I do not consider the NNV to be a historical reference. I do consider them to be a modern way of understanding cultural and even subconscious values that were stressed, if not perfectly, by those peoples lumped together as Norsemen.
This series will explore my thoughts on these values and, hopefully, start conversations about them in a modern context.
I'm starting with Hospitality because it is my favorite. When I first learned about it, a chord was struck within me and I began to work out my thoughts and feelings on the idea, immediately. The first thing I noticed was that hospitality takes the place of charity.
From a historical context, there are some texts that talk about situations in which hospitality was used or abused, which gives us a strong basis for believing it was important. The "why" is a little trickier. There are just some things that people don't think to write down because, within the culture, it is so obvious that explaining it would be redundant.
We can extrapolate ideas from the way hospitality is talked about. Many of the texts focus on providing food and shelter and, when looking at the weather conditions of that time, that makes sense.
|Skadi, Goddess of snow |
and blizzards, with Ullr
To me, hospitality is a social exchange. You extend the generosity of your home and resources to save lives. Yes, that's a bit hyperbolic, but when you think about how people would get caught in snowstorms, or lost without food after travelling for weeks, it's not too big of a stretch.
And the sharing of resources means that there is an exchange of obligations. The host is obliged to actually take care of the needs of their guest to the best of their ability. The guest is not only obliged to respect the host's offerings, but to eventually pay that generosity forward.
In this way, a family might host travelers on and off for several generations. Then, the son may go travelling, himself. If he finds himself in a bind, he doesn't have to feel bad about asking for hospitality - his family has paid that obligation off many times over.
Think about what that means. By fostering generosity and hospitality, you are not obligated to feel SHAME if you require hospitality in return.
Imagine how different it is to see the giving and taking of charity and other forms of aide as both sides of a social obligation. Those accepting charity would be just as respected in their role for PROVIDING THE HOST WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET THEIR SOCIAL OBLIGATION.
On the other hand, serving a guest, because of the importance of the obligation, becomes an HONOR instead of a menial action. The host and server does not give food and drink with head down and a meek expression. She (for it was usually the matron of the household) holds her head high and gives her guests the offerings of her generosity.
By changing the way we look at hospitality, we take something that was often shameful or belittling and transform it into something bigger and better. In many ways, it is a sacred act to contribute to this exchange of obligations.
|Odin the Wanderer|
Extending the hospitality of your home and resources can and should be a spiritual/holy/sacred act.