Monday, August 6, 2007


The proper respect for the Gods is shown through our piety. Piety in Hellenismos, however, is a different set of strictures than it is among the Judaeo-Christian systems in which man must always consider himself subordinate to God, his slave even. Man, in Hellenismos, approaches the Gods, if not as an equal, than at least as deserving of respect.

The Gods are powerful, creative forces, but man is never their slave. Man worships and honors the Gods because it is proper to be grateful and to offer respect, but not because he has to or else. In fact, belief or non-belief in the Gods was never a condition for entering a blessed after life in the Hellenic religion and mythos. A man could choose to worship as he saw fit, honoring the Gods as his tribe and family saw them while not giving much thought to how others did so. At the same time, a man could travel to a foreign land and their offer the gods tribute as the foreigners did and not feel that he was dishonoring the Gods in any way.

With Hestia and her fire, however, I think man always had a bit of a tenuous and reverential relationship. Fire was, and continues to be, at the heart of man's capacity to create and innovate on a grand scale. So long as man could harness fire he could build extravagant homes and heat them. Cook his food so as to avoid disease. And yes, make his offerings to the Gods upon fiery altars of many types all over the world.

Even the dead, in many cultures, are set off upon a pyre.

The cult of the hearth is, perhaps, the most ancient of all Hellenic cults. Attested to in the archaeological record as far back as is possible to call any culture "Greek," the Greeks worshipped at the hearth. This we see in the theological mythos when Hestia is called both the eldest and the youngest of all the Olympians.

Fire, however, must be respected utterly. Man has learned the disaster of his folly in not paying proper respect to fire, a lesson Hestia teaches all too well.

No comments: