where Hestia dwells

I am certain I have probably spoken of this before, but since I wrote of Zeus Ktesios, it has turned my mind towards relevant household worship, and when thinking of household worship Hestia prominantly sticks out in my mind and where we honor her in our households. The modern adaption of the domestic worship of Hestia is rather fascinating since, in our day and age of furnace-heated houses and stoves, people often find themselves as they first begin worshiping the gods with less of an inkling of what to do with Hestia without a fireplace present in their homes. So it is often a debate of where is the best place to honor the goddess when traditionally she was worshipped at the hearth which not only heated the home but also cooked the food before the production of stoves. The hearth was literally the place where nearly all domestic activity took place, and modern technology leaves many of us floundering about helplessly trying to figure out where her appropriate residence in the household now that we no longer have this particular life vein of the home.

This leaves many to try a practical approach, and one I have seen come up quite often among people of the Hellenic and Religio Romana communities in the past, which is to consider well where is the literal flame in the house now. This has prompted people to set a small station for Hestia on or beside their stoves with the idea that the continuous pilot light of the stove is the modern dwelling of Hestia. While I can understand the practicality and reasoning behind this idea, it is just not one that has ever taken root in my own household. As often as I would try to even reserve a space for Hestia in the kitchen, much less near the stove, the actual act of her worship tended to not take place anywhere near the stove or even within the kitchen itself. And there is a reason for this behavior that I have discovered over time. I am just not quite so literal. In own view of Hestia it is not so absolute that it is fire and only fire that makes her presence in the house, but rather it is more stressed in my understanding of Hestia that it is about the center, the heart and core, of the home, which historically used to also be where the hearth was for reasons already stated…it was necessary!

My view may be influenced a great deal about my household experiences as a child in that nearly all of the homes we had there was a fireplace. In fact in one house the living room was pretty nearly divided in half because the fireplace was set directly in the center of the room and acted as a partial wall. There is a long history in my childhood memories of the fire being built up (because lets face Alaska is just *cold* in the winter and it was a comfort on different levels to have a roaring fire, especially on the weekends when everyone was home) and the family gathered together there playing board games, watching movies with popcorn etc. In fact in my family when I was growing up (and something my younger siblings have missed out on) there was an emphasis on the fact that the evenings were considered family time. So the fireplace has a very prominent place in my childhood memories as a fixture in a room that we gathered and one that I have a sentimental attachment to that is strong enough that I would leap at the chance of having a home with a fireplace again. But it is not so muchabout the literal presence of the fire, but rather because that represents to me the center of the home, and the center of family life.

But since I do not live in a home with a fireplace anymore, like so many folks, I also had to determine where I wanted to honor Hestia, and as I said the kitchen didn’t work out to well. It seemed a logical choice for sure. Aside from the pilot light it was the one place in the home where fire and heat was utilized for a purpose as old as mankind’s mastery over the substance…cooking. But as logical as it sounded, it just didn’t work out that way, because for all the bustling about the kitchen, cooking, preparing foods etc, it wasn’t the center of the house (and not so much in the literal sense but in the sense that it wasn’t the place where the family spent any time together for any length of time). Now I do understand for other this may be different, and that their familial relationships may be very centered around the kitchen, especially if that is also where the family partakes of their meals, and therefore the idea of the family center may very well be rooted in the kitchen. But that was less the case for me. Not that there wasn’t alot of family bonding that took place in kitchens, especially on the holidays where several women in the family would be crammed into one small kitchen trying to cook twenty different things while the gabbed.

And when it came right down to it, the center of my household turned out to be the living room, regardless of whether it had a fireplace in it or not. It was, and continues to be, the one place where the family spends the most time. This is so much true that when I tried to move my computer into my bedroom I ended up moving it right back out into the living room because spending time writing and working on my computer in my bedroom felt so isolated from the rest of the family. It is also why most of my statues of the gods are in the living room (though I have to keep my domestic altar in my bedroom at this time while my father is staying with me because he had a fit when I tried to have it in the living room). The living room is the center of life in the house. And therefore that is where Hestia dwells, irregardless of it being hearthless and irregardless of where the pilot light is. There really was no use trying to force the issue into something “logical” and “practical”. And in the living room is where I keep an oil lattern for Hestia. It will be a happy day when I get back the glass lamp cover that I had made especially for this (and I would be happy to make one for anyone who wants one for a modest fee) because this lamp, etched with an image of Hestia, issues the beauty of the goddess in the heart of the house. I can’t keep the lamp lit 24/7, and especially when I am not home to supervise it, but when I am home the lamp is lit welcoming to all family and guests. And there she dwells with Zeus who dwells at the center of all households too.

Hail Hestia, may you bring the generous spirit to our homes and hearts, and that the great hearth at the center of all things burns brightly to warm us and bring happiness and prosperity.

