Hospitality is sacred to the Orlanthi for Orlanth made the first hospitality. Hospitality is also a means for Orlanthi to prove their generosity, which is one of the virtues of their god.

Strangers are enemies until proven otherwise. The chieftain is the proper person to speak to strangers, though his household and companions can speak for him and begin the rites with strangers who might be friends. Watchmen and patrolling thanes are often the first to give the greeting to a stranger.

All Orlanthi know the greeting, which combines a welcome and Orlanth’s protection at the same time. The greeting is a series of questions and the answers may bind the questiongiver and stranger in an oath.

The most basic level of the exchange usually goes something like this:

“Are you friend or foe?”
“I am Orvald, Thane of the Kendring. What is your name?”
“I am Eoric of the Frithan Clan.”
“You can have my hospitality. I offer you water.”
“I will not steal from you, fight you or say bad things about you.”

At this point the host has met all hospitality requirements. The stranger is now a guest. They will receive water and possibly leftovers of food (known as the ’Beggar’s Portion’), though they will sleep under their own blankets.

If a known but unwelcome stranger turns up, they may be offered ‘Water as a Feast’, which is a studied insult, as they are being treated as a beggar.

Because generosity is a virtue, the questioning can go on further. In the example given above, if the stranger is someone the clan might want as a friend, he will probably be brought before a headman or chieftain to continue the greeting.

The questions escalate. The guest is expected to answer them in the affirmative and make a boast that explains why he is deserving.

“Are you our friend?”
“Yes, I have four times carried a spear and shield against our common enemy, the Greenhaft.”
“Then you can have a blanket.”

The guest is gifted with water and a sleeping place in the hall, where there is a fire. He is given a meal rather than scraps.

“Are you a kinsman?” (Or like a kinsman in importance?)
“Yes, I am son of Erissa Many-Laughs, a daughter of the Kendring clan.”
“Then you can have meat.”

At this point the guest receives the same honours as a kinsman or, in the Chief’s household, a thane. Most questioning ends here, but truly important guests may have more questions asked of them.

“Are you a great person?”
“Yes, I won the Raven Standard single-handed from Jarstak Widowmaker. I stood with Queen Kallyr’s household at the Battle of the Flood. I found the Black Cow and rescued it from Hell.”
“Then you can have salt.”

Guests of the salt sit at the high table.

“Are you willing to work for us?”

The response is for the guest to agree and give their qualifications. If the questiongiver is satisfied the guest can live amongst his people.

This final question of the hospitality greeting would bind the guest to work for the host or the host to serve the guest as is done to kings.


The Book of Kendring Percyprune