we show we are good guests. Not only that, but it has been given to us as a gift by previous generations. And we must also remember that ultimately all land and wealth has come to us as a gift from the Earth Mother. It is not ours to hoard, but to share generously with others, as she shares generously with us.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009

Bates, Brian. The Real Middle Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages. London: Pan Macmillan Ltd, 2003

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003.

The Poetic Edda, edited and translated by Olive Bray, London: Printed for the Viking Club, 1908.



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