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9 thoughts on “where Hestia dwells

  1. This is such a spot on post. I think we had very similar experiences and thought processes. I too attempted to have a small altar to Hestia in the kitchen and it ended up never really working. Now it sits in the living room and has done so, in some form or fashion, for the last couple of years. I’ve been fortunate to have a fireplace at most places I’ve lived, but my current condo has no such amenity.

    I do think Hestia resides wherever the family convenes and where her blessings are honored most amongst our loved ones. I also think she tends to represent, not only the hearth and home, but the joy and graciousness of the home as well. While Hera may be the ‘perfect wife’, Hestia becomes the ‘perfect hostess.’ It’s from her that we learn true hospitality.

    • That really makes me very happy that someone is on the same page with me on this matter! Or at least is something of a relief. And I think you are right on about Hestia being the perfect hostess, and her being in proximity of Zeus really reflects on this when it comes to terms of hospitality. Zeus may make the rules and be invoked in terms of hospitality, but Hestia is extending the hospitality personally. Hera and Aphrodite are quite beneficial to the peace of the household, but Hestia keeps it altogether. Once I do some reorganizing I plan on having my ancestor shrine on a small shelf near where Hestia is honored for obvious reasons. I plan on getting a new oil lamp too for the holidays in honor of the goddess who I think really influences on the family core itself. It seems appropriate in light of the holidays anyway 🙂 The oil lamp I have for her is rather plain and boring lol.

  2. In my household, Hestia’s got the main spot on my altar which is in the dining room. My desk is in there (with Zeus’ shrine above my desk). It is where we eat (no room in the kitchen) and where most crafts/homework get done too. Her candle is the first thing that is lit during any ritual and the last thing to be extinguished. When I have the money, I use beeswax candles.

    I’ve always seen her as the housekeeper. She makes sure everyone is comfortable, takes care of the minor issues in a household, keeps tabs on the extended family, etc.

    As for my ancestors, I have an area on near the wall o’ family pictures where their shrine is set. Before ritual, I move their main candle holder to the main altar, It is a glass skull votive that my Christian mother decorated in Day of the Dead fashion for my 40th birthday.

    • I used to light the altar candles from Hestia’s lamp but recently I have begun moving the lamp to the altar for rituals (which is a reason why I update my lamp I will probably be looking for something a bit less tall so that it won’t eat up so much of the altar…this is part of the reason why I went small with the permanent altar statues too 😉 ) I don’t keep Hestia’s spot permanently at the family altar for a couple of reasons. One is that the altar was usually seperate from the hearth where Hestia was honored (the altar typically being in the courtyard of the house which would be nice if I had a courtyard lol). So I keep the two areas a bit seperate but Hestia is the first divine presence at the family altar during rituals 🙂

      It sounds like you have a great setup 🙂

  3. You are posting so much good stuff lately! I can’t keep up!

    My lack of Hestia worship is something I go back and forth on. On the one hand, we’re by and large a Heathen home, and excepting a few, my worship of Poseidon’s family quite parallels one’s involvement with in-laws, to draw from human life. My interest in Them springs directly from my love and adoration of Poseidon. He’s my connection. For many years, the emphasis for me has been, building a life and a home with Poseidon as my center, so in a way he wound up picking up the role Hestia had in antiquity — he’s my center, my hearthfire, etc. On the other hand, she’s one I’ve felt nothing but warmth and kindness toward, and now and again there are these . . . half-wishing to start some sort of worship for her, that I then never follow through on because . . . well. I don’t have a good reason as to the why. Anyway, you’ve got me thinking. Thanks!

    • I think it is not unusual for people to start small and inseular with specific gods, especially among those of us who were previously of monotheistic background. We generally develope relationships of comfort and trust toward that deity long before we start warming up to others. Perhaps in the future you will find yourself honoring Hestia or some few other Hellenic gods, or maybe not 🙂 I am glad though that this gave you something to think about!

      • I’m not sure that I’d say I’m starting small, really. Or, heh, at this point, starting at all. I feel right at home with Odin’s family, and I can’t call that small. Aphrodite, Hera, Zeus, and to a smaller extent Hermes, Hades, Persephone, Hekate and Thanatos take up space in my personal worship, from the Hellenic side of things. All due to Poseidon’s insistence, and that works just fine for me. I’ve never really been one of the “must worship all equally,” sorts of polytheist: I haven’t the time, the inclinition, or the attention span to offer *all* of the gods. There’s respect, and annual nods toward, but my approach to the gods and spirits is much like my approach to other beings. There’s my tribe, there’s my extented family and friends, then my acquaintences, and then there is everyone else. The attention and time I give travels along those rungs, in that particular order, regardless of species or state of in/disincarnation.

  4. Pingback: Round-up of Interesting Links « Temple of Athena the Savior

  5. Pingback: Household Worship « Temple of Athena the Savior

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