In Greek mythology, Hestia is the little known twelfth Olympian and is the goddess of the Hearth. Throughout the Greek and Roman era (where she was known as Vesta) Hestia played an important role in the daily lives of most people, being especially important when it came to worship within one’s own home. Hestia’s contribution […]Hestia
There’s so much in this blog post that I want to share a few chunks.
This is the eighth in my Hestia series, and it seems like an appropriate point to share a more scholarly article.
I’m bolding some of the points I find particularly fascinating.
Hestia and Hermes were often associated with each other in Greek mythology.
This was due to the idea that the two opposites of home and travel essentially balanced each other out.
In his essay Hestia and Hermes: The Greek Imagination of Motion and Place Jean Robert explains that the two are “not husband and woman, nor brother and sister, nor mother and son” and that they are “neighbors, or better: friends” (Robert, Hestia and Hermes, 1996).
Robert also states in his essay that “Where Hermes loiters is Hestia never far, and where Hestia stays, Hermes can appear at any moment”.
Note from Fabienne – this delights me.
Homeric Hymn to Hestia**
Anonymous (ca. 700 – 900 BCE), translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White
Here, Hestia, protector of the home, is closely linked with Hermes (Slayer of Argus, Son of Zeus, and Maia), protector of travellers. Like Zeus, Hestia is a child of Cronos.
In the high dwellings of all,
Both deathless gods and men who walk on earth,
You have gained an everlasting abode and highest honour:
Glorious is your portion and your right.
For without you,
Mortals hold no banquet where one does not duty pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last.
Slayer of Argus,
Son of Zeus and Maia,
Messenger of the blessed gods,
Bearer of the Golden Rod,
Giver of good,
Be favourable and help us,
You and Hestia,
The worshipful and dear.
Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together;
For you two,
Well-knowing the noble actions of *people,
Aid in their wisdom and strength.
Hail, Daughter of Cronos,
And you also,
Hermes, bearer of the Golden Rod!
** previously shared in Hestia|Greek Goddess of Hearth and Home
*Men changed to people.
While Hestia’s main symbol is the hearth, there are multiple ways that this symbol can be interpreted.
These examples of symbolism range from more interpreting her virginity as reflecting the purity of fire to her connection to the hearth being seen as a sort of fertility.
A theory by French scholar Jean-Pierre Vernant argues that Hestia represents a non-sexual type of fertility by her connection to the hearth.
This ties into the fact that Hestia is occasionally associated with Aphrodite.
While Hestia herself is a virgin goddess, she and Aphrodite can be seen as another pair of Olympians whose domains both conflict with and compliment one another.
Note: I did have an encounter with Aphrodite as a baby Witchling, many years ago, drop me a comment if you are interested, and I will write it up.
One major difference between Hestia and the majority of the Olympian gods comes from her function within society.
Records of worship of Hestia make it clear that she was worshipped in private in people’s homes, but also that her worship was involved significantly with political matters in ancient Greece.
A writing attributed to Dionysus of Halicarnassus states that the cult of Hestia was supervised by “those who have the supreme power in the polis” (Kajava, Hestia, 2004).
This more formal worship of Hestia was centered around a common hearth known as the prytaneum.
Each state had a prytaneum, and fire would be taken from it to kindle the hearth of any now residences built within the state (Zekavat, Myths About the Origin of Fire, 2014).
Due to the unconventional nature of Hestia’s half-political, half-religious significance, priests and priestesses in the traditional sense were essentially non-existent within cults of Hestia.
In writings from antiquity, the only mention of a priest of Hestia that is actually referred to as a priest is thought to possibly be the result of improperly restored writings.
Despite what fragmented information is known about Hestia (as compared to other Olympians at least), it is clear that she influenced a number of different areas of ancient Greek society.
She was a religious symbol both at home and at certain community gatherings.
She was worshipped by everyone regardless of social standing; whether it was an average person dedicating food at the hearth or those in charge of the prytaneum organizing the transferral of a flame from the prytaneum to a new house.
She was depicted as being above the constant infighting typical of the other Olympians, and overall gives the impression that there is so much more to learn about her.
Whether archaeologists ever uncover such evidence is anyone’s guess. If they do, though, it could mean a brand new insight into the history of the last Olympian.
Hestia’s Homeric Hymns are short, but she does get two of them.
Orphic Hymn to Hestia*
Anonymous (ca. 200 CE), translated by Barbara Nolan.
Daughter of mighty Cronos,
You are the centre of every home.
May you bless the initiates of your holy rites,
Granting them strength, wisdom, and wealth.
Home of the great gods,
Fortress of humankind,
Ever-living, variable, slender, and beloved;
Graciously, O holy Queen,
Accept these offerings,
And grant us health and prosperity.
* previously shared in The Immense Power of Hestia in Greek Mythology and Spirituality
Second Homeric Hymn to Hestia
Anonymous (ca. 700 – 900 BCE), translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
Pytho is an archaic name for Dephi, the site of the Oracle of Apollo.
The “soft oil” in Hestia’s hair is probably a reference to ambrosia, the sacred liquid of immortality.
You who tend the holy house of the Lord Apollo,
The Far-shooter at godly Pytho,
With soft oil dripping ever from your locks,
Come now into this house,
Having one mind with Zeus the all-wise,
Draw near –
And withal bestow grace upon my song.