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Hekate

 

Introduction

 

Hekate is the Goddess of Magic, Witchcraft, the Underworld, Earth, Sea and Heaven. Several sources mention that she guides the dead to the underworld like Hermes does. But Her parentage is somewhat strange. Although many mythology books mentions Hekate being the daughter of the Titans Perses & Asteria or Perses & Persaios, another text mentions Hekate being the daughter of Nyx, the Goddess of the Night whom even Zeus has respect for. Hekate has many names and epithets like Hekate Brimô, Hekate Sôteira or Aidônaia. These names and epithets show us how the people perceived her. Although mostly frightened by Her, She does have the role of being the guardian and saviour. Unlike Haides, Hekate did have a cult in Athens and Samothrace and in other places as well. She was particularly honoured on the first and last day of the Athenian calendar (if not mistaken) Hekate is a guide and a guardian. She protects those who call upon her, especially from murder, magic, theft, the dangers of childbirth and the hardships of life on the road. She is also a mediating figure, who intercedes on our behalf with the Gods. Hekate is a too complicated goddess to summarize in one text let alone in several books. Hekate's genealogy tells us that she is related to Apollo and Artemis who were called Hekatos and Hekate. These names link Hekate with Apollo and Artemis but her family links her to with Apollo and Artemis. Hekate is considered the cousin of Apollo and Artemis. Her mother, Asteria is the sister of Leto who in turn is the mother of Apollo and Artemis. Both Goddesses are daughters of the titan couple Koios and Phoebe, if Hesiod is right in his account. Other accounts suggest that Hekate is the daughter of Nyx. Hesiod was also the one who wanted to distinguish Hekate from Artemis by referring to her as Monogenes, "an only child." As Krattais. She is said to be the mother of Skylla by Phorkyss (Argonautica 4.827). Tales were told of her love affairs with the gods of the sea, with Triton in particular. On the other hand Hekate was said to be the mistress of the Underworld and every night led around a swarm of ghosts, accompanied by the barking of dogs. Kereny states that she was even called Bitch and She-wolf. By Aeetes, She is said to be the mother of Circe/ Kirke, Medea and Aigialeus (Diodorus Siculus 4.45.1).

As Prothyraia, She is a goddess who helped women in childbed or sometimes cruelly oppressed them. She is said to be seen at meeting places of crossroads. Women who would take us into the field of Witchcraft invoked her. It is even said that Her cult once came from Asia Minor. She does have many epithets and even Zeus let Her alone since She didn't interfere with the Titanomachy by not choosing sides. Since the Hellens didn't have any kind of dogma, there might be names and epithets out there waiting to be discovered. Every family, individual, city and community had their own vision on Hekate. In Roman times She (Hekate) was identified with Trivia. Trivia never really had any cult in Roman times. She (Hekate) along with Pluto/ Dis Pater were called upon for binding spells and etc... They were feared not because they were evil but out of fear for dying. In Latin texts and in the Latin, Roman defixiones, Hekate appears as Hekate not as Trivia which could mean that Hekate wasn't just assimilated in Trivia but overshadowed Trivia as well as Hekate. Graves says that She came originally from Egypt as being the goddess of midwifery and that this slowly faded away and merged into her chthonic aspect but he seems to confuse Her with Isis. Gumbustas even has evidence of the existence of her cult in the Balkans during the Neolithic. She was supposedly be a pre- Olympian deity. But than again Graves even says that Medousa was once a deity whose cult was overrun by the Aryans and that she even had her own calendar. Hekate's appearance in the Cultus Cererri of Sicily differs from that at Eleusis, and there is also the very different Locrian cultus of Phersephatta. The triple goddess in Sicily is Demeter, Persephone and Aphrodite, although Hekate is sometimes found in place of Aphrodite. There is plenty to say about Graves' mistakes but what is troubling is that her epithet of Triformos (three ways) is literally seen as 3 goddesses as one. It is the most common worship by Wiccans who worship Hekate as Hekate Triformos. Wiccans tend to see Hekate as the maiden of this triple goddess where Demeter is the old woman and Persephone or Kore as the maiden. From what I can tell, this is a modern conception and not an ancient one. And it seems that this vision seem to dominate.

