Boundaries and Hospitality

“Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even though you wish they were.” – Proverb

We don’t have doors in our house. We have doorways, but no actual doors. So, my Significant Other put up old sarongs to at least give us some privacy in the bedroom.

We have a black cat named Bansidhe. She sings to us all the time (I haven’t noticed anyone dying whenever she cries, but who knows, right? She is a cat after all. I also haven’t noticed her herding fairy cattle, but I’m pretty sure she does that at night while we’re sleeping. At least it sounds that way…). She also has trouble crossing over our threshold at the curtains. At first I just assumed that my cat might be a little…well, you know, special. But then I started watching her when we did ritual. She never crosses our Circle. She is also an excellent companion on guided group meditations, and in my own astral temple work. She is very good about digging her claws into my knee at just the right moment to bring me all the way back. So I started watching her when she was going in and out of our bedroom.

She works her way up to it and then seems to force her way through. If I open the curtain for her and invite her in or out, she has no problems at all. But when she’s doing it herself, she does that adorable cat hunter butt wiggle thing and gets this look of extreme focus on her face as if to say, “I’m GOING to do it, NOW”.

So I started thinking that maybe my personal shields on the bedroom were a little much…

But what can I say? The bedroom is my Sanctuary, it is where I go to retreat from the world and from people and from all of those grating social activities that drive me nuts. When I’m at work, I’m forced to be polite and nice to people who do not always give me the same courtesy. I see it as a part of my professional demeanor to be as polite in all situations as I can be. Having a bad day? No excuse to take it out on other people.

So when I get home from work, I need a place away from the stresses of the outside world. I also don’t particularly like having people living in my space. I work my ass off and sacrifice a pretty big part of the actual me to work the job that I do. And while there are things about the job that I love, there are also things, most notably a lot of coworkers, that make this job an absolute misery for me. But, at the end of the day, I like having a steady paycheck with benefits. I like knowing that I can pay the rent to ensure that my sanctuary is always there. So working a nine to five job is a sacrifice that I’m willing to make. Having that Sanctuary is essential.

We live in a shotgun apartment. (Shotgun Apartment Layout) Our bedroom is not only our shelter, it is in the heart of our house. It is the most protected room physically in the whole place, which I’m sure adds to the shielding me and my Significant Other have created.

I’ve had more than one person tell me that the shields on my bedroom were particularly strong, but until my poor familiar started having trouble dealing with them, I had never noticed this myself.

In this house, it’s not just me, but my Significant Other as well. While he is a much more social person than I am, like me he appreciates his space. So I’m sure that between  him and I, the shields on our bedroom (which is where we spend a majority of the time in this apartment), are pretty spectacular.

Last year, I had someone that I respected tell me that I’m an “aggressive, territorial bitch”. I had told her son, who was going to be our landlord, that I didn’t want a strange girl living with us. He had hired a girl to watch the house while they were doing repairs on it and she was living in the rooms that we were moving into. I had told him that I didn’t mind if she stayed until she found a new place, but that I wasn’t comfortable with her living with us for very long. She was someone that I didn’t know, who wasn’t going to be contributing to the household expenses, and who was not someone that I had personally invited. I saw her as his employee and therefore his responsibility. I didn’t think this was being unreasonable. But I was told that I was a bad Pagan and that I lacked “hospitality” for not wanting to house this stranger. I think, that out of that entire horrible conversation, as I was torn to shreds and generally sat there with my mouth hanging open in shock through all of it, that it was this accusation that hurt the most.

My S.O. and I went on to house people continually from October of 2011 to March of 2012 without respite (in the shotgun apartment with no privacy). It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to this accusation either, it was because of promises that my S.O. and I had made to various people months prior. It wasn’t until after that whole long period was over that I looked back on my supposed “territorial aggressive bitchiness of no hospitality” that it occurred to me how absurd the whole thing was.

