Elf Circle defines Hospitality in the following manner:
“Also known as courtesy, hospitality is to be generous, kind, and loyal to those who enter your house or with whom you have dealings.”
Hospitality is about warmth, security, balance and relationship.
It refers to the duties and responsibilities of a host towards a guest.
The word origin is from the Latin “hospes”, which is derived in turn from “hostis” “stranger”.
It may at first seem rather puzzling that the word for hospitality emerges from the word for stranger, until you consider that hospitality is really that which one gives to others who are not of one’s own home.
Hospitality is an ancient and sacred virtue and can be found at the heart of almost all ancient cultures.
For Ancient Greeks, Hospitality was of great importance and came under the auspices of Zeus who in that role bears the title Xenios (this word also means stranger).
Similar to Middle Eastern practices, a passing stranger invited into the Hellenic home could expect to have his feet washed, and to be fed and given drink even before introductions.
Hospitality defined and still defines, the social structure and expectations upon which we (and our hosts and guests) can rely.
It applies specifically to visitors from elsewhere (strangers), and emerges from ancient needs to ascertain that all travelers could find shelter and safety for the night.
The isolation and alienation that many contemporary humans experience is likely to be part of why hospitality today is viewed primarily in an entertainment and tourism context.
Of course, this could be a chicken and egg situation.
Hospitable actions and the willingness to share what one has with others, particularly guests, visitors, travelers, and the less fortunate are just as important now as ever.
Certainly, it is easy to see the reason why beings of good faith and manners would deal respectfully with one another; they act for the good of their larger communities.
In highly mobile societies, families are often scattered and distant from one another.
Increasingly, non-familial members turn out to be significant.
Examples of what is known to anthropologists as fictive kinship become important as unrelated people develop pseudo-familial ties and intimacy.
Novel sorts of relationships form and the newly linked people begin to look out for one another in manners traditionally met by families and the rules of Hospitality.
As I mentioned, Hospitality ultimately involves balance.
The most realized form of Hospitality is similarly a mutual virtue; it is not weighted in favor of the guest or the host.
The Generosity implied in Hospitality can be exhibited in a variety of ways including the more usual interpretations involving hosting good parties or demonstrating graciousness in entertainment and etiquette.
Also, and more traditionally, Hospitality can be found in helping a neighbor with household or garden tasks, barn raisings, and the ancient duty to provide comfort, warmth and sustenance to visitors and strangers.
In collective demonstrations of hospitality like the barn raising, differences and even feuds are set aside in order to provide for the common good.
In Celtic societies, hospitality did not only consist of the provision of food, drink and shelter for guests but was extended to the responsibility to safeguard all guests under one’s care.
This was also true for Ancient Greeks who share the interpretation that Hospitality includes protection.
To be hospitable one must be cordial and openhanded and in return it is expected that the guest will be grateful and appreciative.
The Celts share a widespread conviction that to give is also to receive and this belief is exemplified by the Irish proverb:
Ag te a thabharfas sceal chugat tabhar faidh se dha sceal uait
(Whoever may bring a story to you, shall receive two stories from you.)
It is not unusual in many cultures for the notion of hospitality to go to surprising extremes.
An extreme honoring of the virtue is exhibited by the story of the Scot Clans MacGregor and Lamont.
When the Chief of Clan Lamont requested refuge from pursuers and the MacGregor Chief had granted it, the latter subsequently learned that the Lamont Chief had killed the MacGregor son and heir.
Honoring the sacred rule of Hospitality, he refused to turn over the Lamont Chief and in fact escorted him home the following day.
The Lamonts later returned this hospitality in kind.
This sort of adherence to the sacred nature of Hospitality for the Celts is illustrated in this Irish proverb:
Bheirrin cuid oidhche dha ged a bhiodh ceann fir fo achlais
(I’d give him food and shelter for the night, even if he had a man’s head under his arm.)
An even more excessive illustration of this form of Hospitality can be found in Genesis where Lot provides hospitality to a group of angels who he believes to be ordinary Humans.
When the angels come under attack by the Sodomites, Lot offers them his own daughters in their stead, saying:
“I beg you, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please; but do not do anything to these men, since they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
(Genesis 19:8, this translation is from The JPS Hebrew-English TANAKH).
The acts of sacred deities, demigods and angels taking on disguises as travelers is by no means limited to the Torah/Bible, but can be found in Greek tales, European folk and Faerytales, African wisdom stories, and from cultures all over the world.
Norse Gods (whom the 9 Noble Virtues were originally intended to Honor) are also reputed to wander the world in disguise and stop in at people's houses, to try the host’s liberality and hospitality.
