Hecate (or Hekate)’s origins are lost in history and the only sources that we have today come from references of historical books and findings from archeologists. There are different theories on where and how the worship of Hecate started, however in this article you will find the information that under my perspective more accurately describes the Goddess. You have also to keep in mind that the way the Divine Feminine is described in history can be somewhat altered as many of the references are written by male authors which can result in a biased perspective. Keeping the above in mind, let’s explore the Goddess in greater depth.
Hecate is believed to exist before the adoption of the Olympian Pantheon in Greece and was generally viewed as a Goddess of the earth-life, death and regeneration. Different theories examine the possibility of Hecate not being a Greek Goddess and suggest that her worship may have been imported from Anatolia. Nevertheless, she played an important role in the development of the Greek society as we know it and many actual references of her name derive from Greek sources, therefore do not be amazed if we examine Hecate from that perspective.
The reference to Hecate comes from Hesiod, one amongst the great ancient Greek poets and historians. Hecate was described as the daughter of Perses and Asteria and even though she is described as a Titaness, ruling before the Olympian Gods, she remained at her place and was not ostracised with the remaining Titans as she helped the Olympian Gods in the great battle between Gods and Titans, the Titanomacheia. She ruled over Earth, Water and Sky and her attributes can be better understood from the use of epithets, adjectives which describe the qualities of the Goddess that have been used in her hymns and references. We are going to interpret the Orphic Hymn to the Goddess who was used for summoning Hecate. After you gain a basic understanding, I am going to move forward providing more information on how to summon her.
In the Roman culture similar to the Greek culture, Hekate is associated with the Goddess Trivia, Hekate Trivia was revered as the goddess of the crossroads and the Gatekeeper that allows passage to all worlds. She was the protectress of houses and cities and her statues were found near all doors and passages to guard them. She was always carrying torches in order to truly uncover the identity of individuals and she was depicted as a triple Goddess. Now before we move into further connection with the neo-pagan belief of maiden, mother and crone, the depictions of the Goddess in Roman culture always show her as a Maiden, a young and fair woman that wears the crown. In the beginning, these 3 forms of young maidens looking at different directions were connected as one, only later in history we see her as three separate maidens. This form of Hekate symbolised her omnipresence, her ability to guard all directions and be able to protect the household from all intruders. Alternatively, she appears in a triangle that each point has her face with the same symbolism.
Finally, Hekate’s name appears in the Chaldean Oracles which has influenced to a great extent the modern gnostic teachings. The exact origins of the Chaldean Oracles is unknown, however, it is anticipated that they come from Babylon or Persia and date back to 2nd century AD. The Chaldean Oracles describe that the Prime Intellect is paternal in nature and bears similarities with what is considered the Father in many religions. From the First Paternal Intellect, originated the Second Intellect that of the Creator or the Demiurge, the one who creates and is the one that has created all matter, the World as is. Hekate is a Female Power/Entity which exists within the First Paternal Intellect and is the one who mediates between the Soul and the Cosmos, between the world of Men and God(s). Again, Hekate’s is depicted as the one who acts in between worlds. Hekate in this concept resembles Sophia-Wisdom- which is a central concept in many philosophies such as Platonism and Gnosticism. It has also been the main influence for the creation of Theosophy, an esoteric philosophy that examines the mysteries of nature and existence and aims to introduce ways in order for the practitioners to come in direct contact with the divine and understand the nature of Divinity. Indeed, a very interesting parallel which helps us understand at a deeper level that many concepts have not firstly been introduced by Christianity. We will resume our discussion on the Chaldean Oracles in the future and let’s draw our attention back to our understanding of Hekate.
Correct pronunciation of the name
I have heard many pronunciations of the name, however most of them sound incorrect. In Greek, Hecate or Hekate should be pronounced E-ka-tee - the h is not pronounced and the e should sound like e-vidence, the tone of the name is on the ‘a’ and it sounds like a-pple. Finally, the ending ‘tee’ should sound like ‘tea’.
