Since the very early days of the Temple, we have maintained a sacred flame dedicated to Hestia, which we light in Her honour at the start of all our events. As we are very much a Temple dedicated to all gods, it was a conscious decision not to honour any particular divinity on a regular basis. There are many reasons why we felt drawn to do so, and why it was specifically Hestia we felt called to honour.
Firstly, why do we have a hearth-flame as part of Temple tradition? In the ancient world, the hearth was sacred and we feel that sanctity within the Temple. The many myths about how fire was given to us by the Gods are an indication of how important it is to tend and maintain the sacred flame. Without it, there is no warmth, no way to prepare food, or make sacrifices to the Gods. It is a stable basis or fixed centre on which society and community was built. Our work is driven entirely by this idea of community, so the idea is incorporating a sacred flame into our Temple was very appealing.
Many pantheons have deities of the hearth who are particularly sacred for being the guardian and keeper of the hearth flame. In the Hellenic pantheon, the hearth-goddess is named Hestia (a name that translates to hearth). Of all the hearth goddesses in all the pantheons, what was it about Hestia that really drew us in? It’s true that we do personally have a fondness for Hellenic deities but there was much more to it than that.
Because She is the hearth-keeper, Hestia holds a sacred place in the temples and shrines of all gods. Any time a food offering or sacrifice is made, a portion of it goes to Hestia. In all temples, Hestia is honoured. As we dedicated our Temple to all the gods rather than a specific one or few, this really resonated for us! Hestia is the common thread of Temple life and we wanted to honour that.
But there are so many fascinating aspects to Hestia above and beyond Her role as hearth-goddess. She is the first and last born child of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. As the firstborn, She was the first to be devoured when Cronus ate his children to prevent them deposing him. When Zeus tricked Cronus into disgorging them, they were released (and born anew) in reverse order. Thus Hestia is both the firstborn and the lastborn – the first and the last. In this title (one of Her few), there is the sense of Her timelessness, of how She is outside of the hierarchy of divinities.
Unique amongst the Olympic gods, Hestia was far less adventurous than Her family and rarely left Mt Olympus where She tended the hearth. As such, She was the fixed centre, the unmoving and stable basis for both mortal and divine life. Unlike many other cults and practices, Hestia and Her followers served a public role, one that was critical to the community. Her entire nature was ultimately about service to the community, which is the main pillar on which our Temple stands.
Because we have been called to create a Temple dedicated to all the old gods, rather than specifically a Temple of Lord Apollo, or Aphrodite or Sekhmet, we hold space for all of these divinities to aspect in as needed or willing. But what holds it all together, what ties the Temple’s sacred space together, is the hearth-flame we light at the beginning of each event.
Many other cultures have hearth-goddesses, but we found that Hestia’s role was so subsumed into the greater service to the community that She resonated most strongly with us.
The flame is our connection of Temple work to the everyday world and to the world of the Gods. We devote it to Hestia, the first and last, to honour both Her and all the Gods with our sacrifices in Their names.