But that accusation has nagged at me for months now. Where does our responsibility to be “hospitable” end? Especially for people like me who need privacy from the outer world for our physical well being. I can’t emotionally handle being around people for very long. I have to like you a lot and trust you even more to be O.K with you in my space for long periods of time. When I’m around people constantly, it wears me down, first mentally and then physically. Again, I have a stressful job, and the stress of those people adds onto my stress with regular social situations. I’m O.K with the fact that I have some social anxiety and maybe a slight case of agoraphobia; I know how to deal with those things and live a relatively normal social life. But I also know that there are times when I have to seclude myself in order to shore myself up for when I am around people.

If nothing else, I think the shields on my bedroom, which aren’t particularly intentional, are a good example of how willing I am to keep people OUT of my personal space when I am home.

I never before saw that as meaning I lacked hospitality. How can I give hospitality if I am too sick and worn down to give the type of shelter to a guest that is essential to  hospitality?

I think that hospitality can be a troublesome issue for modern Pagans. We can’t quite just allow every person who wanders by into our homes anymore. The dangers of inviting strangers in are much different than those of the past. Our lives are also not ruled by the social obligations that ancient lives were. We don’t give service to a ruler who then has obligations to us, and our lives are not intertwined with the rest of society in the same way either. And while we do still have obligations to the Gods (otherwise, what’s the point of being a Pagan?), we have much less of a connection to our neighbors and communities than ever before. Community has been the subject of a lot of Pagan blogging lately. People have been asking why it’s so important or why they should be as invested in the Pagan community when its generally quite a mess. I’m sure that this was never a concern to our ancestors. Community was their whole lives. Of course, we also don’t have to worry about breaking social obligations and becoming  outcasts, deprived of the resources of greater society. We can happily live outside of social boundaries if we choose to, and other than alienation from the rest of the herd, we can do our own thing mostly in peace.

I would say that my Significant Other practices some of the purest forms of hospitality that I’ve ever seen in a modern Pagan. If he meets you and you need a place to stay, he invites you home with him. But these interactions are still within the personal sphere. He has also traveled the road pretty extensively for over thirty years and appreciates hospitality in ways that I’m sure most “landed” people don’t. It’s not uncommon for me to come home and find another musician crashing on the couch for a night or two.

I think this also comes down to a debate between the hardcore reconstructionists and those who are more on the Neo-Pagan side of things. To be someone who is actually reconstructing whatever Pagan religion that you’re practicing, the act of hospitality takes on a much greater significance than it does for someone with a more current frame of mind. Xenia was an extremely important aspect of the ancient Greek practices and some form of this is found in most other Indo-European cultures.

I had never seen myself as being inhospitable before. I have more house guests than most people that I know other than the pirates. And one of the things I love so much about my pirate crew is their ability to ensure that everyone in our group has the things they need. Lost your job? Don’t worry, we’ll keep you fed and put a roof over your head until you find something new. The pirates are the best example of a working community that I’ve ever seen. I see hospitality as giving someone a place to stay who needs it until they move on or have gotten back on their feet from whatever, not indefinitely housing someone who doesn’t have any reason to need it. I think that the point you have no extra energy to give a “guest” is the point where the guest is no longer acting in that particular role. It’s just like any relationship, there should be an energy exchange, not an unhealthy energy drain.

I think, as with so many other things, it comes down to doing the best you can. Sometimes we set boundaries because we need them, and it isn’t always the best choice to open your home up indiscriminately. There is a reason we set a circle and only invite certain beings into our rituals. Our homes are the same way. If we aren’t inviting every spirit or deity that wanders past in ritual, why are we supposed to do the same with strangers? We shield for a reason, we cast circles for a reason. Our homes have many sacred elements, and shelter our religious and ritualistic lives as well. We are not the ancient societies that first came up with these ideas, and while I still expect to help people where I can, I have to watch out for myself too, since I no longer live in a community that will.


This week marks my year anniversary for living in the amazing and wonderful place that is New Orleans.

