HE′STIA (Hestia, Ion. Histiê), the goddess of the hearth, or rather the fire burning on the hearth, was regarded as one of the twelve great gods, and accordingly as a daughter of Cronus and Rhea.
According to the common tradition, she was the first-born daughter of Rhea, and was therefore the first of the children that was swallowed by Cronus. (Hes. Theog. 453, &c.; Hom. Hymn. in Ven. 22; Apollod. i. 1. § 5.)
She was, like Artemis and Athena, a maiden divinity, and when Apollo and Poseidon sued for her hand, she swore by the head of Zeus to remain a virgin for ever (Hom. Hymn. in Ven. 24, &c.), and in this character it was that her sacrifices consisted of cows which were only one year old.
The connection between Hestia and Apollo and Poseidon, which is thus alluded to in the legend, appears also in the temple of Delphi, where the three divinities were worshipped in common, and Hestia and Poseidon appeared together also at Olympia. (Paus. v. 26. § 26, x. 5. § 3; Hom. Hymn. xxxi. 2.)
As the hearth was looked upon as the sacred centre of domestic life, so Hestia was the goddess of domestic life and the giver of all domestic happiness and blessings, and as such she was believed to dwell in the inner part of every house (Hom. Hymn. in Ven. 30; Callim. Hymn. in Del. 325, in Cer. 129), and to have invented the art of building houses. (Diod. v. 68; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 735.)
In this respect, she appears often together with Hermes, who was likewise a deus penetralis, as protecting the works of man. (Hom. Hymn. xxxii. 10: Paus. x. 11. § 3.)
As the hearth of a house is at the same time the altar on which sacrifices are offered to the domestic gods (hestiouchoi or ephestioi), Hestia was looked upon as presiding at all sacrifices, and, as the goddess of the sacred fire of the altar, she had a share in the sacrifices in all the temples of the gods. (Hom. Hymn. in Ven. 31.)
Hence, when sacrifices were offered, she was invoked first, and the first part of the sacrifice was offered to her. (Hom. Hymn. xxxii. 5; Pind. Nem. xi. 5; Plat. Cratyl. p. 401, d. ; Paus. v. 14. § 5; Schol. ad Aristoph. Vesp. 842 ; Hesych. s. v. aph hestias archomenos.)
Solemn oaths were sworn by the goddess of the hearth, and the hearth itself was the sacred asylum where suppliants implored the protection of the inhabitants of the house. (Hom. Od. xiv. 159; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1579.).
A town or city is only an extended family, and therefore, it has likewise its sacred hearth, the symbol of a harmonious community of citizens and of a common worship.
This public hearth usually existed in the prytaneium of a town, where the goddess had her special sanctuary (thalamos),under the name of Prutanitis, with a statue and the sacred hearth. There, the prytanes offered sacrifices to her, on entering upon their office, and there, as at a private hearth, Hestia protected the suppliants.
As this public hearth was the sacred asylum in every town, the state usually received its guests and foreign ambassadors there, and the prytanes had to act the part of hosts.
When a colony was sent out, the emigrants took the fire, which was to burn on the hearth of their new home from that of the mother town. (Pind. Nem. xi. 1, &c., with the Scholiast; Parthen. Erot. 18; Dion. Hal. ii. 65.)
If ever the fire of her hearth became extinct, it was not allowed to be lighted again with ordinary fire, but either by fire produced by friction or by burning glasses drawing fire from the sun.
The mystical speculations of later times proceeded from tile simple ideas of the ancients, and assumed a sacred hearth not only in the centre of the earth, but even in that of the universe, and confounded Hestia in various ways with other divinities, such as Cybele, Gaea, Demeter, Persephone, and Artemis. (Orph. Hymn. 83; Plut. de Plac. Philos. 3, 11, Numa, 11.)
There were but few special temples of Hestia in Greece, as in reality every prytaneum was a sanctuary of the goddess, and as a portion of the sacrifices, to whatever divinity they were offered, belonged to her.
There was, however, a separate temple of Hestia at Hermione, though it contained no image of her, but only an altar. (Paus. ii. 35. § 2.) Her sacrifices consisted of the primitiae of fruit, water, oil, wine, and cows of one year old. (Hesych. l.c. ; Hom. Hymn. xxxi. 3, xxxii. 6; Pind. Nem. xi. 6.)
The Romans worshipped the same goddess, or rather the same ideas embodied in her, under the name of Vesta, which is in reality identical with Hestia; but as the Roman worship of Vesta differed in several points from that of Hestia in Greece.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Once again, I have gone through the text and put in bold some of the ideas that are historically supported, but you often don’t see represented in discussions of Hestia.
This dual role of religion and politics, of domestic and civil, of an independent woman who was content alone in a time when that was really not an option fascinates me.
She is often portrayed as this shy, reclusive maiden aunt, but she was invoked as a Protector of the works of humans, said to have invented architecture, and provided both asylum and fulfilled ambassadorial duties.
I am reminded of an early version of a Polish Dictionary.
I feel like Hestia and Her Cultus were regarded as such common knowledge and such an intrinsic part of daily life across all levels of society that nothing had to be said about it.
Of Course, Gracious Lady
You are the First and the Last.
You are the Fire burning in the Hearth.
Witness of Solemn Oaths
You who offer Sacred Asylum to all.
You are Present in all the Temples of the Holy Ones.
Your Temple is the Altar.
Your worship is inherent in every sacrifice.
Gracious Ambassador perfumed with Ambrosia,
You who Protect the works of Humans
You who invented architecture to shelter us.
Generous host who accepts all peoples
Who maintains Harmony in Community,
Embracing all as family.
Enflame me to emulate Your Grace.
Bless me with Health and Wealth to share.
Petition prayer written by Fabienne S. Morgana, 28th August 2023.