HECATE


At night, particularly at the dark of the moon,
this goddess walked the roads of ancient Greece,
accompanied by sacred dogs and bearing a blazing torch.

Occassionally she stopped to gather offerings
left by her devotees where three roads crossed,
for this three-fold goddess was best
honored where one could look three ways at once.

Sometimes, it was even said that
Hecate could look three ways because she had three heads:
a serpent, a horse, and a dog.

While Hecate walked outdoors, her worshippers
gathered inside to eat Hecate suppers in her honor,
gatherings at which magical knowledge
was shared and the secrets of sorcery whispered.

The bitch-goddess, the snake-goddess, ruled these powers
and she bestowed them on those who worshipped her honorably.
When supper was over, the leftovers were
placed outdoors as offerings to Hecate
and her hounds. And if the poor of Greece
gathered at the doorsteps of wealthier households
to snatch the offerings, what matter?

Some scholars say that Hecate was not originally Greek,
her worship having traveled south from her original Thracian homeland.
Others contend that she was a form of
the earth mother Demeter,
yet another of whose forms was the maiden Persephone.

Legends, they claim, of Persephone's abduction
and later residence in Hades give clear prominence to Hecate,
who therefore must represent the
old wise woman, the crone, the final stage of woman's growth
the aged Demeter herself,
just as Demeter is the mature Persephone.

In either case, the antiquity of Hecate's worship
was recognized by the Greeks, who called
her a Titan, one of those pre-Olympian
divinities whom Zeus and his cohort had ousted.
The newcomers also bowed to her antiquity
by granting to Hecate alone a power shared
with Zeus, that of granting or withholding
from humanity anything she wished.

Hecate's worship continued into classical times,
both in the private form of Hecate suppers
and in public sacrifices, celebrated by "great ones"
or Caberioi, of honey, black female lambs, and dogs,
and sometimes black human slaves.

As queen of the night, Hecate was sometimes said
to be the moon-goddess in her dark form,
as Artemis was the waxing moon and Selene
the full moon. But she may as readily have been the earth-goddess,
for she ruled the spirits of the dead
humans who had been returned to the earth.
As queen of death she ruled the magical
powers of regeneration; in addition, she could
hold back her spectral hordes from the
living if she chose. And so Greek women
evoked Hecate for protection from her
hosts whenever they left the house,
and they erected her threefold
images at their doors, as if to tell wandering
spirits that therein lived friends of their queen,
who must not be bothered with night noises
and spooky apparitions.

From The New Book Of Goddesses and Heroines
by Patricia Monaghan..



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