Where Hospitality Reigns:
The Pagan Safe House
Pagans have something to offer the world.
I know. Some people out there read that statement, shout, "Of course we do!" and then ignore the rest of what I'm saying. They'll continue to browse the Newsletter, and forget what they were so incensed about 5 minutes ago.
But when you look at the history of Paganism and most Pagan religions, there is one thread that tends to surface all the time: hospitality. In the old Pagan religions, hospitality was sacred because you never would know if the person coming to your door was just someone off the street or if that person was one of the Gods, come down to test certain mortals for kindness, honour, and truth.
Because of this, it was a dangerous game to not allow a person into your house, to give him or her the best of what you had, and to basically treat them like family.
This respect for the Gods and our fellow humans is something that is lacking on today's society. If a person comes to our door begging for food or for shelter, we would turn them away. We fear our fellow man, and we don't respect the Gods when we do this. If it were a God that you turn away, it may have quite the effect on what happens to us in our after lives.
I know, too, that people are dangerous sometimes. They take advantage of another's kindness, or they forget what kind of a strain they put on a person and milk them for all they're worth.
I don't want to put anyone in danger, of course. I don't want people inviting strangers into their house, trusting them fully, and then leaving the silverware out for them to take if they want it.
What I do want is a system of Safe Houses where a person can go if something serious happens to them, such as getting kicked out of their house, being in need of a good meal, or just needing time away from home. I want these Safe Houses to be someplace that anyone can use, to the extent that the host can provide.
When it comes to the responsibilities of the host of the Safe House, they are nothing more than the responsibilities that they place upon themselves. If a person comes to your door asking for lodging and you aren't comfortable with them, you are fully within your right to say no. You may offer them a meal or a drink, as well as directions to another Safe House, but do not offer them something you are not comfortable giving.
Even the Gods would understand that these are dangerous times, and inviting someone in could be potentially hazardous. The Gods don't want you in danger. They want you just to be kind, giving, and truthful.
Here is what I envision: that we, as Pagans, can offer a place for people in need to go for help; that we can open our hearts and our homes (for they are one in the same) to others who have fallen on hard times; and that we can do so in as safe a manner as we need and desire.
I envision each host as being fully within their rights to only help a person as much as they feel they can honestly trust them, and only as far as they are able to help. The amount of hospitality offered should only be as much as the host is comfortable, but each person should receive some sort of help, to the hostís discretion.
Iím not asking something easy. What Iím asking is something difficult, but, in my opinion at least, rewarding. To begin hosting a Safe House, simply take the symbol below, paste it into one of your front windows, and leave it there. The symbol was designed so that no one could guess at its meaning, unless they were in the know. This keeps people who are not yet out of the Broom Closet from having to worry about their neighbors asking uncomfortable questions. (Email me if you received a B&W copy of the newsletter and would like to receive a colour copy of the sign.)
If you do decide to host a Safe House, I would appreciate your letting me know via email where you are, what your personal rules are for the program, and why you decided to join. This lets me keep tabs on the numbers, and it also lets me have some sort of central organization where complaints can be lodged against people who abuse the system. It also allows me to send out major announcements, such as changes to the design of the sign or other pertinent information (I do not send junk mail).
Of course, sending me such information is by no means required. I don't want a strong central bureaucracy. I want something everyone is comfortable with.
Thank you for your participation, and comments are welcome. The Pagan Student Association will be piloting the program this Autumn around Ohio Stateís campus. Feel free to join us, even if you donít live in Columbus.
-Michael J Dangler,
A note of thanks to Brian Blakemore for his design of the sign for this project.