*Ghosti is a concept we hear a lot about in ADF. (The asterisk is used to denote that it is not an attested word, but instead is a linguistically reconstructed word from the Proto-Indo-European language.) Our English words “guest” and “host” both come from this word. Mutual obligations between people are expressed with this concept, as well as the relationship between worshipers and gods.
From an article by Ceisiwr Serith:
*ghosti- is a word in Proto-Indo-European which translates as “someone with whom one has a reciprocal obligation of hospitality.” The English “guest” and “host” both come from this root. That describes the ghosti-relationship nicely. We are both guest and host to those with whom we have a ghosti-relationship; guest on one occasion, and host on another
And the ghosti-principle operates in the relationship between human and divine. We give gifts to the gods, and they give gifts to us. We offer a share of the sacrifice, and they grant us blessings. We are the hosts today, and they are the hosts tomorrow. Sometimes this is called a “do ut des” relationship — “I give that you might give.” It is seen as a cosmic buying off — we pay the gods to get what we want.
There is so much more to it than that, though. It is not a mere business transaction. Exchange is what Indo-European friendships are made of. By engaging in ghosti-relationships with the gods, we become their friends. And since in Indo-European society the king must give more in such a relationship than a commoner, the Great and Shining Ones grant marvelous blessings in return for our more humble gifts.
For me, *ghosti is tied into the virtues that I strive to practice on a daily basis – it is part of piety and hospitality especially, because it defines my relationships with both other humans and the gods and spirits. If I’m honest, I’m not always good at the truly reciprocal form of hospitality with my friends, and I am terrible about remembering people’s birthdays, but I tend to buy random gifts when I find something that strikes me as something that someone I know would love. Or buy them dinner or whatever. I also try very hard to support my friends who are artisans, even when it’s something I could technically make or purchase less expensively elsewhere, because I believe it’s important to support people who are doing and making beautiful things (though that’s less about *ghosti and more about me wanting to support my friends… which I guess is a form of *ghosti in a way).
One of the things that drew me to ADF (and has kept me here) is the idea of a transactional, reciprocal relationship with the gods and spirits around me. I need them and they need me, we mutually support each other through gifts, sacrifice, blessings, and offerings. If I uphold my end of the bargain, they will uphold theirs, in a very mutually beneficial sort of way. This way of thinking just makes sense to me, and it’s been one of the things I was looking for in a religion since before I was part of ADF. Having that relationship, based on mutual respect and “gift giving”, where sometimes I am the gracious guest, and sometimes I am the gracious host, just works for me.