Monday, 6 June 2011


“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” - Chili Davis

Vesta is the Roman goddess of the hearth fire and is analogous to the Greek goddess Hestia. Vesta is one of the most ancient of the Roman deities, and her cult goes back to the 7th century BC. Tradition has it that the cult of Vesta was instituted by Numa Pompilius (753-673 BC; the legendary second king of Rome, 715-673 BC, succeeding Romulus).

The cult of Vesta was in the hands of the Vestal Virgins, a special female priesthood. Vesta only had one temple in Rome, the circular Temple of Vesta in the Forum Romanum. Inside the round temple burnt the eternal fire, the symbolic hearth of Rome and all the Roman people. If the fire was extinguished it was thought that it would have grave consequences for the Romans. Also inside the temple, to which only the six vestal virgins had access, were kept the objects that Aeneas was said to have brought with him on his flight from Troy. This included the Palladius (an ancient wooden statue of Minerva), and the images of the Penates (guardian spirits of the pantry). Vesta was represented by the burning fire. There was no cult statue in the temple, but Augustus had a statue placed on an altar in his house on the Palatine Hill in 12 BCE.  Other round temples have erroneously been attributed to Vesta by architectural analogy.

The Vestalia Festival of ancient Rome honoured Vesta, the goddess of the household and the hearth.  Her temple was the home of the Vestal virgins and it was closed, forbidden to everyone throughout the year.  On the 7th of June, the Vestal Virgins opened the shrine to married women of Rome for eight days. The matrons walked to the temple barefoot and there took part in rituals honouring the family hearth and household. On the 15th June, the matrons returned home and the temple was closed to outsiders until next year.

Some people born today:

Pope Gregory XIII, (1583);
John Rennie, civil engineer (1761);
George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummel, English dandy (1778);
Richard Doddridge Blackmore, author (1811);
(Eugène Henri) Paul Gauguin, artist (1848);
Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen, explorer (1879);
Imre Nagy, Hungarian revolutionary (1896);
George Szell, conductor (1897);
Elizabeth Bowen (Elizabeth Dorothea Cole), writer (1899);
Virginia Apgar, physician (1909);
Jessica Tandy, actress (1909);
Pietro Annigoni, artist (1910);
Dean Martin (Dino Paul Crocetti), actor/singer (1917);
Rocky Graziano, pugilist (1922);
Virginia McKenna, actress (1931);
Tom Jones (Thomas Jones Woodward), singer (1940);
Prince (Rogers Nelson), musician (1968).

A red tulip, Tulipa gesneriana, is today’s birthday flower.  It symbolises ardent love.  The tulip is an importation into the West from Turkey and Persia, the word tulip being derived from the Turkish word tulband, meaning “turban”.  Young men in Persia would present their love with red tulips, this signifying their heated countenance (red petals) and their heart burnt to a coal (the black base of the petals).  The tulip also stands for eloquence, oratory and fame.

For each ecstatic instant
We must in anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.
                Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


  1. Hope you had a special day, Nicholas!

  2. How interesting that they changed the age of the vestas to older ones.....