Reciprocity in a Virtual World
We’ve almost reached the end of 2020. It’s hard to believe that so much has happened in such a short time. There have been many hardships, but there have also been some wonderful experiences throughout the year. I’m grateful for all of the amazing rituals, festivals, and discussions that have been presented in a digital format. I’ve had the opportunity to witness more rituals and met more people than I could have done in a normal year, all from the comfort of my own home. Attending rituals that have had participants from multiple continents has been such a bright and important part of my 2020 experience.
Reciprocity is a key part of our practices and rituals within ADF. Our COoR rites are dedicated to building reciprocal relationships with the universe we live in. We strive to build connections both within our communities and with those beings that we invite to our rites. Through our rituals we invite the Kindred to our rituals, give them offerings and thank them for joining us. Each of these actions is intended to build our relationships, show respect, and act as good hosts to those attending. In the center of our rite, our role changes and we receive blessings from these same beings in return for our gifts to them. Reciprocity, respect, and hospitality are key to these rites.
Our emphasis on reciprocity and hospitality is well based on the practices of the ancient Indo-European people. Ancient Greece had a concept called “xenia” which described the reciprocal relationship between guest and host, or a “guest-friendship,” and the importance of hospitality (Biggs, Joseph and Bennet). It's very similar to the term *ghosti that we utilize regularly within ADF. This type of interaction regularly seen in the relationships between ancient Greek mortals and deities. For example, in the Odyssey, we see an expectation of reciprocity described when Odysseus approaches Eumaeus, the swineherd. Eumaeus welcomes Odysseus, even though he doesn’t recognize him by saying that it would be wrong to turn a guest away. He expresses the idea that every stranger is sent from Zeus and a gift is expected. Odysseus shows his gratitude by calling upon Zeus directly “May Zeus and the other gods give you your heart’s desire, sir, since you welcome me so warmly” (Homer).
The importance of the guest-host relationship, and the divine can also be found in the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Pheneatian sanctuary to Demeter is where the Mysteries first began. The myth tied to this temple indicated that Demeter had visited the temple, and was shown hospitality by Trisaules and Damithales. In return for that hospitality, she showed them the wisdom of the mysteries and how to grow many crops. They built the temple in her honor and to share those Mysteries with others.
2020 has definitely had its own unique set of challenges, but through it all I believe ADF has continued to do excellent work. We’ve seen members and groups adopt new tools, resources, and practices in an effort to provide a safe and meaningful spiritual practice to our communities. I believe that by opening our (virtual) rites to each other, we’ve allowed for connections to be built between each other, and also to help foster the relationships we build with the Kindreds. We’re seeing participants from all across the grove join together in a celebration in ways that were not a typical part of ADF practices. It’s been a beautiful light in this difficult year.
Biggs, Cory, et al. The Value of Hospitality. 2002. 2019. <https://minerva.union.edu/wareht/gkcultur/guide/8/web1.html>.
Homer. Hymn to Demeter. n.d. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/demeter.htm>.
—. The Odyssey. Ed. Robert Fagles. n.d.