When I owned a home, my kitchen was full of posters of Hestia over and around the stove. I also kept a red candle by the stove and when we cooked, we would light it, saying, “I cook with Hestia’s fire,” in momentary grateful acknowledgment of her place in the worlds. When I moved to a temporary place in the home of friends, I didn’t bring the traditions (or the posters). Settling into a new long-term-ish place of my own has taken awhile. So it was only just this past month that I realized I’d been amiss and went looking for ways to begin honoring Hestia again.
I asked Hestia what to do on a budget of approximately $0. She directed me, I felt, to just go to any thrift store, soon as I could, and there would be something there. I was feeling pretty dumb when the first thrift store I entered had a bunch of plain old candleholders but nothing especially Hestia-like. I wandered into the toy section, thinking of kids I had to buy gifts for this spring. That was where I saw the eight bright red, super tall candles, all bunched together and misfiled in the kids’ section. Perfect. I took them into the candleholder section, picked out a nice crystal holder that would fit on the mantel above my stove and fit the candles, and left, having spent $1.25 for the goddess.
Usually I err on the side of forcing my children to participate in all my rituals. I think it’s a normal part of childhood to question, even push back against, tradition, but I think it’s also a normal and healthy part of adulthood to hold firm to those traditions, explaining them to the kids, and making the kids try them for themselves for a good long while. After all, if we gave up teaching kids math or manners as quickly as modern liberal-religious parents give up on teaching religion (ie., at the first sign the kids aren’t interested) then the kids would never get to a point with those skills where they saw their usefulness for themselves.
I won’t be upset if my sons don’t take these observances into their adult homes when they leave my house. I just want them to have a good, rich sense of what home was, what this tradition was, when they break out to do their own or another thing. So I require them to observe holidays with me, to read basic introductions to Pagan topics, to do all the little devotionals (to Janus at the front door, to Hestia at the stove, to nature spirits in the garden, to ancestors). I am raising them Pagan, occasionally against their will.
Both of my older boys, ten and twelve years old, rolled their eyes and objected when I reintroduced the Hestia candle to our kitchen. (My little boy was enthusiastic, as were the olders when they were also seven years old.) “WHY?” they groaned. The twelve-year-old may have stomped his foot.
I explained the reasons I honor Hestia. I added that even though I recognize on an intellectual level the possibility that Hestia does not exist, I find that acting as though she does enhances my connection to things that do exist and are similarly important. They said, “But we’re not Pagan,” and I explained, again, that they may choose what religion to be, and I would not get in their way if they wanted to worship Christ or Buddha, but part of respecting other people is paying lip service to their traditions when you are in their spaces, that to not do so is an insult, so while they lived here and had no conflicting commandments from other gods, they would participate in my Paganism. I gave them my “I will not have rude, disrespectful atheists in my house” speech, in which I explain that they need not respect a god they don’t believe in but until they could disprove my existence they would should me respect, as I would them if they chose a different religion. They huffed but had run out of objections, so I let them wander off. I didn’t know then if they would light the candle or how much further I would push it if they didn’t.
However, both of them are routinely remembering to light it when they use the stove. This morning, when my skeptical, rebellious, grumpy pre-teen thought I was still in bed, he lit the candle for Hestia in preparation for the banana muffins he was making. A few days ago, when only my middle boy was home, I came in from the garden to find the Hestia candle lit still, and him in the dining room with a grilled cheese sandwich.
I will swear it up and down, even when kids buck against it with all they’ve got, they really do like structure, deep down inside.