Primary cult centre:

Her primary cult centre lies in Lagina, Miletus, Argos, Eleusis and Aigina. She is also honoured in Athens and on the island of Samothrace. Her cult was pretty much spread over whole of Hellas. But her cult centres was in the cities I mentioned above. Strabe mentions that the Kouretes were the Korybantes and probably ministers of Hekate. Strabo says that on the morning of the new moon a sacrifice was made to Hekate. On the most common elements in the worship of Dionysos, Hekate, Apollo and the Mousai, Strabo says that these were branch bearing, choral dancing and initiations. In Ephesos in Asia Minor there was a chapel build by Thrason. Also in Asia Minor in a settlement of the Macedonians called Stratonikeia, there was a temple of Hekate that drew great festal assemblies each year according to Strabo. In Pausanias 2.11.5-8 “In the portico [of the temple of Askepios at Titane, Sikyonia] are dedicated images of Dionysos and Hekate, with Aphrodite, the Mater Theon, and Tykhe. These are wooden.” It was in the same temple that according to Pausanias, the priest conducted secret rites to Hekate at four pits, taming the fierceness of the blasts and is said to chant as well the charmes of Medea. At Argos is a temple of Hekate, and the image is a work of Skopas. This one is of stone, whiles the bronze images opposite, also of Hekate, were made respectively by Polykleiotos and his brother Naukydes. Of all the gods, the Aiginetans worship most Hekate, in whose honour every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thrakian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alkamenes, in my opinion, which first made three images of Hekate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipurgidia (on the Tower); it stands beside the temple of Nike Apteron. Pausanias also tell us that no other Greeks than the Spartan youths sacrifice puppies as do the Kolophonians who sacrifices black puppy, a black bitch to Enodio (the Wayside Goddess) Both these sacrifices are appointed to take place at night. Aristophanes described to us that there were altars or chapels dedicated to Hekate which were placed at the entrance of the homes and where three roads cross, which was called Hekataion. Lycrophon tell us that on the Island of Samothrace, the cave of Zerynthos, dogs were slain. He described to us that Hekuba was a attendant of Hekate, he calls Hekate the maiden daughter of Perseos, Brimo Trimorphos (Three- Formed), and calls Zerynthia (Hekate) Queen of Strymon who was the goddess of Pherai. Virgil tells us that Hekate’s name (and not Trivia) was howled by night at the city crossroads in his book the Aenead line 4.609.

Attributes:

Hekate is seen carrying torches in various artwork Torches are a symbol of the light that illuminates the darkness. As her role of Psychopompos, torches could be used to light the way to the Underworld. She is also seen holding keys, a phial, flowers, a rope, a knife or a pomegranate. The keys are the symbol for the keys of the Underworld, which is said that she is the key holder of. It may have something to do with the mysteries in which she played a role. The keys can be seen as a symbol for the truth, that one have to go through initiation before learning the truth- which is what the mysteries usually offer. That or the promise of a better place in the Underworld. Her knife represents her role as midwife in cutting the umbilical cord (perhaps symbolized by the rope she carries). Perhaps in that function, she is the benevolent deity in the role of birth and for women in labour.

Hekate’s role in witchcraft

Although her magical aspect stood more in the light that the others, most aspects of Hekate was considered equal to another. After all, all these different aspects and names, only shows different sides of their Goddess, and how the people see Her. She was adopted in the Religio Romano, I think mainly for her magical aspect. During the Roman Empire, it was forbidding for anyone to carry out unlawful nocturnal rites to bind, to curse or to cast a spell. However it didn't mentioned that it was forbidding carrying out rites in order to protect crops from natural disasters, homes from evil, etc… The punishment of committing these kind of unlawful rites was crucifixion or thrown to the beasts. It comes from the jurist Paulus, dating from 200 CE. Most of the time Hekate is called upon to avenge wrongs. This is shown in the Latin defixionis. Rites carried out by practitioners of the Religio Romano will more likely be associated with the Manes. But it has nothing to do neither with her chthonic aspect nor as a goddess of the Religio Romano. To the Religio Romano she is a foreign deity adopted by the Romans. Hekate appears among Romans but not necessarily within what could be considered the Religio Romana. There are counterparts to Greek Hekate among some Oscan tribes, such as with the Sabellian Ceres the Avenger. There is a connection made between Hekate and Orcus. Ennius, really a Greek source, says that Orcus is Dis Pater, and compares Him to Pluto, and you do find Hekate and Orcus together in the defixiones. But these would still be magical practices, on the fringe of the Religio Romana, and adoption of what would be regarded as a foreign deity to Rome, if not foreign to Rome's population. Hekate is considered to aid all magical incantations and the work of all witches, good or bad. All enchanters and enchantresses were her disciples and protégés. Medea, in particular, was regarded as her votary. She was worshipped in private and in public in many places--for instance, in Samothrace, Thessaly, Lemnos, Athens, and Aegina--and had a celebrated temple near Stratonicea in Caria. Her images were set up in the front of houses and by the road-side, with altars in front of them and a roof above them.

