Temple of Hekate

Hecate (Hehk-ah-tee; Hee-kah-tee) is probably the most famous of the Greek deities associated with magick.  According to tradition, she is either the daughter of Zeus (Zoos; Zyoos) and Demeter (Dee-mee-tuhr; Dehm-uh-tuhr); Zeus and Hera (Hair-uh; Huhr-ah; Hee-rah); or the Titans (Tigh-tanz) Perses (Puhr-seez) and Astria (ass-tree-ah).  The later being the most likely since she is an ancient Goddess.  Though she is of uncertain pedigree, it is clear that she is a Titaness of Thraycian (thray-see-an) origin. 

From the earliest times she ruled the moon, the earth and the sea.  She is known as Hecate of Heaven, Earth and Hell for obvious reasons.  Amongst her blessings were victory, wealth, wisdom and successful hunting and sailing.  However, she only bestowed these treasures upon those mortals whom she deemed worthy.  Her gifts were not idly handed out.  She was the sole Titan who retained full power and priveleges under the iron rule of Zeus.  She was honored and revered by all immortals.  There is some speculation as to why she was so priveleged to keep her full potential once the Olypians (Oh-lihm-pee-anz) began their rule.  One source suggests that this was because she was not a careless Goddess and was cautious as to which mortals received her blessings and which did not.  It may also be because she assisted the Olympians in the war against the Gigantez (Gigh-gan-teez) or Giants.  Or even due to her refusal to become involved in the war between the Olympians and the Titans.  Which ever the case may be, she did not decline in her potency after the Olympians came into power. 

In time, she became equated with many other Goddesses.  As Queen of nature, fertility and plenty she became associated with Demeter, Rhea (Ree-ah; Ray-ah) and Cybele (Sigh-behl-lee; Kigh-behl-lee); as a huntress, protectress of children and Goddess of the moon she was associated with Artemis (Ahr-tee-mihs), Diana (Digh-an-ah; Dee-an-ah) and Selene (Suh-lee-nee; See-leen; See-lee-nee; See-lee-nah; Suh-lee-nah; Suh-leen).  Some accounts even credit her as being Persephone/Proserpine/Proserpina (Puhr-sehf-foh-nee, Proh-suhr-pihn-nee,  or Proh-suhr-pee-nah respectfully applied) in her most terrible aspect, though it is most likely this just became on of her many names due to her relationship with the underworld.  Hecate and Persephone were supposedly great friendsand many reliefs show the two very frequently together and often with Hermes (hur-meez) with whom the latter Hecate has children.  It is not uncommon for such to assume their friend's name. All of these things have lead to a great deal of confusion, particularly for the idle researcher as many tend to except that Hecate is an aspect of one of the other deities rather than an ancient, independant and potent Goddess.  The fact is that she is a very ancient entity which predates many of those whom she has been associated with over the years and is not merely an aspect or an absorbed divinity.  She has had many aspects and names, which we will address shortly. 

Originally, it seems that she was a virgin, lunar, sea Goddess.  There are many myths regarding her advancement in power and knowledge.  It is clear that she had a ravenous hunger for learning and growing.  In a myth regarding her and Hera, Goddess of fidelity, protectress of women and childbirthing.  The young Hecate is said to have grown curious regarding childbirthing which disturbed Hera thoroughly.  Hera had once been a vestal (veh-stahl) Goddess herself, until her brother (and later husband) appeared to her in the form of a wounded sparrow which she clutched consilingly to her breast.  Zeus' deception spoiled Hera's purity, and while she retained the title as Queen of the Vestal Virgins, she was not one in the least.  So Hecate's curiousity upset her thoroughly as she new the dangers of such inquiries to a virgin Goddess.  Hecate's curiosity would not abate, so secretly she spied on Hera while she added a woman in delivering her child and Hecate's purity was marred.  It is through this that she became known as Hecate of the earth as well as Goddess of nature and protectress of children.  It is believed Hera never over came her anger for Hecates actions. 

In later Greek history it is stated that Hecate and Helios (Hee-lee-ohs) were the two sole witnesses of the abduction and rape of Persephone by Hades (Hay-deez), God of the Underworld.  The legend says that she left her cave with torch in hand to aid Demeter (Persephone's mother and according to some legends Hecate's mother also) in her search for the missing Goddess.  It does not say why she did not tell Demeter what she had witnessed, but, it is assumed that she had seen an opportunity for advancement and decided to benefit herself by Hades' actions.  Once Persephone had been found, and arrangements made for her to remain in the Underworld with her new husband for part of the year and spend the other part on earth with her mother, Hecate remained in the Underworld as Persephones friend and companion.  This eventually gave Hecate formidable powers over the Underworld.  It is through these events that she became known as Hecate of Hell and as a Goddess of purification as well as protection.  

It is unclear as to whether her loyal hellhounds were acquired at this time or whether they had simply always been a part of her entourage.  Nevertheless, she did become associated with a vast array of forboding characters from her connection with the Underworld.  Including spectres, ghosts and ethereal entities in general. Not only did she preside over them, ruling them compleatly, but, she was also their tormentress when the occassion arose. 

