Pagan Paths

A blog dedicated to the renewal of the ancient Vesta tradition, the “spiritual focus of the home,” in modern households.

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Vesta: An Old World Faith for New World Families

Hello all – my name is Debra Macleod and I am new to this community. Professionally, I am a marriage and family mediator and relationship author-expert. Personally, I am a proponent of the New Vesta tradition. I believe that the rituals and principles of this home-based spirituality can help many people keep their marriages and families together, and for that reason it is my hope to re-ingite the flame of Vesta in modern homes, albeit with a few flickers of change to keep up with the times.

I have for many years focused on skills-based advice to help people keep their homes intact. There is no doubt that couples who have the ability to communicate effectively, move past conflict in a positive way, work as a team and consistently practice good interpersonal behaviors are more likely to resolve problems and stay together than those who don’t have such abilities.

Yet I’ve come to realize there’s more to the equation. Even couples who do everything right and who are highly compatible often feel that “something is missing.” This is especially so for people who are not affiliated with a religion. They long for the ritual and expression of a spiritual system, but they have no interest in signing-up for religious doctrine that they either don’t believe in or morally disagree with.

I know this from personal experience. Although I was raised in an atheist home, I was always very drawn to religious places and rituals; however, I rejected the doctrine of the only religion I knew anything about at that time, namely Christianity, and that kind of turned me off matters of spirituality in general.

All that changed the first time I visited the ruins of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum when I was a wide-eyed twenty-year-old. There, I met a woman who told me about Vesta, the goddess of the home and hearth, all while she burned a candle near what was so long ago the ancient sacred hearth where Vesta’s eternal fire had once burned. Talk about setting the mood! This woman was the first pagan priestess that I ever met and I still feel a swell of fascination and affection when I think of her.

That experience sparked an interest for me in ancient history, art history and mythology, one that I indulged throughout my undergraduate years. After law school, I started my own marriage and family mediation practice, mostly so that I could better balance work with my own marriage and family. I practiced what I preached, too. My husband and I were very compatible and able to work through problems. Yet after a while I too started to feel that “something was missing.”

That’s when I turned to Vesta. Specifically, I turned to Vesta in the way people did in the earliest days of her tradition, even before her marble temple stood in the Forum. I burned her flame in my home. It became the spiritual focus of our marriage and family, a symbol of our life together.

I placed a lararium, or family altar, near the entrance to our home. On it, I placed a Vestal candle, a statue of the goddess and various mementos that had meaning to our family life. My son – a kid who grew up on Greco-Roman legends instead of Disney fairy tales – put his own spin on the lares (figurines that represented family members) by making Lego minifigures to represent the people in our family, living and dead, including some favorite pets.

The lararium didn’t just look good, it did good, too. Its constant presence near the entrance to our house blessed our “comings and goings” so that no matter where we roamed or for how long, we would always come home. It was a visual reminder of our family unit and solidarity.

I prepared mola salsa, a type of salted flour that the Vestals made as offering to the goddess, and at each meal my son, myself and my husband would sprinkle a little of this into a Vestal candle. This wasn’t just an offering to the goddess, it was a ritual that reinforced our sense of being a family.

By providing a spiritual focus for the home, Vesta has worked wonders in my family life. As a modern Vestal, I am privileged to introduce this Old World faith to New World women through my books, blogs and so on. I have had profoundly positive feedback from women and I am delighted that this tradition is helping them have happier, stronger marriages and families.

In upcoming blogs, I plan to cover the renewed Vesta tradition in a comprehensive way. There is a rich history there, and it is as fascinating as it is multifaceted. But most of all, I hope to make this ancient faith relevant and accessible to modern families. That’s what I love about Vesta. She’s more than a pretty face in a flame – she’s a practical, in-the-trenches goddess that truly illuminates home life. And considering the rates of divorce and family breakdown we are seeing today, the spiritual focus and family solidarity that Vesta symbolizes has never before been so desperately needed.

All best, in Vesta.

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Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B. is a couples and family mediator, a top-selling marriage author-expert and a popular resource for major media in North America. She is the leading proponent of the New Vesta tradition and order. Her New Vesta book series and Add a Spark women's seminars "spread the flame" into modern lives and homes.


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