Vestal Virgin

The Sacrifice of the Vestal by Alessandro Marchesini [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From the Series: Life on Dog Hill

Hubby is convinced I was once a Vestal Virgin, one of the girls from Ancient Rome taken before age ten to train–and then tend–the sacred fire.

Vesta was the goddess of the hearth, and the Vestal Virgins were priestesses of the goddess. Their thirty-year service began with ten years of training, ten years of tending the sacred fire, and finally ten years of training of the younger Virgins. Afterwards they retired with sweet pensions, and were allowed to relinquish their vows of chastity to marry, if desired.

Hubby has come to believe I’m a Vestal Virgin reincarnate because of my love for tending fires over consecutive days. Ten days is my record.

It’s true that I love tending fires. In the winter, I keep our fireplace roaring. When the temperature drops really low (which in North Carolina means 30 degrees Fahrenheit), I have both fireplaces going. Throughout the year I burn brush in the back yard. Because we live on almost five wooded acres, there is always plenty to burn, which certainly appeases the Vestal in me.

I find tending the fire therapeutic. I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to understand why. It’s enough for me to recognize that when I’m mindfully tending a fire, no matter what time of year, I feel content.

In my latest Vestal effort that began five days ago, I burned the branches of several Vestal Virgintrees cut down last December for firewood. The branches were stacked throughout the yard and, now dried, easy to burn. I raked leaves and pinecones and tossed them onto the burning pile as well. Today all the remnants of the felled trees are gone, and the yard appears in order.

From my writing desk, I look through the window and see the circle of stones around a pile of gray ash where, on occasion, a faint spiral of smoke lifts itself upwards. 

I smile.  

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