Reclaiming the Hestia

When I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I tended to do well in my studies, and it was expected that I would one day join the workforce with a prominent and respectable career.  I was told that our foremothers worked hard so that I would have the same opportunities as a man.  I was also taught in subtle, and not so subtle ways, that women who stayed home were somehow less than women that worked in the marketplace.  I was also told that I was lucky that girls were allowed to wear pants to school now, while a time same time, I was ridiculed for wearing dresses

I learned many skills for the workplace, and I believed that the most important thing in life was to obtain employable skills.  I chose my post high school education to obtain degrees and credentials.  I spent my free time engaged in extracurricular activities, and I worked outside the home from the age of 16 on.  While I learned how to clean a bit, I never really learned how to cook.  I never learned to sew, not even to put on a button or sew a hem.

I tried two separate careers.  One career, I was miserable in from the start.  I was happy in the second career for a time, but later that started to grow cold as well.  During the times that I was a career woman, I neglected my home to an embarrassing extent, and I never spent much time there anyways.  I dreamed of being a professional astrologer and a writer and to work out of my home; however, that idea always seemed impractical and foolish.

About a year and a half ago, I met a new group of friends, and I read The Feminine Universe, which opened my eyes in many different ways.  One of the ways involved a new understanding of the concepts of the Hestia (the home) and the Agora (the marketplace).   I finally had words for things that had been troubling me for a long time.  In the West, the Agora is seen as all important and the Hestia is there, if at all, to support the Agora.  With this philosophy, it only makes sense that those who maintain the home feel less valued then those who work in the marketplace.

This was the real problem behind the feminist movement.  Of course, it is lovely that those with gifts in the marketplace have opportunity to shine in that arena.  On the other hand, it never challenged the inverted patriarchal notion that the Agora was superior to the Hestia, and that the Hestia’s only purpose was to support the marketplace.  There was a time before patriarchy that people knew that the Hestia was of central importance, and that the Hestia was a microcosm of the cosmos.  People went into the Agora to support the Hestia, or as is expressed in far better language in the Feminine Universe:

The fundamental building block of civilization is the home.  A single family home is a society in itself.  A few homes make up a hamlet.  As we add more we get a village, a town, a city.  Each of these is an extension of the home.

Every traditional home, be it an igloo, a grass hut, or a stone house, like maid herself, is a little cosmos.  The central pole of the teepee is the World Axis: its canonical form reiterates the symbolism of the pyramid discussed elsewhere.  The hearth fire in a house corresponds to the sun in the cosmos and the heart in maid.  Traditional rituals of the foundation of a home make explicit (and ritually ‘actualize’) these correspondences and the vital link between the microcosm of the house, the macrocosm of the world, and the other microcosm of maid.

In patriarchal societies, men came to dominate the Agora, the public world (from the Greek word for ‘market-place’–hence agoraphobia: ‘fear of public places’), but the Hestia, the home world, remained primarily the province of women.  The Hestia is, in fact, where much of life — the very heart of life — takes place.  Our home is, indeed, as the idiomatic phrase so tellingly puts it, the place where we live — wherein our existence is centered.

My personal circumstances have changed, and it is now possible for me to work towards living my (formerly secret) dream.  As I am working towards moving into this dream, I am finding I have a lot to learn.  There are many arts of the home that I have not learned, and I am having to learn a new rhythm of life as I am working out of my home and taking responsibility for maintaining my Hestia and trying to reclaim it as a temple.

It is my hope that this blog will serve as a resource and a support to others working towards reclaiming their own Hestias as temples.  Whether one is a housewife or a career woman, I think that learning to reclaim our homes as sacred space is healing and helpful for our souls.  Our homes are important.  With a whole world telling us otherwise, I think that it is good to have a place to support our efforts in reclaiming this important sacred space.

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