Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stanza 4

daily 4 featuredThe Hávamál is one of the poems of the Poetic Edda.  It sets out a set of guidelines for wise living and survival.  The Hávamál consists of a number of poems, which shift in tone and tenor and narrative position.  Numerous English translations exist of the text.

Stanza 4

Original -
Vats er þörf
þeims til verðar kømr
þerru ok þjóðlaðar
góðs um œðis
ef sér geta mætti
orðs ok endrþögu

Translation -
When a guest comes,
he will need food and drink.
Give a warm welcome,
friendly speech,
and listen to his tales.
- Hávamál Stanza 4

According to the skalds (poet) at the time this text was written, if you were hosting a guest (friend or stranger), it was considered polite to let your guest do most of the talking.  As a guest, it was generally considered to be rude NOT to do most of the talking!  It was seen as the sign of a glutton who just wanted the food, and this was one of the few ways that people were able to learn about what was going on beyond the borders of their village.

The ancient Norse and Germanic tribes had a strong ethic of Hospitality, which eventually permeated almost all aspects of those cultures.  The idea of Hospitality came to influence their politics and religion just as much as it shaped their day-to-day lives.  The concept encompassed personal generosity, reciprocity, and even what we today might term “social justice”.  By the end of the Viking Era, this had become a highly ritualized practice and a core part of the their worldview.

Hospitality is one of the Nine Noble Virtues.  Hospitality or the Golden Rule was definitely a Viking trait.  The warrior is expected to treat others with respect and dignity.  You must see other people as people who deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy.  The Vikings believed that sometimes the Gods would visit people in human form and that in being disrespectful to strangers they could also be disrespecting the Gods.

Aegir is the God of the sea.  Aegir brewed ale for the Gods.  Every winter the Gods would drink beer at Aegir's home.  He was, therefore, famed for his hospitality.

Stanza four doesn’t really add anything new to hospitality, rather it lets repetition bear it’s weight.  The authors of the Havamal often use repetition of a phrase or a theme in order to denote its importance.  With three of the first four verses of Odin’s advice for mankind pertaining to the proper applications of hospitality, it’s easy to imagine exactly how fundamental the skalds must have felt this virtue was.  A core ethic not JUST of their culture, but of the character of God Odin himself.




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