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. (If you are familiar with the history/mythology already and are pressed for time, you can scroll down to the section called "Me & Hestia"... but you might learn something here as well.)
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.A couple previous blog posts involving Vesta - New Moon Purification Ritual, and Vesta/Virgo.
(*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. (The Sacred Heart of Mary candle now resides on my permanent home altar to Hestia and Vesta)
|My home altar to Hestia|
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!)
And now we come to the final portion of my Letter H related blog post, although I did not have to force these concepts together, they all go together in my home!
A couple weeks ago, I was cleaning my bedroom and found this scarf that I have never worn as a scarf. I have used it for a small altar cloth from time to time, or to wrap a deck of tarot cards in... but it had been stuffed in a drawer for awhile, unseen and forgotten. When I found it, I paused, and felt that gentle urging of Hestia, saying "keep this out". So instead of putting it back in the drawer, I put it on my altar, folded neatly next to my Hestia Statue. I didn't know what on earth I was going to use it for, but I figured it's purpose would come to me if I just listened.
Maybe only one, or two days later, I stumbled upon a facebook conversation about Pagan Headcovering. I was intrigued, I had never heard of or considered that headcovering, or veiling would be a pagan thing to do... except for in cases of the people who like to dress up in robes and hoods for ceremonial magick and rituals. I learned that a lot of Pagan / Witchy women feel drawn to headcovering or veiling in their daily lives as a way of honoring and connecting to their deity. And guess what Goddess kept popping up in articles, blogs, and conversations about Headcovering? Hestia, of course! The bells are going off in my head at this point, as I had just placed that scarf next to Hestia on my altar, trusting that she would let me know how she wanted me to use it...
I joined the facebook group called Covered In Light and met a wide variety of women who choose to veil, or cover their hair as a spiritual practice. I started asking questions and reading discussions and learned that for each woman, there was a very different and very personal reason for choosing to cover. Some find it very comforting. As empathic people, wearing a headcovering can help you feel more grounded, and more protected from the unwanted energies of other people. Some women commented that they felt more intuitive when covered; and spoke of wearing a headcovering when doing tarot or oracle readings or for going to ritual. Some women felt it was a call to modesty, and a practice of declaring their status as either a married woman or as someone devoted to the Goddess. Not all the women here were called by Hestia or Vesta, but there is quite a wide variety of deities and pantheons that seem to have brought these women to the practice of veiling. Many women commented that once they started headcovering, they felt more connected to their Goddess, more feminine, sexier, more powerful, and more comfortable in their roles at home. Some feel drawn to cover their hair/heads in public, while others feel drawn only to do it while at home. The wonderful thing about the group Covered In Light is that through this diversity, all the women are supportive and tolerant of each other. No one says, "This is how or why you should cover", but it is all about learning about eachothers' reasons and experiences, learning from each other, and supporting one another.
So I began that very day to experiment with headcovering and find out exactly what it meant for me. I have discovered that if I put on a headcovering when I say my morning prayers to Hestia, I stay more focused on my housework through the day. Feeling the scarf on my head reminds me that my daily tasks are a reflection of my devotion to the Goddess, to myself, and my family. In other words, the headcovering keeps me mindful, living in the present moment. It is very much like an active meditation. I also feel more intuitive about what housework needs to be done. Sometimes it's hard to know where to start in a home with three children where the messes abound. But when I am covered - instead of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I tend to feel more peaceful and less worried about everything that needs to get done. I'm easier on myself, easier on the kids, and happier with the progress I make. It becomes less about how much I get done, and more about the loving attitude I come to each small task with. Mostly I feel very comfortable with my head covered, but if I start to feel uncomfortable, I take that as a cue from the Goddess that my "work" is done. I take the headcovering off and take a break to do something for myself - like read a book or play on the internet... so in this sense I feel that headcovering has made me more aware of how I take care of myself as well. I'm overdoing things less, taking more time for myself, and feeling overall more connected with Goddess than ever before.
|me, wearing my scarf with a headband|
Another thing I have noticed when I am covered; I feel a lot more in-tune to not only The Goddess and Divine, but to messages from my family. First of all, when I am covered and cleaning, I am having a lot more of those inspired moments when something I have been thinking about suddenly makes sense, or I get inspired ideas for art and craft projects, blog and journaling ideas, etc. Today for example, I put on my headcovering and said my devotional prayers to Hestia, intending to get as much housework done as possible. I got a little cleaning done, but the one thing that kept coming to mind was this blog post. Different points I wanted to make, different thoughts of what to write.... finally I stopped resisting and just came to sit down and write! I am feeling like wearing the headcovering takes that energetic flow from The Divine and my Higher Self that flows through the crown chakra, and instead of that energy flowing away from me; being covered helps pull those energies down into my third eye, throat, and heart chakras to be assimilated from there. Before experiencing this, I would have assumed that wearing something on my head might block this flow from the Crown Chakra, but now I am experiencing quite the opposite. It comes right back to the way that Covering just keeps me in a higher state of awareness; fully in the here and now. I'm a lot more aware of what my children and husband are saying to me, what they need from me, and what they feel... but without their feelings overwhelming me. As if the covering works as a kind of filter, I can understand my children's feelings without getting wrapped up in the emotion and frustrated by my empathy. I'm becoming a better listener, and I'm also much more aware of the words I say and how I treat others when I am covered.
I'm personally not drawn to wearing the covering outside of my home or in public. I don't feel like Hestia is calling me to cover at all times, but just when I want to feel more connected to my role as a housewife and mother. For me, it is something that keeps me more centered and grounded while at home... although I have kept my scarf on to make a couple quick trips to the grocery store.
When I first started veiling, I drew an Angel card from the "Daily Guidance From Your Angels" oracle card deck by Doreen Virtue. This is the card I got; (This was the day after joining Covered in Light and only my second day covering)
|feeling just beautiful!|
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.... and 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,
Update 4/13 - Look, another blog about Hestia which also mentions Headcovering! http://witchfire02.blogspot.com/2012/04/pbp-hestia.html