Gabija is the Lithuanian goddess of the hearth fire. Her name means to cover or protect and she is the protector of the home and family. She could take the form of a cat, stork or rooster or a woman dressed in red and she is associated with St. Agatha.
Why is Gabija one of our family deities?
Gabija is the protector of the hearth fire at the heart of the home and by extension of the home and family. Each night the fire had to be banked so that it stayed still during the night and didn’t wander about. This was the task of the women of the household – as Gabija protected the home, so the mother or head woman of the home protected Gabija’s fire. Sometimes a bowl of pure water would be left out for Gabija to wash.
Lithuanian folklore is full of tales of those who disrespected or offended Gabija by stomping, spitting or urinating on her fire and if angry, she would “go for a walk” in the form of the fire, risking setting fire to the home. She protected the home from thieves and demons.
Fire is an especially sacred element in Lithuanian folklore and Gabija represents the hearth fire as the vital centre of the home, providing heat for cooking as well as warming the house. She has powers of healing, purification and protection, a vitally alive figure who was central to the home.
The hearth fire was never allowed to go out, except as part of the Summer Solstice festivities. Then a new fire would be lit from a large central fire burning at the spiritual centre of Lithuania. Coals from the new fire would be passed all around the country by a long human chain of women passing the fire around their villages and back to their own homes.
Many women’s rituals were associated with Gabija, all starting with honouring the goddess of the fire. Gabija accepted sacrifices of food and salt and acted as a mediator and messenger to the other deities, symbolically connecting the family with the wider world.
Animals – cat, stork, rooster
Traditional offerings to Gabija are salt and bread, or other kinds of food, traditionally given to the fire with the words “Sacred Gabija, be satiated.”
Unfortunately, we were not able to find any representations of Gabija that we could add to this blog. If you have any pictures that you are happy to share, why not show them off in our Children & Families Group on Facebook?