For many years I wasn’t particularly drawn to any one Goddess, God, or Pantheon. I was content just calling The Divine, or Great Mother/Father, or “Lord and Lady”. Then my studies of astrology led me obviously to Greek Mythology and I really resonated with the stories of the Greek Pantheon. At some point I stumbled upon Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth. For the first time, I really felt connected to a specific Goddess. I felt Her call me, I heard Her spirit from somewhere deep inside me and I finally knew what it meant to be called upon by a specific Goddess… something I had heard other Pagans, Wiccans, and Heathens talk about but had never fully understood.
Since then, I have heard the call of other Gods and Goddesses, they come to me at different times to teach me in their unique ways. I may work with a different Deity from time to time, but in the end, Hestia is always there. She is my Flame, she opened the door for me to understand that it is possible to work with specific aspects of The Divine – and through that understanding I have found myself working more and more with The Goddesses in all aspects of my life. Following is some basic information about Hestia and her counterparts.
Hestia was the first born of the Olympians, her sisters are Hera and Demeter, and her brothers are Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. When her father, Cronus was told that he would be overthrown by one of his children, he swallowed all of them (except for Zeus… he thought he swallowed Zeus but only swallowed a swaddled rock). Eventually, Zeus overcame Cronus and forced him to spit out his siblings… they were all “released” in the reverse order of their birth, so Hestia was last. She is often referred to as “The First and the Last” because of this. She refused to marry either Poseidon or Apollo, and eventually swore herself to perpetual virginity, becoming the domestic opposite of Aphrodite. Zeus assigned Hestia the role of maintaining and keeping the fires of the Olympian Hearth. Some stories make reference that Hestia could have gone to join her brothers and sisters on Mount Olympus and become one of the Olympians, but she didn’t take up the offer and instead let Dionysus take the place as the 12th Olympian God, again attesting to her attitude of service and a degree of passiveness.
Hestia’s name means “Home and Hearth” and she is The Goddess of The Hearth-fire, or Goddess of the Home. Prayers and offerings were made to Hestia to keep the home fires burning, to keep the household strong, healthy, and warm. The people responsible for honoring Hestia were usually the head women of the household, and it is believed that Honoring Hestia “both first and last” before every hearth fire was lit or each meal was prepared was probably a very common practice.
Hestia’s Roman counterpart is Vesta* – the Virgin Goddess of the Hearth, Home, and Family. Vesta’s presence was symbolized by the burning of sacred fires in homes and temples. Vesta was particularly important to women, since the home fire (hearth fire) was the central source of Food and heat for the home… therefore Vesta / Hestia is the center of a Housewives’ focus and gratitude.
Although neither Hestia or Vesta had any children, their role in the Home and the household is very similar to that of a Mother Goddess. She was seen as the great nurturer… as Fire represented not only the means to survive, but also represented wisdom, inspiration, focus, community, purity, power, and even divination. In ancient Rome, some women would devote themselves to become keeper’s of Vesta’s temple and become “Vestal Virgins”. They would take a vow of celibacy and commit part of their lives to keeping Vesta’s temple flame lit and tending to her temple. Legend has it that if a convicted person crossed paths with a Vestal Virgin, he would be released from his penance. The Vestal Virgins were known for being kind and graceful. After their time of devotion, a Vestal Virgin could choose to marry, it did not necessarily mean a lifetime of celibacy and devotion, though many probably chose to continue their life of service to Vesta even after their time had been fulfilled. (*note – by pointing out Vesta as Hestia’s Roman counterpart, I’m not saying she IS end all/be all the same Goddess. Some people get kinda touchy about this. I’m saying that in each culture there are similar stories that blend the lines between Goddesses, Gods, myths, folklore, etc… because regardless of distance and time, the Human Experience is essentially the same…and I find that many different cultures and pantheons have “crossovers” and “Counterparts” who share very similar attributes and in some ways teach us the same things about our human nature. Personally I see all Goddesses as different aspects and faces of The Divine Feminine, so I do see Hestia and Vesta as one in the same, but this is not to say that this is what others should see or feel also. And this leads right into my next point, which may be controversial)
The Virgin Mother Mary (?)
