Robert Johnston has given a beautiful image of the sacred quest by way of describing the Grail Legend. The Grail castle is much like the shining white castles which are talked about in the fairy tales. It is the central sacred place. Contained within is Holy Grail – a goblet which is never empty. When we drink from the Grail cup we experience the ‘water of Life’, enlightenment! We could see the beautiful white castle in the Fairy of the Dawn, as the Grail Castle.
The hero often discovers the Grail Castle in his teens, as a peak experience which cannot really be described. He is not quite ready to answer the Grail question and so must find the Grail castle again in middle age. He will be only be admitted to the Grail Castle when he correctly answers the Grail question: ‘Whom does the Grail Serve?’ The sacred water of life is the goal of so many quests. Johnston has said that men must quest for the Grail castle but women live in it. Thus the quest for soul and the sacred, is quite different for the Feminine.
In the story of Cenerentola, this is evident. The Centre is the central hearth which was in ancient times the shrine of Hestia, the first born of the Olympian gods and goddesses and the chief of the goddesses in ancient times, but now is practically unknown. In Hestia’s time, every household’s hearth was Hestia’s shrine and the implications of this are fundamental to the understanding of this story.
The symbolism of the hearth should not be overlooked; it becomes the realm of Cenerentola. The central hearth also had a ritualistic focus for government and was served by the most powerful state officials. It was the Centre of All, of everything.
Hestia was the virgin goddess of the hearth, and of architecture and the right ordering of domesticity, the family and the state. It is said that both Apollo and Poseidon vied for her hand in marriage, but for her to choose one over the other would have meant war, so she chose to remain a virgin and serve her brother, Zeus, in his household hearth.
Peace became one of Hestia’s major attributes. Her name means the Essence, the true nature of things. We see that Zezolla’s descent to the hearth and becoming Cenerentola really means that she is now, quietly and unobtrusively in the service of the feminine, of Sophia / Hestia and the inner life and mysteries.
It was Hestia’s traits, not her actions that most defined her, Hestia was gentle, mild, forgiving, peaceful, serene, dignified, calm, secure, stable, welcoming and, above all else, well-centred, the guardian of inmost things. She was non-judgmental and forgiving, her “unconditional love” and calm acceptance inspired the love and trust of others in return.
Dependable and caring, Hestia was always there for others and helped them to manage their lives, which were certainly more exciting than her own. The circle symbolized Hestia as the ‘complete’ goddess, the goddess who was whole, ‘one complete within herself’. Hestia was, not only psychologically ‘centred ‘, but also representing the centre, the centre of the home and family, the city, and even the world itself.
The little date tree is also a symbol of the Centre; its trunk being like the Qutub in the centre of All, the pillar of Wisdom. The date palm, represents the Centre within the Centre. It was here beside her date tree, that Cenerentola did her spiritual practices, and cared for the ‘tree’ itself. Caring for it was part of her practice. Weeding, watering, polishing its leaves – it was a reflection of her inner life, and it was her practice.
The little palm tree at the centre of All, was the Wish-fulfilling tree of the stories, and it is when we are in our own Centre, and centred that we have our deepest wishes and prayers fulfilled.