Hecate is remembered today as a dark Goddess who at night sent out daemons (a word which originally meant "spirits;" neither beneficial nor malefic specificly) and phantoms, taught magick and sorcery to brave mortals and who wandered about after dark with the souls of the dead accompanied by the baying of dogs and hellhounds.  It was believed that only dogs could spy her nocturnal passing, so whenever dogs were heard to howl it was believed that Hecate was near.  She was the Queen of the night, of ghosts and shades as well as other fearsome beings. The bronze clawed Harpies (Hahr-peez) were also under her reign and dwelt in her dominion in the Underworld.  She was said to be the cause of nightmares and insanity.  Perhaps why the moon is said to turn people into "LUNAtics." It is a fact that crime, suicides and other strange occurrences are reported more during the fullmoon than during any other of it's phases.  She was so terryfying and frightening to the ancients that the referred to her as Aphrattos/Aphrottos, (Ah-frah-tohs; Afra-tohs; Af-roh-tohs) "the nameless one" or "the unnameable," as well as Pandeina, "the all-terrible." 

She was the Goddess of the dark of the moon; the destroyer of life.  In one myth, she turns into a bear (or a boar, of which it is never quite clear) and kills her own son, Mormo, then brings him back to life.  These seemingly was a form of selfless sacrifice and in some Hecatean sects he too is honored and revered for his death and resurrection presumeablly symbolic of the dying king.  Many refer to him as the first "living dead" and there is some evidence to support this which is discussed at more length further on in this text.  In her dark aspect, she wears a necklace of testicles; her hair is made of writhing snakes which can petrify like the Gorgons.  She was a terrible sight to behold in this form. Both frightening and viscious.  Her hellish revenue included the Empusa (Em-pyoo-sah), a hobgoblin like creature; the Cercopsis (Suhr-kohp-sihs), a sort of poltergeist and those named for her son, the Mormo (Mohr-moh), a group of flesh eating ghouls. 

However, this is not her only guise.  She is often depicted as a normal woman, most often common, though sometimes lovely.  She is also seen as a woman with three heads and with three sets of arms which is a common visage todays witches ascribe to her.  This later form today is associated by witches as the images of the maid, mother and crone representative of the three lunar cycles.  Though commonly, modern witches primarily view her as the crone alone naming the other two faces as othe Goddesses such as Artemis as the maiden and Demeter as the mother.  There was also another triple headed image of her bearing the faces of a dog, a ram and a serpent (though sometimes that of a horse replaces the serpent) all on the body of a woman.  Her home is alternatively described as being a cave, a place amongst tombs or other places of the dead, or a site where blodd was shed by a murderer. 

Initially her worship was widespread, especially at Samothsrace (Sam-mahths-rayss), Aegina (Ee-gee-nah), her sacred city where festivals were held to her on the eighth of August; Argos (Ahr-gohs), Hera's sacred city and Athens (A-thenz), Athena's (Ah-thee-nah; Goddess of strategic war, crafts, wisdom and culture) sacred city from which it was named.  Many homes displayed statues of Hecate either inside or just outside the home, by the front door hoping to invoke her protection.  These images also appeared at crossroads (which were sacred to her) and it is believed that one would suffer greatly who harmed a traveller who rested by her image at such a site.  There is some speculation that the Hecataea (Hehk-ah-tee-ah; Hee-kah-tee-ah) were also consulted as oracles.  The three headed figures often carried an assortment of weapons which included swords, daggers, torches, whips and snakes.  This is a common image still applied to her today. 

At the end of each month, her worshippers set out dishes of food for her by the statues at crossroads and by their front doors (typically at the statues feet on the ground).  This meal typically consisted of fish, honey, onions and eggs, but may have also included garlic which is considered sacred to her.  Those seeking to appease her, often made sacrifices of chicken hearts and barley cakes which were left beside there doors.  It was considered to be a good omen should a dog (especially a black one) eat this sacrifice. Other sacrifices were also common to her worship.  These were usually performed at crossroads and consisted of female black puppies, she-lambs or goats and human infants, also female.  The animals are typically believed to have been black in colour.  The sacrifices were held at the fullmoon. White children were typically sacrificed face up by cutting the throat while black children were likely offered face down so that their blood might fall to the earth quickest.  She was VERY partial to black.  Her prayers were likely performed on ones knees with palms open and facing up with the head raised towards heaven or with the palms down and the head lowered to the Underworld depending on either location of the worshipper or in what way they were praying to her. 