Religion:

A ancient and popular Goddess who according to Hesiodos is the daughter of Titanes' Perses and Asteria, a sister of Leto. She is described by Hesiodos as bringing many blessings of wealth, victory, wisdom, and good luck for hunters and sailors amongst others. She is unique in that as a Titanes, she was allowed to keep her powers under the rule of Zeus. She is mostly associated however with being both a keeper of the keys to the Underworld and an attendant to the Underworld Queen, Persephone. At night she is often wandering with the souls of the deceased and her approach being signalled by the howling of dogs. She is associated with the practice of magic and was invoked by Medeia in Euripides' play and by Simaitha in the second Idyll of Theokritos. She is worshipped at crossroads where "suppers" are left out in her honour as a purification rite. In statue form, Hekate is represented usually in a triple form known as Hekate Triformis, which watches over the 3 roads. At the crossroads where suppers were left in honor of Hekate, there was always a Hekataion, a altar or chapel to the Goddess. Reviewing some Latin defixiones, there isn't any reference to Hekate. The only mention of Her in a context that might be regarded as Religio Romana is Ovid's mention of an offering made to Her at crossroads. Roman defixiones are not as elaborate as some of the Greek ones. This one is interesting, from Caerleon, Wales near the camp of the Legio Secunda Augusta, dating to the first or second century CE: "Domna Nemesis, do tibi et galliculas, qui tulit non redimat ni vita sanguinei sui" or in English, "Lady Nemesis, I give you this cloak and these shoes. May the person who has worn them not redeem them except with his own life and blood." A common type of curse, dedicating stolen property to a god or goddess, which they are then left to collect. This one is interesting in calling upon Nemesis, as She is not usually found in Greek defixiones. Other Roman defixiones, where deities are mentioned, usually dedicate their victims to Proserpina, and less so to Pluto. But the most common actually call upon the spirits of the dead in whose tomb these curse tablets were placed. Pliny N.H. 29.14.4 mentions the sacrifice of black puppies to Hekate, "Catalus lactentes adeo puros existimabant ad cibum ut etiam placandis numinibus hostiarum vice uterentur his. Genitae Manae catulo res divina sit et incoenis deum etiamum ponitur catulira." Ovid Metamorphoses 7.21 on Medea sacrificing to Hekate Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 4.1635-90 on Medea and Hekate. Diodorus IV: 45 on Medea as Hekate's own. Porphyry has Hekate say "Build a shrine and deck it with wild laurel boughs, set there in my image which adore with fervent orison, and in thy sleep I will stand before you." Form a statue of well-planed wood by mystic formula. Smear the figure with rue, and then with a paste of myrrh, storax, frankincense and lizard's tail, connected when the moon is but a sickle. When the moon is full, vow your solemn vows in the words, " Come, infernal, terrestrial, and heavenly Proserpina, goddess of the broad roadways, of crossroads, you who quest to and fro at night, torch in your left hand, a sword in your right hand, enemy of day, friend and lover of darkness, you who does rejoice when the bitches howl and warm blood is spilled, you who are walking amid the phantoms and in the place of tombs, Queen of the Manes and of the Summanes, you whose thirst is blood, you who does strike chill fear into mortal heart, Gorgo, Mormo, Bombo, Moon of a thousand forms, cast a propitious eye upon our sacrifice." (Hippolytus "Philosophumena") Using a pottery shard, on which an offering of grain, beans, honey and oil is placed, the sacrifice is made to Hekate at a crossroads three days before a full moon (also on the priedi Kalends Februalis). then when Luna's "horns joined in their circle to flood earth and sky, in silver splendour, loose cloaked and barefoot, hair fallen over naked breasts and shoulders, Medea stepped abroad in silent midnight...three times she raised her arms to the stars and sky. And three times wheeled about and three times splashed her hair with moonlit water (in a running stream)...three times she scream, then fell upon her knees to pray, "O Night, Night, Night! whose darkness holds all mysteries in shade, O flame-lit stars, whose golden rays with Luna floating near are like the fires of day, O Hekate, who knows untold desires that work our will, and are the mistress of our secret spells..." (Ovid) In the Chaldean Oracles she is worshiped as a cosmic goddess, giver of life, the receptacle of the life-giving Fire, who gives birth to the Synoches. Neither aspect seems to fit into what is found in Greek myth. Which can be interpreted as that this Hekate is different from the Hellenic and Roman Hekate? To the Hellenes, Hekate was a Goddess associated with death (underworld), the terror of the night and the dark side of the moon and the night, and so many other things. Hekate is seen as the bestower of wealth and all the blessings of the daily life. Her influence is varied to say the least. Her influence reached as far as war, athletics, tending of cattle, hunting, the assembly of the people and law. She is frequently identified with Artemis, a identification normally justified by the assumption that both are moon-goddesses. Farnel in his book on the cults of the Hellenic city-states, regards Artemis as a deity who was originally a Earth-goddess. He still recognizes a lunar element in Hekate’s cult. However, from the 5th century BCE, where Artemis achieved greater status in the Hellenic world, Hekate’s states somewhat declined. She is from than onwards considered to be a chthonic deity, rather than a lunar. Even though the lunar elements remain, she will be associated with the dark side of the night and of the moon. Hekate is the chief goddess who presides over magic arts and spells, and in this connection she is the mother of the sorceresses Circe and Medea. She is constantly invoked, in the well-known idyll of Theocritus, in the incantation to bring back a womans faithless lover. As a chthonian power, she is worshipped at the Samothracian mysteries, and is closely connected with Demeter. She along with Helios witnessed the abduction of Persephone and, torch in hard, she assisted Demeter in her search for her daughter. On moonlight, she is seen at cross-roads accompanied by the dogs of the Styx and crowds of the dead. On the last day of every month, eggs and fish were offered to her. Pillars like the Hermae, or the Hecataea, stood, especially in Athens at cross-roads and doorways, perhaps to keep away the spiritt of evil. Like Artemis,, Hekate is also a goddess of fertility, presiding especially over the birth and the youth of wild animals, and over human birth and marriage. She attends when the soul leaves the body at death, and is found near graves, and on the hearth, where the master of the house was formerly buried. It is to be noted that Hekate plays little or no part in mythological legend. Her worship seems to have flourished, especially in the wilder parts of Greece, such as Samothrace and Thessaly, in Caria and on the coasts of Asia Minor. In Greece proper it prevailed on the east coast and especially in Aegina, where her aid was invoked against madness. In older times Hekate is represented as single-formed, clad in a long robe, holding burning torches; later she becomes triformis (triple-formed) with three bodies standing back to back corresponding, according to those who regard her as a moongoddess, to the new, the full and the waning moon. In her six hands are torches, sometimes a snake, a key (as wardress of the lower world), a whip or a dagger; her favorite animal was the dog, which was sacrificed to her, an indication of her nonHellenic origin, since this animal very rarely fills this part in genuine Greek ritual.

