Goddess Hecate

Hecate/Hekate is known as the Goddess of the Crossroads, magic, the night, moon, ghosts as well as necromancy.  Her family history is a bit scandalous, but the one most probable is she was the only child of the Titan Perses and Asteria (who passed down the power over heaven, earth and sea to Hecate).  Her name is from the Greek word ‘hekatos’ meaning “worker from afar” and the masculine form of her name is Hekatos, which is a common epithet of the God Apollon. She has been identified with a few other Goddesses such as Artemis, Selen (the Moon), the Arkadian Despoine, the sea-goddess Krataeis/Crataeis, the goddess of te Taurian Khersonese (of Skythia), the Kolkhian/Colchian, Perseis, and Argive Iphigeneia, the Thracian Goddesses Bendis and Kotys/Cotys, Euboian Maira (the Dog Star), Eleusinian Daeira, and the Boiotian Nymphe Herkyna/Hercyna.

In most statues this ancient goddess was often depicted in triple form as the Goddess of the Crossroads.  She is said to aid those that are at crossroads in their life, helping them take the path that will be best for them. 

In many Greek vase paintings, she is shown as a woman holding twin torches, dressed in a knee-length maiden’s skirt and hunting boots similar to Artemis.  For that, she is mostly consider a virgin goddess.  As of today, the oldest known image that has survived of Goddess Hecate is dated back to the 6th century BCE and is very small, only 20cm high and is made of terracotta.  Goddess Hecate is depicted as crowned and enthroned in a pose which is similar to that of the Goddess Kybele (whom Hekate shares the title “Brimo” which means angry or terrifying). The name Brimo is very significant as it has been found recorded on Orphic Funeral Tablets as a password to be spoke by the initiation death at the gates of the underworld (where Hecate holds the keys) to safely enter. This particular password was combined with the Orphic Oath, “I am a child of earth and starry heaven, but my race is of heaven alone”, which supports the context of Hecate being the daughter of the stellar Goddess Asteria.   

Here magic is of the underworld, death, oracles, herbs, poisons, protection, guidance as well as love.  Hecates torch provides us light in the darkness (like the moon and stars), taking her seekers on the journey of initiation, just as she guides Persephone on her yearly journey to and from Hades.  For those who choose her Mysteries, Goddess Hecate encourages one to overcome restrictions and obstacles in their life, aiding them to see their path clearer and will protect those that are devoted to her from evil and misfortune.  

Among modern Pagans today, she is depicted in her triple, three-bodied form facing in three directions simultaneously.  This image is is believed to have first emerged around the 5th century BCE.  It was the famous sculptor Alkamenes who is said to have brought this image to the public.  In the 2nd century CE Greek writer Pausanias, in his writing “Description of Greece, wrote; “It was Alkamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hekate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipyrgidia, it stands besides the temple of the Wingless Victory…”
Hekate was one of the Titan-gods who allied themselves with Zeus.
Hesiod, Theogony 404 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :

“Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos (Cronus) honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods . . . For as many as were born of Gaia (Gaea, Earth) and Ouranos (Uranus, Heaven) [the Titanes] amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Kronos [Zeus] did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. Also, because she is an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her.”
In ancient Greece, before the Greek Dark Ages, known as Aeolia, the Witches of Thessaly were linked to Hekate as expert practitioners of the types of magic associated with her.  The Witches were said to have practiced nekuia (divination of the dead), goeteia (sorcery), and Parmakeia (herbal/poison magic).  To the Greeks, they were considered foreigners in their literature because of their practices.  The Greek writer Theocritus wrote in the Idylls in 230 BCE that a woman carried out a curse on her unfaithful lover by using magic and drugs that she learned “from an Assyrian stranger”.  The Thessaly magic was said to have been emphasized in the Greek Magical Papyri (2nd century BCE – 5th century CE) with necromantic charms such as human skulls attributed to a Thessalian king named Pitys.  In the 1st century BCE, magic was synonymous with term Thessalian.  In the Epodes of Horace it was written that an Italian witch named Folia “brings down the enchanted stars and the moon from the sky with Thessalian voice”.  

Hekate has has major shifts in her perception throughout the centuries.  In the 8-7th centuries BCE, she was honored by Zeus and was considered a Titan Goddess and was even part of the initiation process of the Eleusinian Mystery Schools. In Roman times, she was portrayed as a death goddess pictured with graveyards.  In the 2nd century CE, the Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster present her as the supreme Goddess second only to Zeus, as the world soul, source of souls, and ruler of angels and demons. Now a days, she is portrayed as the Crone or Hag, a Goddess of the Crossroads.  Many Neo-Pagans consider her to be a triple Goddess; the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.  The Crone concept, thought,  does put Hekate completely at odds with the depictions of the beautiful maiden of ancient Greece. 

Sirona Rose
photo:The Hecate Chiaramonti, a Roman sculpture of triple Hecate, after a Hellenistic original (Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican Museums

~ by TerraRubrae on October 28, 2017.

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