On this day, because of a number of different factors, I have felt impelled to write a few words about the Element of Fire in a Hellenic context. In ancient times, people thought there were either four or five different “Elements” that made up the Cosmos and that everything mortal was made up of a mixture of those elements. (I say everything mortal, because the Gods are not comprised of these things, but still sometimes affect them). Fire (or flame) is often thought of as a “masculine” element because of its association with the forge and with manufacture, but interestingly enough it is in the more “feminine” that flame gets its most welcome expression.
Hestia, Lady of the Hearth, is in many ways associated with flame and one modern fantasy writer even has Her eyes be flame-colored. She is the gentle flame that warms and heats as opposed to the flame that simply destroys. Why does this seem so important to me now? I suppose it is for a combination of factors.
First, I read today a blog post by someone speaking about Hestia. However, it seemed very simplistic in the way that it was put (even when taking into account that English may not be this person’s first language) and missed a lot of potential in talking about what the Flame of Hestia can bring into our lives. Hestia’s Flame is in many ways what unifies our families and our homes, even if there cannot be an “eternal” flame physically present in our home for whatever the reason. (See my blog post on maintaining faith while homeless). Hestia is the Goddess that, however underestimated, provides us with the glue holding everyday things together and giving us something to return to at the end of our daily struggles.
Second, as I write this, it is the Greek Orthodox “Good” Friday and the iconic service of that holy day is held by the light of candles as will the midnight Paschal service. It reminds me of the fact that fire is so much a part of worship that I will probably never be totally comfortable in a religious setting that does not have it somewhere. The fire of Hestia will never go out in the lands of Greece as long as there is faith in something greater than us.
And finally, it reminds me of an event that took place a few days ago where a child near where I live completely disrupted the peace of his family hearth with fire (outside the home) and burned some things that had been left out. Fortunately for the child, he was not injured, but his family may still lose their place to live over this incident. The family was renting from an agency that does supportive housing and because the child was not supervised, they ended up violating the community rules they had agreed to when they moved there. The fires of Hestia are the fires of community, but fire misused is the destruction of that community.
There is much more on the Fire, Flame and the Hearth to be addressed in a series of other blogs, but here’s a start….