Mystery Cult

Even Hekate had her mystery cult, although lesser known than that of Dionysos and Demeter who were widespread in the Hellenic world and later in the Roman Empire. Orpheus is credited with starting this mystery cult of Hekate. The Aiginians worshipped her above all other Gods. Pausanias says that they held an annual festival in her honour. However, its been said that outsiders were not allowed to participate in them. Christian authors like Origines and Dio Chrysostomos - who wrote about this mystery cult of Hekate- are vague in their descriptions. It seems that they weren’t allowed to witness them, or they didn’t want to write about. There is mentioned of “apparitions” of Hekate, of bad ghosts and Marinus tells us that Proklos had relations with a person who resembled a apparition of Hekate. What this means, we can only speculate. It is not even sure, that he is referring to a sexual relationship between the two. One thing is sure, though, the rites were done at night. This is confirmed by the nocturnal parade of torches that were held in honour of Hekate. On Samothrace, Hekate and Kybele got mixed up, thus the Kouretes became the servants of Hekate. It’s possible that Hekate was the chief deity of a Samothracian pantheon of Gods. The orgiastic mysteries held in honour of the Kabiri, were also dedicated to Hekate. This seem to indicate that Hekate was the chief deity on Samothrace. On Rhodos, there seem to be a mystery cult dedicated to Daduchos (which seems to be another epithet of Hekate.) Lagina seem to be the focal point of the cult of Hekate. However, some sources say that Lagina was a cult centre of Kybele, before Hekate arrived there. Perhaps is Kybele more an alternate name for Hekate than for Rhea? In Lagina, a annual festival of the Key existed, but few details on it has survived. The festival of the Key seem to suggest a link between the festival and with Hekate holding the keys of the Underworld. Not much has passed down to us of this festival, so we can only speculate on it. We do know that a parade was held, and being led under chorus where several different objects of the Goddess were carried around. The main feast began probably on the first night of the spring and ended at dawn of the new moon. As Goddess of the Underworld, Hekate was connected with the night as with the moon. The orgiastic nature of her mysteries seem to originate in the fact that Hekate can cause insanity, but like with the other Gods, she could take it away as well; henceforth healing it. They were state funded institutions like the Eleusinian mysteries, but private. It seems that during the mysteries, the people worked with phantoms or with terrific images, if we can believe the descriptions of Gregorius, who wrote about the initiation of Julian the Apostate.

