Once upon a time, long long ago, the Hearth was the central part of any home. Here is where meals were prepared. and herbs were dried. Here is where the home was heated in winter. Here is where prematurely born livestock and children would be kept warm as they gained precious strength.
It seems only fitting then that so many Deities came to be associated with the Hearth.
In the earliest days, the hearth would have been an open fireplace, but over time different stoves, cookers, and ovens were invented and came into use. Soon, in many homes, the system used for heating was separated from the system used for cooking. Instead of a great fireplace with cooking pot, and if you were well-to-do, a bread oven, homes have cookers with 4 burners and an oven.
Our means of heating homes has also changed. We no longer have fireplaces in every room, but instead pump heated air or water through vents and pipes, at least in the UK, into radiators. Fireplaces have been bricked up and covered over in the majority of houses, though you may still see the remains of chimneys and chimney pots on the roof. Open fires have been exchanged for illusory ones.
So where now is the hearth? Where is the heart of the home? What has happened to the guardian/s of the home and hearth? Are they still around?
I think they can be. We can make a place for these household guardians with a bit of effort. And it needn’t take up a lot of space.
Right now, our household guardian is on the altar, in the form of a small Ganesha figurine. He is honoured regularly with a small bit of fruit and thanks for bringing prosperity and good fortune to our home.
Ganesha is not a Deity I follow, or spend a lot of time with. This small figurine of Him resting on a swing was gifted to me a number of years ago however and He asked to be placed at the front of the altar. Over time as I would leave liquid gifts honouring Brigid and Herne it became natural to also leave a gift of fruit for Ganesha and thank him for bringing peace and prosperity to our home.
Other people have a symbol of their household guardian sitting on a shelf, or a window ledge, or somewhere else. In the past, I have provided two large stones, one a large piece of rose quartz and the other a large rounded milky quartz, for household guardians to use as dwelling places. These have either sat near the front door, or when we had a fireplace (but no fire), on either side of it.
Some choose to give an offering or some sort to their household gods/guardians. Think back on the old legends about leaving a saucer of milk out for the brownies. Ganesha likes a bit of fruit – usually a berry or a small bit of banana. The Kitchen Witch is happy with a clean kitchen and the smells of good foods in the air.
The heart of my home is our lounge. Here we gather to eat our meals and to talk to each other. Here too we sit to watch TV sometimes, or to each play and work on our separate computer devices. There are times we want to be in close proximity to each other, but don’t really want to talk to each other and we can do that as well in the hearthless heart of our home.