Goddess of Hearth and Home
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. For without you mortals hold no banquet, - where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last.
Of all of the Gods, Hestia was the mildest, the most tender and loving, and the most forgiving. She was kind of the anti-hubris. One of the kind of cool things about her is that she was the first AND the last born of Cronos. You see, as the first born, she was the first swallowed, and therefore the last to be disgorged. As the last disgorged, she was his youngest child. There is a wonderful passage about her in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. There she is described as a queenly maid whom both Poseidon and Apollo sought to wed. But she was wholly unwilling, and stubbornly refused; and touching the head of father Zeus who holds the aegis, she, that fair goddess, swore a great oath which has in truth been fulfilled, that she would be a maiden all her days. So Zeus the Father gave her an high honor instead of marriage, and she has her place in the midst of the house and has the richest portion. In all the temples of the gods she has a share of honor, and among all mortal men she is chief of the goddesses.
To make that passage a little clearer: Once, Apollo and Poseidon came forward as rivals looking for her hand. Now, that had the potential to turn into something pretty ugly, and Hestia knew it. So she turned to Zeus and said that she would remain a virgin forever. Zeus understood her actions and was very grateful, so greatful that he awarded her the first victim of every public sacrifice for keeping the peace on Olympus.
Hestia had no problem keeping her promise to stay a virgin, except for one time. See, all the Gods had just been to a killer party and everyone was passed out all over the room. Hestia was asleep too (but not from overindulgence). Well, Priapus (this short ugly dude with HUGE genitalia) was very drunk and not asleep and had gone over to Hestia planning on making love to her. But as he was lowering himself onto her, an ass (the symbol of lust) brayed and Hestia woke up to see Priapus and his genitalia lowering down. She screamed. And I mean SCREAMED! And Priapus got scared and skittered away so Hestia's virginity was retained.
Hestia, as Goddess of the Hearth, protects all suppliants at every private house and city hall. None may be turned away lest they offend Hestia. Her fire is truly sacred, and if a hearth goes cold (from neglect or mourning) it is relit with something called a firewheel. The center of Greek life was the domestic hearth which was also the sacrifical altar. Hestia, as Goddess of the Hearth, also reigned over personal security and happiness and the sacred duty of hospitality. Hestia is also credited with the invention of building houses. When children were born, before they could be accepted as part of the family, they had to be walked in a circle around the symbol of Hestia that was in every home and prayers had to be said to the gentle Goddess.
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