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The Goddess Vesta
Vesta is the Goddess of the hearth. She is the guardian of the flame and has been worshiped from very early times. Initially, She was honored by each family. Later, a central location was dedicated to Her in the valley of the Forum, which was, at the time, outside the realm of the settlements on the seven hills. Her fire was then continually attended by the Vestal Virgins and was never aloud to go out. Every March 1st, it was ritually rekindled by means of rubbing two sticks together. The coals were then carried to the hearth in a bronze vessel. This method was used to rekindle the sacred fires in the event that they did actually go out and the Vestals were then whipped as punishment for allowing this to happen.
The Vestals were also responsible for making holy cakes. The water for these was fetched from a sacred spring and had to be carried to the temple without letting it touch the ground either by having been set down or by spilling. The salt for these cakes had to be specially prepared from the brine of a salt pan that had been pounded in a mortar and then baked into a lump. The portion needed was cut off with an iron saw. This was mixed with flour and with the spelt they had gathered on May 7th, 9th and 11th. This was all ground together and the mola salsa (sacred cakes) made.
In the home, it was the responsibility of the matron of the house to make sure the flame on the family hearth did not go out. If it did, she could replenish it from the sacred fires of Vesta after making the proper observances.
Her sacred rite, celebrated on June 9, was known as the Vestalia. On June 7, the inner sanctum of Her temple, which served as a storehouse, was opened. It would be closed again on the 15th of June. Only women were aloud within Her temple. The Vestals made the mola salsa and then offered the sacred cakes to Vesta. This day became a holiday for millers and bakers who decorated their millstones and the asses that turned them with loaves of bread and garlands of violets. Women made offerings of food to Her on the Vestalia. On June 15th the festival was closed with the sweeping of dirt from Vesta's temple and the closing of the temple doors.
Vesta's sacred animal is the ass and Her symbol is the flame.
She is also known by the following names:
Caca, Hestia, Prisca
Vesta's sacred rites were performed in Rome on the following days:
The month of December was under Her protection.
March 1 - the sacred fire was ritually rekindled
June 9 - the Vestalia
June 15 - Vesta cauditur
About: Six Vestal Virgins
Temple of Religio Romana: Goddess Vesta