I thought I would reproduce a couple of articles I wrote for the old Setantii website – which has now passed on into the ether. My intention was to write a series about my own spiritual practices to give people an idea of my experience of Druidry.
I have been mulling over my spiritual practices recently. I wish I could say that I meditated for two hours every day, followed by a ceremony and a session of absent healing. I’m sure there must be some very disciplined or committed people who do manage this, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I have two teenage daughters, pets, and a part time job and I struggle to find time to keep the house, never mind anything else. If I sit down to meditate I often start to nod off. However there are a few things that I do manage to do and which I hope to share in these articles. One of these things is tending my hearth.
Okay, so I don’t actually have a hearth. But I do have a kitchen. You see the hearth would have been the centre of the home in times past, the ‘heart’ of the home if you like. It was used for warmth, to cook, for light, and was a focus for people to gather round, for activities, ceremony and story telling. Some people might say that the TV is now the heart of the home, but at our house it is definitely still the kitchen! So every evening I light a candle on my kitchen windowsill and say a little prayer to Hestia, asking for her blessings on our home and on our family, pets and visitors. I have often thought about lighting it in the morning too, but am worried that I may go out and leave it burning. I have enough problems with my OCD without adding another to the list!
Hestia is the Greek goddess of the home. Unlike the other gods who were always having adventures, she never left Mount Olympus. Instead she remained behind to tend the hearth and run the household. In some respects she was regarded as the foremost god of the Greek pantheon, and the first portion of any sacrifice was always offered to her. The tending of the fire in a home was very important and in most houses the fire was never allowed to go out except as part of a dedicated ritual.
You are probably wondering why a Druid is honouring a relatively unknown Greek goddess, and the only answer I can give you is that it just feels right to me. If you were to look for the Celtic equivalent then it would be the goddess Bride (or Bridget) who is the keeper of the flame, not only of the hearth, but also of the smithy, and of the fire of creativity within each of us.
I always try to have either a flowering plant or flowers by my candle. We have a gas lighter for the stove but I keep matches for the candles. There is something more immediate and significant about striking a match and that sudden spark of heat and light. Lighting the candle is a chance for me to take time out to recognise my spiritual side, to connect with the spirit of the home and also to honour the ancestors, to whom fire was so much more important, in the time before electric lights, microwaves and central heating. There is a wonderful poem about this feeling-
Chains of Fire
Touching the match,
waiting for the creeping flame,
I know myself linked by chains of fires
To every woman who has kept a hearth…
I see mothers, grandmothers, back to beginnings,
Huddled beside holes in the earth…
Guarding the magic no other being has learned
Awed, reverent, before the sacred fire
Sharing live coals with the tribe.
Image of Hestia found here