August 20, 2015
Hospitality – (wikipedia)
Hospitality is the relationship between guest and host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. This includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopedie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.
Derives from the latin “hospes” meaning “host,” “guest,” “stranger,” or “enemy.”
CELTIC CULTURES valued the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a persons request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter to his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.
INDIA – In India, hospitality is based on the principle “Atithi Devo Bhava” meaning “Guest of God.” The principle is shown in a number of stories where a guest is revealed to be a god who rewards the provider of hospitality. From this stems the Indian practice of graciousness towards guests at home and in all social situations.
I particularly enjoy the definition of hospitality from the Indian culture where they believe that any and all guests have the potential to be a god visiting within the home. As well as Luis, chevalier de Jauncourt who says it is “the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity. These two definitions closely relate to my own experience of overwhelming hospitality when visiting upon the homes of Native Americans in the South West. As a New Yorker, raised in the suburbs, hospitality looked a lot like having people over for brunch. It was a somewhat formal affair, as was any and all “dinner party” I ever attended. What I was taught about hospitality as a child was probably more “Downton Abbey” than Natives of the South West. Which is probably why my mind was so entirely blown when I first encountered them. I was in college then and traveling the south west on the “Pow Wow Highway” (singing with a traditional drum at pow wows). Every weekend we were sleeping on another family’s floor. I had always had an inborn feeling of being burdensome to these families, but they received us, and me, the lone white girl, as nothing less than honored family. It didn’t matter what time of day or night we arrived, we were always greeted with a smile and open arms. They would feed us, even if it was their last crumb of food and cover us with their last blankets even to leave themselves chilled. When we were at the pow wow, the attendees would care for the people of the drum providing good and drink to keep them comfortable. There is also a tradition of laying a blanket in front of the drum that produces a song that the attendees consider above all the rest. The attendees then throw gifts upon the blanket for the drum, usually in the form of cigarettes and money and the like. It has been their example I have taken with me into my adult life.
I have also experienced hospitality in the form of community here in the wilds of rural Maine. Both my husband and I are “city folk.” When we meet new people we always have this underlying suspicion of them. “What are they up to?” “What’s their angle?” “What do they want from us?” We’ve been here a year and I’m happy to report that habit is ebbing away with every passing day. When I had shared with a fellow Pre-School parent that we had recently moved to the area and were deep in the middle of home restorations, they’d asked if I had everything we needed. He was specifically referring to the fact the weather was turning cold and he wanted to know if we had procured our wood for the season. Yesterday I traded with a neighbor some radishes from our farm for some of her abundant onions and garlic. Today I’m bartering some of my home made lotion for school supplies from a friend who is a master couponer. I would consider that hospitality on the larger scale community level.
My experience of hospitality is no longer about etiquette and rules, but is to care for one another in our home and in our community as if they are family, a sacred brother or sister who comes within these humble walls. Hospitality now stretches far into the community, sharing abundance with one another, as a community is only as strong as it’s each individual members. If one of us doesn’t make it, none of us make it. By caring for one another we are caring for the world community as a whole.
It reminds me of the way I would often explain some of the traditions of Paganism to non-pagan friends. Back in the day, there were no corner stores. No all night grocery stores. No emergency rooms with high tech gadgets to treat every malady. The community relied on each other for food, drink, health, and protection. The same goes for us here in this rural area. If one person’s electricity goes out, they are welcomed at a friend’s house. If one person runs out of wood, we share, even at risk of going cold ourselves. I am currently stocking our deep freezer with vegetables from our farm, more than we would need, in the anticipation of sharing.
True hospitality isn’t about fresh towels and gourmet meals. True hospitality is to treat all people, strangers and friends alike, as family, providing the comfort and care we would extend to any of our gods or goddesses should they visit upon our home. True hospitality is to respect and care for all members of the community no matter where they fall in the social structure or financial hierarchy.