Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honour: 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 . . .” (Homeric Hymn to Hestia, Hugh G. Evelyn-White trans.)
For many pagans on or influenced by a Hellenic path, Hestia as the hearth is a given. Considering the dependency that we had upon the flame before the advent of electricity, this is only fitting. We needed that fire, for heat, for fuel, for transforming raw food stuffs to materials that we can eat, for making so very many things. We still need that fire, but many of us get that fire these days at the flip of a dial. (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing largely depends upon where you are – a recent uncharacteristic for our area ice storm drove that home; we do not have any heat source other than electricity. Thousands of people in our city were without power for days, some as long as five days. We were not among them, thankfully, but what if we had been?)
It’s not surprising that many modern day Hellenic pagans follow the advice set forth in this Homeric Hymn. Sacrifices and libations are given first and last to Hestia, and Her central place in the home is honored, as it had been in the past.
I don’t do this. I never have. From the beginning, before I reached out and began to explore Hellenic paganism, Poseidon was the center of my worship. I had no desire for Him to move from that place. Others would speak of Hestia being the center, the hearth, and while I could understand that metaphor, when I thought of my center, of my hearth that the rest of my spirituality was built around, it was Poseidon. The biggest reason early on that I decided I was not and could not be a Hellenic pagan was because Hestia would not be my hearth; Poseidon was. Poseidon would remain so.
Fast forward years later. Just last April I was reading through Pausanias’s Guides To Greece, as one does, and I stumbled upon a reference to Poseidon Domatites – Poseidon of the house, or, more specifically, of the rooms. (δωματί). Rereading is a good thing, revisiting where we’ve been already can be beneficial. (Interestingly enough, it was with this discovery that I was able to better gain an understanding of the role that Hestia fulfills when it comes to sacred ties of family. Funny, that.) This was an exciting discovery. It resulted in a poem. I don’t write poems often; they are all of them about Poseidon. And instead of going on and on about how exciting this was for me, I’m going to just share the poem. Enjoy!
You are the Foundation,
cellar dug deep for stores to be laid up, to see us through our lean times,
stone ringed ’round, thick and strong, to carry the weight of our dwelling.
You are the framework.
Timber hewn and set in place, the bones of this structure that is my life,
solidly braced throughout, giving shape to so much raw material.
You are the openings.
Windows and doors placed in just the right locations to let in light, air, breath,
and easily shuttered when the outside elements threaten to overwhelm this sanctuary.
You are the walls.
Plaster and paint, the flesh of this space, gently partitioning off the rooms of my soul,
providing layer upon layer of solitude and privacy, yet welcoming enough for company, as needed.
You are the chamber in the heart of the house,
Replete with all the lush comfort any bedroom could offer, rich in textiles,
and an intimacy that goes deeper than blood, than life, than something so simple as love.
You are my Hearth,
at the center of it all, my life an offering poured into the flame of Your divine glory,
All that is nourishing and warm and life-giving within me comes from Your shelter, Your blessings,
You are the Foundation.