The Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru – Hospitality

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The Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru are:

Courage

Truth

Honour

Fidelity (or Troth)

Discipline

Hospitality

Self Reliance

Industriousness

Perseverance

 

Please note that these are my own interpretations!

 

Sixth – There is Hospitality.

 

“In thy home be joyous and generous to guests
discreet shalt thou be in thy bearing,
mindful and talkative, wouldst thou gain wisdom,
oft making me mention of good.
He is “Simpleton” named who has nought to say,
for such is the fashion of fools.”

I counsel thee, Stray-Singer, accept my counsels,
they will be thy boon if thou obey’st them,
they will work thy weal if thou win’st them:
growl not at guests, nor drive them from the gate
but show thyself gentle to the poor.

 

Now the sagas and many other tales are filled with examples of good and gracious hosts and their hospitality.  Your sense of hospitality is the willingness to share what you have, especially with your close kinsmen and with a stranger that is far from home.

Why was being a kind and generous host so important to our ancestors?  Times were very tough, to be hospitable was to ensure survival of your kinsmen.  Kinsmen could have fallen upon hard times such as ruined crops, theft; loss of a family member or companion and the meal, cup and kind word offered by a neighbour could be their only comfort in ages.  When travelers found themselves in a situation where they had no board and lodging when a storm hit or when injured, the hospitality and welcome words of a stranger had saved many from a cruel death.

In fact the first stanzas of the Hávamál relate how a guest is welcomed and treated by a gracious host.

“Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;

say! where shall he sit within?

Much pressed is he who fain on the hearth

would seek for warmth and weal.

He hath need of fire, who now is come,

numbed with cold to the knee;

food and clothing the wanderer craves

who has fared o’er the rimy fell.

He craves for water, who comes for refreshment,

drying and friendly bidding,

marks of good will, fair fame if ’tis won,

and welcome once and again.”

In a community/folk religion such as Asatru/heathenry, hospitality is the stitch that holds our social fabric together.  Part of being hospitable is being respectful and dignified to others and their customs – this means to all other peoples and not just fellow heathens.  Being hospitable means to me the following; to see a guest as an individual and as his/her own person deserving of respect and importance in your home.  Basically to treat them like family.  But keep in mind that we do live in dangerous times as well and letting any stranger into your home may be the last mistake you make.  Use your discretion.

I must confess that I myself have been rude to guests that openly express views other than mine, and in being so, I was inhospitable, forgetting that hospitality should be extended to all.  Some tales and sagas tell of how some of the Gods and Goddesses and especially Wights wander the land looking to stop in at someone’s house to test their hospitality and generosity.

Thinking back and knowing this, I shudder.

”I counsel thee, Stray-Singer, accept my counsels,
they will be thy boon if thou obey’st them,
they will work thy weal if thou win’st them:
hold not in scorn, nor mock in thy halls
a guest or wandering wight. “

On the flipside of being a good host, there is being a good guest.

“Let the wary stranger who seeks refreshment

keep silent with sharpened hearing;

with his ears let him listen, and look with his eyes;

thus each wise man spies out the way.”

“Only a fool will gape when he goes to a friend,

and mumble only, or mope;

but pass him the ale cup and all in a moment

the mind of that man is shown”

“For the unwise man ’tis best to be mute

when he come amid the crowd,

for none is aware of his lack of wit

if he wastes not too many words;

for he who lacks wit shall never learn

though his words flow ne’er so fast.”

“A guest thinks him witty who mocks at a guest

and runs from his wrath away;

but none can be sure who jests at a meal

that he makes not fun among foes.”

“A guest must depart again on his way,

nor stay in the same place ever;

if he bide too long on another’s bench

the loved one soon becomes loathed.”

To me the above stanzas are self-explanatory, but I digress.

Being a hospitable guest means that you are disciplined enough to behave yourself or conduct yourself as to be respectful of the person who is your host.   It means to help your host where you can or to at least offer to help with cleaning up after the meal when you are done.  It means to be lively and to be a part of the conversation, you become a pain if you just sit there saying nothing, becoming a part of the furniture.  It means to speak enough but not to speak too much.  It means to not aggravate other guests on purpose, because the whole gathering can turn on you if you intend to act like a moron.  It also means to not overstay your welcome, your host has altered his life and plans to accommodate you – respect your host enough to leave him with private time.

In general, if you have a hospitable bearing then other should be hospitable to you as well.

A good guest as well as a good host will find himself admired and loved.

‘I found none so noble or free with his food,
who was not gladdened with a gift,
nor one who gave of his gifts such store
but he loved reward, could he win it.’

‘Not great things alone must one give to another,
praise oft is earned for nought;
with half a loaf and a tilted bowl
I have found me many a friend.’

‘Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, —
fair fame of one who has earned.’

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