Personally, I see a connection between Hestia and Vesta and the Hebrew Mother Mary. Hestia and Vesta are both usually depicted as veiled or wearing some kind of head covering, as is the Virgin Mother Mary. They are all virgins, although Mary did bear a child but the stories still depict her as a virgin anyways. Vesta is represented in historical drawings and carvings with an Ass (donkey/mule), and the Mother Mary is also associated riding an ass from when she rode pregnant into Bethlehem. Catholic nuns who devote their lives to service of God, wear headcoverings, and take vows of celibacy bring to mind the Roman Vestal Virgins. I recently found a votive prayer candle in the religious candle section of my local grocery store that depicts “The Sacred Heart of Mary”, with a picture of Mary and the glowing heart within her chest is burning with a bright orange fire. Hmmm. The connection seems obvious to me and even though I know most pagans are probably not comfortable working within the “Christian Pantheon”, it’s something worth considering.
As long as I am making broad associations, I could also mention that Hestia/Vesta/Mary have also come to me in the form of the Celtic Goddess Brigid. It has happened a couple times, while sitting at my altar in meditation, looking at my small statue of Hestia, her image seemed to shift and suddenly appear to me as Brigid! Another Fire Goddess with associations of Compassion, Caretaking, Home and Hearth. . . well . . . yes!
Me and Hestia, hangin’ out at home. My personal relationship with Hestia comes from my own position as the “head woman” of my household. As the housewife, mother, and wife, it is part of my daily life and responsibility to run the household. My house (and many modern homes today) doesn’t have a central hearth fire, or even a fire place. The Greeks paid honor to Hestia with offerings of the fat from animals, which served as oil to keep the fire lit. (Pretty simple and straight forward, yes? Make an offering of Oil to the Fire and it keeps burning.)Today, we don’t need to literally keep a fire lit in our home, but we do have certain things we need to do to “keep the home fires burning”… cleaning, cooking, paying the bills. So I honor Hestia by attempting to keep my home running as smoothly as possible. I like to re-create the “First and Last” concept of honoring Hestia by praying to her first thing in the morning and again at night. Simply saying “Good Morning and thank you for this day.” and maybe asking for help or blessings for the day ahead; and then saying a prayer of gratitude at bedtime. I like to light an orange candle to do this, but it’s not necessary – if I’m rushed for time or low on candles, just pausing to honor Her is enough. If I really need an extra boost during the day, to tackle some household chore or for focus and motivation to clean house when I really don’t want to clean, I might go to Hestia again… spend some time meditating with her, talking to her, praying to her. She is pretty good at reminding me that my home is my sacred place in this world, and that in taking care of my home I am taking care of my spirit, my family, myself, and… as a bonus, honoring Her. She is also pretty good at reminding me that serving others (namely my family) is a respectable and beautiful thing. As a person who is “Domestically Disabled”; allergic to housework, NOT born organized, and easily distracted, Hestia has become my “Go-To” Goddess for motivation and support in all things household-related. She is a big supporter of the FlyLady program and I think the FlyLady concepts of breaking down housework into Morning and Evening routines is something that Hestia is particularly fond of (which reminds me, I need to get back on my routines!)
Here is a wonderful prayer to Hestia that was written by a member of a facebook group; Covered in Light and I have been using it when I veil before going about my household duties;
Keeper of the flame
Goddess of the Hearth
Bless this the hearth
Of Thy sister,
She who comes
Veiled before you
May the flame
Never be extinguished
May your blessing and spirit
Always abide here”
And this is my own prayer that I wrote that I use to connect with Hestia each morning and night;
“Oh beautiful Hestia, you who are both First and Last, Goddess of the Home and Keeper of the Hearth Fire, may your Love and Light continuously burn in this home. Show us each how to live in unity, peace and love. Guide us each to bring blessings upon this home through the service of our own unique gifts. Thank you, Hestia, for your lasting blessings and presence here!”
And I also wanted to share this one with you…. an Invocation to Vesta by Doreen Virtue;
“Beloved Vesta, please bring your flame of Divine Love into this household and light the fire of kindness, compassion, and understanding within everyone who lives in and visits this home. Help us burn away any fears concerning love, and to feel warm and secure.”
So I understand this has been an incredibly long blog post, and I truly thank and appreciate those of you who have actually read the whole thing! This is a post that contains many things near and dear to my heart and I have been inspired to share with others!
In Love and Light,
(I should mention this blog post has been moved, from my old blog; Tarot Mom. Slightly edited and shortened. You can see the original blog post HERE)