God of the Deer


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago, as I was driving one of the many twisting and turning roads of the Adirondacks, I passed a small clearing occupied by two does and two spotted fawns. The youngsters were playing, one feigning a head butt, then scampering away while the other gave chase. It was magical to watch their joyful antics, but unfortunately there was no place to pull over so I couldn’t watch for long.

Later in the fall, on that same road, I had almost-too-close encounters with a few other deer, who I imagine were thanking Cernunnos that I had new brakes in my truck. Who else could be god to the deer except the Celtic horned god, Cernunnos, who has been Lord of the Forest since the Paleolithic times?

10,000 year old cave paintings of Cernunnos have been found in France, and statues and images dating from the fourth century B.C.E. to the first century C.E. have been found in various parts of Europe and the United Kingdom. The most notable depiction of the god is the Gundestrup Cauldron discovered in Denmark.

The horned deity is usually depicted as a mature, bearded man seated cross-legged and is often with animals, particularly the stag. There are no apparent literary references, but it is believed that Cernunnos was the Lord of the Animals, Lord of the Hunt, and/or Lord of the Forest. He has been included in the Neo-Pagan Celtic pantheon as a god of the forest, fertility, life, animals, merchants, and the underworld. Horned gods, including Cernunnos, reflect the seasons of the year through the annual cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Cernunnos, like the stags, has two distinct energies. When calm, he is the peaceful guardian of clearings, wells and springs at the edge of the wilderness. This energy is playful and joyful, like those spotted fawns. His other aspect is powerful, virile, potent, masculine energy, the energy that changes those playful head butts to full-antlered fighting.

I call on Cernunnos for the protection and preservation of the woodlands and the wild animals, and for knowledge of earthly things. It is easy to honor Cernunnos – simply leave a carrot or an apple in the woods for his deer.

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Inviting Hestia

Since I find myself calling on Hestia often, I have created a small altar in our kitchen, near the stove, in her honor. Altars do not have to be elaborate and, especially for a domestic goddess like Hestia, can hold common household items. If you use everyday items, however, they should be cleansed before being used on the altar. In addition to a mundane cleaning, I pass my things through the smoke of a sage smudge stick.

My altar for Hestia is on a small shelf next to my stove. It holds a candle, a sprig of basil, a sage smudge stick and some shells.

My altar for Hestia is on a small shelf next to my stove. It holds a candle, a sprig of basil, a sage smudge stick and some shells.

The anchor of any altar to Hestia should be a candle or an oil lamp, representing her sacred hearth fire. A small dish can hold an offering from the oven, like a small piece of fresh bread. I use a shell instead of a dish; it is a nod to Hestia’s association with the energy of water.  A cauldron or bowl would also be appropriate to pull in the water aspect.

Hestia’s herbs include most of the cooking herbs, such as basil, mint, sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme and dill. Sprigs of herbs, fresh or dried, could be arranged in a small vase.  A tiny cabin-shaped bottle left over from some local maple syrup we were given does the job on my altar. If you would like to add stones or metals, Hestia’s crystals are garnet and amethyst, and she can be honored with gold, silver or brass. An antique silver spoon would be perfect.

A statue of your chosen deity is nice to have, but I am not a visual person, therefore I find that simple items that bring to mind Hestia’s energy are more beneficial than seeing what she might have looked like.

I penned this simple prayer to Hestia to say as I greet the altar each morning. May Hestia bless your home, as she does mine.

Lady Hestia, keeper of the hearth
and the heart of every home,
please bless this loving family
with peace and harmony.
Every hug is a hymn to you.
As I do my household chores,
help me to be calm and centered and
fill this home with your warmth.
Every meal is an offering to you.
May friends find their way to our door,
welcomed as you are ever welcome
in our home, honored first and last.
Hestia, every flame is a prayer to you.

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First and Last

English: goddess of Greek Mythology

English: goddess of Greek Mythology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since this is the first post on this blog, it’s fitting to dedicate it to Hestia, the Greek goddess of the domestic hearth. Hestia was the first born of Zeus’ siblings and the first swallowed by their father, Kronos, who feared being overthrown by his offspring. In the end all the babies came back up and Hestia, being on the bottom, was the last “reborn.” Therefore, it is customary to honor Hestia first and last.

Hestia is the patroness of my home life. I’ve asked her to bless my cooking fire (also known as the gas stove) and I call on her when domestic bliss is needed. With a business to run, a homeschooled ten year old and more pets than our house can really hold, I call on her often.

I first discovered Hestia years ago in Sage Woman magazine. There was an article describing a woman in Athens in 500 BCE, rising at dawn, before the rest of the household awoke, and rekindling the hearth fire with the coals from the night before with an offering to Hestia, the goddess of the hearth. As I read the article, I felt a powerful draw to Hestia, the Greek goddess who kept the hearth of Olympus burning and was the guardian of the home.

I am an earthy Virgo, and have never been drawn to deities closely associated with fire. As I began to do more research, however, I soon discovered that Hestia’s hearth was less about the fire itself and more about the sacred center, the center of family life and community. Hestia is perhaps the mistress of “grounding and centering”.

Hestia was portrayed as a Virgin goddess, never leaving Olympus’ hearth in search of a handsome human man to take to bed. Priestess of her Roman counterpart, Vesta, were sworn to chastity and 30 years of service tending the sacred fire in her temple. Hestia is a perfect representation of Virgo, focusing on the practical tasks of running a home – personal security, domestic happiness, and hospitality.

Hestia’s warming hearth was also used for baking, one of my favorite domestic chores. The hearth provided heat, light, and food. It is easy to see why it was the center of family life in the days before electric lights, oil heat, and Dunkin Donuts.

To me, Hestia represents inner centeredness. Her energies are mild, forgiving, peaceful, welcoming, and stable. Hestia is a true matriarch and wonderful hostess, running her home with dignity and grace. I draw on Hestia’s power to become truly centered in who I am.

Hestia is symbolized with a circle, and her hearths were often circular. The circle is a representation of one who is complete within herself. Hestia is associated with emotion and, therefore, despite her ties with fire, finds her correspondences in the blue waters of the West. Water has always been an influence in my life. I grew up next to the ocean and now live by a lake. The changing moods of the bodies of water I’m near seem to echo my emotional states.

Invite Hestia’s blessing every time you light your stove for centering and domestic bliss.

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