Vesta – Guardian of the Community and Democracy
An archetypal example: Self-care is community care is self-care
For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about the concept that self-care is community care is self-care. Today, I’d like to share an archetype from astrology and Greek & Roman mythology that perfectly illustrates this concept.
Vesta, known to the ancient Greeks as Hestia, is the goddess of the hearth and keeper of the sacred flame. Her Roman name is derived from the Sanskrit root vas, meaning “shining.” Vesta’s devotion to herself and her community, her purity of character, and her warmth really do evoke the best qualities of that shining city on a hill that America so desperately claims to emulate.
Vesta is also the brightest asteroid and is made of an unusual type of volcanic rock, caused by extremely high surface temperatures, that reflect a remarkable amount of sunlight.
As goddess of the hearth fire, Vesta had a shrine placed at the center of every household and at the central public hearth of every city. The hearth fire, central to the survival of ancient cultures, served as a gathering point for the collective. She became the symbol of the guardian of the home and community, thereby ensuring the cohesion of family and state. She perfectly juxtaposes how the parts impact the whole and vice versa.
Vesta chose to remain a virgin, refusing to marry either Apollo or Poseidon. Thus, she existed as whole and complete unto herself; she had no need to be defined or controlled by a man. Her virginal quality did not mean necessarily that she was sexually chaste. Instead, it meant that she was self-contained, self-possessed, and self-fulfilled. Astrologer Demetria George describes Vesta not as barren – rather, as especially fertile like a virgin forest that has not been violated or depleted.
Vesta was centered in her own identity and chose to remain pure to herself, despite what others were doing. This juxtaposition presents a healthy lens through which to view Democracy: self-care is community care is self-care.
The Greeks portrayed Vesta as the omphalos, navel, or center of the world. Likewise, Vesta functions as the center of the psyche, coordinating various aspects of the personality. Vesta symbolizes “centeredness” and self-determination.
Vesta also embodied the meaning of honest and faithful dealings; hence, her name was used to seal oaths and social contracts. She offered the warmth of the hearth fire as a sanctuary of protection.
Vesta teaches us that we can remain true to ourselves while also serving the community — and that by prioritizing self-mastery, one can be an even more effective agent for democracy.
 William K. Hartman, “Vesta, A World of Its Own,” Astronomy, vol. 77, no. 2 (February 1983)