As our unpredictable autumn days give way the bleakness of winter, we continue our journey inward. For many, the short days and long nights leave us feeling sad and disconnected, especially after the Judeo-Christian holidays that are typical of this time of year. Again for Christians, there is the much anticipated millennium celebrations that some people feel will herald the beginning of the 'new age'. Others are not so sure of the significance of this time, but most will get caught up in the excitement of the moment.
What happens after the hype has died down and we are back to living on a day to day basis? Most of the time, the glorious sun that lights our all too short days, spends its time hidden behind grey clouds filled with snowflakes that seem to fall just before rush hour traffic starts. We are left feeling bereft of its warmth, inspiration and energy. As the days drag on we try to find some inner warmth that will keep that spark of hope alive.
For those of us at Discover the path, we look to Hestia, to guide us to the haven of the hearth.
The month of December, originally the 10th month of the year, is ruled by the mutable fire sign Sagittarius, for the first three weeks. We pick this month to introduce our patron Hestia, the Goddess of the hearth and home.
Hestia, the first born child of Cronus and Rhea, was one of the original Olympians. Cronus, in fear of a usurper child, swallowed all his children after their birth. As Jean Shineda-Bolen writes, Hestia spent the longest time in the bowels of her father. She was the firstborn and was therefore in a position to assist and guide her siblings as they too were swallowed up. After the release of all the children, Hestia remained a solitary figure, choosing to act in the role elder sister, then maiden aunt to all her nieces and nephews. She never knew the fame and power of the other Olympians. She detested the wars and battles that marked their lives, but quietly went about tending the hearth and watching over the home. She was so withdrawn, that for years her likeness was represented only by a flame covered in white ash.
But Hestia's presence was mandatory at every home, for she was keeper of the flame and long before, electric stoves, the hearth provided warmth as well as light, and fuel for cooking food. All celebrations centred around this very important site in the home. Even though we are 'modern' many hostesses will say that the kitchen is still always the most popular room in the house.
Hestia has been described in many ways. She is the divine spark within all of us. She is forever the virgin, known to no man, but keeper and guardian of the sacred flame, a role for which she is venerated. She had offers of marriage from Poseidon and Apollo, mostly at the instigation of Aphrodite, but her wish to remain chaste was honoured by her ruler and younger brother Zeus. Instead, a place for her was made in every home, every temple and every city. Where ever a new site or town was constructed, the colonists always took a part of Hestia with them, in the flame.
For Discover the path, Hestia represents our committment to keeping the fire of inspiration and hope alive. We extend our warmth to all our beloved sisters and brothers through our work. We honour her by the ritual lighting of candles at our gatherings. Wherever we may be, becomes a home when her spark is ignited and we join hands in a circle representing the unity of love.
As you pass through the holiday season, even if you are not lighting a candle in celebration but as a solitary act of hommage to this great lady, remember all those that you love and care for, especially the elderly unmarried women of the family. Tend your home with the utmost respect for its sacredness and call upon Hestia for love and guidance.
If you need help in creating your own rituals for December you can reach Discover the path at Hestia's hearth via e-mail at email@example.com for assistance. Here are some books that I have found useful.
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