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.