Parentage:

Hekate is said to be the daughter of Nyx, which is mentioned, in Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides Frag 1B. In the Homeric hymns, Lycophron and in the Argonautica, it is mentioned that Perses and Persaios are the parents, but the Theogony by Hesiod mentions Perses and Asteria as the parents of Hekate.

Offspring:

By Phorkys, She became mother of Skylla because Apollonius identifies Krattais with Hekate in his work: the Argonautica. Diodorus Siculus says in his work that Hekate is the mother of Medea, Aigialeus and Kirke by Aeetes.

Symbols:

Torches Keys ropes knives.

Her sacred animals:

dogs owls frogs snakes.

Sacrifices:

The kind of sacrifices she receives are: yew cypress hazel black poplar willow black dogs black bulls black lambs myrrh civet camphor aloe menstrual blood red mullet bread eggs cheese honey.

Her festivals:

She had several festivals. Hekatesia, which was celebrated on several dates. New Moon was also a time to celebrate Hekate. According to others, on august the 16th, Hekate has a festival, which was meant to appease her. Those who didn’t participate in it where said to be punished. For the Europeans who read this, the month is first, than the day.

Ways to honor her:

Study magic and prophecy, particularly theurgy, as she is the patron of that art. Go for walks at night, or among strange places. Aid fellow travelers and strangers, especially if they have dogs. (Or are wild dogs!) Appreciate the weird and uncanny.

Epithets:

Hekate's epithets are:

1) Aidônaia (Lady of Hades) 2) Kourotrophe (Nurse of the Young) 3) Enodiô´ (Wayside Goddess) 4) Brimô (The Angry/Terrifying One) 5) Trimorphos (Three-formed) 6) Zerynthia (Lady of Zerynthos) 7) Persêis (Daughter of Perses) 8) Antania (Enemy of Mankind) 9) Enodiô (Of the Roads) 10) Kleidouchos (Keeper of the Keys) 11) Khthonia (Underworld) 12) Krataiis (Strong One) 13) Kurotrophos (Protector of Childeren) 14) Monogenes (Only Child) 15) Phosphoros (The Light-Bringer) 16) Propylaia (The Guardian) 17) Sôteira (Saviour) 18) Trevia/Trivia (Of 3 Ways) 19) Tricephalus/Tricephalos (Three- Headed)

Hekate means, " She who Work her will" and can be written as Hekata, Hekatê, Hekate. She is like Hades a deity with many names. Hekate Propylaia -- "the one before the gate" -- a guardian goddess whose statue was often at the entrance to major temples of other deities, primarily Demeter, or at the entrance to private homes Hekate Propolos -- "the attendant who leads" -- a personal attendant and guide, the most famous example of which is when She leads Persephone back to Demeter from the Underworld Hekate Phosphoros -- "the light bringer" -- a torch-bearer (probably related to her role as guide, especially one who guides and attends initiates at the Mysteries, such as the Eleusinian Mysteries); while other deities carried a single torch, Hekate was most prominently associated with torch-bearing, and unlike the others, She usually carried two; though later sources identify Her as a moon goddess (and say the torches are a symbol of Her connection with night and the moonlight). Her early role as torch-bearer has no such connection, though they might refer to the Morning and Evening stars (Venus). Hekate Kourotrophos -- "child's nurse" -- a title applied to nearly all Greek goddesses and to a few Greek gods; specifically applied to those who govern childbirth; it may refer to a maternal caring for all mortal beings and may possibly refer to caring for women specifically Hekate Chthonia -- "of the Earth" -- according to the author, this is the most difficult to analyse; from my reading of Claude Levy-Strausse, I understand that chthonia in mythology points to Earth as Source, as Mother of all living, or to our earliest understandings of creation and creator "The first three of these are Her most distinctive functions, and generally involve attending upon more prominent deities such as Demeter, Persephone, Artemis, and Kybele. Individually they are not unique to Her, but no other deity can claim all of them. The last two titles, on the other hand, are shared with numerous other deities. It does not seem possible to rank these functions as to their importance; different ones were emphasised at different

Sources:

The Theoi Project

Compendium of Gods at Sannion’ Sanctuary

The Online Temple of Hekate

Karl Kereny: The Gods of the Greeks.

Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th BC

Euripides, Medea - Greek Tragedy C5th BC

Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC

Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st BC - C1st AD

Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD

Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st BC

Mysterien en inwijdingen in de oudheid door B.J. Van Dr Zuylen BACK