Hecate’s places of worship
Hekate was mostly revered in Thrace, however her worship expanded to different parts of Greece. Her sacred temple was at Lagina, a theocratic city, which means it held specific significance to a God or Goddess to an extent that it was ruled by them and in this instance most of the citizens were associated with the cult and worship of the Goddess. Most of the followers at Lagina were believed to be eunuchs- the term eunuch should not be interpreted to that of a castrated man but instead should be viewed under a greater context that of celibate men or men who have not been married and procreated but instead they were devoted to the worship of the Goddess.
Her worship was very popular at the northern Aegean island of Samothrace where the Kabeirian mysteries took place, a name attributed to the Kabeiri, chthonic blacksmith deities, and was considered a rite of great importance in ancient Greece equally popular to the Eleusinian mysteries, the sacred rites of Demeter. The exact content of these rites have remained according to the name ‘mysteries’ even though several scholar attempts have been made to demystify them, none have actually been able to interpret in depth what exactly was taking place in these rites. We will come back to the importance of these mysteries in a separate article, however, keep in mind that these rites were honouring the connection between life and death and the importance of regeneration.
Hekate is a great protectress of the house and her statues and shrines existed in many homes placed both near the hearth along with Hestia (Vesta) or at the doors of the house to ward off any intruders, physical and spiritual. In addition, Hekate was worshipped at the crossroads and the places where the three roads meet. She was the Goddess that acted between Worlds and therefore the crossroads were the places that existed between places, the space in between where Worlds are connected. More information about Hekate is presented below on the section regarding the epithets used to describe the Goddess.
Qualities of Hecate
As already mentioned she ruled over Earth, Water and Sky which shows her omnipresence and her dominion between worlds. This is further enhanced by her reference as “παντὸς κόσμου κληιδοῦχον ἄνασσαν” which means Queen of every world that holds all keys. Hecate is described as the one who is revered at the streets, crossroads and where the three roads meet which further enhances her quality to act between worlds. She is the one who loves the mountains, wilderness, solitude, she is pleased being amongst deers and she is the one who nurtures and grows bulls. She is described as the one who enters into sacred ecstasy and brings joy to the souls of the dead, highlighting her attribute as a psychopomp and the Crone, delivering the souls of the dead to Hades. She is also described as ‘the Nocturnal’ bringing forward her connection with the night, the moon and the stars.
Sophocles and Eurypides describe Hecate as the Goddess of Witchcraft, while other epithets which are being used to describe her qualities are ‘psosphoros’, the one who brings light, and draws the emphasis on her association with the moon. “Kourotrophos” referring to her nurturing and mother qualities. She is also referred to as “Kore” the Maiden, the one who has not been married or has a husband, which as we are going to see is the main aspect that she has been depicted in most statues instead of the popular belief of being revered as the Crone. Finally, she is referred as ‘Propylea’ the one who stands before the gate(s) and ‘Sotira’ the saviour, the one who saves the soul of the living and the dead alike. Of course these are only some of the epithets attributed to the Goddess. Let’s further understand her importance through the myths, depictions of the Goddess and her symbols.
Connection with other Olympian Gods
Let’s learn more about Hecate through the myths that connect her with the other Olympian Gods. Please note that these myths have been kept short on purpose and future articles will further examine these myths in detail for the ones who are interested.
