Hospitality is central to ADF’s values. *Ghosti is a reconstructed Indo-European word (hence the star written before it) that is the root of our words ‘host’, ‘guest’ and ‘hospitality’. It is very interesting that both host and guest come from this root, and suggests that both were important in ancient Indo-European societies. ADF values *ghosti between us and the Kindred, whether gods, spirits or ancestors (ADF). We make offerings and honour the de ocus an de (gods and not-gods), to form relationships with them. In turn, they offer us blessings.
This value can be seen in what we know of both Norse and Celtic societies. The Norse rune gebo relates to the concept of a gift for a gift. Irish myths show the central importance of hospitality to their culture – for example, Bres was deposed from kingship for being a poor host (Monaghan). Similarly, the Tain Bo Cuailnge shows that Cú Chulainn could not refuse hospitality, and that geis led to his death, for he could not break it (Kinsella). Monaghan argues that the pre-Christian Irish had a policy of open-door hospitality, and that, should it fail to be offered, society could struggle. She considers it a form of “resource reallocation” (251). I find this concept far preferable to our modern concept of charity. Instead of looking down on those who have less, which charity can encourage, hospitality means that everyone is beholden to each other and reliant on each other, with a gift demanding a gift, in equal exchange. We realise that everyone in society is inter-dependent when we are open about our reliance on each other for survival. In our modern, highly individualistic world, the value of hospitality can be strikingly counter-cultural.
Equally, though, refusing to offer hospitality to others is something that I take very seriously. I was faced with anti-Semitic remarks in my Facebook feed this morning, more focused on the religion of Jewish people than their race, but still rooted in old prejudices and uneducated bigotry. In contrast, I have experienced incredible hospitality from the Jewish family that I have married into – hospitality that rivals that of my Irish family! In return, I am attempting to learn Hebrew (the language that my in-laws speak at home), because I feel very inhospitable arriving in their country and demanding that they speak English. This is a major sacrifice for me – it means giving up time, and doing something that I’m really bad at (languages are not my thing!) It also means that my aim of learning Irish is being delayed. However, it’s incredibly important to me that I offer back some of the hospitality that I’ve been shown.
One group of people shows me wonderful hospitality. Another refuses to be hospitable to members of a different religion. Which would you guess were the traditionally-exclusive monotheists, and which would you guess were the apparently-open-minded Pagans? I know which group I feel closer to and more a part of, today.
ADF. ‘The Druid’s Cosmos’. Dedicant Path Manual. Web. 5 November 2013.
Monaghan, Patricia. Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. New York: Checkmark Books, 2004.
Kisella, Thomas (trans.). The Tain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.