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Æstía Lamp, Candles, and Oil Lamps
 Foto by the author of this essay who releases it to the Public Domain. Bronze oil-lamp in the shape of Seilinós (Gr. Σειληνός), in the possession of the author.

HellenicGods.org


Homeric Hymn to Æstía 
(translated by H.G. Evelyn-White, 1914)

Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with Zeus the all-wise -- draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.


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ÆSTIA LAMP

Until very recently, every home had a hearth, a stone fireplace which kept the dwelling warm in the winter and provided a means to cook food. The hearth was the center of the home from such great antiquity that it has become part of our psychology; the kitchen has replaced the hearth and people naturally congregate there. The Goddess Æstía (Hestia; Gr. Ἑστία) dwells in the hearth of the home...the center of the home...and, likewise, she dwells at the center of the city, the center of the world, and the center of the universe. In ancient times the fire of Æstía was represented in the city with an "eternal fire," a fire that was always kept burning and never allowed to die out.

In our daily devotions, all that is necessary is to simply light the desired candles at the beginning of ritual and extinguish them when finished. Better yet, there is a custom of lighting a candle and dedicating it to Æstía from which all other candles are lit. To have a lamp burning continuously for Æstía is not essential; it is a practice for those who are drawn to it. This lamp represents the Goddess and is a shrine to her.

If you decide to take up this practice, ancient-style oil lamps are not a good choice for this. There are lamps available that hold a considerable store of oil and some can be filled while the lamp is burning. However, this author has discovered that whether you use a natural wick or a fiberglass wick, the lamp burns out in, perhaps, three or four hours regardless of the size of the reservoir. Consequently, due to continual wick problems, oil-lamps are not reliable for a continuously burning Æstía lamp.

A method that does work is votive-candles, lighting a new candle from the old. Acquire an appropriate candle-lantern that accepts glass votive holders. There are votive-candles which burn for 15 hours (see source below). Light a new votive in the morning and another before retiring, using a wood toothpick to catch the flame from the previous candle. Another way to do this is to make an even longer burning candle. Find a votive-glass that is larger, capable of holding twice the bulk of a single candle. Place one candle in the larger holder, melt another candle and pour in additional molten wax, making a 30-hour candle. For this purpose, follow the safety instructions that are used for melting candle-wax. Candlewax is extremely flammable (use a double-boiler etc. How to Melt Wax | Candle Making Techniques). I cannot emphasize enough how easily you can start a fire; do not think for an instant that this cannot happen if you do not take proper precautions (I myself started a fire).

Although there is no rule, you may place the Æstía lamp in the kitchen, like a hearth. When it is time to do the ritual, take flame from the Æstía Lamp and transfer it to a votive candle to bring to the altar. From this candle, light all the candles used in the ritual. While doing so, you may sing a hymn to the Goddess, something like thisHymn to Æstia. Whenever you light a candle or an oil-lamp and dedicate it to a God, this is a great honor and should be performed with the utmost respect and reverence; to do so is such a privilege that there is a special name for he or she who lights the candles: Pyrphóros (Gr. Πυρφόρος), the sacred torch-bearer.

Where do you obtain the fire to light the lamp the first time? You can light it from any source and simply say a prayer. If you wish to follow ancient custom, you could get the flame using a magnifying glass, as is described here by Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος):

"In Greece, wherever a perpetual holy fire is kept, as at Delphi and Athens the charge of it is committed, not to virgins, but widows past the time of marriage. And in case by any accident it should happen that this fire became extinct, as the holy lamp was at Athens under the tyranny of Aristion, and at Delphi, when that temple was burnt by the Medes, as also in the time of the Mithridatic and Roman civil war, when not only the fire was extinguished, but the altar demolished, then, afterwards, in kindling this fire again, it was esteemed an impiety to light it from common sparks or flame, or from anything but the pure and unpolluted rays of the sun, which they usually effect by concave mirrors, of a figure formed by the revolution of an isosceles rectangular triangle, all the lines from the circumference of which meeting in a centre, by holding it in the light of the sun they can collect and concentrate all its rays at this one point of convergence; where the air will now become rarefied, and any light, dry, combustible matter will kindle as soon as applied, under the effect of the rays, which here acquired the substance and active force of fire." [1]


CAUTION: All the above describes how to have a flame that is lit even while you are away from your home. Obviously, this must be created in a manner that is 100% safe. The Goddess Æstía protects the home but she may have difficulty in protecting you from your own carelessness. I recommend a candle-lantern as pictured to the left or similar, with metal and glass construction. If you hang the lantern, it must be secured absolutely. The lantern must be 100% inaccessible to animals and children. If there is any question whatsoever concerning the safety of the Æstia lamp, you must re-think the project and create a situation that is entirely safe or abandon it.





CANDLES:

Tall Candles: Consider buying drip-less candles; although more expensive, they may save some aggravation. In reality, they also drip, but perhaps a little less. One technique that does help (unless the ritual is unusually long) is to take a sharp knife and trim the top edge of all tall candles before the ritual. Make a rather deep bevel all around the edge. You would think, logically, that when the candle burns and forms a type of cup, that the outside edges would keep the molten wax inside, but the opposite is true: the hot wax melts this wall and comes pouring down onto the altar. You will have much less spillage if you trim the edge. Remember to do this before the beginning of each day of multi-day rituals such as the Anthæstíria or the Twelve Days of Diónysos. Make sure that the tall candles are perfectly vertical as if they are leaning to one side they tend to drip. Ultimately, I believe that tall candles always drip because their wicks seem to be off-center lower down the candle; therefore, you can only minimize dripping, not entirely prevent it.

