From the Archives: Paying Homage to Hestia by Sara Wright

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We have created this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted December 23, 2020. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

This morning I was kneeling in front of my new wood stove kindling a fire from hot coals when I felt the presence of the Greek Goddess Hestia, Lady of the Hearth moving through the house. The goddess manifests as a crackling wood fire, and when I kneel before my wood stove to coax coals into flames I feel as if I am paying homage to her.

I have spent two winters without a wood stove, and have missed this ritual fall lighting of the fire, and the knowing that I am participating in ancient practice that extends back far beyond the Patriarchal Greeks to the dawn of humankind.

Today I felt her presence in a visceral way as I looked out the window at the first flakes of white snow disappearing into wet ground, and felt the hearth warming beneath my feet.

Hestia symbolizes the importance of creating sacred space within one’s home by honoring the fire that turns wood to ashes and re –kindles itself, resurrecting what was dead. This is also a time to give thanks for every tree that sacrifices itself to keep us warm…

(one of author’s dogs, “Hope,” gravitates instantly to the heat of the wood stove)

Hestia’s name means “hearth” or “fireplace,” and her status shows how important the hearth was in the social and religious life of Ancient Greeks. Making and preserving fire was essential for early cultures, which made the household fire a sacred element at a very early stage of “her – story.” In later days, Hestia became its embodiment.

Hestia received the first offering at every meal in the household with families pouring sweet wine in her name and dedicating the richest portion of food to her.

The hearth fire in the household was not allowed to go out by any family unless it was ritually distinguished.

In the Greek myth, Hestia was one of three “virgin” goddesses; the other two were Athena and Artemis. I interpret this virgin aspect as being “one unto herself, indicating wholeness which has nothing to do with chastity. Athena was a goddess of war and got lots of attention, Artemis was Mistress of Wild Animals and also a great huntress. Hestia was acknowledged as Mistress of the Fire, and cultivator of the home place. Of the three goddesses she got the least attention, probably because the Greeks were a Patriarchal warring culture that valued men over women, and thrived on conquest, rape, and killing (power over). Honoring any peaceful nurturing goddess of the household was less important.

There is an interesting story about a potential rape of Hestia by a drunken god while she was sleeping. The braying of a distressed donkey awakened Hestia in time to ward off this atrocity and thereafter, on Hestia’s feast day a donkey that wore a garland was included in Hestia’s festivities. This intervention by a loving animal may carry a significance that is easily missed. Animals can represent women who are living in a state of wholeness because they have married instincts to awareness. To become en – souled is a holy undertaking that connects a woman to All That Is.

This winter I welcome Hestia as Keeper of the Fires into this house asking for her blessing, honoring WOMAN who tends the potentially transforming element of contained fire in her own home or realm.

BIO Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.

Author: Sara Wright

I am a writer and naturalist who lives in a little log cabin by a brook with my two dogs and a ring necked dove named Lily B. I write a naturalist column for a local paper and also publish essays, poems and prose in a number of other publications.

14 thoughts on “From the Archives: Paying Homage to Hestia by Sara Wright”

  1. Sara, I love, love, LOVE this post! Thank you for writing it. It strikes so many responsive chords I can’t begin to list them all.

    It is especially healing to read this after a horrible member of Congress stated that “earthen vessels”—meaning women, sentient, intelligent female human beings with full dignity and rights—are meant to receive the souls waiting in heaven to receive men’s precious semen and therefore abortion for any reason is wrong. This enraged me so much my blood pressure shot up several points. I almost wrote a letter to the editor but remembered in time that he’s a patriarch too, so I had a cup of tea instead.

    My husband and I can’t have a woodstove like yours because we now live in a retirement community, but I miss Vesta, the woodstove we had at home, fiercely. May your fire continue to burn for many years, Sister!

    Liked by 2 people

        1. I’ll see if I can do that! We have a little fake woodstove with fake flames, which is better than nothing at all. However, this Christmas morning it’s 58 F! Remember when it used to be cold at Christmas?


          1. But Sara, the Earth needs her long, cold winter sleep! Think of lilacs. Think of apples. Beneath Her blanket of snow, Earth is stirring the pot. By Imbolc, we’ll have 10 hours and 45 minutes of Light in our Hemisphere, crocuses will appear, and we’ll all be looking for the first robin.

            Blessed be.


          2. But this freeze thaw stuff hurts the roots of trees and everything else – today it’s already mush again – you are right of course earth needs her COLD BLANKET of snow but this is not what’s happening, sadly.


  2. Lovely post! As a double Cancer (sun and rising sign), I’ve always been fond of and honored Hestia. I have a home altar with a tiny wooden house on it (can’t remember where I bought that house–I’ve had it forever) and a figure of Hestia sitting right outside the door. I also put a figure of Hestia on the collage I make every January and hang above the altar. She is indeed a precious goddess.

    Hooray for your wood stove and the comfort it gives to you and your dogs. Love the photo. Brightest winter blessings for warmth and home.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can just feel Hestia’s presence in your cozy home with the fire! Making a home for ourselves, someplace where we feel completely comfortable, is so important to our well being and Hestia is the perfect Goddess to help us all do that. Thank you for reminding us of Her!

    Liked by 2 people

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