One of the things that we in ADF love is a good scholarly article. As an ADF priest I have read a lot of scholarly articles as have the many initiates, priests, and scholars among our members. One of the beautiful things about all this research is that occasionally we come across some really neat things. Sometimes we even rediscover sacred mysteries of the indigenous peoples of the Eurasian continent. *Ghosti is a word like that.
The reason that it has an asterisk in front of it is that it isn’t a real word. Not in the sense that we know someone ever spoke it. However, linguists have come a long way from the realization in the 1800’s that Sanskrit had a shocking amount of words that were very similar to words in various European languages. Scholars from Victorian England postulated that Sanskrit and English were in fact languages that had developed from a common root. Many years later we know they were correct. That’s why we ADFers focus on the Indo-European cultures. They have stuff in common.
So among the words for sun, sky, pig, cow, and even flea we have a word that means both guest and host. It is a word of give and take, of relationship between.
You cannot have relationship without there being at least two things, even if they’re parts of self. By its nature, the word relationship implies interaction. *Ghosti is that interaction between something that is not you and your self. In the Germanic languages the words that developed from it mean both guest and stranger. The word hostage and hostile also come from it. From the French we have hospital and the Greek have euxenos which means hospitable.
As I have delved deeper into vision and trance work with this concept I have discovered this word is essentially about action. You cannot have relationship without some sort of doing practice. I envision it as a flow of energy that moves from one being and then back again. This particular sort of energy is created simply by interacting. However it disappears if it stops flowing. Without give and take there is nothing left.
|Friendship: painting donated for auction.|
I love to study the traditions of hosting that have developed in different cultures. In Lithuania it is traditional to greet a guest with a bit of bread and salt on an embroidered linen towel. In India worship of the personal god is called Panchopchara Puja. This is a particular kind of puja or ritual for worshiping the gods, but it is also equated with how one should treat guests. There are five steps, including creating a fragrant atmosphere for the guest, having a lamp so that guest and host can see each other clearly, having something to eat (always a good plan when guests arrive), and a flower to give. Lastly rice was involved to represent fertility and offering. Food is often a central theme of guest greetings.
In the Germanic lore there are the tales of the wandering stranger, who comes to the door of a household and asks for food and shelter. This is a test. We all know the tale. The stranger is no common mortal, but a god in disguise who is pleased by the people who offer food and warmth by the fire and displeased by those who do not. In our lives we are rarely presented with such a test, but how often do we turn away from our duties as a good host? We no longer live in isolated villages or hamlets. The majority of folk work in offices, get food from supermarkets, not the back fields or storeroom, and live in many spaces that are not our homes. I don’t think this excuses us from host duties. We are hosts in our own lives, and guests in the lives of others, wherever we go. This is how I live my life now. I am always attempting to be a good guest and a good host.
This has caused me to re-evaluate my ethics and relationship to ethical codes. I can no longer accept “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” It’s not bad really. The Golden Rule is a decent rule of thumb if you can’t think of anything better. However when evaluating it against *ghosti it didn’t hold up. When I’m being a good host I don't give people what I would want. I give them what they want. I don’t buy a birthday present for my lover that I would buy for myself. I buy them something that I know they like. Part of my work as a human who practices *ghosti is learning and observing what others want, and this is the essence of the mystery that I have discovered.
*Ghosti is a means to compassion and empathy.
By stating that I choose to be a good host and a good guest in other’s lives I commit myself to understanding their needs and my own. I accept the fact that relationship is a flow between people, and not a static condition. Nor can I assume that if something is right for me that it will be right for other people. My job is to communicate my needs and listen to the needs of others. These are essential steps compassionate living. Certainly compassion has other components, including love and acceptance, but those things too are rooted in understanding. So I choose to try to be a good guest and a good host. As an introvert I struggle with these things. I pull away and let the flow of reciprocity dissolve. But I keep trying. It is a goal and the process is what transforms me. *Ghosti is a practice that I keep, like my devotional practice or my meditation practice. It is a mystery that I drink from but only when I let someone else hold the cup.