I wrote this poem for some friends’ Imbolc ritual in 2018: since they are largely Celtic pagan, the ritual was primarily dedicated to Brigid, but I wanted to include the Greek hearth goddess as well. This addresses the myth that Hestia gave up her seat among the Twelve Olympians to Dionysus to “preserve harmony,” while emphasizing the importance of hearth-work in leading and guiding people from behind the scenes.
“Of Hestia and the Hearth”
3 February 2018, in College Park, Maryland
Of first-born Hestia, I begin to sing.
She faithf’ly tends her flames both night and day:
she does not leave her hearthside couch to join
her family when they hold their court with Zeus,
yet has from each of them their private ear.
When Zeus and dread Poseidon meet to speak
with their chthonic brother on a neutral
ground, they sit about her flame,
and she serves meat and wine and keeps the peace.
Demeter brings her grain and, queenly
Hera at their side, they bake the bread
and speak of how to rear the human race
in peace between their brothers’ stormy realms.
Hekate, tender-hearted, brings her friend
the Kore to the table of her aunt,
before she journeys to her husband’s land
and on returning to her mother’s arms.
Her nephew, Hermes, joins her at his journeys’
ends, to rest beside her fire’s warmth.
He brings her tales he’s heard at other hearths
and news he’s brought from ‘cross the wine-dark sea.
And on those moonless nights too dark to hunt,
the twins from Delos meet beside her fire.
They huddle close and share the stories of
the beasts they’ve slain and women they have loved.
On other nights, their hands too sore for toil,
the cousins of the forge and loom join her,
to share the myst’ries of their crafts, and tell
of wonders they have made and plan to make.
Fierce Ares, though unloved by gods and men,
still comes before her fireside to drink
warm wine with Dionysus and
to boast of exploits both in war and love.
And even Aphrodite, mistress of
the arts for which she has no time or care,
is welcomed with a warmèd cup and
consolation for the sorrows of love lost.
So hail to you, great Lady of the flame,
and first-born of the mother of the gods:
the eldest sister of Lord Zeus, to whom
we mortals give the first drink and the last.
Please bless our hearths and all we gather near!