“Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with Zeus the all-wise — draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.”
— Homeric Hymn XXIV
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 at birth. However, when Zeus was born, Cronos was tricked into swallowing a swaddled rock instead of the newborn God. 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 – Keeper of The Sacred Flame
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 known as Vesta and has very similar qualities as keeper of the flame - or the flame itself!
The Sacred Flame that Hestia tends and protects has many meanings and purposes. Most simply understood, to the Ancient Greeks fire was held sacred because it is often needed for survival. Having a fire lit in the hearth at all times meant you were prepared at all times if you needed to boil water, cook food, needed warmth, or wanted to honor the gods or make a sacrifice. If your hearth fire went out the household could not run as smoothly or efficiently. It is reasonable to imagine that in the life of an ancient Greek household, tending the fires was the first and last thing done each day. Fire was also seen as a way to connect with and honor the gods, connect with ancestors, divine the truth, and illuminate the darkness. It has grown to represent all the sacred mysteries of life – flame is warmth and devotion. Flame is heat and passion. Flame is purifying and renewing. Hestia chose not to claim a realm to rule over mortals and earth in some way, and instead chose to simply tend the fires for the mankind and the Gods. Making sure that their hearth fire remains lit always so they can find their way to food, warmth, or healing whenever they may need it. Thus she chose a role of service rather than dominion, while somehow also subtly playing a VERY important role.
As the Goddess of the Hearth Fire, Hestia also rules over the Home (protection and love in the home), Food (nourishment and sustainment), and Service (caring for others and yourself). Hestia can be called upon for all matters involving the home, feeling safe, self care, food and nourishment, and learning to serve others with compassion.
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