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"Without food quick on a platter,
without fresh milk for a calf to grow on,
without lodging for a man when night prevails,
without sweetness for men of art - such is Bress,
No longer is prosperity Bress'."
-Cairbre's Satire on King Bress

"Scoff not at guests nor to the gate chase them, 
But relieve the lonely and wretched"
-Havamal 135

In the Norse Sagas, if an old, one-eyed man with a big floppy hat and blue cloak came to the door, the host would invariably seat him as far from the fire as possible, give him some rancid meat, and ignore him until the visitor began to speak. As the visitor spoke, the host would finally begin to realize that this was no ordinary guest, but rather Odin himself. By the end of the saga or poem, the host would be impaled upon his own sword.

After this happened a couple of times, and the stories were circulated, you'd think that this would stop happening. Invariably, however, this same destructive pattern of events kept occurring any time a God would visit a mortal. The moral appears to be that you should treat each person who comes to your door as if they were a God, or bad things will happen to you when you do finally meet a God.

I have looked for years for ways to make the Pagan community more hospitable to each other, and nothing has come of it. Hospitality seems to be one of the oldest Pagan virtues out there, perhaps second only to fertility, and it is the one we think most rarely on.

I have started to get into the habit of sending "thank you" notes to my friends when I have visited and they have shown me good hospitality, and I do my best to bring presents to a friend who hosts a party. Hospitality is not only about being a good host, but also about being a good guest. We often forget this when we visit others, especially close friends, though we often remember when the person we visit is someone we barely know.

I think that it is vitally important that, as Pagans, we remember that the religions we call our own were founded in deep cultural values. Hospitality was one of the primary virtues in Indo-European traditions, and the stories of poor hospitality causing ruin are important to remember.

Back to the Virtues Index.

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