Discover the fascinating world of Greek mythology and its portrayal of gender roles.Exploring Gender Roles in Greek Mythology: Goddesses, Heroines, and Mortal Women
There is a lot, and I mean a lot of scholarly work on gender roles and Greek mythology.
The nerd in me wishes for full academic access, but so far, I have been resisting the call. I find enough rabbit holes to go down as it is!
“Meanwhile, Hestia was the kindest and most nurturing among the goddesses. She was associated with family and domesticity. Thus, in a way, she represented the somewhat misogynistic view of the ideal woman at the time. Like many primary goddesses, Hestia chose to remain chaste in perpetuity and attend to the Olympian homestead.”
This is certainly the view of Hestia I grew up with.
One of the fascinating aspects that keeps coming up in these studies is how separate and gendered roles were in Classical Greece.
And yet, we have Hestia mixing freely and having that blended role of domestic and political; home, and state.
“Nevertheless, despite Hestia being the central figure who represented the connectedness of the home and the community, she was effectively removed from the community of the Olympians, becoming a secondary and minor goddess.”
I’m left with a sense of mystery, not because I think that Hestia’s cultus was necessarily a Mystery or initiation based practice, but because I think She was regarded as such a universal figure that, well, *everyone* knew about what was done to honour Her.
I think the Universal Sacred Flame definitely does have a Mystery aspect to it, and that has been somewhat lost.
Until I did this deeper dive, I had considered Hestia as the One who tended the Sacred Flame. Over the course of this month,
I have come to the perspective that She is the Sacred Flame.
Going back to my notes from one of my previous blog posts:
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.
I think this is incredibly important.
This unconventional Deity, with a cultus without a formal priesthood, external to hierarchies but intrigal to society, apart in terms of traditional gender roles but absolutely interconnected with both humankind and the other Olympians, duel public/private, religious/political – there is a mobility, a fluidity, a sense of layers to Hestia that I didn’t know about prior to digging a little more deeply.
There are some devotional books focused on Hestia, I’m interested to know if anyone has read them.
That might form part of my plan for The Quickening next year.
Another practitioner who I admire has months dedicated to specific Deities, and my current feeling for me is that Hestia has claimed… not so much August as the period of the First New Moon of Spring, perhaps The Quickening.
It will be interesting to revisit this next year!