I wasn’t expecting to do this topic for the “C” prompt – in fact I know that I’ll be doing “C is for Conversion” before too long, and that that’ll be the one that gets linked to the Pagan Blog Project listings. However. I’ve been wanting to squee about this, and it happens to be a good letter. So:
Last month, my Ghost and I borrowed a cottage for a weekend (I finally used my fishing rod! And caught nothing. But still! I can cast a line! I didn’t know whether I could or not! So yay!) and, while we were there, we collected an antique (think 1890s) cast iron parlour stove that we found rusting away in the woods.
Thus, I’m choosing to write C is for Cast Iron because it lets me talk about hearth, and hearth spirits while, y’know, still hanging onto the alphabetical theme.
C is for Cast Iron
My parlour stove is about 1.5’x2.5’ in area and is a little taller (not counting the chimney pipe) than your average end-table. She – and there is no questing that this stove uses feminine-gender pronouns – is currently sitting next to our couch in all her rusted, cast iron glory, serving as just that: an end-table (and a candle-holder – there’s no way we can actually put her to use as a stove, but we can definitely put some candles and incense in her belly and get her to warm and glow again).
There’s a picture on her front door – a mixture of flowers and wheat sheaves and words – but, I swear, what I see when I look at it is a wild-eyed old lady, stocky, nearly as wide as she is tall, with tightly curled hair, strong arms full of grain, and dangerously pointy teeth.
I feel like I have seen the portrait of a Domovika. I feel like my stove must have a name – a name that starts with “B” and ends with “a”. A name like “Bianca” or “Brunhilde” or “Borislava” or similar – and that there’s a new member of the family in the house.
It’s kind of wonderful.
I’ve written about this before, when I talked about the Spirit Stove almost a year ago: The idea of “hearth” and how it feels, for me, more concentrated in antique stoves that were relied upon for heat and/or light – survival – than (I find) it is in modern, electric ranges.
But I also wonder if that isn’t unfair.
I hide in my kitchen when I have company, futzing with the dinner or the tea and talking through the pass-through to my guests who are lounging on the couch. I put my servant (Ghost) on Guest Duty while I retreat to my centre, my domain… my kitchen. Houses sell on the strength of their kitchens (although part of that is because the kitchen, like the bathroom, stays in the house… while everything else is emptied of furniture until the house’s new family moves in). The best parties end, in the darkest hours of the morning, with people hanging out in the kitchen and talking up the sun.
My kitchen is still the centre of my home, it’s still the location of my hearth.
But we also have this. A cast iron creature, slowly acclimatizing to our living room (after a century in a fishing camp, followed by a few years rusting in the woods and being lived in my mice and other critters, I have no doubt).
The eventual Plan is to fully restore her. We’ve got a tin of stove-black (which is exactly what it sounds like) that will – after another round or two with the wire brush – be applied to shine her up, and that’ll work for a cosmetic restoration. But eventually, we’ll be redoing the (long-gone) support struts inside her, giving her new fire brick (also long-crumbled), and reinforcing the seams in her frame. That way, when we (eventually) have a house in-which a stove can be lit, we’ll be able to heat our home partially thanks to our parlour stove.
So there you have it.
C is for cast iron. Our newest addition to the family. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 Possibly this is because I’m currently (re-)reading Cat Valente’s Deathless, but I think she looks like a Domovika, which is the girl version of a Russian house spirit… I gather that, typically, the Domovika lives under the threshold stone of the house, while the Domovoi lives under the stove, but you get the idea, I’m sure.