9+ Kitchen Gods and Hearth Goddesses for the Kitchen Witch
Our ancient ancestors believed spirits and gods resided in their homes. This belief was particularly strong when it came to the ancestral hearth (in modern times we call this the kitchen). The hearth was where the fire burned, which provided our ancestors with a place to make food and to warm themselves in winter months. Many of our ancestors worshiped kitchen gods and hearth goddesses. Here’s a list and description of some of our ancestral kitchen deities by region.
Greek & Roman Kitchen Gods
We will start with the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons. There’s a lot of cross-over between Greek and Roman gods and goddesses including kitchen gods and hearth goddesses.
Hestia & Vesta: The Hearth Goddesses
Hestia was an ancient Greek hearth goddess, also a goddess of family and state. Virgin daughter of Cronos and Rhea. Her name translates to hearth or altar, and therefore she was the goddess of the hearth in every ancient Greek household. There were temples dedicated to Hestia, all with an inner hearth that was constantly tended. The Roman equivalent to Hestia is Vesta.
Juno: Guardian of Hearth & Home
Juno is a guardian of the home, marriage and family. Therefore, work with her as a hearth goddess. She was a protector of women and had many different names throughout Roman history. Set up an altar in her name in your kitchen and watch the blessings roll in!
The Lares: Home & Kitchen Guardians
The Lares are guardian spirits of the home in Roman mythology. They were also called the Night Watchmen, and some believe they were once ancestral spirits who protected their loved ones. The actual origin of the Lares is unknown, but they were thought to be benevolent spirits of the home and hearth (aka kitchen gods). They dwelled under the hearth in their family’s household and were depicted in snake or lizard form. Roman families kept altars for the Lares in their homes to honor them. Ancient altars to the lares can be seen in the ruined city of Pompeii.
Celtic Kitchen Gods & Hearth Goddesses
Perhaps the most well-known of the Irish Celtic pantheon, Brigid is a triple-goddess of fire, healing, and poetry. Brigid’s cult was so prevalent that she’s still in Ireland and Scotland today in the form of Saint Brigid. Her holy day is Imbolc, aka Saint Brigid’s Day celebrated on February 1st. Because she was the goddess of the sacred flame, she is therefore associated with the hearth-fire. Where there is fire, there is Brigid (the Exalted One).
The Cailleach was a goddess in Scotland in ancient times. She’s the old woman of winter. The reason she is sometimes worshiped as a kitchen goddess is because she watches over the dormant seeds through the winter months, therefore ensuring a bountiful harvest next growing season.
What do we do with the harvest? We transform it in our kitchens to nourish our bodies and souls. The Cailleach is generally depicted as a wise old woman, but sometimes she’s a hideous hag with a blue-green face and an apron. Often you will see kitchen spirits in this form.
Cerridwen: Goddess of the Cauldron & Hearth
She is a Welsh hearth goddess and the Keeper of the Cauldron. The cauldron was once located at the hearth and was a symbol of knowledge and transformation. One of the key elements of the hearth (kitchen) is transformation, because we take food and transform it to feed ourselves and our families. In this way, we honor the hearth and the goddess Cerridwen as one of the Celtic kitchen gods.
More Kitchen Gods & Spirits
Zao Jun: Chinese Kitchen God
Also known as Zao Shen, Zhang Lang, or the Chinese Kitchen God. He watches over the hearth and is also honored in Vietnam. He is one of many hearth deities in Chinese folklore and Taoism. The Chinese Kitchen God’s job is to watch over the goings-on in the home and report back to the Jade Emperor in Heaven. A family would be rewarded or punished based on what Zao Jun had seen in the previous lunar year. Today many Chinese families hang pictures of Zao Jun above their stoves and give various offerings to him throughout the year. Some light firecrackers in his name.
Bes and Beset: Egyptian Gods of the Hearth and Home
Ancient Egyptians, particularly women and children, loved their hearth gods Bes and Beset. Bes is the dwarf-like protector of mothers and children but was also a guardian of musicians, dancers, and prostitutes. During the New Kingdom era, Bes was tattooed on thighs of dancers and prostitutes alike. His image placed over doorways and hearths to protect the household and its inhabitants from evil. Beset is Bes’ female equivalent.
Ancestors at the Hearth
Not only do the Chinese honor the Kitchen God, they also honor their ancestors at the hearth. In fact, ancestral piety is prevalent in Chinese culture. In China, the children honor their parents, even after their parents have died. Ancestors are built an altar in the household which acts as a bridge between the ancestors and their descendents. Offerings of incense and food are common. Honor your ancestors by lighting a red candle on the stove.