Love the “old ways”? Perhaps aspects of ancient religions, or what you’ve found on this site or read in my books, has appealed to you on a deeper level. Perhaps you’ve always felt a sense of a natural sense of well-being, reverence or inspiration when you look into a flame, but you’re missing a sense of structure to express or expand upon those feelings.
If so, you’re not alone. Vesta’s “Eternal Flame” dates back many centuries, from distant antiquity to this very day. Its simple focus and rituals have adapted over the years, and a growing number of people, especially those who identify as “spiritual but not religious,” are again lighting it in their homes.
In fact, Vesta has in many ways returned to its origins as a personal, home-based tradition that provides a natural spiritual focus – fire.
Light it for comfort, inspiration and well-being. It’s worked for millions of people for millennia. Here are a few fundamentals to get you started.
A lararium or household shrine can be located anywhere in the home, but traditionally it is located near the entrance to bless the comings and goings of family members and to serve as a visual reminder that home really is where the heart is. Your lararium can be classical or modern, hand-made or manufactured. Some people prefer it to stand out from the home’s décor, while others prefer that it blend into the home’s fashion.
Your lararium should hold mementoes of family members, living and dead, as well as sentimental family items. It may also hold a statue of Vesta or pictures of the Temple of Vesta. Because the ancient temple was dressed in laurel leaves, you may also wish to place greenery, fresh flowers or even a small herb garden that contains a bay plant on your lararium. Be sure to create a lararium that you love and that reflects your style and personality. It should make you happy whenever you look at it, and should remind you of the things that are most important to you.
A Special Vesta Candle
Vesta is symbolized by a flame. A pure amber beeswax candle that represents her flamma should be placed on your lararium to receive offerings or libations (see below). The glass, white-draped candle you see here pays tribute to the white folds of the Vestal Virgins’ stolas. The hand-poured smaller candles each contain a wood wick that crackles when it burns – a sound the ancients believed was Vesta speaking.
If you prefer, you can also use a pure beeswax pillar-type candle. Some people like to dedicate it to Vesta by carving a V in the side. Regardless, always ensure that you are burning unbleached and uncut (no paraffin, no soy) beeswax, as this has a natural purifying effect on the air – and fiery Vesta is a purifying goddess.
An offering of loose salted-flour may be made to the flamma at meal-time, as well as during meditation, prayer or times of reflection. In antiquity, this offering was sprinkled directly into the sacred fire.
Today, it is best to place the offering in a bowl at a safe distance from your candle. This provides a cleaner and safer burn (and preserves your candle) as debris cannot build-up.
Alternatively, round salted-flour mola salsa wafers (which the Vestals used to make for offerings) can be created by mixing flour, salt and water and baking in the oven for a few moments. These wafers can be passed – cleanly and safely – over the flame as an offering to Vesta.
A libation is simply a liquid offering. The decision of whether to make an offering or a libation is a matter of personal choice. In antiquity, a libation of olive oil, milk or wine was sprinkled into the sacred fire.
Again, it is advised that you instead place the libation in a bowl at a safe distance from your candle to achieve a cleaner and safer burn, without debris getting in the wax.
Fire has long symbolized eternity and the soul. Indeed, fire worship — including the deification of fire and related rituals — is the oldest form of spiritual expression known to humankind. This tradition continues today.
A simple meditation-type ritual involves burning a Flamma Vesta candle in a dark, silent room and focusing on the amber glow of the flame, the fragrance of the beeswax and the crackling sound of the wooden wick. Hands are placed over the flame, just low enough to feel and absorb the gentle warmth. The purpose of this ritual is to enhance intuition (which pure beeswax may do), awareness and well-being.
A Personal Symbol
Common Vesta symbols are pendants in the shape of a flame or the letter “V.” Original ancient or reproduction Roman jewelry (necklaces, brooches, pendants, bracelets, glass beads, etc.) can also be worn, as can certain gems that symbolize the sacred flame, such as fire opal or Dragon’s Breath.
Women may wish to wear white accessories – from pearls and scarfs to sweaters and handbags– to honor Vesta. Men may wish to wear a ring with fire imagery or the name Vesta engraved on it, or to wear an original ancient or reproduction Roman ring. Wearing ancient-styled jewelry is a testament to the time that Vesta’s flame first burned in the lives of women, men and children.
The Conscious Use of Techology
Remember that “Life” doesn’t need to be plugged in or hooked up to WiFi– although it does at times need to be recharged. Face-to-face interactions, the lost art of conversation and the warmth of laughter between family or friends can recharge the spirit in a way that mindless Internet surfing, constant texting, compulsive email checking, pointless social media updates and TV binge-watching just can’t do. Of course, there is much about technology that is wonderful – it’s a matter of balance. Those who burn the natural Flamma Vesta in their homes are conscious of the ways that technology can cause us to disconnect from those we love – as well as from ourselves.
A Reverence for Life
Vesta is a dynamic spirituality that co-exists with other belief and non-belief systems and encourages kindness and respect for all life on Earth. Those who honor Vesta strive to make informed humane food and clothing choices, respecting the inherent value of all life: this builds on Vesta’s ancient roots as a “bloodless” religion. A peaceful, non-judgmental and intelligent spirituality, Vesta is a humanistic faith that supports such things as gender equality, personal autonomy and reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and the right to die with dignity.
While most images or relief carvings we have of the Vestals showing them tending to the sacred fire or making an offering into the fire, Vestals also burned incense to please Vesta with its fragrant smoke. You can do the same.
The ancient Romans practiced something called “ancestor worship.” In the simplest terms, it was a tradition that kept them connected to their family roots and gave them a strong sense of family solidarity and identity. If you have children, you may wish to give them a better sense of identity by looking into your family roots. It’s fun and bonding. If you are estranged from your family, you may find that reaching a little further back into your ancestry connects you with someone you do identify with.
The temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum was designed in a circular shape to represent the orb of the Sun, our planet’s star, as life-giver. You may wish to spend more time doing what the ancients did – looking up, into the sky – especially the night sky – to wonder at the universe. Learn how to find the constellations and learn the Greco-Roman myths behind them. This image, for example, is the planetary symbol for the asteroid called Vesta.
Learn Myths & Legends
Nobody told a story like the ancient Romans – except maybe the Greeks before them! Read about the ancient myths and legends that we still tell today, from the Birth of Venus to the Fall of Troy. In this painting, Perseus is confronting Phineus with the head of the Gorgon Medusa. Those who set eyes on it are turned to stone.