VESTA The Roman Goddess of Fire  | Griselda Steiner | Scene4 Magazine -March 2015  -

The Roman Goddess of Fire

In Memoriam for the Charlie Hebdo Journalists

Griselda Steiner

"Mother Vesta, the mysterious Goddess of whom no statue was ever made." - Ovid


In ancient Rome 6 Vestal Virgins vowed to chastity kept the eternal fire of the city burning. If the fire they guarded in Vesta's round temple went out, the city would fall. The Virgins were chosen from noble Roman families at ages 6 to 10 and after serving for thirty years were allowed to retire and marry. When ordained, the Chief Priest of Rome, Pontifex Maximus said to them, “I take you, to be a Vestal priestess, who will carry out sacred rites which it is the law for a Vestal priestess to perform on behalf of the Roman people, on the same terms as her who was a Vestal on the best terms.” Vesta's sacred place in the home was the hearth and her fire in the temple was the navel of the earth. Once a year the Virgins, dressed in white robes, renewed the fire by rubbing branches of an oak tree in a ritual that evoked the resurrection of the fertility god. He had been sacrificed, burnt and his ashes spread to revitalize the spring.


In our great cities today that have been victim to terrorist attacks -Paris, New York, Boston, London, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Brussels, Stockholm, Ottawa, Sydney, Copenhagen. . . the eternal fire is kept alive by great artists and thinkers who have the freedom to express in an open forum. Such were the controversial cartoonists in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo who were killed in a brutal jidhadist attack on January 7, 2015. On January 11th world leaders led a march in Paris, the home of "les Lumières" and the designer of Lady Liberty's torch - "Liberty Enlightening the World", when over two million people rallied in support of the slain innocents and France. If fear and political pressure stop the breath of ideas that fan the flames of creativity in passionate minds, this sacred fire will die.


    Be a widow to the world

    Pray for vision

    See evil that is hidden

    See the evil face

    Know that women who bear children to die are childless

    A man who follows blindly is a mindless warrior

    A life that does not value life is lifeless

    A believer in a god that condones murder is godless


    Cut the cycle

    Cut the cord

    Be a widow to the world


    Light a candle one by one

    Pray for peace - It is done.


From a poem for Mary Magdalene the Bride in my play Mary M and the Mad Prophet.


March 2015

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Griselda Steiner is a poet, dramatist and a freelance writer and Senior Writer for Scene4.
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