Open Hearths: Hospitality from the point of view of a Heathen and his Agnostic Husband

Hospitality is our jam, to the point where I usually use a capital “H” to emphasize it being a core concept to our lives. Ever since we started dating, my husband and I have always had the same view on Hospitality and making sure our home is open to our friends and family. Even before I finally settled on becoming a Heathen (after being a paganly-inclined searcher for most of my life) we were creating a hearth meant to be welcoming and comfortable to those we hold dear. In fact, my understanding of Hospitality as a core part of Heathenry was one of the factors that helped me decide to explore it as my spiritual path more in depth. Though my husband and I have different spiritual views–he’s an agnostic and a recovering Catholic school boy and I’m an unabashed Heathen–we both meet in this area of our core beliefs and have found strength in our relationship through this common ground.

Hospitality in the modern sense is defined as a very “pleasing the guest” focus:

1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.

  1. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. (Dictionary.com)

However, in a historic context, and in the way my husband and I approach Hospitality, it is more centered around the relationship of the Host and Guest and their duties to each other. Yes. You read that right. We believe that there is work that goes into being a good guest, as well as a good host. This is not something we are quiet about, either, though we are very subtle in our reminders that we expect our guests to respect us, our house, and our other guests. We saw a recent example of this very concept in action when my husband and I stayed at a small roadside motel in Plumas County to see the fall colors. The owner and our host was very accommodating and generous in his hospitality, but he was not shy about letting us know that he “runs a tight ship” and has asked families to leave before for not respecting his rules. He further explained that his rules were in place so that everyone staying with him could feel comfortable and safe, and we could fully respect that! It was our job as guests to be the best guests that we could and stay within the rules of the place we were staying, otherwise we have no place staying there. Others may have balked at his openness in laying down rules as they may believe the host is there to serve them and provide for their every whim, but this is just not the case in true Hospitality.

The vast majority of our hearth Hospitality rules are unspoken, aside from when we expressly tell our friends that “our doors are always open if you need a safe space.” We have specific household policies that we hold ourselves to together, and I have some guidelines as a Heathen that I keep.

  • Our Doors are Always Open
    • We, with very few exceptions, will never turn away our friends or most of our family if they need a place to crash, if they need someone to talk to, or just a place to sit for a moment. We have designed our house (and by we, I mean mostly my agnostic Friggsman of a husband) to be as welcoming and comfortable as possible.
  • Always cooking big meals
    • No matter how hard I try to pare down my meal sizes, I just can’t. We are so used to cooking larger portions just in case a friend comes by, because we never know when one will pop in or need a meal! The only exception are the nights that we do our new HelloFresh meals, but even then we always have alternate plans in case we gain a guest or four.
  • Protecting those in our walls
    • We strive to provide a safe space for everyone in our lives who steps into our house. This extends from my husband’s mundane every-day protective nature to me asking the landvaettir, ancestors, and deities for blessings of protection on our house and those we hold dear within its walls.
  • Includes not inviting those harmful to those within our walls
    • We are also selective in who we allow to come into our house and be a part of our home. We want to make sure that we are not having people over that would have ill-intent to any of our guests and I can think of several people off the top of my head who would never be invited over, though they are acquaintances or friends of friends, and a couple who have been specifically uninvited or asked to leave. Not surprisingly, people who don’t always have the best intentions will most of the time find their own way out of our social circles.
  • We are the central meeting place often
    • My husband and I have become the central meeting place and planners for most of our group events and that is not on accident. We have a great group of chosen family who understand our concept of hospitality intrinsically and make it easy and enjoyable for us to be that place.
  • We host holiday events for friend groups
    • We host annual events around the holidays (secular holidays, as my husband and most of our friends celebrate those), the most notable of all being our Friendsgiving that is on it’s 9th or 10th year this year (it’s all a blur after a certain point)! It started off with us and a group of 4 or 5 friends and has grown to a wonderful group upwards of 35!!
  • Turned our office into a guest room and let friends know if they are ever in a tough spot, we will be their safe space.
    • We have a spare room in the house that we don’t rent out, but use as an office. Within the last few years we added a day bed to it that pulls out into a double for friends or family to stay in if they need to. We often have a friend staying on the daybed and one or two on our oversized couch when we have events!
  • Provide pet love for friends without them
    • We have friends who come over just to get some love from our pets because they don’t have them or aren’t allowed to have them. Working in an animal hospital, I have brought home a few in moments of weakness… Four dogs, two cats, three tortoises, and a bearded dragon. Don’t worry, though, we are still welcoming to friends with allergies–Michael cleans almost daily as a calming and centering ritual he does for himself. No one would know we had that many animals!!
  • Guests don’t drink alone
    • One of my big ones, though it’s not required, but is something I strive for, is drinking when my friends are drinking! Alcoholic or non-alcoholic, I always make sure to offer my friends and guests drinks, and then I pour myself a drink, matching whether they are drinking alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages.
  • My guests are under my care from the moment I open my door until the moment they leave
    • I make it a point to walk every one of my guests out and keep them in sight as they get into their cars. I don’t let them out of my sight or go inside until their car is in motion. That is when I feel like they are as out of any harms way as I could possibly be in control of. Part of this stems from the questionable reputation of one of the houses across the street and down a few houses from us. Though they mostly seem to keep to themselves, they may be involved in some illegal activity of some sort, so I want to make sure my guests aren’t hassled or worse by any of the shady people that frequently come and go from that house.

Those are the most important points that we focus on in our Hospitality, but there are plenty more that have just become intrinsic to our hosting of guests subconsciously that I haven’t thought to list since we have been doing it for so long. When we go other places, we respect their rules, and I always offer to bring food or drinks to contribute, and also try to bring a host gift or something that is specifically for the hosts or their household. Remember, as you find your own brand of Hospitality, that everyone has different Hospitality standards, and that is okay. Figure out what works for you and those you invite into your home and commit to it!

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