The History Of Hekate

 
       

          Hekate (or Hecate in her Roman'esque depiction) is a pre-Olympian deity.  Hekate's name means, "The Distant One” or "Most Lovely One" - (Moon Magick, 1995).  Her origins may be from Karia, the Black Sea region, Thrace or perhaps even ancient Egypt as a derivative of  Heka/Heket.   She is the oldest form of the Triple-Goddess and is also known as Hekate Trevia.  Ancient images depict Hekate as a maiden in her triple forms. According to Greek tradition, Zeus honored her above all other deities. He granted her authority over the sky, earth and sea. Hesiod attributed her with granting favors to her followers including leaders, warriors, athletes, cavalrymen, fishermen and herdsmen.  Hekate did not deem to reside on Olympus however, and chose to live on/in earth.  She was invoked in all ancient sacrifices.  Hekate is associated with being a fertility Goddess and credited as the "Nurse" (kourotrophos, "From the Beginning") to all living beings - (The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology, 1970).   She is closely associated with Demeter, Kybele, Artemis, Selene, Nemesis, Hermes and Apollo.  As a moon Goddess, she represents all lunar phases.  In the waning and dark moon phases, Hekate is invoked for justice.

           Hekate's roles include "Light-Bringer" (Phosphorous); "Guide and Companion" (Propolos); "Averter of Evil" (Apotropaios); "Dread Goddess of the Underworld (Chthonia); and "Crossroads" (Enodia, "in the road") - (Hekate In Ancient Greek Religion, 1999).  Her favorite companions were three hounds.  One legend says these hounds were once women who called on Hekate and she transformed them.  If you hear hounds bay during 'between times' such as sunrise or sunset, you hear the passing of Hekate.   At crossroads of three, sacrifices such as honey, onions, fish and eggs were left in her honor. Statues of Hekate stood before dwelling entrances.  She is thus considered the Protectoress of Portals.  Ancient statues depict Hekate bearing a torch(es) for her role as Bringer of Light.

            References to Hekate are not found in many ancient writings.  Hesiod tells of her Greek beginnings and bestowing of honors by Zeus in his Theogony. In Homer's Hymn To Demeter, Hekate hears the cries of the Kore (Persephone) when she was kidnapped by Hades to reign as his Queen of the Underworld. She tells Demeter and then accompanies her in her search for Persephone. Hekate was honored for her part in The Greater Eleusinian Mysteries.  Some pottery depicts Hekate lighting the way and leading Persephone from Hades to rejoin Demeter in the Spring (The Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries). Hekate is noted as the benefactress of Circe the Sorceress and Medea the witch.

              Hekate's places of worship include Athens (her oldest known image resided here at the entrance of the Acropolis),Eleusis (site of the most famous sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone), Aigina (most honored deity by the Aiginetans),Argos (the only temple to Hekate known to exist with  certainty), Boiotia (Hesiod's homeland), Sicily (Guardian of the entrance to the main sanctuary), Thessaly (women and their use of magick), Thrace (proposed homeland of Hekate), Samothrace (sacred site of initiations to the Orphic Mysteries), Ionia and Aegean Isles (oldest verifiable archaeological record of her worship anywhere is at Mietos). Also more names with the stem of Hekat- have been found in Ionia than any other region), Karia (major sanctuary and names stemming from Hekat-), and Phrygia (close association with the 'Great Mother' Kybele and loose connection with the mythological figure Hekabe).  The moon of Hekate is celebrated on the 29th of each month.  Hekate's feast days are August 13th (Protection of the Harvest), November 16th (Night of Hekate), and November 30th (Hekate at the Crossroads).

            A modern aspect attributed to Hekate is Patroness of Witches and Seers/ess (divination and visions).  Darker, nocturnal aspects include restless spirits, enchantments, impurities and purification, curses, tormented madness, vengeance and retribution.  Some notations malign her as a 'Crone' to be feared. A dark reference can be found in Virgil's Aeneid.  Hekate is most probably the model for the ugly, hag/witch image so popular at Halloween.  No other Goddess image has been so reviled by other religions.  And yet, she has not disappeared despite misinformation and bad press.

           Modern statues depict the triple Hekate as bearing a torch(es), a snake (referencing the Underworld) and a sickle/knife (harvesting or cutting).In many modern drawings she is either shown as Maiden, Mother and Crone or simply as the Crone/hag personae.  Other well known references of Hekate (as Hecate) can be found in Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' and 'Midsummer Night's Dream'. Who is Hekate?  She is the Goddess of transitions and stands at the door of choices with her keys in hand.  She is all women, in all stages of their lives.  She is not only a Goddess of women but of men as well.  She is the lover, the mother, and the one who enfolds us in her arms, releasing us from the physical body. She stirs the cauldron of life and ties the knots of our lives.  Hekate's motto is "In Darkness, Light!".

"Beginning And end are you, and you alone rule all.
For all things are from you, and in you do All things, 
eternal one, come to their end."
               - The Rotting Goddess, 1998


 
 

 
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