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Hestia by Symbios

Hestia is not one of the better known Greek deities, in part because there was no popular mythology written about her. While Hestia may be somewhat obscure, most readers are well aware of her Roman counterpart--the Goddess Vesta, who was tended by the famed Vestal Virgins charged with maintaining the eternal flame burning at Rome's center. Like Vesta, Hestia was both the Goddess and Protector of hearth and home. She represented the fire burning at the center of the earth and maintained the fire at the center of Olympus. At the symbolic center of every Greek town--the public hearth or prytaneum--an altar was made to her. She was held in such high esteem that the first portion of sacrifices were offered to her, as were the first and last libations at festivals. One is tempted to conjecture that she was not included in the popular literature of the time because she was simply too sacred to be spoken of mundanely.

The Rite of Hestia relies on the technique of focusing on the images and name of a deity in order to contact the spirit and power of that deity. This mode of worship is considered unfashionable or arrogant by some these days, but the fact remains that it has been used across the world for millennia and is highly effective. Ordinarily, the focus of the adoration is on a cultic statue of the deity or a priest/ess who serves as a channel. In this instance, though, a fire placed at the center of the circle is what is invoked on. This is in keeping with the ancient Greek belief that Hestia was literally the fire burning in the hearth. Wherever there was a fire, Hestia was thought to dwell, and her power is made available when her sacred fire is tended.

We have experimented over the years with the safest way to have an impressive central fire without burning the house down. The easiest method we have found is to place a cleaned 14 to 15-ounce can in a cauldron. Pour sand around the can until it fills the cauldron almost to the top of the can, then pour grain ethanol or isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) into the can until it is half full. The sand around the can serves to insulate the cauldron. If you burn alcohol in a bare cauldron, the cauldron becomes too hot to handle, and the rate of combustion becomes very fierce. This might be fine outdoors, but for obvious reasons is problematic indoors. You should experiment beforehand by burning different amounts of ethanol while timing how long each flame lasts. This way you can tailor the length of the burn to the expected length of the ritual.

The purpose of this ritual is purification. This is accomplished in several steps. Before the ritual, each participant writes down her or his single most pressing difficulty on a piece of paper. This is later burned in the Fire of Hestia, in keeping with the old belief that prayers and requests are carried to the Gods on the smoke of the altar fire. This is also a variation of spell workings in which one releases a problem by destroying its representation; in this instance, however, the participants are asking specifically for divine intervention as well. Once this portion of the ritual is completed, all in the circle are ritually cleansed with water and incense to prepare them to follow up in the physical world what they have requested of Hestia. This is reemphasized by the final prayer in which her aid and blessing is again requested.

Properly performed, this ritual allows deep communion with the spiritual essence of fire on the divine level; it also confers a sense of renewed purity and vitality. Be aware that this is not an elemental working, and thus one should not expect devic contact. We do recommend that participants carefully consider what they wish to purify or banish from their lives. Consider the ramifications of what complete loss of what you have written would be, as some past participants have reported these losses to be extensive. Also be open to the manner in which that loss will manifest, particularly in spiritual matters.

The invocations and text in this ritual are a combination of original writing and materials borrowed from the Alexandrian Book of Shadows, the rituals of the Golden Dawn, and the works of Aleister Crowley. We hope you find the rite rewarding, and welcome hearing about your experiences and suggestions.

A central altar containing the cauldron with ethanol, the censer with incense, a bowl of water, cakes, and wine should be placed at the center of the room. All participants gather in a comfortable circle around the central altar. One Priestess should stand at each of the cardinal points. The High Priestess and the Priestess of Hestia should also stand in the East. The circle is cast by whatever rite the participants favor, with reverence and solemnity. The Priestesses then individually read the following passages.

Today we stand at the midpoint of Winter
Between Solstice and Equinox.
Yet the darkest time of the year is over,
And Spring is in the belly of Winter.
Thus we must prepare ourselves for new beginnings—
The holly, ivy, and pine of Yule, now faded,
Must be gathered and burnt;
Our dwellings must be cleaned, and the tools of planting prepared.
So it must be with our bodies and spirits as well.
Today is Brigid, Imbolg, Candlemas, the Lupercalia,
A great festival of fire.
Which we dedicate to the Goddess whose name means fire.
Hestia, eldest daughter of arch-ancestral Rhea.
Hestia, whose fire burns at the center of Olympus,
Burns at the hearth, the center of the home, and burns in the soul.
Hestia, whose fire purifies all that it touches.
This is the time of purification before the dawning of new light.
We must purge ourselves of all dark deeds and thoughts,
That no fear or imbalance may taint our sowings.
Friends, think for a moment of what you have written:
Of that which darkens your lives,
And prepare to cast it into the cleansing fires of Hestia.

After a suitable pause, the Priestess of Hestia lights the cauldron. All invoke toward the central altar:

Eldest of the Olympians, most venerated and beloved,
Ever virgin, unchanged and unchangeable,
Guardian of the innermost things,
Eternally preserving the faith of nations,
Seated in the midst of the halls of heaven,
Receiving the first and last libations,
Partaking of the richest sacrifices:
Each candle is a prayer to thee,
Each lamp a hymn, each hearth an altar,
Look with favor upon the fires of this temple,
And bless us with your presence here!
Hestia! Hestia! Hestia!

One by one, all place their pieces of paper in the cauldron. When all have been burnt, all pray facing the central altar:

Great Goddess, purify us with your holy power.
Banish guilt forever, and show us new ways of understanding.
Let the dusts of journeys fall from our bodies,
cleansed let us be, and pure again!
Hestia! Hestia! Hestia!

All quietly commune with the flame as the Priestess of the North takes up the purificatory water and says:

O blessed water, where you are cast
Let no evil or adverse purpose last.
Hear my will! Attend to me!
At my word, so mote it be!
Be ye cleansed and pure again!

She then purifies each person, saying:

I purify with water.

The High Priestess then takes up the incense and says:

O blessed fire, where your vapor leads
Bring health, and wealth, and joyful deeds.
Hear my will! Attend to me!
At my word, so mote it be!
Be ye blessed and whole again!

The High Priestess censes each person, saying:

I consecrate with fire.

When completed, all again face the central altar and pray:

Grant us, we pray, O mighty one,
A peaceful season of progression.
Let us perceive fresh light upon our paths,
And follow this with faith throughout thy plans for our perfection.
Great Goddess, give us thy benediction,
Pour on us thy ethereal flame,
Till our faces shine with thy light reflected,
Till our brows gleam with thy starry symbol,
Till our voices reach the ineffable,
Till all our ways glitter with thy holy influence!
Sing the chant of illumination,
That we might find the light!
Bring to us thy tongues of rapture,
That our spirits may blaze forth!
Bring us to light, and to life, and to love!
Hestia! Hestia! Hestia!

The Priestesses bring forth the cakes and wine. The Priestess of Hestia consecrates each with Fire, saying:

In the name of Hestia, I bless and consecrate thee with fire!

The cakes and wine are then passed deosil around the circle.
The priestess of Hestia says:

As long as hearth fires burn, the blessing of Hestia is upon us. Praise Hestia!

All respond:

She deserves praise!

Other rites as desired. Dismiss the Watchtowers, and close circle as usual.

SYMBIOS is an Alexandrian-derived coven. It is descended along the Cthonioi branch of the DuBandia Grasail line. It has been up and running since 1987 and has several daughter covens. Its members work with the Greek pantheon and focus particularly on the Mysteries of Eleusis.