While the goal is to treat all guests with respect and courtesy, one never knows when a stranger might be a God in human form.
This provides a meaningful incentive to generous social action in many ancient and modern Pagan traditions.
How one offers charity is a modern expression of this ancient virtue and concern.
The reference to courtesy in the Elf Circle definition of hospitality can be realized in day to day life as we behave towards all with courteousness and good manners.
As we strive for excellence we model for one another the sorts of behavior we all want to see in the beings we encounter.
This includes the unfortunate stranger whether a God in disguise or not.
We can never be certain what history and tragedy may inform an individual’s current misfortune.
For this reason, we can’t really judge or condemn them.
Even when we ourselves are not in the position to offer everyone sanctuary, food or shelter, even a smile or a kind remark may have a profound impact upon a person in distress.
Hospitality then, relates to all the preceding virtues of Courage, Truth, Honor and Loyalty.
It takes Courage to invite a stranger into one’s home and to undertake an obligation to protect and defend this guest.
It takes Truth, in particular the related Trust to both offer and extend such a welcome.
Hospitality involves the Honor of opening one’s home to others, and the equally important Respect due to those who offer that generosity.
Finally, we must be Loyal to our traditions and social duties to give and to receive Hospitality.
We will turn now to the deeper font of virtues we can find in Fantasy literature.
Many of you now know my personal bias.
When I think of Hospitality in the works of the Hobbits (as shared with modern Humans by Tolkien) I think of the life of the Perianath (Hobbits) in the Shire, and also the home of Tom Bombadil and the role of Imladris (Rivendell) in Middle Earth.
There are a number of references to the sacred virtue of Hospitality as practiced by Hobbits.
The Perianath observe a number of the rules of behavior of medieval courtly society.
Examples of Hospitality can be found throughout Bilbo’s work “There and Back Again” (The Hobbit) in “The Red Book of Westmarch” (The Lord of the Rings)
“And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).
“They were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted.”
(from LoTR 2; The Fellowship of the Ring)
In the face of all that happens to the Perianath, they cultivate a cultured manner, even if it is not that of the "big folk" (as they call we larger races), whose love of Elven magic and/or Dwarvish or Human technological progress they tend to regard with suspicion.
Another significant example of Perianath Hospitality is the Birthday Party which Bilbo Baggins throws for the folk of Hobbiton.
Even while anticipating all the forthcoming amusements at Bag End, the residents of Hobbiton are filled with enthusiastic excitement much as are the inhabitants of any medieval castle or manor and its surrounding town.
The virtue of Hospitality can also be seen clearly in the welcome the four travelling Hobbits receive in the lands and home of the enigmatic Tom Bombadil.
After he rescues them from Old Man Willow he brings them home.
There, as he takes care of their ponies, the equally anomalous, though delightfully warm Goldberry says:
"Come, dear folk! Let us shut out the night! For you are still afraid, perhaps, of mist and tree-shadows and deep water, and untame things. Fear nothing! For tonight you are under the roof of Tom Bombadil."
Under that roof they are greeted and treated to a delicious-sounding hospitality including:
bread and butter, milk and cheese, yellow cream and honeycomb, green herbs and ripe berries.
Later the Perianath are led to comfortable beds and the following day they benefit yet again from the protection aspect of hospitality discussed earlier.
Finally, the Hobbits make their way to the Lands of some of our relatives where they visit Imladris.
Rivendell is where The Last Homely House west of the Mountains offers refuge and shelter to those travelling to the wilderland beyond the Misty Mountains.
Hospitality at Imladris certainly includes protection, healing, shelter, counsel, and all that might be expected from the generosity of an Elven refuge and center of learning.
We all can benefit from the example of the House of Elrond, the warmth of Tom and Goldberry, and the generous abundance of the Shire.
Second Lecture on Hospitality presented by Lord Fredrich Armistice, the General of the Elf Circle Guardians.
Good evening everyone, and welcome to tonight's discussion on Hospitality. Thanks also to lady Maerian for the in-depth history.
In Second Life, hospitality is one of the most important characteristics of a successful community. Unlike the majority of the other virtues which deal with personal traits, this virtue is about how we treat others. In practice, hospitality is about providing a friendly and generous disposition towards one's guests.
Who here has been sim-hopping? Think about what made you stay at one place longer than another, or what made you come back? A few times were maybe to show off to friends a well-built sim or one with novel effects.
However, a sim could have prize-winning builds and elite scripters, but without the right community aspects, it's just a shop or a museum. After awhile, you really only come back to check for updates or just sit around quietly.
