The sacred fire of the goddess Vesta was always tended to by the Vestal Virgins and they would be punished if it ever went out. They lived privileged lives, being transported through the streets to special events in covered carriages accompanied by guards to protect them. They took a vow of chastity and they were considered to hold the luck of Rome. Vesta’s symbol was the sacred eternal flame and she was not only associated with the hearth, but also with the home. She was the domestic goddess who was responsible for the knowledge of building houses, which were designed around the hearth. Houses arose as shelters for fire, which was more crucial to life than having a roof, because the fireplace formed the heart of a home’s interior. Romans thought that the flame had to be treated with respect and it must be guarded by and dedicated to the gods.
The goddess Vesta was the gentlest of all the gods, she protected the earth, and she was a guardian of the Roman people. Vesta represents the life force of the earth, and she has an invisible presence in every family hearth as all household hearths are considered to be shrines to Vesta. She is the spirit of fire, because she provided heat and light to every household and she allowed the minds of all the citizens to relax so they could imagine and dream. The worship of Vesta exhibits the best side of Rome, as in this, good manners, a love of home, respect for family life and a desire to remain sexually pure and uncorrupted was found. Vesta is the flame and she consumes everything, so nothing can be born of her. She only allows chaste hands to touch her sacred relics, so virgin servants are the only ones allowed to keep the living flame in her temple. She is sacred to women and is a protector of marriage. This goddess of the hearth, and fire, was also the guardian of virginity.
Saturn and Ops decided to have children, but Saturn knew of this prophecy that said one of his children would overthrow him, so he had to take drastic measures to prevent that. To accomplish this, he swallowed each of his children whole, just after they were born. Fearing his destiny, Saturn opened his immense mouth and swallowed his new-born children in one gulp, thinking that this would let him rule forever. His first five children were Vesta, Ceres, Juno, Pluto, and Neptune. Vesta was trapped inside the stomach of her father Saturn, and she always regarded her younger siblings as being her wards, so she saw to their well-being as best she could. Vesta was not happy being inside her dad’s stomach, so she made herself turn into a flame and she exuded hydrochloric acid, which helped to digest the food that her father ate and it also killed any surrounding bacteria which protected her siblings. This caused her father to experience a painful burning feeling of indigestion after each meal that he consumed. Her brothers and sisters that were swallowed after her, did not like the fiery symptoms that she produced, but since she was the first child inside, she made all the rules.
The Vestal Virgins would recite this poem every day when they woke up.
We are the keepers of your sacred flame.
If it ever goes out, we are the ones to blame.
We keep your fire for the sake of Rome.
We live in your Temple and call it our home.
The glowing embers in your holy hearth shine brightly through the night.
You watch over your priestesses assuring us that everything will be alright.
The smell of your sacred fire, gets in our hair.
Tomorrow we will wash it, as we say a prayer.
The heat from your fire warms our bodies and makes us feel at peace.
As long as we are here in your temple, your fire will never cease.
We are mystified at your swirling smoke rising up through the roof.
We will do anything for you goddess Vesta, our hearts are our proof.
Our life here in your temple is good, but we still have much to learn.
We make your cakes and tend your fire, as long as there is wood to burn.
Written for Paula’s Paint Chip Friday challenge #7 where today we are supposed to derive inspiration from Valspar’s “golden flame” and/or “autumn fire”.