Prefigurative Hospitality with Hestia

I appear to be the last person to figure out I am in some kind of longterm thing with Hestia, but in retrospect it’s really really obvious given my priorities and values.

I recently started making all kinds of leftist type connections to Hestia. Hospitality ethics are important to me (being a good host but also being a good guest) both personally and on like… a broader Global Citizen sort of level. I have a lot of reflexive animism type habits, and I definitely think of a home as a sort of… creature? A partner. Home protects me, and I take care of it the best I can too. I did some emotional/personal work in college around the importance of generally-devalued domestic stuff like juggling the needs of the people who live in a place, and that has stayed with me. Being attentive and curious about what people need is not just important; it’s interesting to me.

This means that, in a very real way, deliberately creating a society that requires a desperate underclass, that requires scarcity, precarity, and deprivation… that’s fucking blasphemy to me. Sweeping the encampments of houseless people? Blasphemy. Evicting people because it isn’t profitable for their landlord for them to be housed? Blasphemy. Buying up living space to make sure it stays empty long enough to appreciate in value? Blasphemy. Shutting off people’s utilities in dangerous weather? Blasphemy. Fuck all of that shit. Utterly repellent.

I also love the mechanics of homes. All the material systems and factors that go into making a building habitable and hospitable? I love that shit. Shit like plumbing and wiring and stuff. It’s really fucking cool to me.

There’s also this concept of prefigurative politics, which is generally considered an anarchist thing but I think is useful more widely across a lot of frameworks. Basically, if you want society to look a certain way, but your methods recreate The Shit, maybe you need to rethink. Like how a lot of activist orgs are hideous places to work: fighting for health care access without providing insurance, supporting the idea of unions but depending on an organizational structure that workplace democracy would utterly destroy, etc. Basically, if you can’t achieve something resembling your goals on a small scale right now, it’s gonna undermine your credibility when you say we can and should do it on a societal level. Because like. Do you really think that? Do you?

This connects for me with the Hellenist idea of the oikos (family/household/etc) because the oikos was society on the smallest possible scale, the tiniest component part of society that still reflects and creates it. Hestia didn’t just have household altars; she had pride of place in the ancient equivalent of the city council and the capitol building. Because that concept of a hearth runs from the broader national scale all the way down to the family, and all these mutually-supporting moving parts do the same thing on different scales and all of them owe the whole idea of being in communion in life-sustaining ways to Hestia.

So thinking about chosen family, or affinity groups, those are the smallest scale representation of the society we build with our choices and connections. The ways in which we care for and defend each other and create and sustain homes, that’s all hers. I care a lot about upholding standards in small bubbles and then just letting them grow and impact others and continually raise standards for adjacent bubbles and then their adjacent bubbles, etc. It’s not just a test of ideals to see if they can be implemented; I feel like it’s the most efficient use of social power and safest guarantee of actually creating change. It’s generally small, but it’s guaranteed and activism doesn’t have many guarantees so I take them where I can get them.

This whole idea of having a hearth space, defending and sustaining the people who are a part of it, that’s hers. The obligation of a space’s host to the tone and impact of the space? That’s a hospitality obligation to me. That’s hers. Seeing that a dangerous person is ejected from a space they’re abusing? That’s Hestia’s business. If you’re gonna host a space, you are responsible for how it gets used.

I’ve seen modern epithets for her be everything from “Hestia of the well-brewed coffee” to “Hestia of the shotgun on the porch.” And that whole… that whole energy. I love it. It’s important to me. And it’s all hers.