Goddess of Ashes


Gabeta; Pelenu Deive; Ponike; Ramuté; Ugnine; Ungula



Lithuania was the last heathen nation in Europe, not officially accepting Christianity until 1387. Before Christianity, Gabija, primordial fire goddess, was venerated in the form of sacred fires in grove-sanctuaries on hilltops or riverbanks, served by priestesses called Vaidilutes. Working in pairs; relieved from other duties, these priestesses’ sole responsibility was tending Gabija and caring for sacred serpents.

Following eradication of the groves, veneration of Gabija moved into the home. Gabija lives in the family hearth or stove and is still tended by women. (If the lady of the house is unavailable or if there is no lady, then the eldest male cares for Gabija. She cannot be left untended. It’s not safe.) Every night before the family goes to sleep; Gabija is put to bed, too:

• Ashes and coals are neatly banked up.

• Only fresh, clean water may be used for cleaning up: anything else hurts Gabija’s eyes.

• A bowl of fresh, clean water is placed beside the hearth in case Gabija wishes to bathe.

• Gabija is politely and reverently requested to please stay in bed and not go wandering.

It’s crucial to keep Gabija happy and content because otherwise she might decide to “go for a walk,” leaving disaster behind. Gabija is a positive, benevolent spirit: there is no warmth or cooked food without her, but her potential for destruction is ever-present. She must constantly be propitiated. Gabija is fire. It’s her nature to be fiery and volatile.

Despite superficial resemblances, she is very different from fellow hearth-goddesses Hestia or Vesta. Gabija is not passive, maternal, or especially gentle. She is an assertive, aggressive spirit who takes offense easily:

• Nothing unclean, impure, or disrespectful can ever be thrown into flames.

• Never toss garbage into the hearth.

• Always extinguish flames using only pure, clean water.

• Keep the hearth or stove clean.

Gabija is not an easy-going, tolerant spirit who laughs off insults. Dire consequences await those who spit, stamp, or, worst of all, urinate on fire. Urinate on fire and you urinate directly on Gabija.

Gabija is an alert, active spirit, invoked before initiating any activities involving fire (stove, hearth, or otherwise). She serves as a mediator between people and spirits:

• She accepts sacrifices on behalf of other deities (burned offerings).

• She is an intermediary between people and oracular spirits (fire divination).

Gabija has eyes: she sees everything that goes on in the house (or at least in the vicinity of the hearth or stove). Gabija is not limited to one fire or a single hearth: her essence pervades all fire. Light a match and Gabija is present. If content, she serves as a guardian. Gabija is invoked to protect a household against thieves and evil spirits.

Following the advent of Christianity, Gabija was syncretized to Saint Agatha. Old Lithuanian invocations and prayers survive, identical in form to those of centuries past; the only difference is the substitution of Saint Agatha’s name for Gabija. (Sometimes saint and goddess are invoked simultaneously.)


Gabija is fire, but she takes other forms, too. She may appear as a woman clothed in crimson, who may or may not have wings. She may manifest as a cat.


Cat, snake




Gabija traditionally receives salt and food offerings, placed directly into the fire. (Do it reverentially, not carelessly.) Should salt or food ever accidentally fall into the fire, leave it there. Don’t remove it. It may genuinely be just an accident or it may be Gabija practicing self-service. Graciously address the fire, acknowledge the offering, and very respectfully request that Gabija be satisfied. (The Lithuanian phrase is “Gabija, bak pasotinta,” or “Gabija, be satiated.”)


Agni; Hestia; Vesta


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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