Demeter and Persephone
According to the Homeric hymn when Hades, the God of the Underworld, abducted Persephone, Demeter, mother Earth, entered in a state of turmoil. She tried to find her daughter but nobody has seen, or dared to name, her abductor. Demeter turned to Hecate for assistance, she truthfully answered that she heard Persephone’s cries but did not see the abductor. Demeter was determined to find her daughter and Hecate moved by the mother’s will, she gave her the sacred torch, the torch that illuminates all darkness in order to be able to find her at the corners of the Earth. Demeter searched and searched, however she could not find her daughter. In most versions, she denies the Earth to grow and produce until her daughter was found. Hecate advised Demeter to speak to the Sun God, Helios, the one who sees everything. Helios told Demeter what has happened with her daughter. Zeus hearing the cries of people who were starving as the Earth was not growing and providing food, forced Hades to return Persephone to her mother. However, Hades tricked Persephone to eat from the pomegranate and she was forced to return for 3 months to his kingdom (the Winter time) while spending the rest of the time with the Gods above the Earth.
Another version of the story, says that Hecate was the one who rescued Persephone and delivered her to her mother. Hecate entered into the Underworld holding her torch and brought her back to our World. Of course, this shows the importance of Hecate as a psychopomp, her ability to move between Worlds and the ability to deliver the souls of the Dead to the Underworld.
Finally, in all myths Hecate is the first to meet the rejoined mother and daughter and she becomes the Propolos, the guide of the young Maiden.
Apollo and Artemis
The name Hekate, potentially associates her with the God Apollo, who was called Ekatos, an abbreviation of the word Ekatevolos meaning the one who throws his arrows from afar. While Aeschylus is the first one who creates a connection between Artemis and Hecate and associates them with the Goddess Selene, the Moon Goddess. Her connection with Artemis is also shown by the myth of Ephesos.
The wife of Ephesos did not treat Artemis in a respectful manner when she appeared to her asking for her hospitality and instead the Goddess transformed her into a dog. When she resumed her previous form, she felt so guilty and ashamed for her actions that she hang herself. The Goddess returned her to life and Ephesos’ wife was renamed Hecate. A statue of Hecate was built in the temple of the Ephesian Artemis which was one of her main temples.
Hecate is further associated with different Gods in myths. She is associated with the Goddess of the Night, Nyx, and Hermes (Mercury) for her quality to protect and guide the shepherds and help their herds grow. Hecate has never been one of the main Gods in the Olympian pantheon however her importance and reverence is apparent. A Goddess that is the definition of mystery, magic, witchcraft, the occult and night. She is the one acting in between Earth, Sky and Sea and between the world of the living and the dead, Lady of the Crossroads, the place where the worlds meet.
Deepening our understanding on Hekate
The Supper (Deipnon) of Hecate
Another important celebration of Hecate, appears in the Ancient Greek society, which was the Deipnon of Hecate - The Supper/Dinner of Hecate. This was an evening meal that was prepared and served to the Goddess to honour her and feed the hungry souls of the Dead. This ritual was taking place once every lunar month, at the night of the New Moon, when the Moon firstly appeared in the sky during the Dark Moon period (for more information on Magic and the Moon phases please refer to: http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2015/11/the-moon-is-boon-spellcasting-and_5.html ). The importance of this ritual was to honour the Goddess, honour the ancestors and pacify the restless spirits of the dead who have not found peace and still seek vengeance, attaching themselves and creating trouble to the living.
This ritual is still practised by many Witches who honour the Goddess and it is used to pacify angry spirits and break all malevolent magic. In the near future, I will give you exact details of the ritual as it was taught to me in order to use it for banishing anything evil in your life.
Let’s examine some of the main symbols of the Goddess which can be used in amulets, talismans and invocations to the goddess.
The Torch: As mentioned above most of the depictions of the Goddess show that she was carrying torches. This symbol shows her qualities to cast away the shadows, illuminate the soul, heart and mind and the ability to identify clearly at the very core of existence who is who and what are their intentions. The Goddess can see clearly and helps other see clearly the World and the Self as is and remove any doubts, misunderstandings or false beliefs.
