The Mother Magazine, Editorial
Issue 55, Nov/Dec 2012
The Hearth, by Veronika Sophia Robinson
The deep, dark Winter draws me ever inward. I have no choice really, as I instinctively seek out warmth. I’m sustained by the gentle rhythm of family life, and the hearth at the centre of our home. My family and I gather around the fire to read, write, draw, sip tea, chat and play board games.
The hearth has long been the space around which family ceremonies, rituals and daily existence have been celebrated.
At a time of rocketing fuel bills, I’m grateful that we’re able to source and burn wood from locally-grown trees. In the fourteen years that we’ve lived here, I’ve admired each new plantation of trees, knowing that in time they’ll warm the homes of families in the area. They beautify the environment, provide fresh air, are a sustainable source of Winter fuel. Within half a mile of here, the forester gathers the logs and splits them, seasons them over time, then brings them to our home.
The fire is also a place for phoenix ceremonies: the ritual of writing down that which we want to release from our lives, and burning it down to ashes.
The hearth gives me a connection to a long line of my European ancestresses, who would have baked, sewed, washed and nurtured by the family fire. The word heart is found within hearth, and the etymology of both words is similar.
In Latin, the meaning of hearth is focus, and the stillness of Winter does indeed draw us in to focus on what is really important in life.
In Goddess literature, the Roman Vesta is ruler of the hearth: a place of cooking and spiritual significance.
In Greek mythology, Hestia is the Goddess of sacred fire. The virtues of Hestia are gentleness, mildness, forgiveness, serenity and calmness, and being a welcoming presence. Her role was to be of service to the family. She stayed at home, and unlike other Goddesses, didn’t get involved in fights. Her role was always about unconditional love. She was the keeper of the estate, and ensured the pantry was full for when the other Gods and Goddesses returned. It was from her that the idea of sanctuary was borne. She considered caring for others as a sacred obligation.
In times gone by, homes had a hearth dedicated to the Goddess. People would begin and end their day with a ritual asking her to protect the family. Considered the Goddess of architecture, it was believed that homes should be built from the centre ~ the hearth and Hestia’s sacred flame ~ and then built outwards.
The message was that a home is where we nurture our body, spirit and relationships. The sacred fire is where we come home to after our visits in the outside world. Here we find peace, comfort and security.
Fire is a living entity, and this is palpable when it’s part of daily life in the colder months. Each crackle, hiss and pop reminds me that I’m not alone. The dance of orange, russet and burgundy flames is always changing: always mesmerising.
Fire is a natural teacher of energy, drive, passion, and also of resurrection. What is it that fuels us? What is it that inspires us to jump out of bed in the morning and live our life as if it’s the greatest gift we’ve been given? Fire. The fire in our belly.
The family hearth is symbolic of the heart of family life. If you live in a modern building without a hearth or in a tropical climate, you can create a symbolic hearth by using candles. One of Hestia’s symbols is the circle which represents both wholeness and centredness, and the family being at the centre of all things. Create a circle altar, and include Hestia’s other symbols. She represents hearth, home, living flame, architecture, bowls, veils, the pantry, and keys. She represents pigs and donkeys. Her flowers are yarrow, hollyhock, goldenrod, Angel’s trumpet, purple coneflower and Californian poppy. To your altar, add her scents of lavender, angelica and peony. Add gems and metals of amethyst, garnet, gold, silver, and brass. Her colours include gold, dark rose, lavender, silver, and black.
Create your altar with reverence for the original meaning of the hearth, and may the heart of the home pervade all aspects of your family life.
I hope you feel the sacred fire, and that 2013 is a passionate year for you and your family.