by Michael Boyd AOR
Hospitality is a virtue, one of our Noble Nine Virtues, that is rarely discussed or written about by Odinists due to its self-explanatory, popular meaning. I think we should explore this virtue deeper however, and discover its folkish rather than popular implications as concerns Odinism as a healthy religious movement and evolving theology.
With the growth of Odinism in 2259/2260 RE (2009/2010 CE), growing pains exist that must be nurtured if our Troth and Faith are going to remain resilient and solidarity is going to be the rule rather than the exception.
Hospitality in Lore
One can find numerous examples of basic hospitality in the Eddas, Sagas and all lore, literature and history of our race and peoples. I will only touch on a few of the most notable in the poetic Edda (1). The Havamal, stanzas 2, 3 and 4:
Stanza 2: “All hail to the givers! A guest hath come, say where shall he sit? In haste is he to the hall who cometh, to find a place by the fire.”
Stanza 3: “The warmth seekth who hath wandered long and is numb about his knees; meat and dry clothes the man needth, over the fells who hath fared.”
Stanza 4: “A drink needth to full dishes who cometh, a towel, and the prayer to partake; and be bidden to banquet again.”
Stanza 48: “He who giveth gladly a goodly life leadeth and seldom hath he sorrow; but the churlish (2) wight is a chary (3) of all, and grudgingly parts with his gifts.”
Much could be written on these stanzas alone, to the meanings of ‘guest’ (innegard or utgard), ‘haste’ (folkish struggle), ‘a place by the fire’ (compatibility), ‘hath wondered long’ (differences among Odinists) or ‘to be well-liked’ (honour, integrity and dignity). There are deeper levels of abstractions in myth that must always be considered and explored.
In Grimnismal, Odin, disguised as Grimnir (‘the masked one’) rewards Agnar, son of an evil king, Geirroeth (representing false nobility) for his hospitality with metaphysical wisdom. This myth is replete with symbolism. In it, Odin is constrained between two fires (friction from an imbalance of non-conscious matter) by King Geirroth for eight nights (final gestation period) before the kings son, Agnar (corrected nobility) gives Odin ‘a full horn to drink’ (sustenance) out of hospitality and compassion, which elevates Agnar metaphysically. Here we see hospitality as an adjunct to spiritual elevation, higher nobility in a metaphysical sense in the heathen spirit of the ‘eternal return’.
The colloquial everyday definition of hospitality is already known to the reader. My aim in this short essay is an explanation of the deeper mechanics and dynamics of our need for hospitality amongst Nordic and Celtic folk. Our modern English word ‘hospitality’ comes from the French, hospitalite, which originates from the old French word hospice, meaning ‘guest house’. Similarly, in Modern German it is Gastfreundschaft, directly translated as ‘guestfriendship’, or friendship of the guest. Our Modern English translation is ‘hospitable treatment, reception or disposition; given to generous and cordial reception of guest’. (Websters, 1999). Here, I think ‘reception or disposition’ are key words, but first let us define guests as those within Innengard, fellow Folkish Odinists who are generally compatible yet retain particular differences due to being in different kindreds, hearths, organisations or differences of ideological opinion. In short, hospitality is how different Odinists receive each other for the betterment of our religious and folkish community. This ‘reception’ must always be in a general spirit of solidarity to our general cause and movement. Our individual proclivities and specific beliefs, or allegiances to various Odinist groups, is the disposition mentioned above. Each of us has a ‘stead’ or ‘gard’ in life and in the Odinist movement. One person cannot fill two places at once.
We should always value Odinists in their respected ‘stead’ as a measurement of worth in Odinism. Hospitality then is defined as consideration in its context used in business, as ‘something of value exchanged for a promise or for performance’ (4). Consideration is one of the most important elements of a business contract, without which the contract is illegal. Likewise, friendship and solidarity amongst Odinists is a contract if proper consideration is given to each according to his or her own stead. More consideration creates more healthy orlog and frith at the group level. We might even call consideration the stitches within orlog within the greater web of Wyrd.
It is important that we do not take each other for granted or give in to hard feelings should we disagree. We share the same general direction. “Know the direction you are reaching towards, striving for progression toward what is wholesome and beneficial to the quality and welfare of self and folk” (5). Recognise our differences as growing pains, as muscle fibre of the folk-spirit. We grace one another, a ‘welcoming’ – the coming of weal, and well-wishing. It is ancient Germanic custom.
Beyond time and space
This hospitality, as consideration-in-friendship when reinforced in our folkish spiritual struggle, becomes a comradeship, which is the highest form of friendship. Time and space can diminish a friendship, but a comradeship is eternal because it is based on the shared timeless idealism of individuals.
Runes of hospitality
The primary rune of hospitality is of course Gebo, the rune of gifting, reciprocity, consideration and generosity; it is the handshake and the hug; the exchange of willpower and will-to-power (Wille zur Macht) and harmonious balance. As a virtue of the will, hospitality is delegated by the rune Wunjo, which is the rune of joy and hope-fulfilled, both outworkings of the will. “The W rune is the root force of attraction that sympathetic beings (wights) have for one another – that is, wights descended from a common source” (6). Another hospitality rune is Ehwaz, the rune of trust and loyalty. As a virtue of destiny, hospitality works in the rune Perthro, the rune of orlog and wyrd, of positive becoming and a healthy evolution. Finally, hospitality is ruled by Othala, the rune of compatibility, folk, home and land. Although hospitality has the construct of guest-housing, our context of guest is as a fellow Odinist in the innengard, that is guest as opposed to stranger; the first is welcome, the second is not.
In conclusion, I invite all Odinists to explore hospitality and its deeper implications and cultural traditions that act as bonds for a folk-community. On a personal level it is even important to be hospitable to oneself, in harmony and balance.
Hail the Gods
Hail the Folk
1.Hollander Lee M., The Poetic Edda, 1996, Univ. of Texas, Austin.
2.Churlish = ill bred, uncouth
3.Chary = sorrowful
4.Friedman, J., Dictionary of Business Terms, 2000, Barrons, New York.
5.Code of Advancement
6.Thorsson, Edred, Futhark, 1984, Red Wheel/Weisser, San Francisco