X is for Xenia: Pagan Blog Project 2013

Xenia is the Ancient Greek virtue of hospitality.

Notice the word virtue. Xenia is more than making sure there are clean sheets and accommodating your guest’s food allergies. The concept is connected to the idea that the gods mingle among us and sometimes disguise themselves as humans. Sometimes they disguise themselves as outcast, lowly humans–beggars, ugly old women–and therefore any stranger could be a god in disguise. In such a world, the stranger is sacred: treating a stranger poorly could get you turned into a mushroom or something.

I like this way of looking at things–not really because I hope for a reward at the hands of a cleverly disguised god, but because the idea that any stranger could be a god in disguise sets us up to look at strangers with curiosity and reverence rather than with distrust and hostility.

I think Xenia as a pagan virtue makes a lot of sense. Even if I don’t believe that the gods might show up on my doorstep as a magazine salesman, I believe that everything is sacred. Everything has a spark of the divine in it. By that theory alone, offering hospitality to others–good food, kindness, a safe space for self expression–becomes more than just a nice thing to do. It becomes a sacred act.

Another way we can see how our spirituality is part of everyday life.


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