I was introduced to this term a bit ago by Molly from Brigid's Grove. It was part of a discussion about being present, and how service to the family and home can be a part of one's spiritual path. I really love the idea of Hearth Priestessing (and the term itself!)
I think that the word Priestess comes with a lot of connotations. There is definitely a strong connection to spirituality and the divine. But I think there is also a sense of service: that the Priestess works not only for themselves, but to serve others (whether that service is to the Gods, Nature or the Community).
One of the things that first drew me into Paganism was the idea that every person could be their own Priest/ess. While many groups do have leaders, each person is still often responsible for their own spiritual growth and work. I love that I can build my own connections and walk my own path without needing someone else to show me what to do or work on my behalf.
There is a tendency to think in exclusive terms, when we talk of Priestessing. I think that most people work spiritually within their own group. And that is only natural! I am more likely to take my spiritual concerns and questions to other Pagans than I am to consult a Priest or member of another faith. But I think that some of the aspects of Priestessing definitely reach beyond our own circles and out into the greater world.
One of the things that many people do, and that I consider part of Priestessing, is that they present a picture of 'what Pagan's do' to the greater world. In a way, we are sort of ambassadors of our faith. So many people either don't know much about Paganism or they have wildly inaccurate perceptions, and the more we speak up about what actually goes on and what we believe on, the less I believe people will fear or mistreat us.
But I also think that words carry much less weight than actions. While we need words, we also need examples of the work we do, within our own communities and without. There are a lot of Pagans who are very active in a wide variety of public works, from activism to simply showing up and letting people see that we aren't so very different at all.
And while all of this is great and necessary, I think that many people overlook the home and family aspects of life (not only in terms of Paganism and spirituality, but also just in ordinary life as well). I think that the perceptions of taking care of the home have changed dramatically over the years. Society often downplays the role of the caretaker or makes out house-work to be some kind of horrible chore to be done as quickly and minimalistically as possible. And a much greater emphasis is put on work outside the home, as if doing work within the home is somehow less.
And yet, I think that it is a really huge thing to do work within one's home. You don't have to be a full time home-maker (I love that term...so much more than house wife/husband), to practice Hearth Priesthood. What makes the difference is your focus and attention.
There are a ton of things that make a house a home. And there is a huge difference in the feel of a place that is a home versus a place that is 'just a house'. They say home is where the heart is, and I definitely believe this to be true. When you shine your love, even through everyday actions, you create energy that spreads out to everyone it touches.
Some things are pretty necessary for everyday life. We must eat and we must sleep. We will be healthier if our house is clean and in good repair. Some things are necessary for emotional health: we need to find times to relax and times to laugh. These are the places where we can step into our Hearth Priesthood!
I love the term hearth too. Though most modern homes don't have a traditional hearth, I think that hearth energy is definitely present in a home. Hearth brings to mind comfort, safety, warmth and food. In my mind, it has a very similar feel to the energy of home.
But I also think that Hearth Priestessing extends beyond the traditional concept of one's house. When I think of Hearth Priestessing, the concept of being a good hostess comes in as well. I was raised to treat people who came to my house as guests. Whether they were a door-to-door salesperson, a worker providing a service or an actual guest. My mother always asked people who came through our door if they wanted something to drink, and treated people as if they were welcome (even though we might not need a new vacuum!)
I think that the concept of hosting is something that is sort of lost in modern life. Part of it is that I think we don't gather in homes as often as we used to. Everyone is so busy, and there are plenty of places to go and meet. Even traveling, many times it is easier to rent a room at a hotel than to find a friend or family member to stay with.
When people come into my house, I want them to feel at home. My mind is definitely in hostess (or Priestess!) mode when I have guests over, whether I had planned on guests or not. I want people in my home to feel comfortable, and I want to tend to their needs if I can.
For those that don't know, I'm a home-maker, and have been since my son was an infant (over a decade ago). There was a book I read a long time ago, called Love Languages, which talked about the different ways in which we all receive and show our feelings of love. My mother was definitely a service person, and I learned a lot of that from her. In my mind, one of the most common ways I express my love for my family is by doing things that make their lives better or easier.
I do most of the cooking, cleaning and maintenance of the home. And while the primary goal of what I do is to keep things running smoothly, I definitely feel that I enhance what I do by adding to it energetically. When I clean, I also cleanse, so that any stagnant energy is broken up and moved along. When I cook, I bless my family's health.
Not only does this help the overall energy of our home, but I find it definitely helps turn those routine chores into something more. I don't mind folding my husband's work clothes (even knowing he is likely to toss them in a corner until he needs them) because it is a little thing I can do to make his life better. If my son has had a long weekend or lots of homework, I will do some of his household chores, even though he rarely notices. It's not always about the recognition for me (although of course it is lovely when they appreciate what I do), but about being able to provide for them in my own way.
I may not do a lot of community Priestessing, but I definitely consider myself a Hearth Priestess!