When the Hearth Keepers Way was being created, one of our questions was whether or not a Gatekeeper was necessary for the Hearth Order of Ritual. There are quite a number of people who, when working at their own hearths, do not feel that asking the assistance of this (type of) spirit is a necessity. After all, do we not have the ability ourselves to speak to and contact the otherworld?
If one chooses to honour and work with a liminal spirit such as Manannán mac Lir, by all means do so — and I personally do at times — but for my hearth rites, simply calling upon the already-present Hearth Goddess* is what we do.
The fire, as a transformational entity, is the primary method through which we communicate with the gods. Our words and offerings are transformed in its flames into gifts for the gods and spirits, and so let us use this understanding to expand upon the Gatekeeper part of the Hearth Keepers’ Way.
Bright Hearth Goddess, whose flame burns at the centre of this rite,
Open the ways between for us,
Illuminating our connection with all the Kindred.
Take our words, take our offerings,
Lift them up in smoke and flame,
That the scent of them brings pleasure and honour to the Gods.
Here at the Sacred Centre, O Goddess,
At the Fire, the Well, and the Tree —
Open the ways with your bright light,
Let the light of the sacred fire show us all of the realms,
That we may walk and worship with the spirits this day.
The choice to require a Gatekeeper as part of the HKW was a decision of the Mother Grove, because the Gatekeeper is a required part of the ADF Core Order of Ritual, and as part of ADF culture. The Gatekeeper is also one of the patrons of the ADF Clergy (the other being the Earth Mother). But, even amongst the membership, there are two main types of Gatekeeper called upon in our rites: the liminal spirit who walks the mists and boundaries, and the fire priest.
However, there is no requirement for who that spirit must be, or the type of role they must fulfill in myth or lore, and so I feel that the Hearth Goddess — as tender or embodiment of the fire, within the context of a home hearth fire — is well within her realm to transform and commute our offerings to the myriad of spirits we worship.
Hearth rites, I feel, should be simple and straightforward. The home is our ritual space, already sanctified, already ours. As such, there is no need to mark boundaries or appease outdwellers. Those things are better left for group rites, or on rare occasions where extra protection may be necessary. Indeed, for a hearth rite there is no need to create a special sacrificial fire; your hearth fire is simply that. And of course, for those of us with children, part of this is a practical component — with young children whose attention span is short, it is beneficial to introduce them first to only a small selection of spirits, tangible and easy to understand.
*Throughout my discussions of the HKW, I will most likely refer to the the Hearth Deity as a goddess, because that is how we practice here at the Wren’s Nest. Your experience, of course, may vary.