Keys: Keys as symbols of Hekate symbolise her quality to give access to the Doors of Wisdom and unlock Secrets. Keys help us understand and remove our blockages, open the communication with other Worlds and unlock the Secrets of our own Lives- Mind, Heart and Soul, Past, Present,, Future. From a psychological perspective keys represent access to what is hidden behind closed doors- the understanding of our own unconscious mind. By unlocking and illuminating what is hidden there we face courageously our own fears, hopes and dreams. We unlock the door to our True Selves and reach our own Inner Wisdom and Divinity. We gain access to who we Truly are unlocking our Full True Potential.
The Crown: Hecate in her depictions always bears a Crown. Crowns are symbols of victory, triumph and glory. From a mystical perspective, crowns are also symbols of enlightenment. Similar to a halo, a crown shows the illumination of the mind, the understanding and acceptance of our own Divinity and the glory that comes with it.
The Dagger: In some depictions of Hekate, she appears to hold a dagger. The Dagger, similar to a sword, is a symbol of bravery, courage, sacrifice and death. Daggers were carried by Warriors and are often used today in magical rituals- we will explore more on that in our article on the ritual dagger, the athame. In addition, the dagger is used to cut all deceptions, to clear the path and to cut ties with what is unnecessary and separate from what is necessary or vice versa.
Hecate was summoned by her followers to teach them about the use of herbs in magic, to heal the body and the soul. All poisonous herbs such as aconite, belladonna, hyoscyamus and the mandragora, and poisons in general were under her jurisdiction (More information on belladonna and mandrake can be found here: Belladonna: http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2013/01/herb-analysis-belladonna-atropos-deadly.html Mandrake: http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2015/10/herb-analysis-mandrake-most-mystical.html). In Greece this practice was called pharmakeia the art of creating mixtures from herbs and poisons to heal or to kill. The modern word pharmacy derives from this practice. Appolonius of Rhodes in the Argonautica states about Medea that a young girl (Medea) was taught the art of working with drugs and poisons by the daughter of Perses, Hekate.
In ancient texts we also find reference to the relationship between Hekate and the yew, cyclamen, cypress, garlic and lavender. The yews, cyclamens and cypresses were very much associated with the dead and their connection with the living and we can see them even today in many cemeteries. Garlic and lavender are great preservants and they are used to repel anything that is not wanted while lavender was also reputed for its attraction qualities (more information on lavender can be found here: http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2012/04/herb-analysis-lavender-herb-of.html ). In magic, the mullein, also called ‘graveyard dust’, was also considered to be the torch of Hecate, the herb that had the ability to remove all negative spirits and had many uses in magic. An article on the qualities of the mullein will follow as it is a great ally for all witches. Further articles for these plants will follow.
The primary animal that has been more associated with Hekate than anything else is the dog. In many pictures of the Goddess she appears with a dog, usually black, and in ancient times sacrifices of dogs were done to honour the Goddess. From a modern perspective, animal sacrifices are unnecessary to please any God. If you would like to honour the Goddess read more on our article on Libations. Dog bones and skulls where used by her followers for protection and in their rituals. In addition, looking more in this association, dogs were used in many cultures as guardians and protectors of the house and the city and it is not strange to see them near doors similar to the statues of Hekate. In addition, there is also an association between the Three Headed Dog Cerberus that guarded the doors of the Underworld and did not allow the living to cross the door nor the dead to come to the world of the living. This also corresponds to Hekate’s quality as a psychopomp, the one who acts between Worlds and delivers the spirits of the Deceased to their rightful place. Finally, please remember the association between Hekate and Artemis that I have mentioned previously and the myth of Ephesos.
Snakes were also associated with Hekate for similar reasons that have been mentioned above on poisonous plants- (more information on the snake as a symbol can be read here: http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2013/03/totem-snake-and-naga-kings.html ). The weasel (or polecat) for more information refer to the myth of Galinthia and Alkmene. Other animals that were associated with Hekate, either from direct reference or in magical lore, are the bull, the deer, the horse, the cow and the boar. In addition, animals that could cross between elements, similar to Hecate, appear to be sacred to her such as the frog, the bat and the crocodile.
