The traditional Slavic greeting of bread and salt.

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Hospitality is the basis of civilization. The definition is: the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. Without a basis of hospitality, it’s really not safe to go anywhere. Conversely, if you accept hospitality, you are honor bound to behave in a reciprocally appropriate way.

In the Celtic world, hospitality was very important. We can see what people thought of those who didn’t follow the rules of hospitality in the Scottish song, “Glen Coe“, about guesting with murder in mind. “Glen Coe” talks about the responsibilities of the host– they gave the strangers shelter from the storm, food, dry clothes. The murderous guests break a holy bond when they let in more warriors and slaughter their hosts. The idea that temporary peace must be honored if you’ve been given hospitality is the keystone in anyone’s ability to travel anywhere. We trust our modern hotel chains to not sneak into our rooms and kill us in the night, and they trust us not to set fire to the place and rob our fellow travelers. In the Celtic world, hosts were honor bound not only to make their guests comfortable, but also to protect them from harm, similar to the idea of asylum.

We can offer hospitality to the Gods too. By making offerings at home, setting up household shrines or sharing parts of our daily meals with the Gods, we extend hospitality in our homes to the Gods we worship. Modern religion tends to be almost exclusively “temple” oriented. People go to church or synagogue or mosque to worship, and though they might say prayers at home, the idea that home is a place for the Gods as well as people to feel comfortable at is one that not many modern people pursue.

Hospitality, making people welcome and comfortable is elevated to an art form in some cultures. Russians have welcome trays, Arabs traditionally welcomed visitors with bread and salt, The Japanese have the “Way of Tea”. Although hospitality can be surrounded with elaborate ritual, it doesn’t need to be. In order to be virtuously hospitable, all that is required is a sincere desire to make your guests feel comfortable.


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