Last year was my year without boundaries. I was in love with someone who was too hurt from their own issues to be able to clearly see me. At the time I thought that I could put my feelings aside and just live in the moment. This had horrible consequences for my physical, emotional and spiritual selves. In the end, I walked away without saying anything. I knew he wouldn’t understand where I was coming from and I felt too stupid for having let myself get to that place to achieve anything productive from it. He has his own healing journey to follow and sadly, I don’t think that I’m a part of that. While I wish him well, in many ways I have been regretting the experience. I was never the sort of girl to have ridiculous crushes on people. I think the gods decided that it was time that I had just one. I think it was meant to teach me several very hard lessons and to put me on the path that I was meant to be on. The Gods are not always kind with their lessons.

I was lucky. I walked away from the whole experience in much better shape than I should have. I found someone who gave me the strength to recognize what I do really need and a city that I love dearly. My feet have been clearly set on a different spiritual path, I have a much better job and am much more financially stable, a man who I’m ridiculously in love with, and I am just in a better place in general.

The one thing that I regret in all of this, is that to find where I was meant to be, I had to move away from the Pirates. While becoming Wiccan has been a spiritual growth that is furthering the tools I have at my disposal, the Pirates were my first Pagan family and will always remain my family. The Pirates are a group of eclectic Pagans who identify as pirates in dress and manner, who practice Paganism, and being pirates, who steal from whatever Pagan source they see fit. While they’re probably a part of the reason that I wasn’t much more greatly hurt by last year and were part of the vehicle that brought me to New Orleans, alas, moving away from them was also the part of my process.

This year has been rough in its own way. If last year was my year without boundaries, this year has been my year to once again set those boundaries that I had always lived with. I’ve found it necessary to be more confrontational this year. It has been a year of recognizing a lot more of my warrior side. This has been my year for being an “aggressive, territorial bitch” (yes, this has been thrown at me several times). I’ve decided to embrace this aspect of myself and go with it. I refuse to be cowed again by the ridiculousness of other people’s behavior and to let myself get back to that place without boundaries.

This weekend, my best friend and sister Pirate, MadmadmadMadame Magda, ship’s scribe, came down to visit me. In the course of her stay I went and had my septum pierced. I had been thinking about getting this piercing for a while and figured that while my best friend was here to hold my hand, I might as well go and get it done. (For someone as covered in tattoos as I am, the piercings still get to me…ironic, no?) Later, we were sitting on my front stoop drinking mead and she asked me if I knew anything about the history of the septum piercing, which I don’t. She told me that she thought it was interesting that it was the body modification that I had decided to go with next since it was a symbol of warrior cultures and the closed ring was used to symbolize the code by which they lived their lives.

In the end I think this is a good thing, I’ve never thought of myself as someone that wouldn’t stand up for myself. In some ways, this has been something that has always defined me. But I was never someone who wanted to have the actual confrontation. I’m a very polite pirate at the end of the day. Confronting someone about something and getting things out in the open is much healthier, usually, than keeping it all bottled up inside of you. I think that having lost sight of that, I also lost sight of some of my spiritual practices. Maybe this is partly the reason that Wicca has come into my life; I’ve needed that more disciplined practice to pull myself back to what I was doing before the insanity of last year.

In the end, the Gods knew what they were doing, even when I didn’t. While last year certainly wasn’t a good year, it was the catalyst that brought me to my true place in life and for that, I am grateful. I am also grateful for the people around me who share their insights. Sometimes life lessons aren’t easy, but they serve a purpose and that, at the end of the day, is what counts the most.


Pirates hanging outside the galley at Earth Warriors Festival 2010 (I’m the redhead in the back), if you would like to meet the pirates they assist with the Earth Warriors Festival and perform at Wisteria Summer Solstice.


MadmadmadMadame Magda, Dirty-Dirty Alice and Me (The Luscious Lead Boots Lea)