Gatekeeper and Hearth Deities

The style of Heathenry taught on this website borrows from records of ancient Greek and Roman rituals to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of ancient Germanic rituals. That is why gatekeeper and hearth deities are mentioned in the hearth cult guide. The practice of petitioning them is neither right nor wrong, and each Heathen will choose differently. Some may include both during ritual, just one or the other, or neither.

The gatekeeper deity

The role of this deity is to act as a bridge between the spiritual world and our mundane world — or the sacred and the profane. Since Heathen ritual suggests circumambulating a space with fire to make it sacred, this achieves the same result as petitioning a gatekeeper deity, so some Heathens believe that this petition is optional. Other Heathens, however, like to be extra sure the space has been hallowed, so they do both.

Gatekeeper deities possess the aspect of liminality, of bridging worlds, of being in two worlds at once. Some people petition Heimdall because he guards the Bifrost, the bridge between worlds in Norse myths. Some other gatekeeper deities are Syn (guardian of the door), Odin and his counterparts (liminal death god), and Wada (water is liminal by its nature). There are many others. The most well-known gatekeeper god is Janus of Roman myth.

The hearth deity

All Indo-European religions, including the beliefs and practices of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples, are solar (fire) cults. Fire is considered the aniconic representation of the gods. In many cases, the hearth is where the various ancient peoples made their offerings, and into the hearth fire is where they threw offerings. Fire transmutes the offerings so that the gods may receive them.

These days, modern Heathens do not usually throw offerings into a fire for the gods. Instead, they light candles and put offerings into a bowl or cup. To make up for this fact, some Heathens petition a hearth deity to transmute our offerings. This deity, therefore, must have specific associations with the hearth and hearth fire. In Heathenry, the Norse Frigg and her counterparts have this association, so they are, by default, hearth goddesses. Some Heathens, however, chose other deities to petition instead. The most well-known hearth goddesses are Hestia (Greek) and Vesta (Roman).

If a Heathen does have a fire into which they can throw offerings (for example, a bonfire), then they might skip the step to petition a hearth goddess during ritual.

Additional reading

  • “The Chariot of the Sun” — H. R. Ellis Davidson
  • On the Nature of the Gods — Cicero
  • “The Study of the Concept of the Sacred Hearth and Greek Goddess of the Hearth and Their Associations with the Prytaneion, Its Origins, and Its Development” — Esra Çayir
  • “Vesta, or the Place of Being” — Jean-Joseph Goux