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Posts Tagged ‘Fire’

I like being a lawyer, but lots of times I wish I was a preacher instead. Not a theologian or a religious academic, but a preacher. I’d run off to the mountains and preach Jesus Christ crucified and the Word of God with fire and forgiveness.

Don’t you know it.

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A couple of years ago when I was in the Army National Guard, we flew down to Puerto Rico for an excellent weekend of training that culminated in a live-fire exercise.

Before my squad ran through the live-fire exercise, we were (as is typical) sitting around our rucksacks, taking care of our equipment, sleeping, and generally bullshitting. Since our turn on the lane was coming up, I pulled out my white portable altar-cloth, lit a candle, and prayed to Ares. My pagan-friendly classics-major buddy joined in while our Christian platoon leader looked on. We sacrificed a bag of M&Ms from an MRE to the Lord of War, and at the end, I handed one of the M&Msto the PL. He got all nervous and said “If I eat this, will it make me pagan?” I told him that was ultimately up to him. So he ate it. Big shocker, it did not “make him pagan…”

The live-fire exercise was brutal, but it went well and nobody got hurt. The weather was dry and everything pretty much burst into flame. By “everything” I mean an entire mountain. I’m not going to lie; it was completely awesome.

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Here’s a picture of our shrine to Hestia, the goddess of the hearth and arguably the central focus of Hellenic pagan household worship.

Shrine to Hestia

Yes, in case you were wondering, it’s just a tart burner from Yankee Candle. The trend in modern Hellenic polytheism, as far as I understand, is to put a shrine to Hestia in the kitchen if your home doesn’t actually have a hearth. For some homes, that might make sense, but for mine it doesn’t really, as the kitchen is not the center of our home life (it is sort of tucked-away).

My shrine is humble, not flashy. It doesn’t burn all the time like maybe it’s supposed to (tealights have kind of a short lifespan). But every morning I light it and offer a quick but sincere prayer to Hestia to honor her and to ask for light, life, love, a happy home, and a happy family, and every evening (at least when I remember) I put my hand on it–by that time, it probably isn’t burning anymore–and offer my thanks to her for those same things. It may not be orthopraxy, and I might even be accused by the particularly rigid of insufficient piety, but it feels right, and it feels good.

In our next home, I would like to have an actual hearth with a fireplace, but I imagine our shrine to Hestia there won’t actually be much different. The tart burner is a flame, after all, and one that is practical and simple to light every day (if not keep lit all the time), and the wax potpourri tart fills the home with comforting smells, helping to make it an inviting, comfortable place. We’ve talked about getting a series of tart burners, to change them out through the course of the seasons, and that would be nice. I also think I might spruce the shrine up a bit with a votive offering or two and some shrine-y decorations. But at the center will still be the tart burner, a humble reminder of the good things that home and family have to offer.

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