The Evolution of Virgin & Hestia

This is a part of a series ~ as there is so much to contemplate and weave together!

The word “virgin” has a rich and complex history, evolving over centuries to encompass a range of meanings and connotations. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Roman religious practices and beliefs, with connections to the goddesses Hestia and Vesta, as well as the esteemed Vestal Virgins. This term has undergone significant transformation, shifting from its original connotation meaning belonging to no one, one who is of themselves, or authentic to the more puritanical connotations it carries today.

In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating etymology of “virgin” and the historical context that has shaped its meaning.

Source: EyeEm / Getty Images

The Vestal Connection

To understand the origins of the word “virgin,” we must delve into the ancient Roman pantheon of gods and goddesses. Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth and home, found her Roman counterpart in Vesta. Vesta was not only the goddess of the hearth but also of purity. Her sacred flame, tended by the Vestal Virgins, symbolized the eternal flame of Rome.

The Vestal Virgins

The Vestal Virgins were a group of priestesses dedicated to Vesta, charged with maintaining her sacred fire and upholding purity. These women were chosen at a young age, and their vow of chastity was considered sacred. Any breach of their chastity was believed to bring disaster to Rome.

Vestal Virgin
Portrait by Angelica Kauffman (Woman as Vestal Virgin, 1780-1785)

Etymology of “Virgin”

The word “virgin” has its roots in the Latin term “virgo,” which means “maiden” or “young woman.” It originally referred to a woman who was unmarried and, more importantly, chaste. The Vestal Virgins embodied this concept of purity and chastity, as they were seen as living embodiments of Vesta’s virtues. Interestingly, chaste and chastity here is “pure of heart”. In this respect they are fully themselves, belonging to no one in this realm.

Hestia too refused offers from Poseidon and Apollo, vowing to remain a virgin and fully true to purpose. It is here that we see a power remaining true to itself, in service to humanity, but impenetrable by that which means to have power over it instead of power with it.

Hestia Weaving

Hestia’s flame was started at the center of town. From this sacred hearth, each home lit their own hearth fires. Upon marriage, mothers would bring flames from the family hearths to link the families together in the newly married couples’ hearth. The eternal flames that link families and thus humanity, considered pure because of the link to the original source fire.

Photo by Kaycee Reeves

Evolution of Meaning

Over time, the meaning of “virgin” began to shift. In the ancient world, it primarily signified a woman’s purity and chastity (which had altogether different connotations than that of today). However, as societies evolved and religious beliefs changed, so did the connotations.

Puritanical Transformation

The Puritans, who played a significant role in shaping the cultural and moral landscape of early America, contributed to the transformation of the word “virgin.” They placed a strong emphasis on sexual purity and modesty, associating “virgin” with a woman who had never engaged in sexual intercourse.

This shift in meaning reflected changing societal norms and attitudes towards sexuality. In contemporary usage, “virgin” is often associated with someone who has not yet had sexual intercourse, emphasizing the preservation of chastity.

Whenever I’m onto something that I’m taking back, I’m always reminded of this stance and Medea! Creator: William Wetmore Story (carved 1868).

Reclaiming Power

While the word “virgin” has a fascinating etymology deeply rooted in ancient religious practices, its evolution from signifying purity and chastity to the more puritanical sense of sexual inexperience highlights the impact of changing cultural and societal beliefs throughout history.

The word “virgin” serves as a linguistic bridge between the ancient world’s reverence for purity and the modern world’s emphasis on sexual modesty. Understanding its historical context enriches our appreciation of this word’s multifaceted meaning, but also the ability to reclaim its power from a place of truth.

A Candle & A Key,


You can now follow Dark Goddess Collective on multiple platforms:

Want to get involved? See our upcoming events and our community collaboration! We are working with causes that are on the frontlines of some of the largest collective battles to create change and fight back!

Wondering if the private community is a good space for you to dive deeper into your own practice or get to know the sacred within community? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: