Mythology

Hestia – Goddess of the Hearth

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ShivaIn Greek Mythology, Hestia’s main function is that she represented the hearth. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “hearth” is defined as “a brick, stone, or concrete area in front of a fireplace.” Her name is actually derived from an Ancient Greek word that means “hearth”. Since the hearth is so closely tied to the home, Hestia is actually the goddess of the home itself and any domestic duties that go with it.

Hestia’s Birth

Hestia is a sister to Zeus and Hera. Her parents, Cronus and Rhea, were Titans. When she was born, Cronus swallowed her, fearing an ancient prophecy that said that Cronus would be overthrown by one of his children. Zeus managed to escape before Cronus could swallow him, which eventually led to Zeus freeing the rest of his siblings by forcing Cronus to regurgitate them.

Hearth and Home

Because she came to represent everything related to the hearth, her most common place of worship was not in an elaborate temple, but in the home itself. Those who worshipped her would set up a small domestic shrine, complete with statues and likenesses of her, to honor her. Her statues were fairly simple and were often perched on a wooden pedestal. She was a goddess who valued simplicity and her followers honored that by keeping her representations fairly simple.

No Conflicts

Unlike some of the other gods and goddesses, Hestia avoided conflict. She was kind and good-hearted and as a result, she rarely had the spotlight. In fact, in some traditions, she wasn’t even considered one of the Twelve Olympian Gods and Goddesses. Dionysius, the god of wine, often replaced her. Could it be that she willingly relinquished her place as an Olympian to help keep the peace? Scholars are unclear and since literature doesn’t give any answers, we may never know.

Another notable way that she didn’t participate in conflicts is that she never got married. Both Apollo and Poseidon both took an interest in her. However, she vowed to remain chaste and focus on her duties as a goddess. She was also one of the goddesses who was immune to Aphrodite’s charms.

Offerings

As part of the Ancient Greek religion, people would give offerings to the gods and goddesses they worshipped. Some looked at these offerings as a way to pay their respects or give thanks. People would journey to the temples to make these offerings but since Hestia’s “temple” was in the home, people would pay their respects on an almost daily basis. One of the most common ways to give an offering to Hestia was to reserve a portion of the evening meal to leave by her statue. Both the first and last bites of food were always saved for her. In addition, people would perform rituals around the fire in honor of her. Since she was a part of people’s lives, she was worshipped on an almost daily basis.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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