She was also the patroness of the medieval witch covens who worshipped her in the secret rites.  Though it is unclear whether it was a revival or survival of her cults that appeared at this time.  It is certain that her cults out lasted those of her fellow Greek divinities.  Her cults were centred originally in Lagina (Lah-gee-nah) and are known to have existed circa 800 BCE through Christianization, circa 400 CE though it is probable that her worship dates much farther back and may have survived longer than recorded.  The Goddess Herodias is believed to be an aspect of Hecate and others suggest that she strongly influenced (at least Hecuba (Hehk-yoo-bah) and Hepzebah (Hehp-zih-bah) which may even give her biblical associations.  She has been known by many names that have either been hers uniquely, or as mentioned above have been absorbed by her.  These names include Trivia (Trih-vee-ah; Try-vee-ah three-roads) as Goddess of the crossways and protectress of travellers, Pandeina (Pan-dee-nah) "the all-terrible," and the names of most any lunar Goddess.  Hecate itself is of uncertain origins or meaning. Some suggest it means simply, "100," refering to the 100 months of the great lunar year.  Others suggest it means "one from afar," "one who stands aloof," or "influence from afar."  There is no actual way of knowing for certain, though we do know that similar words in Greek are ascribe with both meanings.  However, there is also considerable reason to assume that it may not be Greek in origin at all.  Gnostic poetry from Alexandrian Aegypt has survived the harsh passage of time, though fragmented, it is clear that it refers to Hecate in which she is venerated as "the Great Mother, life of the universe."  This may suggest that she influenced or perhaps even was the same as the Aegyptian Goddess Hekat.

Shakespeare included her in Macbeth as the mysterious patroness of the three "weird sisters" or witches who invoke her.  This has seemingly encouraged the continuance of her worship as well as impressed her in the minds of most people as the reigning omnipotence of witches and magick.  She has since bcome the subject of many artists, writers and poets.  Most notably she appears in Hesiod's (Hee-sahdz) Theogeny.  Euripides (Yoo-rihp-ih-deez), the Greek poet, calls her "Queen of the Phantomworld."  As well, she has become the subject of many incantations and spells.  She was invoked using a symbol of the cresent with two points up and a third point at it's centre.  One such petition for her patronage (with reference to sacrifice) was recorded in the third century by Hypolitus (High-poh-ligh-tus; High-pahl-ih-tuhs; Hih-pahl-ih-tuhs) in the work Philosophumena (Fihl-ahs-oh-foo-mee-na) as follows: 


"Come, infernal, terrestrial, and heavenly Bombo (Bahm-boh; another name for Hecate), Goddess of the broad roadways, of the crossroads, thou who goest to and fro at night, torch in hand, enemy of the day. Friend and lover of darkness, though who doest rejoice when the bitches are howling and warm blood is spilled, thou who art walking amid the phantoms and the place of tombs, thou whose thirst is blood, though who doest strike chill fear into mortal hearts, Gorgo (Hecate, perhaps but certainly referring to the Gorgons), Mormo, Moon of a thousand forms, cast a propitious eye upon our sacrifice." 

She was most notably a frequent lover of Hermes (Huhr-meez) as well as other Gods. Hecate also had many children most of which were monsters. Scylla (Sih-lah) for example.  However, as one myth explains, she was once a beautiful see-nymph until she became the romantic rival of Circe (Suhr-see) who transformed her into a monster. As Scylla's mother Hecate was called Cratais or Crataeis (Krah-tay-ihs; Krah-tee-is).  She is credited (though sources have varying opinions) as being either the mother or aunt of Medea (Mee-dee-ah) and Circe, both are prominent sorceresses in Greek history.  Scylla was, and actually still is, a dangerous stretch of waters near Greece that has long claimed the lives of many sailors. 

In modern witchcraft she is associated almost exclusively with the lunar trinity mentioned above.  In this triple Goddess aspect, she appears a lot less fearsome than history paints her.  She rules over the waning and dark of the moon, a two week period that is best for magicks dealing with banishings, releasing, planning and introspection.  Like Persephone, she has become a Goddess of the subconscience and of scrying.  Today she is invoked for justice and protection whereas she was once invoked for revenge and punishment.  She is, as she has always been, a mysterious and complex figure: Goddess of wealth and fortune; mistress of magick and sorcery; protectress of youth and children; queen of the night, the moon and the seas; huntress, protectress, tormentress.  As kind and loving as she can be cruel and unmoveable. 

She is credited with the discovery of aconite (POISONOUS), one of her sacred herbs which was once used in flying ointments. It is said that it grew from the soil of the Underworld watered by the fallen froth and spittle of Cerberus (Suhr-buhr-uhs).  It was considered to be the first poison.

The following associations have been attributed to her
Dog All sweet, virginal odors
Horse aloes almond
serpent camphor chickweed
woman civet garlic

honey hazel

menstrual blood mandrake

myrrh moonwort

storax mugwort

peppermint oak


opium poppy


Crystal (quartz) Threes Bow and Arrow
Moonstone High Priestess Robe Of Concealment
Opal The Moon Yoni

Star Sapphire


This list is general, in no way compleat and likely bound to meet with contridiction. 

Hecate was a reasonably common subject for ancient sculptors and appears in many forms of art including reliefs. 

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