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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