Hospitality can be defined as cultural norms and customs surrounding how a “host” of a place interacts with their “guests” and vice-versa. This “place” is often a house or home, but not always as we see below.
When looking at the myths, we find several examples of hospitality. Just looking at the Mythological Cycle, there is Brés and his inhospitality as well as the Dagda and the Fomorian’s hospitality.
First, Brés exhibits all the ways one shouldn’t be a king. One of the ways he failed kingship was how he did not provide for any of his guests–not with food nor entertainment. This lead to a satire being written about him, which (along with committing false judgement) stunted his kingship.
Secondly, the Dagda went to Fomorian camp before the Second Battle of Moytura. While they agreed to a temporarily truce, they offered hospitality to the Dagda by making a huge hole in the ground–five fists deep–and filling it with porridge. The Dagda then had to eat the porridge, or else he would be a poor guest by insulting the Fomorian’s hospitality and the Fomorians would put him to death. So, the Dagda ate all the porridge.
These two stories give the importance of hospitality–for both the host and the guest. The host is expected to provide food and entertainment, and the guest is expected to eat and drink the food provided. There were dire consequences if either of these roles failed to be hospitable, as seen in lore.
In modern Ireland, hospitality is still a huge deal. Lora O’Brien writes about the modern version of hospitality on her blog:
“The thing is though, when someone offers, it’s polite not to snatch the hand off them for a sandwich or a cuppa, no matter how starving or parched you’re feeling. You do the polite refusal. Then they ask are ya sure? You might think you’re safe enough to say yes the second time… but no. You politely refuse again. It’s only on the third time, when they ask are ya REALLY sure, then you can say “Ah go on so, I will, thanks”.
I don’t know why. It’s just how it’s done.”
More on hospitality:
- Ask on Hospitality by Bearded Boggan
- “ADF Virtues: Hospitality” by Naomi Jacobs (Léithin Cluan)
- “Hospitality & Zero-Tolerance” by Naomi Jacobs (Léithin Cluan)
- “Friend or Foe? Hospitality and the Threshold in Scottish Tradition” by Dr Neill Martin