As I near the end of my Walkabout and Quest (only a couple more months to go), and Thanksgiving with my kids only a few days away, I am drawn to reflect over my long journey, and the wondrous hospitality I have received all over the Western Hemisphere. So many people have generously taken me into their homes and lives; have fed me, entertained me, provided soft beds (and sometimes warm love). I have been taken to dinners, barbeques, movies, concerts, plays, rides, rituals, celebrations, weddings, drum circles, book-signings, grand adventures and long hikes in the wilderness to beautiful vistas. People have come to hear me talk, and bought my books, statues, posters and jewelry.
Some have been old friends and lovers, going back decades. Some have been family members I rarely see. But many more have been new friends to whom I was a virtual stranger when I arrived on their doorsteps; but a dear member of the family when I departed. All have become precious to me, and I carry them all in my heart.
The sacred nature of hospitality was universal in the ancient world. In one of my favorite stories from ancient Greece (as told by Ovid, who used the Roman names, Jupiter and Mercury), Zeus and Hermes disguised themselves as beggars and went among humans, asking the people of the town for a place to sleep that night.
They had been rejected by all, when at last they came to a simple little cottage in a marsh, the rustic home of Baucis and Philemon, who welcomed the strangers graciously. Though the elderly couple were poor, and their fare meager, their generosity far surpassed that of their rich neighbors, among whom the gods had found “doors bolted and no word of kindness.”
After serving the two guests food and wine Baucis noticed that, although she had refilled her guest’s cups many times, the pitcher was still full. Realizing then that their guests were gods, she and her husband “raised their hands in supplication and implored indulgence for their simple home and fare.”
Baucis thought of killing the goose that guarded their house and making it into a meal, but when she attempted to catch it, the goose ran to safety in Zeus’s lap. Zeus told them to spare the goose and leave the town immediately, because he was going to destroy all those who had not provided due hospitality. He told them to climb the mountain and not look back until they reached the top.
After climbing to the summit, Baucis and Philemon looked back and saw that their town had been destroyed by a flood and their humble cottage transformed into an ornate temple. The kindly couple’s wish to be guardians of the temple was granted. They also asked that when their time came, they would both die together. Upon their death, the two were changed into an intertwining pair of trees, an oak and a linden, which were pointed out to generations of pilgrims to their temple.
Hospitality was a primary virtue among the Norse as well. A similar story is told of Odin and Loki walking disguised among humans to test their hospitality. Odin, in fact, was famous for wandering the Earth in the guise of a simple one-eyed beggar.
The virtue of hospitality is often cited in the Bible:
In Genesis 19:1, after Lot and his wife had feasted them, two strangers were revealed as Angels. Like the story of Baucis and Philemon, Lot and his family were told to flee to the mountains and not look back, before God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Recalling this story, Hebrews 13:2 reads “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Job 31:32: “But no stranger had to lodge on the street, for my door has been open to the traveler…”
Matthew 225:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in.”
Isaiah 58:6-9: 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousnesswill go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: “Here am I.”
And so it is. Treat everyone well because you never know when you’ll find yourself in the presence of a god! For, as Jesus said, “You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.” (Psalm 62:6; John 10:34)
For previous Journal entries and more, be sure to check out my personal website: www.OberonZell.com. There are links there where you can buy my books, statues, jewelry, posters and more.