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Posts Tagged ‘G’

(A third G entry for this week, because I thought of it on the way in to work yesterday. Now I’m all caught up with the PBP2014! Yay! On to H!)

Generosity brings credit and honor, which support one’s dignity;
it furnishes help and subsistence
to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.

Gyfu is one of the runes identified in the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, and it represents Generosity and Hospitality, and the very important cultural concepts of both. For the Indo-Europeans, the guest-host relationship was extremely important (which I talked about in my post on *ghosti) and provided a lot of the substance of social interactions. It provided for care of travelers, established social relationships, and represented humanity’s relationship with their gods. One’s hospitality was a measure of one’s worth, and it was extremely important to maintain those cultural and social bargains.

As a rune, Gyfu is the “gift for a gift” transaction that comes out of that relationship of hospitality. It is common in ADF to hear that we have given offerings, and we now ask for blessings, “as a gift requires a gift in return”. Not in a manipulative sort of way, but in a way of cultural and social understanding of how the world worked for the Indo-Europeans. This transaction is what is called for in this rune, and it can be representative of needing to uphold your own side of the bargain, or a representation of something coming back to you as a return gift. (No rune is without nuance, of course, so interpreting it in the situation is important.)

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*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.

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Grove is the (slightly cliché, I’ll admit) term for a group of druids. It’s the standard operating system for ADF, and the point toward which the majority of ADF ritual is designed. Groves are groups of ADF members who meet regularly and celebrate rituals together at least for the 8 major high days of the wheel of the year.

The heart of ADF, groves provide places of community, worship, and learning. There are currently 75 groves in ADF, spread around the world (though most are in the United States). Unfortunately, while that seems like a pretty big number, and it is constantly growing, there are still big gaps between groves in a lot of the US (and even more so worldwide), so a lot of druids end up as solitaries (and some may even choose to remain solitary even in a place with access to a grove or protogrove).

My local group is a Protogrove – the step before becoming a full grove. It requires fewer people, but the ultimate goal is to work towards full grove status. Groves perform regular community service and provide a space for public ritual and community, fulfilling the vision of ADF to become a public Neopagan church.

Grove-centered spirituality is a different beast for me, since I am so strongly tied to my solitary practice. I’ve enjoyed working in the small group that is my study group, but I still do solitary rituals for high days. My local protogrove is also strongly Irish/Welsh focused, and while I don’t mind doing rituals in whatever hearth culture the group prefers, I still like to have my Anglo-Saxon/Germanic rituals when possible.

Still, plugging into a local Neopagan community, however small they may be, has been useful for me, at least in terms of inspiring me to stick with the practices that I know are important to my work, and in giving me something to help keep me accountable (the study group is really good for that).

I am hoping that our work as a study group will help further the local protogrove and vice versa, and I really do think that the two will work well together, blending their ritual practice with the more academic side of Druidry. And hey, maybe we’ll rub off on each other a bit in the meantime, and start to see more crossover between the groups. From what I have seen of the two groups, they can bring us some of the joy and levity that is so important in a good working religion, and we can provide the reverence and study that form the other half of ADF’s work. I think it will be a good partnership.

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