Those misusing this stanza are using it to state that while we should honor the Gods, we should not overly do so, that rather any offerings we make should be modest. This particular stanza comes from the section of the Havamal where Odin learns the runes hanging from the tree. It is important to note that this particular stanza which comes at the end of the Runatal has a different poetic structure than the previous stanzas in this section, so there’s a great deal of debate in academia about why this is. It is also important to note that some translations of the Havamal change up the order of the stanzas because the translators felt it made more sense ordered in other ways. So when you’re reading things don’t always take it at face value that you’re reading the text as it appears in the original source. But since this stanza does appear in the Runatal, it is most likely that this stanza is in particular referring to the runes. As true runemasters know, the runes have a certain level of sentience about them. There is a cost associated with learning them, and in using them. Odin hung, impaled on a tree for nine days and nine nights to learn them… They are not tools one idly picks up, or uses for frivolous purposes. The runes, much like a horse may turn barn shy with a new rider, have a reputation for testing those that use them and if they find the runester ineffective and unskilled may turn the casting back on them.
Of course it could also be likened to the type of advice offered earlier in the Havamal as found in the Gestaþattr or Loddfafnismal sections. If this advice was found in those sections, then it would refer more to exchanges of hospitality between a guest and a host, i.e. exchanges between people. Afterall, a guest shouldn’t gift greater than their host for two main reasons:
- it may embarrass the host amongst their community causing negative political repercussions both for the guest, and also for the host amongst their own people
- and because it could make you a target of envy for dishonest men who wish to steal your wealth away.
But since the Havamal when it offers advice of this nature is intended to be for people (specifically men in antiquity) as they travel among other living men… these ‘words of wisdom’ are irrelevant if used to codify the worship of the Gods & Goddesses, Ancestors, and Vaettir.