A Meditation on Hestia, Dionysos and the Twins

There have been those who have said that Dionysos replaced Hestia on Olympos as one of the 12 great Olympians (I am not going to even get into how variations differed from region to region on what gods made up said set but rather deal with this solely). While there is no ancient textual support for this, I think that the tendency of people to want to exchange Hestia for Dionysos says something very profound in their relationship.

As I said in an earlier post, Dionysos is as the divine spark. We see this two in myths of his sacrifice where he is consumed by the Titans and that spark is handed down from him into each of us to create the divine spark of our souls. Yet we all know too that Hestia dwells at the center of all things, as does Zeus who dwells within and around all things. If we consider that Dionysos is part of Zeus (although is not Zeus at the same time anymore than Asklepios who is part of Apollon is Apollon) then we are still left with three beings of the center of all things. Zeus who dwells there by virtual that he is within all things  as king of the gods and cosmos, and yet Hestia by merit that she is by necessity as the goddess of the hearth, that goddess who dwells there by reason that she feeds the fires that dwell within all things (although the assumption is that she is the living fire within all things, I think that this more accurate that in accordance with her actual cult that she sits in the center of all things much as she dwells in the center of Olympos, at Delphin and within each house for the purpose of tending the fires within. This makes her necessary to dwell at the center, and that no life could be without her presence there.

However if Dionysos is indeed the divine spark as is suggested by myth, that which is carried within all of us from birth and even through the passages of death, then it makes sense that Dionysos must dwell in the center, and may be that very attribute or part of Zeus that dwells within even as he is the genitive part of Zeus via the myth of his birth from the thigh of the god so near his reproductive organs. He is the seed of the life, germinating within all things, appropriate too for a deity associated with the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone. In which case we can see him too as described as the child of Haides. He is the spark of flame which Hestia nurturers. As such he cannot take her place at Olympos. Hestia essentially is Olympos, as her presence therein at the center gives life to the divine realm of the gods. There would be no Olympos without her. Just the same Dionysos dwells within Olympos as the divine fire of Olympos, the spirit of Olympos. For his first incarnation as Zagreus he was made by his father Zeus as king, and in such a fashion is united with Olympos even as his substance is united with all beings on the earth.

Yet we find Artemis at Olympos as that goddess which brings the hinds of her hunt  which are received by Apollon (or in later traditions by Herakles who was said to have been given the duty by Apollon). We see Artemis and Apollon at Olympos as beings which feed and invigorate the halls of the gods. They are as nurse and caretaker of Dionysos as they are of Olympos, providing stability and even bringing happiness and joy by their activity therein (as we find Apollon in the poem of Kallimachus arriving among the company of the gods and by his song making all the gods merry and dancing happily). Dionysos too is credited with bringing much joy and happiness to the company of the gods, and his own substance being that which is preferred among the gods apart from all others. In other poems we have Apollon with the Muses being the first to greet Dionysos and making merry in his presence. Although Apollon and Artemis bring substance to Olympos, it is the presence of Dionysos, the ever dwelling flame of Olympos who is the spark of all source of happiness and merriment and by such is much beloved.

Such can be acknowledged in the relationship of the brothers, Apollon and Dionysos. Whereas Artemis after had a nurse like relationship, or nurturing relationship with him, even if at times being one of primal conflicts, the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos is which we overlaps. I would consider there that many of the overlaps deal with this very nature of Apollon and Dionysos acting together as is essential in nature. Dionysos dwells within civilization and the arts of civilization which nurture and inspire the soul into growth and development as the essential spark of this creative potential from the divine. Apollon acting with Dionysos brings forth these very same things. His music gives form to the fire. He is at the center, at the axis directing the movement of all things around it. His music is the influence upon the central spark, providing direction and informing upon it. He is the first celebrant, the bacchic one along with his twin Artemis.  They dance about the divine spark as Hestia tends eternally to it. Essential and inseparable together as they weave their part of life and the cosmos, as Leto who is as night, the womb of life which gives birth to bring forth the light, even as Apollon and Artemis are of the twilight ushering in the light and as such part of its manifestation.

