In Ancient Greece, the center of the home was a round hearth from which everything that nourished the home and the people in it, namely heat, food and light, emanated. Hestia was the goddess of this hearth, and its fire was considered sacred. When a couple married, the bride’s mother lit a torch from the family’s hearth and carried it to the couple’s new home, lighting the new fire before the couple entered. “Hestia” became the word not just for the goddess, but for the center of something.
As godesses go, Hestia is rather boring, which is probably why we don’t collectively remember her. There were no love affairs for Hestia, no dramatic stories of turning mortals into animals out of rage or spite, as Artemis and Athena were apt to do. Hestia was introverted; she stayed home and disliked drama.
This last year or so, I haven’t spent too much time at home. And as always, returning home after holiday travel, I came home to a pretty big mess. In the days before leaving for Christmas, things always get a bit frantic. So I manage to get the big chores done – the dishes, taking the trash out. But clutter and chaos abounds. Last weekend, I did some spring cleaning, which for me has always been New Year’s cleaning. (In spring, I tend to want to be outside, not at home doing chores). I reorganized closets, took old clothes to Goodwill, and scrubbed floors. I had to keep myself from getting too caught up in this effort, from powering through it because I wanted to be done, to go on to other things. Hestia, I reminded myself, made housework meditation. I tried to follow the example.
Sitting in the cleaner space when I was done, I felt clarity return. I remembered that I sleep better when my space is in order, that I feel more relaxed at home and am happier to be there. I realized I had fallen into a familiar pattern of being extremely busy in the outside world, then coming home to crash when I’d exhausted myself. Although I don’t have a hearth, I lit a candle at the center of my home, to make the lesson of Hestia stick, to remember to come home every now and then, to be nourished by a return to my center.