What keeps visitors coming back, goes something like this:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
Let's take a quick look at the concepts in the old Cheers song.
Many people come to Second Life to get away from real life. Many people are also looking for a place to belong; a place where they're known and where the folks are glad to see them; a place to feel welcome and to share common elements. In short, a home away from home.
When adapted to Second Life, hospitality has a couple practical applications. Who can tell me what they are?
From the example above, when people find a place they feel at home, one obvious application is recruitment. People are more likely to return to places where they feel welcomed and wanted, than to empty sims or places where they're ignored.
Of course the other major application, due to my SL line of work, is the anti-griefer aspect. When it comes to reducing trouble incidents, hospitality is the first line of defense. Why? Because most griefers are borderline, rather than relatively random vandals (like the ones who smash bus stops). The borderline griefers are looking for an excuse to cause trouble, whereas the random griefers tend to be looking for attention or bragging rights with their “peers”. Griefers that already have a reason to cause trouble are more persistent. It is better to prevent giving them a motive than to clean up the mess afterwards. Maintaining hospitality even when initially provoked, can help defuse their excuses as well as providing a positive form of attention.
Borderline griefers often attempt initial provocation in order to get an excuse to cause trouble. Not providing them with fuel achieves a two-fold purpose. Firstly it may deter them from attacking because you haven't responded in a way they can take offense (this may also baffle the griefer because you are not getting upset as expected). Secondly, it makes for much cleaner decisions should you need to send the chat logs to prove that all aggressive behavior was one-sided. Not matching aggression with aggression seems counter-intuitive, but it does work when applied correctly.
As you have heard in previous talks, any virtue can be abused if carried to extremes. This has been known to occur for example, where someone has taken refuge in a house as a guest, without informing the host about the angry mob chasing him. In one positive example, there's a story of an Arab thief who tasted something to see if it was sugar, but upon finding it to be salt (eating salt under someone's roof created a bond of obligation between guest and host in Middle Eastern cultures), put back all he was planning to steal. Hospitality needs to be applied with common sense and a spirit of generosity. There are still house rules, and although ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law, here in Second Life we have the freedom for a bit more leniency. People usually do not intend to break rules and should be given the benefit of the doubt with a polite corrective reminder. When you get visitors who sincerely want to cause trouble, you are well within your right to kick the person out, for the sake of hospitality towards your other guests.
The emphasis on hospitality so far, has been placed on the Host. Now before we close for questions, I would like to briefly bring up the other side of hospitality, namely the role of the Guest. Whenever we visit the house, lands, sim, etc of another, we are there as guests. As guests, we should not have the disposition of waiting to be entertained, or attempt to have fun at the expense of the host or other guests. After all, we would hopefully wish to be remembered and welcomed should we return in the future.
About the Original Lecture Series
This material was first presented as a series of lectures in Estel Sidhevair beginning on Nov. 5, 2008. These lectures weregeared to online community members of the “Fantasy Archipelago” in the Old Virtual grid and in particular to the Elf Circle Guardians who include the ethics of the Nine Virtues in their training to act as mentors and first responders to online trouble for the approximately 1500 members of Elf Circle (EC). Please note that the material is also presented with a distinct mythopoeic approach, basically written by and for creatures of fantasy. The original lecture transcript has been modified for a more general audience.
While the Nine Noble Virtues are drawn from Norse religious perspectives, this introduction and the nine lectures which follow also draw from other ethical and religious constructs from around the world including Celtic, Hellenic, and East Indian perspectives.
The original lectures were presented online on Wednesday nights at 8 PM with some breaks for various holidays. They were facilitated by the direct avatar interactions made possible via digital worlds. The lectures were all presented in the main conference area of the community center (Enedh Gwaith) on the virtual island of Estel Sidhevair.In some cases there were guest speakers, where appropriate their remarks are included with the main lectures. Each lecture was followed by a discussion section. These talks at times lasted far into the night, sometimes growing rather heated.
The sixth virtue
The 9 Virtues lecture series was presented originally by the Faelf who comprise the members and avatars of Westernesste and the Sidhevairs. The Sidhevairs are a non-profit arts and educational association which share a group tax exemption under 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code as a chartered coordinating subordinate organization of Westernesste. Donations to us are tax deductible. You can learn learn more about our parent organization by visiting the Westernesste site. You can learn more about the organization of The Sidhevairs, see our EIN letter, our DUNS information, our charter, and our articles of association by clicking here.
Please read the about the virtue of Hospitality below and then follow the links in this section to read about the other virtues that comprise the Nine Noble Virtues.
The Nine Noble Virtues are Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance.
The 9 Virtues