Honor the Hearth

I’ve actually got a large post brewing in me about vulnerability and writing, but I’ve not had the space to cultivate it. The kids are intensely clingy – all the change of travel gets to them, even though I am so lucky that they travel well. We’re back from Alaska but I’m preparing to leave again tomorrow for another trip for five days. This time alone, to California for a good friend’s wedding. Of course, there is much to be done to prepare myself and my home for my departure.

Which is a great segue into the next Delphic Maxim: honor the hearth (or Hestia).

Few of us have a hearth anymore – that central location bordering an open fire that serves as light, heat, and cooking spot. The hearth is the central symbol of the home, and I love my home. Not just the structure in which I and my family live, though this rental is pretty nice. But I love even the idea of home. While I love to travel and go out, I adore coming home, be it the greater geographical sense and the more personal space in which my family resides. Turns out that I’m a real home-body.

Thinking about ideas of home in society, I wonder if Americans haven’t conflated the idea of home with the physical house. We seem to worship the house, raising home ownership up as the Great American Dream. I can’t speak too much to this, as I don’t understand the recent housing crash or the world of finance, nor have I ever owned a home, but this conflation feels more a lie of capitalism than anything on which to build a life.

For me a home is a place where we take refuge, where we build ourselves up so that we might venture forth into the world. A home is a place of healing, rest, renewal, and all the cycles of life. As some one who has birthed a child at home, I take that cycle of life one seriously! Homes are not just places to store our stuff and sleep, they are places to cultivate our whole lives. In a religious context, this also means erecting places of devotion to our gods. All of our lives are present in our homes – or should be, ideally. I know that not all of us live in safe (or pleasing spaces. [May all who read this post find safety and refuge in their own homes, or may they find new homes where that can happen. Amen.]

I don’t have a formal relationship with Hestia, as a Greek Goddess, but if she is the spirit of the Home then I suppose she and I have been teaming up for a long time. For a long time, the Blessed Virgin Mary was my home goddess. In a way she still is. I have a small nook in the space between the dining and living rooms, where I keep some ancestor photos, a statue of Ganesh, and icons of Mary. For years I lit a candle and asked for blessings on the house and meal I was preparing [May this home be blessed and all who dwell here]. But since moving to this house I have forgotten to light the candle. Maybe it was the shift of the move? Maybe it’s because the altar is out of my view while I cook? Maybe that it’s that I just don’t pay much attention to Mary anymore? I’m not sure.

Ganesh has become the patron ‘saint’ of our home and family. We all make offerings and he is present in statue form in three rooms. It’s not an intimate relationship; I feel a little rude asking for his blessings so often these days – please help us with our finances, keep us safe in all our travels, may all the obstacles to these things be overcome, bless the house, etc. But he wants to be present, and so he is.

There’s a saying ‘a man’s house is his castle.’ I don’t like that analogy as I think of a fortress or some other impenetrable structure, as if the home is again relating to the building, not to those who live there. My home is my ashram. My sanctuary. My refuge. My hearth. I honor it by keeping it clean, welcoming, and a place of comfort. I honor my hearth by honoring myself and my practice and those who dwell within the walls.

May your home be a place of comfort and refuge to you too.

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About Niki Whiting
  • http://gravatar.com/victoriamanning gypsycoyote

    This is very deep… I’ve been feeling rather like a prisoner in my home for some time now – not long, but it still feels like forever… I know this comes from the lack of will to clean. Our home has so much junk in it, and most of the time I just look around and get depressed because I feel like I have ruined our home. It is not my family that makes me a prisoner, but the walls around me and the feeling of loss I always get when I wake up. I am unsure how to get passed this feeling, aside from moving from this apartment, and perhaps this city. I hope that, when we move within the next 2 years, that the home we move into will be less a prison and more a sanctuary. :D

  • Elaine

    Niki, I have just scanned over this post, not read it properly, but it really chimes with me in that I am realising that the concept of “home” is difficult for me. I haven’t paid enough attention to home, which for me means my relationship with my husband, creating a place which is where we can breathe and feel content, a place to settle in and “cwtsh” up, as they say in Wales. I realise that there is a deep spiritual yearning for a sense of home – what is missing for me is the spiritual. It is here all around me in nature, but I don’t stop long enough to appreciate it. I have taken steps to remedy some of this – I have left my teaching in Narberth (a 100 mile round trip – tough after an emotional evening), and am trying to create more energies nearer to home. This year IS the beginning of sorting out my music room and also seeing clients in my study at home, very different energy than going into faceless rooms in other places. Home for me is a bit like the acknowledgement of being content to “be”, of being content to be WITH myself. A facing of that existential aloneness, rather than keeping on the move to avoid it. So, some tough things for me to work on. I’d love to know how you bring your spirit into home, how you keep the space spiritually and physically and emotionally clean…. There is love here, many people find it restful and healing, but I work hard to create that, and what I don’t always find is the place for ME to rest…. ah well, work in progress!!! Thanks and love to you Niki for your searching so openly and honestly and for sharing your path. Love and more love. xxxx


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