To them I tend them all I tend to the flames for the very heart of life.

Apollon of Ge

Pausanias speaks, I believe in Messenia, of an altar to Apollon of Ge (the earth). At first I had assumed that this perhaps referred in similar nature to Apollon as at his temple Daphne in which a statue depicting Apollon demonstrates him libating to Ge, presumably for the resurrection of Daphne as the laurel tree. However it never seemed to fit quite right because logically if it was speaking in relationship to Daphne (and as I said before the Peloponnese also recognized Daphne, though had her as the daughter of their river Ladon) that it would be referring to her instead of a more ambiguous title as being of the earth. As I have also noted before, as per Diodoros Siculus, we understand, via his example through Egyptianized statement of the mysteries, that Apollon and Artemis are conceived mystically as being the children of Demeter, who for all intents and purposes is directly associated with the earth, and I continued this idea with Apollon as the torch-bearing youth/shepherd. So I thought to speak a bit of Apollon of Ge, or more aptly the fire of the earth.

To understand the following, I must share my concept of the Apollon in relationship to the sun. Whereas I understand Helios as the physical sun in our solar system, I understand Apollon as ruling that substance of which Helios is comprised. Apollon is light, but he is also fire. I hadn’t put a great deal of thought into this before because I was so focused on the light, and yet when I was reading a Hindu text the translator in their commentary spoke of how light is inseparable from fire. I myself agree. Light (and heat) are visible byproducts of the presence of fire. And have I not before experienced a small portion of his intense flames. That some connect the origins of his name to a title for Agni, the Vedic fire god (who became Rudra/Shiva), reinforces the fire associations, as does poetic references to Apollon’s arrows being fiery serpents. The very nature of fire is as that of Apollon, it is largely destructive, even as he is the destroyer, when it comes into contact with that which it may consume, but in moderation it is life-giving. This speaks of Apollon’s nature as a nurturing god and bringer of the golden harvest, as well as his fundamental role as destroyer.

As a fiery god that directly impacts his relationship with other gods, most particularly Hestia who is not fire herself, but possesses fire. In her Orphic hymn she is the venerable guardian of the unwearied flame, and as her name means both home and hearth hers is that which contains the vital flame. She is at once the hearth, the household which contains the hearth, and Olympos which contains the hearth of the gods. That in a brief Homeric Hymn (Homeric Hymn number 24) to her she is called upon as the goddess who attends to the house of lord Apollon with oil dripping from her locks. She is the sustainer and nurse of the fire with the locks of her hair dripping with oil. Thus it is understandable how vigilant attendance of the fire for her at eternal burning altars, and even within the oikos, was of tremendous importance as it bespeaks of her very nature to vigilantly tend to the flames that they never extinguish and leave mankind in cold and darkness. For this reason I think that she is perceived at the center of all things because she is seated at the fire that dwells within the center of all things, and Apollon resides at the center as gives mythic reasoning for his decent from Koios (the axis of the heavens), his relationship with Helios, and his dominion at Delphi at the navel of the world. She attends to the fires of all altars, where she is honored first and last as suitable for a goddess who attends the flames of sacrifice. Meanwhile Apollon, as the god of the very substance of the devouring flames, he is the protector of the inviolable nature of the oikos (in which we know him as the god before the gates and doors), and protector of the altar. Thus the nature of Apollon and Hestia are by necessity bound, and the great hearth of his temple at Delphi was of great renown. Naturally they have a mythical connection too in which Apollon, before Hestia became the tender of the hearth-fire, pursued the goddess in courtship, as did Poseidon, who himself shares a very interesting relationship in activity with Apollon which I will speak of more shortly. That she is escapes being permanently bound in marriage to either god is interesting, but even more so that despite her desire to not be married to Apollon, that she shares a permanent relationship with him and his cult, and that of his twin for which there are some illustrations of Artemis in her Ephesian appearance that decorated the surface of oil lamps. In the latter case we have it more pronounced from southern Italy in which lamps were used and left as votary offerings for Diana. Coincidentally it is perhaps an interesting footnote that the eternal altars that were left burning in certain temples and in the cities were lit by the light of the sun, making something of an interesting relationship and how the earthly and heavenly fire was perceived in gradient scale and how they were linked into one idea. For the heavenly fire was perhaps the more pure way to get the earthly fire rather than by means of delivering it from the strike of flint on steel…it is born purely as its nature is rather than from substances that are not of fire.

