Sunday Legends-Hearth Fires


The kitchen is often viewed as the center of the home, the point at which all activity spirals out of. Prior to the rise of electricity, the importance of the hearth and kitchen was even greater when the fires would provide heat and food, as well as a loci for social activity.

Because of its importance in the household, mythology surrounding the hearth would develop within a range of world cultures. The type of being associated with the hearth would vary from country to country, but the emphasis on the being the protector of the household would be similar across myths.

Some of these spirits were directly helpful; Russian and Polish folklore have several spirits that would help a family with its chores as well as protect the home from harm if the household was hard working and successful. However, entering into an agreement for protection with one of these spirits was assumed to be a responsibility wherein the hearth was expected to be maintained and chores were expected to be finished. Backing off on your responsibilities could incite violence against the family up to and including literal physical violence.

In other cases the hearth was guarded by an actual deity. Hestia was associated with the hearth and the hearth fire, as was Frigg. These were deities that were most often worshiped directly within the home. Space was sometimes set aside for altar space or small offerings. With its connection to Hestia, the hearth itself took on symbolic importance and an emphasis on maintaining the hearth often fell on an older woman in the home who was tasked with ensuring that the fire would remain lit, among others.


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