Thursday, March 06, 2014

Let Me Tell You A Story About Hestia

When I first started on this path more than 20 years ago, I came across a lot of 'educators' and 'teachers:'  good folk who wanted to help new pagans find their way. Unfortunately, the most vocal of teachers tended to teach McWitchcraft - the kind of magic that you get from a book with a glossy bright cover and probably published by Llewellyn. That's not to say that everything published by Llewellyn is of the "fluffy bunny" variety (I dislike that term, but I have to admit it applies here), but quite a lot is and weeding through to find what isn't is near impossible when you're just starting. I had a mentor to help me through the fluff, at least, but that's not what this story is about.

One of those 'educators' tried to mentor me. She told me everything on this path was chosen - either by me or agreed upon by my coven. I've never been much for practicing religion or expressing faith with a group (with some exceptions), so that essentially meant I chose it all. That's great that my faith is in my hands, but then where is the divine? Where is the Lord and Lady in all of this? Don't they care about any of it? Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But I just couldn't wrap my head around a faith that had no guidance from deity. That wasn't what I believed, that wasn't what my heart knew to be true, that wasn't faith.

I chose it all, she said. I chose my "craft name," I chose my patron god and goddess, I chose my totem animals and my spirit guides. These are things that I just felt came from the divine- they have no meaning, no truth, if I just pick from a list because it sounds cool. My real mentor disagreed with her also. She told me those things are given and when they are given, you will know it. That is true to what I felt.

So I learned and I practiced and I didn't pick anything from a list. It took time, it took years, but those things did eventually get revealed to me. The story of that and what it means in my faith and to my path isn't why I'm here either.

In time, I had a patron, Artemis. She was a guide, a companion, a teacher, a beacon. She was what I needed when she came to me and I learned so so much from her mysteries. It was a wonderful feeling, like I would never be alone.

And then she left. Oh, it was some years later, I don't even remember how many. She had been there for years and then she just wasn't there. For a time, I felt abandoned. It was an unusual place to find myself; no guide, no companion, no beacon. But meditation and reflection and communion with the divine led me to understand that she taught me everything she could and it was time to move on. I was without a patron for about four years.

I kept myself open during that time. Another goddess might present herself and if you're not ready to receive, you could miss it entirely. I had long been drawn to hearth goddesses, especially once I owned my own hearth. I paid particular attention to Brigid. Even though I've never locked myself into one pantheon, my patron god was Tuatha Dé Danann so it made sense to search there. But my previous patron goddess was an Olympian, I only casually searched there for another. I resisted it, actually.

I've spoken plenty of my calling to veil. It got stronger the more I didn't do it. It got stronger when I learned all I could from my patron, and stronger still when I started keeping my own hearth. I've long had an affinity for Brigid, but she is not a veiled goddess. I started to feel that maybe she wasn't it, maybe her mysteries were not what I needed. Hestia presented herself. I had never worked with her. I spent time with Artemis, the rest just didn't speak to me. And yet, here she was, trying to show me something - something that I needed to see that I wasn't exploring.

I'm having a hard time putting this feeling and experience to words. It's like when someone calls on the phone but you're so distracted by something in front of you, you barely hear them. But they keep calling and you are still distracted. I was up to my eyeballs in veiling tradition research around this time. And then I found a reference- Hestia was veiled, and her cult was veiled, and the female head of the household was responsible for honoring her mysteries in the home. I already knew that, Classical Mythology has always been a strong subject for me, but I- I don't want to say forgot- I didn't pay attention.

I've told this part of the story before. Everyone was hunkering down for a big storm. My home had taken some damage in the last storm and I was worried. I thought of the hearth goddesses who had my focus of late, and I asked Hestia for help. That was an uncharacteristic move for me, I was still searching, I normally would have just asked the Lady and given her no name. But that's not what happened. On that day, I needed an aspect, I needed something specific, so I asked for Hestia and she answered. Considering my earlier analogy, that's rather amusing to me.

Hestia had been trying to reach me for a while, and when I accepted that, so much of my life fell into place. I was able to focus on what I needed to focus on. I've learned so much about myself, about the path I'm on, and the direction my life is leading. It's funny, because as much as I say I was open and searching and mindful, I still resisted when I heard her call. When I answered, I knew I found the beacon I needed.

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