So this meandering pushed to the fore of my mind by some observations I made last night that I had seen some beads made of pumice and how I had felt compelled that I should make a necklace of them for Apollon (although I had just finished making him his skull necklace, it appears that there is another that needs to be made). This strand as I imagined it would be simple, pumice stones spaced with quartz and flourite (the last and first minerals to form in cooling). When I said above that I saw Apollon as the fire associated with the sun of Helios, this is reflected too more intimately in which we have, as I began this post, Apollon of Ge, the very fire and light within the earth, the perfect rotation of the molten material at the core keeping a perfect harmonic balance in the life supporting capacity of our planet, and the magmatic sea upon which the huge body of rock flows. This core is of course of magnetic properties that establishes are north and south pole running through the core, the north-south alignment being particular to Apollon as we understand his own northern and southern migrations which are imitated my migrating herds and flocks. He in his relationship with the sun may be the bringer of the golden grain, but he is the receiver of life as it follows his north-south course in his internal relationship with Ge.

This magmatic association we can particularly see historically with the sacredness of thermal springs to Apollon, in which heat escape through fissures in the earth’s crust, releasing heat and important minerals into the water. Thermal springs have a long history of being beneficial to humanity’s ailments and perhaps the most direct cultic link to this understanding of Apollon of Ge. This is not to say that I believe volcanoes to be his. More to the point I see the volcano to be of Hestia. Like the hearth it contains and directs the living fire. It is also the house of Hephaistos, who likewise has a close interaction here for he is the only god who can harness the power of fire to create. For instance he makes the bows of Apollon and Artemis. For Apollon it is always a metal bow, whether silver or gold (of which his bow is described as both) which is particularly curious as his bow is made of a substance that has to be shaped and purified by fire on gold and silver mineral deposits. Whereas I may see Apollon as the fiery one associated with the fire within the earth and the fire of the heavens, it is Hephaistos who pulls out and separates the various forms of minerals from the elements and minerals carried within the fiery magma. Hestia I relate as much to Hephaistos furnace as I do to the volcano, the hearth and the altar. The nature of Apollon connected with fire may also highlight many of the similarities between Apollon’s rebellious and sympathetic nature towards humanity and that of the Titan Prometheus who brought fire to humanity. I don’t consider Prometheus and Apollon anything near the same divine being but I do think that there is a fundamental link in their characters that may have something to do with Apollon’s nature and domain.

Apollon’s fire as earthly and heavenly has a direct relationship with Poseidon as I said above. We already know that Poseidon has a very close relationship with earth, in which we get the pairing of Poseidon and Demeter as the parenting of Artemis (and likely Apollon too as via Diodoros we know that the twins were conceived of as twins of Demeter mystically too, and not just Artemis). The kinetic energy of water has a penetrative, fertilizing, corrosive  and enveloping nature in relationship to the earth. It can therefore be imagined that the kinetic transformative nature of Poseidon merging with Demeter can be perceived as interlocked with the nature of Apollon. Thus the oracle of Delphi, which Apollon inherited, was once originally in joint ownership of Ge and Poseidon. Poseidon traded Apollon for his half, and according to one Delphic myth, Phoebe gave Ge’s half which she inherited to Apollon as a birthday gift. The relationship of Apollon and Poseidon continues further in the myth of Ilium in which Poseidon and Apollon were sentenced to build the walls of the city. Later in the Iliad we find reference this but also an interesting pairing of Poseidon and Apollon against each other, whereas the water of Xanthus (who was said to have a hot and cold stream that fed into the river) was placed opposite of the fires of Hephaistos. Thus we find the cooling water placed in reverse opposition to the fires in both cases. It is of further interest that Apollon refused to fight his uncle, although Xanthus fared less than well against the fires of Hephaistos.

There is a distinctive positive relationship between Apollon and Poseidon which is creative of basic building blocks of earthly material. Thus Apollon himself is a god who laid the foundations of his own temple as well as aid in the building of the walls of Ilium. It is the cooling of fire that allows Hephaistos to draw forms. Any good blacksmith needs the intense white heat of the forge, and the water to cool that which they are working on that it solidifies into the form the blacksmith gives it. We see this is magmatic activity. I spoke of thermal springs, which I also believe are sacred too to Poseidon in some cases, but there is also the matter that magmatic activity under the sea creates new land mass. As someone who lives in the Ring of Fire, much of our land here is created from such activity. Much of my home-state Alaska was created from magma cooled by the sea, as were the pacific islands. Therefore whereas Apollon has a solar relationship with the upper levels of the sea into which the light of the sun feeds the abundance of oceanic life (for far less creatures thrive in the darkest depths where the sun is absent), he also has a magmatic relationship with Poseidon’s water both in the sea and in fresh water.

It is for this purpose that I honor Apollon of Ge, and that I shall make for him the necklace of pumice, calcite, and quartz in remembrance of these vital relationships to his earthly flames that enriches the earth and the oikos.

A blessed Noumenia

I am thinking that Noumenia is really turning out to be my favorite day of the month, generally speaking. Not only does it give me a perfect reason to honor Apollon, but given its celebratory nature, it also gives me a reason to really cook and enjoy myself in the process. Not to mention provide little treats that we don’t often enjoy. One such treat is ham. Today we cooked a ham, and enjoyed many wonderful treats as Noumenia coincided with the holiday celebrated by the larger portion of my family…Christmas. So they enjoyed feasting for their holiday and I really got a taste of how I would love to pass every Noumenia…with a ham in the oven (for I was recently told that pork was a favored offering for Apollon Noumenios), some sweet treats for little fingers, and wonderful drinks. It all seems quite appropriate for ushering in the new month after all the cleaning and refreshing from the old month.

Pork for this reason also seems quite appropriate, an animal associated with fertility and the underworld (and thus reasonably associated with Persephone), it seems ideal for a festival representing the departure of the old month and the birth of the new….something again quite appropriate in celebrating Apollon who is the god of the boundaries as Apollon Noumenios brings in the new month with the first light. Such seems quite evident with similar autumnal offerings to Apollon that involved sacrifices of pigs to him among few other deities. And thus offerings and feasts of pork at the Noumenia in comparison to his other observed traditional rituals during the month and year, seems rather unique. Considering also the expense now-days of ham, it is unlikely to occur more than once a month. But that seems to make it all the more special for a regular Noumenia dinner.

I think that we, as modern worshipers, need to really make the most of this monthly ritual, and put our all into it. It is not just the passage of time, but is also a renewal and beginning for all of us, with all the blessings of the gods bestowed upon us and our household. We should make each Noumenia a time of great occassion and celebration to praise the gods of the oikos and to honor Apollon Noumenios. I am determined to make it a significant part of my regular religious life held to higher standards that what I have been. It will become a regular occassion of happiness and sharing of blessings in my home, and something that will enrich the life of my daughter and bring her joy.

And so I lift my cup and wish everyone a most happy and joyous Noumenia (rather belatedly though as I have been passing the larger part of the day celebrating rather than typing hehehehe).

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.