Vesta - Herstory, Mythology and role in Astrology
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Herstory and Mythology
Not all gods are representable. Hestia, the Roman Vesta, is one of them. Not only is she distinguished by a remarkable lack of myth and story but she also lacks form in sculpture and painting. While I discovered, via a quick online search, a few Greek vases purporting to show Hestia, the Goddess of the hearth and home, what stands out for me is how she is always clothed, often veiled and immobile. Even Renaissance painters like Titian, who had Venus and other Gods and Goddesses cavorting naked in his paintings, did not dare expose her.
Nothing but a perpetual fire occupies the central, circular enclosure of the temples dedicated to Hestia. Keep this in mind as you keep reading, because this striking lack of depiction in both Greek and Roman culture is central to understanding this Goddess.
Hestia’s temple was not only circular in design, it was also the temple in the center of their cities. All the other temples were quadrangular and adorned with sculptures of the Olympian gods. Gods like Zeus and Apollo, radiated out from this center.
Every home in ancient Rome and Greece honoured Her. She was the focal point of the home.
In ancient Greece, and for centuries afterwards, people would build houses around the hearth. They did not build outside in but from the hearth outwards. This makes the hearth the point of origin. Hestia is the navel; the center of the world and she represents our personal center. The home is where we find shelter from the tumult and noise of the outside world. It is the place where we are assured of Hestia’s protection and reassurance.
The Goddess is round. She and the Earth are one and the same, for the Earth at her core is a perpetual fire.
What is the hearth symbolic of?
The hearth is a symbol of permanence, of centrality and fixity.
Who is Hestia?
Hestia is the daughter of Cronus (Saturn) and Rhea (Ops). After Zeus defeated the Titans, Hestia asked Zeus to grant her the privilege of remaining a virgin. She had been courted in vain by Poseidon and Apollo. Zeus granted her this wish and accorded her other privileges. She was to receive from mortals the first and last invocation and the first and last sacrifice. She would also, as her name suggests, take her place within the home. For the curious, the Romans changed this up and invoked Janus first and Vesta last.
Let's pause here to clear up a few things about the word virgin. The word virgin did not mean what it does now. A virgin was a woman who was not owned by a man and was sexually independent. However, Hestia asked to remain inviolable and untouched. This is why in Rome, the Vestal Virgins (priestesses) were punished by death if they broke their vows of celibacy. (They also became scapegoats and were blamed for most political troubles).
Many astrologers see a link between Vesta and sex. I have not worked long enough with Vesta to comment on that except to say in the handful of charts I have looked at I have yet to find a strong correlation.
Time & Place
There is a primacy of place and time attached to Vesta. In ancient Greece, there were complex rituals for relighting a hearth fire that had gone out. The only time it was acceptable to extinguish the hearth fire was during a period of mourning or when you were forced to leave because of a natural disaster or war. In Rome, if the temple fire went out, it was believed the city was in danger.
A sense of time was perpetuated by keeping the sacred feminine alive.
To know Hestia is to understand that not every home has a central fire. There are lifeless homes just as there are people who move through their lives like soulless automatons. Every person is tasked with keeping Hestia alive within themselves. While it’s easy to understand how our inner flame can be extinguished by a traumatic event, more often than not what deprives our Hestia of oxygen is a disconnection from our wild self. This is the self that has not been domesticated in a negative or subdued sense but a Self that creates a sanctum from the soul outwards and not from the material world inwards. This is the Self that refuses to be shamed by sexists or misguided feminists for being a housewife. This is also the Self that paradoxically will not be shamed for leaving the home to forge a career.
The qualities of character inherent to Vesta can be defined as a combination of integrity and dignity--Vesta knows these attributes, and to honor your Vesta is to know and show these qualities in yourself. These are two attributes, despite the assertions of some, that cannot be taken away from an individual--you either have them or you don't--they are internal qualities, not conferred by external circumstances. Nothing someone else does to you can remove them--dignity is displayed by one's behavior, and integrity is displayed by the quality of one's actions and choices. By honoring what she feels is sacred, Vesta cannot avoid living with integrity and dignity. It's only when we fail to honor those things indicated by our Vesta that we lose that sense of integrity and dignity within. - Julie Demboski
Hestia resides in any home that is alive. Treasured objects and items constitute the unconscious cult of Hestia. Look around you. Does every object and item in your home, to quote Marie Kondo, bring you joy? Is there a connection to an ancestor?
Consider: Your favourite tea pot, the silverware you inherited from your grandmother, the gold watch you wear on special occasions...We honour her with our faithful presence within the home.
Since Hestia lives within us, we have the power to make any place a sanctum of our choosing. Hestia presides over any activity that brings people together. It is not so much about the food (Demeter) or the games (Aphrodite) as it is about the activities that form a household. A person with Vesta in Cancer, enjoys the preparation of meals and the ritual of family dinners for example, while someone with Vesta in Virgo, enjoys bringing order to the home in the shape of activity calendars, neat cupboards and swept floors.
Vesta in Astrology
Above all, Hestia represents our sacred center; that to which we dedicate ourselves. She represents stability, permanence and fixity. The sign and house in which she sit