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PBP: Fire and the Greek gods

March 15, 2012

"a year of exploring the Pagan world through blogging"

I knew I wanted to write about fire but couldn’t decide how to go about it.  Consider this more a listing of those associated with fire in some form rather than an article.  I hope none the less, that it is still informative

Divinity of Fire

When someone asks who the god of fire is in the Greek pantheon, Hestia is usually named. Yet this is incorrect. Hephaistos is the god of fire and the manifestation of fire in nature, volcanoes. While the ancient Greeks frequently placed small dwarf-like statues to represent Hephaistos near the hearth, he is strongly associated with smithy fires, wild fires and funeral pyres. When used for manufacturing or for the arts, fire was called the breath of Hephaistos. Poetically, fire was called the flower of Hephaistos.

Orphic Hymn 66 to Hephaestus (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
To Hephaistos (Hephaestus), Fumigation from Frankincense and Manna. Strong, mighty Hephaistos, bearing splendid light, unwearied fire, with flaming torrents bright: strong-handed, deathless, and of art divine, pure element, a portion of the world is thine: all-taming artist, all-diffusive power, ’tis thine, supreme, all substance to devour: aither, sun, moon, and stars, light pure and clear, for these thy lucid parts [of fire] to men appear. To thee all dwellings, cities, tribes belong, diffused through mortal bodies, rich and strong. Hear, blessed power, to holy rites incline, and all propitious on the incense shine: suppress the rage of fire’s unwearied frame, and still preserve our nature’s vital flame.

Hestia

Hestia is the goddess of the hearth flame and of sacrificial fire. She was the center of domestic life. The hearth fire is where cooking was done and where sacrifices from domestic rites were burned. New additions to the family where introduced to Hestia and carried or led around her flame. Later, when rituals moved from the home and became part of the state, Hestia was honored at the state’s hearth and in state rituals.

Orphic Hymn 84 to Hestia (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
“To Hestia, Fumigation from Aromatics. Daughter of Kronos (Cronus), venerable dame, who dwellest amidst great fire’s eternal flame; in sacred rites these ministers are thine, mystics much blessed, holy and divine. In thee the Gods have fixed their dwelling place, strong, stable basis of the mortal race. Eternal, much formed, ever florid queen, laughing and blessed, and of lovely mien; accept these rites, accord each just desire, and gentle health and needful good inspire.

Torches

Torches were a means of light at night for travelers. They were also shown with a number of divinities:

  • Artemis – due to her association with Hekate
  • Demeter – her search for Kore
  • Eileithyia – goddess of child birth and labor pains, was depicted as a woman wielding a torch; associated with various goddesses such as Hera and Artemis
  • Hekate – as guide
  • Hymenaios – god of the marriage hymn, depicted with the bridal torch
  • Hypnos – god of sleep sometimes depicted holding an inverted torch
  • Iakkhos – attendant of Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries depicted as holding twin torches
  • Lampedes – underworld nymphs, companions of Hekate
  • Lampter – epithet of Dionysos meaning the shining or the torch bearer. The Lampteria was celebrated in his honor
  • Thantos – god of death sometimes depicted holding an inverted torch with a wreath or butterfly

Other beings associated with fire:

  • Aithon (red-fire), Konabos, Phlogius and Phobos (flame) – fire breathing steeds of Ares
  • Kakos – A fire-breathing giant of Latium, son of Hephaistos, slain by Herakles.
  • Khalkotauroi – Ares’ fire breathing mechanical bulls made by Hephaistos
  • Khimera (Chimera) – fire breathing monster associated with a volcano in Lycia
  • Helios – God of the sun whose flames would scorch the earth if he came too close to it
  • Phoenix – from Arabian lore originally, entered Greek lore by way of Egypt
  • Prometheus – fire thief, associated with Hephaistos
  • Pyriphlegethon – personification of the flaming river in the underworld
  • Sirios – personification of the burning dog star, blamed for hot summers
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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2012 8:10 PM

    I have always had my own convulted opinion about the relationship between Hestia and Hephaistos which comes to mind as I read this. I don’t think Hestia is fire either. However she weilds the flower of Hephaistos. In this respect I consider Hestia as the source which controls and houses fire (and all things from the kindling onward) to put it to beneficial use to mankind. Therefore the hearth of Hestia contains the flame of Hephaistos, just as Hestia may be connected to the furnace of Hephaistos’ forge. I consider it an interconnected relationship myself 🙂
    Lovely post!

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    • March 15, 2012 8:30 PM

      I see Hestia as the proverbial housewife (though in her unmarried state I guess it would be housekeeper) who takes care of home, family and hospitality. Hephaistos is the creative spark, the energy that transforms something.

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  2. March 15, 2012 8:12 PM

    PS you forgot Apollon with the torch gods 😛 For example: the Argonautika has a very clear poetic rendering of him returning from Hyperborea with his torch held aloft 😉 They are torch-carrying twins to be sure!

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    • March 15, 2012 8:31 PM

      Hmmm, I combed Theoi.com for this information. Odd that Apollon did not come up.

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      • March 15, 2012 8:34 PM

        Strange indeed. Theoi.com is a great resource but it is human created so I guess it is just not something that ocurred to them to add. There is a lovely statue of Apollon holding a tourch with Eros beside him for instance as well. And the fact that Hymenaios is his son by a muse too *shrugs*

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  1. (PBP) F is for Flame of Apollon | Beloved in Light
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