March 4th, 2008 by sabrina

Hestia is the Greek Goddess of the hearth, specifically the fire that burns therein. She was the first child born to Rhea and Kronos and the first to be swallowed by her father, who was trying to avoid the prophecy that one of his children would overthrow him. When his last son, Zeus, finally freed his siblings from their father, Hestia was the last to be spit back out, and she is therefore referred to as both the oldest and the youngest of the siblings. In recognition of this, she was offered both the first and last of all sacrifices.

Hestia rules over fires sacred and mundane, from the fire of the temple at Delphi to the public hearth of the city to the private hearth in every home. Her fire was never allowed to die out, and people swore oaths over the flames. Whenever a new village was settled, the central fire was started from Hestia’s fire in the inhabitants’ original home town. When two people married and moved into their own home, the mother of the bride brought them fire from her hearth, inviting Hestia into the new home.

Hestia also tended the hearth fires of Zeus on Mount Olympus, and since she never roamed far, there are few myths in existence about her. Both Poseidon and Apollo tried to court her, but she would not have them, and swore an oath on the head of Zeus to remain a virgin Goddess. She is often tied in worship with Hermes, the Messenger of the Gods and protector of travelers. Hermes was symbolized by a pillar at the door of the home, and Hestia by the fire within. Between them, they kept the home and family safe and secure. One of Homer’s hymns to Hestia shows this partnership:

Hestia, 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 … And you, slayer of Argus [Hermes], 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 men, aid on their wisdom and their strength. Hail, Daughter of Kronos, and you also, Hermes, bearer of the golden rod! Now I will remember you and another song also.

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