Usually wax drippings can be removed from table-cloths by scraping first and then placing the cloth in the washing machine with the hot setting. For difficult cases, iron the tablecloth between two pieces of an absorbent paper acting as a kind of blotter.


Source of 15-hour votive candles: 

Instawares has an appropriate candle for the Æstía lamp. They are made by Hollowick's Select Wax and the item number is HOL-FWV15W144. These are 15-hour food-warmer candles. 

Hollowick 15-Hour Votive Food Warmer Candle-1 CS of 144 | Instawares Restaurant Supply


OIL LAMPS  

Most oil lamps are constructed after ancient models and are quite small, about 3" long and an inch or so high. They burn for a couple hours, ideal for most ritual. There is usually a hole at the top for oil, positioned such that it can be re-filled while the lamp is burning. If you use ancient-style oil lamps, here are a few suggestions and facts.

The oil: traditionally olive oil is used, but other oils may be appropriate. In antiquity, any available oil was utilized. Olive oil burns remarkably clean although eventually you will find a little soot build-up on walls near the lamp, not too difficult to handle.  

Most oil lamps are made of unglazed pottery and tend to be messy.  They become saturated with oil and seep. Therefore, they should rest in a non-flammable container so as not to soil the altar. Even the lamps that are glazed or constructed of metal lamps leak. This does not mean that they are broken. I have many oil-lamps and have yet to find a single one, regardless of construction, that does not seep. Although I have not yet tried this, I have read that you can wet unglazed pottery in water and that this will seal the lamp for a period of time.

If you use fiberglass wick, you will discover that after very few uses, the wick will not remain lit, but will extinguish itself before the oil is exhausted. The solution is to pull the wick out a little after each use and rub off the black residue that accumulates at the burnt end. Just roll the end between your fingers or in a paper towel. After doing this, you will find that it will again work properly.  

If you use natural wick, the end will burn away and you will need to pull out more wick before using it again. The wick gets smaller and smaller, and eventually will become too small and you will need to replace it. Therefore, you need a spool of wick always on hand. There is an excellent source listed below. If you use fiberglass wick, this material is said to last forever (but you will still need to clean the end of the wick as described above after each use).

As mentioned in the above essay about the Æstía Lamp, regardless of the size of the oil-reservoir, this author has found no wick-material, fiber-glass or natural, that will continue to burn longer than about three hours without extinguishing itself.

While cleaning and pulling out more wick, take this as an opportunity to wipe the bottom of the pottery and the container that the oil-lamp rests in. As stated above, your lamp will most likely seep oil. 

Many of the ancient-style lamps have a circular shape and the body of the lamp is somewhat enclosed. For these, you can keep feeding wick into the lamp forming multiple circles and every time you use the lamp, pull the wick out just a little. 

Occasionally you will have trouble with an oil lamp that defies explanation. Try a different type of wick or cleaning out any openings that the wick sits in. I have a couple that just will not burn properly no matter what I do.

 

CAUTION: It is said that olive oil lamps are relatively safe because olive oil does not 'flash'. I believe what is meant is that if the lamp is knocked over, that it is not likely that the flame will flash across the oil, setting fire to things near it. Nonetheless, because of the seriousness of fire, be extremely cautious. Of particular concern, when positioning the oil lamp, consider what is above the lamp or close to the flame. Hanging oil lamps present new potential hazards. The lit lamps should be inaccessible to animals and children. Safety must be thoroughly considered.

 

SOURCE FOR WICK:      

Wicks for Candles and Oil Lamps - Earth's Largest Selection of Industrial Wicking and Cords - WickStore.com

   

SOURCES FOR LAMPS:  

Ebay: oil-lamps of various styles show up frequently on Ebay and other auction sites.

http://venetiancat.com/Roman2-Lamps.html

http://ancientlamps.com/index.html (The best source. Currently he has stopped production.)

https://www.religiousmall.com/rq_7707-x0.html


A NOTE ABOUT OIL LAMPS, CANDLES, AND INCENSE: In Hellenic religion, candles are symbolic of the light of the Gods, the fire of Æstía (Hestia; Gr. Ἑστία), the fire of Íphaistos (Hephaestus; Gr. Ἥφαιστος). Incense is an offering to the Gods. Although both candles and incense are enjoyable to us, please keep in mind their actual purpose; they are not merely "atmosphere." The pleasure we derive from them is simply serendipitous.* 


*Serendipity: We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the word serendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which his literary reputation primarily rests. In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that "this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word." Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka,Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of...."  ( the Free Dictionary by Farlex)


NOTES:

[1] Ploutarkhos Víi Parállili (Parallel Lives; Gr. Βίοι ΠαράλληλοιNuma Pompilius, Chapter 9, trans. John Dryden. We are using the 1992 Modern Library Edition (New York, NY, USA), Random House, entitled Plutarch's Lives: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, where this quotation may be found on p. 89.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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Pronunciation of Ancient Greek           

 

Transliteration of Ancient Greek           

 

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