An Evening with...
The Greek word xenos translates into English as stranger. The custom of inviting the stranger in is xenia, also the ancient Greek word for hospitality. In the ancient world, and in particular the world of the Greek storyteller, Homer, xeniawas divine law sent directly from Olympos, and Zeus Xenios was the guardian of strangers, supplicants, the homeless, widows and orphans. Today, the modern Greek word for hospitality is philosxenia, love for the stranger, care of the guest.
According to many ancient traditions, when a homeless or destitute person arrived at your door, you invited her or him in, and offered comfort, food, a place at the table, a bath, and comfortable bed in which to sleep. If you refused hospitality, or violated this sacred code, you could bring the wrath of God down upon you and your household. To invite the stranger in, your generosity could bring bounty and honor upon your house and home.
We have a storehouse of such stories. The BiblicalBook of Ruth, “Baucis and Philemon” from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, James Russell Lowell’s poem, “The Vision of Sir Launfal,” and Homer’s Odyssey are some well known examples.
After your guest was made welcome, you might ask personal questions, such as, “Who are your people? Where are you from? What is your name?” Then, if you were lucky, your guest might entertain you with stories and valuable information about the affairs of the world beyond your little island home. Or perhaps this guest-stranger might even share a dream with you.
Tonight we will reflect on some of the stories that come to us from the world’s great traditions, like the ones named above, and allow them to touch us as they will. Then each one of us will have a chance to discover where a beggar or stranger may be knocking at the doorway of our souls.
Bonnie L. Damron, PhD, LCSW is a psychotherapist, ethnographer, storyteller, and Archetypal Pattern Analyst in private practice in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. During her thirty-four years in practice, she has conducted seminars on archetypal motifs in fairy tales, myths, the arts, and the writings of C.G. Jung. She also leads study tours to Crete and the Greek mainland. Dr. Damron holds a Masters of Social Work degree from Catholic University, a Doctoral Degree in American Culture Studies from the University of Maryland, and a Certificate as an Archetypal Pattern Analyst from the Assisi Institute for Archetypal Studies.