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"The Mistress of the Hearth"
Hestia is the ancient greek goddess of hearth and home. She dwells in the flames of every altar and fireplace. In Rome she was known as Vesta and an important state goddess. Although an important deity in Greek religion, she is rarely shown in art, and has virtually no mythology and iconography. She ruled over domestic life and was very protective.

 

You are about to enter the shrine of the ancient greek goddess Hestia. (Entrance at the bottom of this page)

Hestia is that what I would call a real forgotten goddess. If you search for her on the internet, you'll find many hotels and companies named after her, but very little information about her specific role in the greek religion. The books don't provide much more than one of the 12th Olympians. Cause there is little known about her tales and myths and only a few images of her have been found, one can assume that Hestia was a ancient goddess even to the greek people. My believe is that her role as the protectress of the fireplace, which is the most important place in a house (bringing warmth in winter, warm food all day, light in the house) is a direct transformation of the Magna Mater. Hestia is a true earth goddess, because she chose not to live on the olymp, but to dwell with mankind on earth. Her most important part in every-day rites of the ancient greeks is paid to little attention to.


Click here to have only a short info about her.


Selection


Other Names and Titles: Relations in the Greek Pantheon
Her Image Representation Her Role 
Her Signs and Symbols Offerings
Cult Centers And now enter her shrine

 

Homeric Hymns 29.1 :

Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honor: glorious is your portion and your right. [5] For without you mortals hold no banquet, --where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last.

And you, Slayer of Argus, Son of Zeus and Maia, messenger of the blessed gods, bearer of the golden rod, [10] giver of good, be favorable and help us, you and Hestia, the worshipful and dear. [9] Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together; [11] for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men, aid on their wisdom and their strength.

Hail, Daughter of Cronos, and you also, Hermes, bearer of the golden rod! Now I will remember you and another song also.

 


Other Names and Titles


Hestia: greek word for hearth, pronounced: HE est tuh

{hes'-tee-uh}  I have found no other names.

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Relations in the Greek Pantheon

Hestia  is the firstborn of the Olympians (sic!), a daughter of Rhea and Cronnos, and sister of Zeus.

Ancient Texts on her birth:

But Rhea was subject in love to Cronos and bore splendid children, Hestia, Demeter, and gold-shod Hera
(455 Hesiod Theogony)

But he again bound and shut them up in Tartarus, and wedded his sister Rhea; and since both Earth and Sky foretold him that he would be dethroned by his own son, he used to swallow his offspring at birth. His firstborn Hestia he swallowed, then Demeter and Hera, and after them Pluto and Poseidon. 
(Pseudo-Apollodorus Library 1.1.5)

She was a virgin-goddess, and when wooed by Poseidon and Apollo, swore by the head of Zeus to remain a virgin. She had no throne, but tended the sacred fire in the hall on the Olympus and every hearth on Earth was her altar. She is the gentlest of all the Olympians.

Homeric Hymns 5.20:

[20] and shady woods and the cities of upright men. Nor yet does the pure maiden Hestia love Aphrodite's works. She was the first-born child of wily Cronos and youngest too, by will of Zeus who holds the aegis, --a queenly maid whom both Poseidon and Apollo sought to wed.

Being a virgin goddess; she was therefore also one of only three who are immune to the spells of Aphrodite, the other two were Athene and Artemis.

Hestia is rarely mentioned in the myths. She did not join the conspiracy to overthrow Zeus, nor did she take part in disputes or wars such as the battle against the giants or the Trojan War. When Dionysus came to the Olymp, she left her seat to him.

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Vesta Temple in Rome/Capitol 
The Vesta-Temple in Rome/Capitol

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 [5] with Zeus the all-wise --draw near, 
and withal bestow grace upon my song.

(Homeric Hymns 24.1)

 


Her Image Representation

"The Mistress of the Hearth" is commonly envisioned as the living flame or portrayed as a virgin maiden, who covers her head with a veil.

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Her Role

In her role as the goddess of home life she dispensed domestic happiness and blessings, and was said to be the inventor of domestic architecture. She was believed to dwell in the inner part of every house and to preside at all sacrifices.

The idea of a perpetual flame to represent the center of one's ordinary life in home and village took on more universal significance to embrace the notion of centricity in the earth and even the universe. Consequently, Hestia shared some attributes of the goddesses of the earth and underworld, such as Cybele, Gaea, Demeter, Persephone, and Artemis.

Her festival of old was held on the 8th of June. The roman Augustus founded another festival on the 28th of April for Vesta.

There is some evidence that it was common to swear in her name:

Aristophanes Plutus 395 :
Blepsidemus:[395] Are you telling the truth?
Chremylus: I am.
Blepsidemus: Swear it by Hestia.

Aeschines On the Embassy 45:
[2.45] On our return, then, after we had rendered to the senate a brief report of our mission and had delivered the letter from Philip, Demosthenes praised us to his colleagues in the senate, and he swore by Hestia, goddess of the senate, that he congratulated the city on having sent such men on the embassy, men who in honesty and eloquence were worthy of the state.

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Her Signs and Symbols

The presence of Hestia was found in the center of the fire - and Hestia's fire served to make sacred whatever place it dwelled in.

Hestia's deep abiding presence was felt and seen only in the center of her warming fire.

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Offerings

Her power extends over altars and hearths and States,
and therefore all prayers and sacrifices
began or ended with praying and sacrificing to Hestia,
because she is the guardian of the innermost things.

Sacrifice: Sweet wine (according to: Homeric Hymns)

Food burned in the flames of the fireplace.
From every meal that was cooked on the fireplace of the house, 
they laid a portion of that meal on the hearth or burned it in the flames as a sacrifice to Hestia.

Her sacrifices also were first fruits, water, oil, and year-old cows.


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Cult Centers

There were few Greek temples devoted specifically to Hestia, but every household is believed to have worshipped her on the housealtar and at the fireplace of the house.

The Romans called her Vesta, and build a temple for her in the Forum Romanum.

Aeschines On the Embassy 45:  2,45,n1.:
The hearth of the Prytaneum, the headquarters of the standing committee of the senate, was regarded as the common hearth of the state; a statue of Hestia was in this hall, and in the senate-house was an altar of that goddess.

The Roman version of Hestia, the goddess Vesta , began by only being worshipped in the homes of Roman families as a household deity. However, Vesta soon evolved into a state goddess. The people of Rome built the Temple of Vesta in the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum).

The temple was built in the third century b.c. It is said that Numa Pompilius set up the service of Vesta. Pompilius was the second king of Rome, preceded by only the founder Romulus. Numa Pompilius was well known for his introduction of public worship and wise legislation. It was in the temple of Vesta that the sacred fires of Rome burned.

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Short Information on Hestia

Hestia is the Greek goddess of the hearth fire and home,
hence presiding over domestic life.
She is the firstborn daughter of Rhea and Cronus and sister of Zeus.

Hestia, in the high dwellings of all,
both deathless gods and men who walk on earth,
you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honor:
glorious is your portion and your right. 

Homeric Hymns 29.1


References


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