The last animal that I would like to mention which holds specific importance to Hekate is the red mullet. Athenaeus mentions the following about Hecate: “Mistress Hecate, you who is summoned where the three roads meet, with three forms and three faces, propitiated with mullets”. The red mullet in ancient Greek was called ‘trigle' and apparently a connection between the name and the triple aspect of the Goddess was made. In addition, red mullets in their search for food they will stir the sand or live in muddy waters, this was again one correspondence associated with the Goddess of Mystery and all that remain hidden. Finally, another interpretation comes from the colour of the red mullet which many authors believe that resembles blood, again associating it with the life and death aspect of the Goddess.
How to summon Hekate
Hecate is preferably summoned near crossroads, or where two roads meet, ideally in the wilderness. This is particularly beneficial when contacting the Goddess for the first time as it helps deepen the connection. However, as I already mentioned she can be summoned indoors as well and guard the house of all intruders psychic or physical.
The ideal time for summoning Hekate is when the moon is waning, particularly during the period on or after the third Quarter and during the Dark Moon/New Moon phase.
To summon her, I suggest to prepare an incense containing the following:
1 part lavender
1 part mullein
1/2 part yew
3 cypress balls
Dried cyclamen flowers
One drop of your blood
While the incense is burning the following invocation is used to summon Hecate from the Orphic Hymns which I have translated in English:
Hekate of the roads I invoke, the one who is adored at the crossroads and where the three roads meet.
Celestial, Chtonian and Marine, you who wear the saffron coloured veil,
Sepulchral One, who celebrates in Bacchic Ecstasy with the souls of the Dead,
Daughter of Perses, Lover of solitude, who enjoys the company of deers.
Nocturnal one, Protectress of Dogs, Irresistible Queen,
the One who emits the sounds of beasts, ungirt One,
Herder of Bulls, Queen of all Worlds who holds all keys,
Guide, Nymphe, Nurturer of youth, Wanderer of mountains,
I ask thee Maiden to be present in my(our) sacred rites,
Favourable to the herder (or the leader/high priest(ess)/myself), filled with graciousness and with propitious mood.
Below you can find the original Ancient Greek Orphic Hymn to Hekate for your reference. After summoning Hekate you can proceed with all magical activities you wish or ask the Goddess for a petition. If you wish, you can leave an offering or make a libation for her (more information on libations are available here: http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2015/11/the-five-liquids-of-libation-all-you.html ). Personally, I recommend a mixture of Red Wine, Water and Honey.
Εἰνοδίην Ἑκάτην κλῄζω, τριοδῖτιν, ἐραννήν,
οὐρανίην χθονίην τε καὶ εἰναλίην, κροκόπεπλον,
τυμβιδίην, ψυχαῖς νεκύων μέτα βακχεύουσαν,
Περσείαν, φιλέρημον, ἀγαλλομένην ἐλάφοισιν,
νυκτερίην, σκυλακῖτιν, ἀμαιμάκετον βασίλειαν,
θηρόβρομον, ἄζωστον, ἀπρόσμαχον εἶδος ἔχουσαν,
ταυροπόλον, παντὸς κόσμου κληιδοῦχον ἄνασσαν,
ἡγεμόνην, νύμφην, κουροτρόφον, οὐρεσιφοῖτιν,
λισσομένοις κούρην τελεταῖς ὁσίῃσι παρεῖναι
βουκόλῳ εὐμενέουσαν ἀεὶ κεχαρηότι θυμῷ.
This ends my description and information on Hekate, I am sure you have understood that the exact understanding of the Goddess still remains obscure after all these centuries, which suits well the reputation of the Goddess of Magic and Mysteries. She encourages us all to speak directly with her and participate in her Mysteries, deepening our connection.
I hope you enjoyed the article and I am looking forward to sharing more information with you about Rituals and Magic involving Hekate. Blessed be all by her!
With unconditional love,
The Easy Witch