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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE

[From: Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]

Asclepios - Atlas - Boreas - Charites - Cybele - Dryads - Eos - Erinyes - Eros - Gaea - Gigantes - Gorgons - Hades - Harpies - Hebe - Helios - Hermaphroditus - Hestia - Horae - Iris - Kronos - Maenads - Moirai - Muses - Naiads - Nereids - Nereus - Nymphs - Oceanides - Oceanos - Pan - Persephone - Priapus - Prometheus - Rhea - Satyrs - Seilenoi - Seilenos - Selene - Themis - Thetis - Triton - Zephyros

Hestia

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Hestia was the daughter of Kronos and Rhea who, having been wooed by Apollo and Poseidon, took an oath of perpetual virginity which Zeus granted. Goddess of the family hearth, the Homeric hymn says that she was "among the mortals and all the goddesses the most revered". But she was not only the goddess of the hearth of every home. Hestia was also sacred to the hearth of every city-state. Each state had its own hearth which in many cities was known as the Prytaneum or townhall. It was from the townhall that the sacred fire was carried to the colonies to be planted in its new abode. Hestia had a share in all the libations and festivities to all the gods. In every prayer her name was recited before the [p. 48] name of any other deity, and her name was the last to be recited at the end of each ceremony. The devotees of Hestia specially sacrificed swine to her. [pp. 48-49]

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]



Hesiod called her the Chief of all Goddesses, Zeus' sister, Cronos' and Rhea's first-born. A Homeric Hymn tells us that 'she has her place in the centre of the house to receive the best in offerings'. The goddess of the hearth, of the centre to which life returns to be replenished, was honoured in every household and in all the temples of all the gods, but there is not a word about her in Homer, no myths that revolved around her, no images of her, no statues in her temples. Her name, according to Plato, means 'the essence of things', and since she is the essence of everything that moves and flows and has life and personality, she is herself the most anonymous, the least personal of all the goddesses. She was worshipped as the centre: the centre of the city, the centre of the house, even the centre of the centre of the world, the omphalos, the navel, at Delphi.

Hestia's public function remained important right down to Roman times when she was worshipped as the goddess Vesta: 'The continuous fire of Vesta was indeed "the heart of Rome" and hence one of the guarantees of the city being rooted in earth, of its permanence in history; it assured the Romans of stability and permanence in their place on earth,' The sacred fire that burned in her temple was tended by the Vestals, the virgin priestesses of the goddess, and so strong was the identification of her living flame with the life and safety of that city that neglect of the sacred fire was punished with death.

Hestia's fire, her life energy, burned for the city but, even more important, it burned for each individual, each human soul. She was the centre on which the city's solid foundation was built, and she was the bedrock of man's being, manifesting 'the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is chararcteristic of its nature'. It is, therefore, not surprising that when [p. 168] outer activities take over and dominate our existence, Hestia becomes the forgotten goddess. She is not about striving and straining, competing and succeeding; she is about being. Christ's admonition, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all things shall be added unto you', could have come, just as naturally, from Hestia's mouth.

There is a deep peace that surrounds the goddess when I conjure her up in my mind's eye, a fullness and a smiling acceptance that represents, as only Hermes among the rest of the pantheon does, the essence of unconditional loving. Her fire warms, kindles, illuminates. 'She sees all things by her light that never fails.' She is the gathering point, the source and the centre that sustain our place of return, 'the builder of the house so that the soul may dream in peace . . . . The soul gone astray, is a soul without psychic connection to this goddess and her centredness . . . . "Off base", "Off centre", "unable to find a place", "can't settle down", "spaced out", and "Off the wall", are related to Hestian values and remind the wanderer of her power to bring the soul into a state of dwelling.'

The house that Hestia builds provides the boundaries for our soul, protecting it from the invasion of the outside world and protecting us from the chaos of chance happenings, from triviality and futility. 'Now even as the mind of god is nourished by reason and knowledge', wrote Plato in Phaedrus, 'so also is it with every soul that has a care to receive her proper food; wherefore, when at last she has beheld being, she is well content, and contemplating truth she is nourished and prosperous, until the heaven's revolution brings her back full circle.' Hestia, the guardian of our homecoming, nourishes the depths of our being, leavens our lives and provides a centre in which to contain our disconnected experiences. The essence of the forgotten goddess has a profound relevance for modern man caught in 'doing' and activity, not in the sense of denying 'doing' and activity, but so as to pass from our identification with our external puppet self to the realization of our large being; from our mechanistic existence to a connection with the still centre in which life's journey is contained. [p. 169]

[Stassinopoulos, Arianna and Roloff Beny. The Gods of Greece. New York: Abrams. 1983.]




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