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Vesta - Italian Goddess of the Hearth

Vesta is the Italian Goddess of the hearth, and is pictured as a woman that is fully draped, and sometimes accompanied by her favorate animal which is an ass. She is Goddess of the hearth fire, and patron deity of bakers. From the earliest of times she had a place in both family and state worship. Her worship was observed in every house, and some household altars would have her included within them. Vesta's cult was one of the oldest in Rome.

Vesta's sanctuary was a circular building symbolic of the Italian round hut, and public hearth.The Perpetual fire of the public hearth was attended by Vestal Virgins. This fire was traditionally extinguished and relit annually on March 1. The temples innermost sanctuary was not open to the public except for once a year during the Vestalia held during June 7th through the 15th, and then it was open to matrons whom would visit it barefoot. The days of the festival were unlucky, and on the final day there was a cerimonial sweeping of the building, and then the period of ill omen would not end until the sweepings were officially placed in a particular spot along the Clivus Capitolinus, or by throwing them into the Tiber.

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