Hearthcult, or as I call it Home/House Cultus, is an individual person’s or families religious expression as opposed to the overarching public religion. Cult and cultus used in this way goes back to the older meaning of the word from its original Latin and means ‘to till, to cultivate’ eventually meaning ‘worship’. This differs from the Latin religio which Cicero described as “cultus deorum, ‘the proper performance of rites in veneration of the gods.’” Cultus was more personal whereas Religio was more social and public.
I am the only known heathen in my family and in my home. My hearthcult is a new tradition formed from scratch. Since this is my personal practice it will differ from other heathens who practice similarly. Just as no two homes are the same, no to home worship styles are the same. The gods and other beings I give worship to regularly are Frija, Thunor, Ing, the Cofgodas (house gods), my Ancestors, and various local numa or genius (Latin for divinity and spirit). I venerate other gods and spirits throught the year but this is the Basis of my practice.
Note to reader. A large chunk of this is personal gnosis but I try my best to have it based in history as best I can. We don’t have all the information on the beliefs the pre-christian Germanic people held so I look to relative roman and gaulish sources for help developing a more rounded practice.
Frige is a dear goddess to me. I venerate her as one might venerate Vesta or Brigando. She is the goddess I ask to help keep my house warm and hospitable, with a full fridge and an open door to all who wish my household and me well. Outside of my home I venerate her as a Mother Goddess and Divine Queen much like her Norse counterpart Frigg. She is also to me a goddess of war, victory, and love (romantic, familial, and sexual). This comes from the theory that in the Scandinavian tradition, Frigg and Freya split whereas within the continental tradition she remained a single goddess.
I consider her almost like the leader of the entourage of other house spirits and small gods of my house. Those smaller spirits would be a part of the cofgodas, in roman tradition sometimes considered the lares and penates. To them I also give regular small offerings and sometimes on specific times of the year based on traditional folklore. For example the Scandinavian tradition of leaving out butter or cream for the tomte/nisse during Yule.
Thunor, known as Thor and Donar, is one of the first Germanic gods I have venerated. God of thunder, lightning, the hammar/club/mace/axe. The friend and defender of man that slays the Worm. I offer to him regularly in thanks for the defense of my home. I often ask for strength to live and walk with strength to be honorable, courageous, and honest. I see Thunor as an example of an upstanding person and is a god that I attempt to emulate in my life. To live honestly, with joy, and to do what is just and defend the weak.
Ing is another god whom I venerate regularly. For me, Ing fills a couple religious functions. As the earth god I venerate him as the god that helps the earth grow fertile and offerings are given to him, when appropriate, for harvest and sowing, but as I’m not a farmer that role is much less of my cultus for him. Ing is often associated with the Boar, or the Swine, and through this I honor Ing as a god of virility, adaptability, resilience, strength, and intelligence (thanks to Marc from axeandplough.com for his research). In Norse tradition Yngvi Freyr is made king of the Alfar and the Alfar were seen as distance ancestral spirits. I have followed the Larhus Fyrnsida’s (larhusfyrnsida.com) logic and transferred Freyr’s position of elf- king to position of mound-king, Lord of the Dead. This is much in line with greco-roman Pluto or Dis Pater. Through this Ing has become part of my ancestral cult and is given offering in thanks for caring for my ancestors and in help with communicating with them.
There’s not much I want to say about this part of my practice and it is a deeply personal thing but I will say that ancestral veneration is a huge part of Heathenry and polytheistic European traditions. Many heathens celebrate their own way and they tend to be a very good base when starting a hearthcultus. I view the ancestors as much more accessible and receptive to offering than some distant and larger beings. We are the progeny of our forefathers so I believe that they care for us and wish us the best.
Local gods and spirits
This is also a person practice for me but not so private. The honoring of local gods and spirits, along with ancestor veneration, is another large part of traditional European polytheisms. Across europe there are inscriptions to the Matronae (mothers) or other local gods and goddesses of rivers, springs, trees, and other places seen as holy. Whether these are fully conscious beings or just numen (divinity but not always a god) doesn’t matter because I believe, just as ancestors, that they are more interested in more local matters. I currently honor the local matronae, regional ancestral goddesses that gift us with prosperity and have ties to local fate, as well as the local rivers and genius of the woods.
This is a growing and changing practice that I wanted to share to help those newer to heatheny as well as help normalize polytheistic religious expressions.