I join the chorus of voices reporting on the general wonderfulness of the 9th Annual Claremont Pagan Studies Conference.1 I found the overall quality of presentations exceptionally high, as they were the last time I attended two years ago.
I arrived Friday night after a long solo drive from the SF Bay Area to Los Angeles, through rain and the hairy Grapevine Canyon through the Tehachapi Mountains, stressed and with intense pain between my shoulders. Cranky, in other words. Soon Lauren cheered me up.
Saturday morning's first session consisted of four speakers. Joseph Nichter, an Iraq war veteran, spoke of using Tarot in healing PTSD. I loved his ideas about what he calls "peripheral exploration," wherein the querent draws a single card, places it on a larger sheet of paper, and draws a scene that embeds the image in the card in a larger picture.
Last year a young man approached me at a sabbat and told me he was "of my line." Huh? I didn't know I had a line. Then he told me he'd recently been initiated and one of his initiators was an initiate of one of my initiates. My initiate had been a student of mine (and of others) for some years before any oaths were sworn.
This incident brings up lots of questions, especially since it arises from a tradition (Reclaiming) that requires no initiation in order for people to participate as fully and completely, prominently and authoritatively (teaching, public priest/essing, et al.) as they choose. An obvious concern in this scenario is accountability -- to students, to community, to tradition. Another is whether, or how, one can assume a shared knowledge and capability. Those are questions for another rumination; for now, let's stick with lines and lineage.
What do we mean by lineage? Why is it important to us? Or to those of us who may think it is important? Or to anyone?
I'm revisiting the practice of xenia today. Xenia, as I wrote in my initiatory post about it, is the ancient Hellenic practice of ritual hospitality. A quote:
"Hospitality in ancient Hellenic was a complicated ritual within both the host and the guest has certain roles to fill and tasks to perform. Especially when someone unknown to the host came to the door, the ritual held great value. This ritual practice of hospitality was called 'xenia' (ξενία) and is described a lot in mythology. This, because any unknown traveler at the door could be a Theos in disguise or they could even be watched over by a Theos who would pass judgement on the host."
Today, I'm expanding upon my previous post about ritual hospitality with some tips about modern interpretation of the ancient practice. Society has changed, after all, and those wishing to actively practice xenia will find themselves in situations where they will want to assume the best in strangers, but who must safeguard themselves against abuse of all kinds.
When I was a kid I remember that whenever a new person entered our lives, especially whenever one of us children brought a new friend home, my mother would ask, "Who are your people?" This used to really bug me. She did it in a challenging, even accusatory, way, like you had to prove yourself worthy of her attention or of being in her child's life before she'd accept you.
Now that so many years have past, and my mother is gone, I'm revising my attitude towards her question. Who are my people? Who are your people? Who are our people?
Hávamál offers us a glimpse of a past that had already become somewhat nostalgic when a single hand transcribed the poem around 1270 CE.As David A. H. Evans writes in the Viking Society for Northern Research’s edition of the verses, this second poem of the Elder Edda “is deservedly one of the most celebrated works to have survived from the early Norse world.” It’s full of gnomic advice that continues to be of interest—and application—to us in the modern world. Old Norse text via the Heimskringla Project.
1. Gáttir allar, áðr gangi fram, um skoðask skyli, um skyggnast skyli, því at óvíst er at vita, hvar óvinir sitja á fleti fyrir.
2. Gefendr heilir! Gestr er inn kominn, hvar skal sitja sjá? Mjök er bráðr, sá er á bröndum skal síns of freista frama.
3. Elds er þörf, þeims inn er kominn ok á kné kalinn; matar ok váða er manni þörf, þeim er hefr um fjall farit.
4. Vatns er þörf, þeim er til verðar kemr, þerru ok þjóðlaðar, góðs of æðis, ef sér geta mætti, orðs ok endrþögu.
I am in debt. Even when I do not count my study loans, I'm chronically--but not deeply-- in the red on my bank account. I don't have credit card loans, however, and I don't owe money or goods to anyone. I have had a tough year, but it's slowly getting better. Although I work, next to getting an education, my income does not cover all my costs. I am extremely lucky, though: I have a working partner who will gladly jump in and cover costs until my education is done and I can get an actual job that pays the bills.
I don't like being in debt. It's against the spirit of Hellenismos--or at least the two were antagonistic in ancient Hellas. Debts were paid off at the Deipnon--the end of the month--and those who could not pay them became serfs to their creditors. It was one of the main ways a citizen could become a slave.
It sounds a bit harsh, becoming a slave because of a missed payment. Yet, is modern life any different? Am I not tied to all people, companies and foundations who pull money from my bank account on a regular basis? Will not strong men and/or women show up on my doorstep if I can not afford to pay my bills and take items I own to pay off the debt? If all else fails, won't the government take my freedom? Aren't all of us a little enslaved to a economy which requires monthly contributions for protection, huge debts for housing and education, and for an ever-increasing number of people; financial support from their government simply to eat and have a roof to sleep under?