The Hearth
WHAT EXACTLY IS A HEARTH?A hearth is a fireplace or oven. Before modern heating and cooking, the hearth was used for cooking, light, and warmth. Because of this, it served as an integral part of the home where people gathered. Traditionally it was made of brick or stone.According to The Way of the Hedge Witch, the word "focus" is a Latin word and means hearth, fireplace, fire, flame, center, or central point. The hearth was considered to be the heart of the home. This is because without the hearth flame "beating" the home could not run properly! Keeping the hearth was a required daily chore. This meant making sure there was enough wood, oil, or coal to keep it going. Letting the hearth go out was a blatant sign of negligence and unpreparedness. To do so meant there would be source of heat for the home and no way to cook food. In Ireland, the only time the hearth fire was allowed to go out was at Beltaine. A main fire was lit at Tara, Ireland's spiritual center, and all other household fires were literally or symbolically relit from this main fire. It was a beautiful way to demonstrate unity throughout the kingdom.DOES THE KITCHEN HAVE TO BE THE HEART OF YOUR HOME?While traditionally, the modern hearth is the kitchen, this does not mean that the kitchen has to be the heart or central point of your home. Times have certainly changed. In many homes the heart or central point is a dining room, living room, or family room. This is where the family and guests gather to interact with each other. The heart of your home is wherever people tend to gather consciously or unconsciously. It may not even be an entire room but a porch, staircase, or special window.However, if food is central to these gatherings as it almost always is, you might consider the room to be an extension of your kitchen and hearth. For example, if people begin by preparing food together and then go out to the family room to eat, the kitchen might actually be the heart of your home. Does everyone gather again in the kitchen after dinner to help clean up? Again this is a sign that your kitchen is actually the heart of your home.WHAT IF THERE IS NO "HEART" IN YOUR HOME? HAVE DINNER TOGETHER!In our modern society, it's entirely possible that your family is so busy with their own lives that you rarely are in the same room together. Everyone eats on their own schedule and they may not even eat from the kitchen, instead preferring to eat out.How do you begin bringing your family together to create a hearth? Start by making one meal a week a mandatory family gathering. Everyone sits at the table together and has a meal. Make it a rule that no televisions, cell phones, or MP3 players are allowed at the table.There are more benefits to this than just family togetherness. Studies show that eating as a family makes children healthier eaters, improves their grades, and advances their language capabilities. This meal doesn't have to be elaborate, cooked in the kitchen, or even a dinner. The point is that you are together! So if all you can manage is McDonald's at lunchtime then that's okay.I want to emphasize that this meal is done in the home. While eating out is fun and creates family togetherness, often you can't truly open up and talk the way you would in the privacy of your own home. Also, eating somewhere else misses the point of creating a hearth in the home.Once a weekly meal together has been established, try to do it twice or more a week. Can you eat dinner together every night? If not, could you establish a block of time where everyone gathers in a room just to talk?I have teenagers so I know how hard it can be to do things like this. Many times, out togetherness happens spontaneously in the kitchen and I savor these moments. The kitchen table is also where our family meetings are held. These meetings are done to discuss everything from rules of the house, life changes, and vacations.What can you do together besides meals to encourage gathering at the hearth?