Hekate's history is as complex as our personal experiences of her. From the Neolithic cave of The Great Mother through to the Roman depiction of her as the nefarious Queen of Witches, Hekate has travelled throughout the centuries, leaving a trail of mystery and magic behind her.
In this first part, I discuss Hekate's etiology in The Great Mother, through to how the earliest Greek writers portrayed her, in religious and fictional sources, and practices associated with her (notably honoring her through a special supper/ritual on the dark moon), to first-hand records from magical practitioners, to the channeled text where she is understood as World Soul. I end up with how Hekate, and her frequent companion Artemis, were reinvented by the ancient Romans, and how the influence of the various solar god cults (such as Apollo) may have been involved in her transition to a rather nefarious figure. Throughout the 1500 years of history I cover, there are themes that emerge from the different ways Hekate was understood, such as being associated with the underworld journey, thresholds, magic, misfits, and children (which is often overlooked today).
I discuss the very difficult period of Hekate's History from Roman Times, through Christianity, to today. Note that this is a heavy discussion, including references to violence, misogyny, and patriarchy. Take good care while watching. It all ends well, with the redemption of Hekate during the 20th century. Hekate is an ancient goddess who stands for a balance between darkness and light. In Part 2, I discuss Hekate's History from the start of the Common Era until today. Hekate was often incorrectly seen as a symbol of evil during the period between the Roman Empire up until recent times. Today she is being reintroduced into popular culture and spirituality as an invitation to claim the key for the journey back to wholeness. .
In this combo episode, I walk us through the historical origins on Honoring Hekate on the Dark Moon, to modern practice, and then through a meditative journey. The historical practices conducted on the Dark Moon in propitiation of Hekate, focused on seeking her protection for the coming new lunar month. Known as Hekate's Deipnon (meaning "supper"), in parts of the ancient Mediterranean, households would engage in purification, create offerings, and leave them at a crossroads. I break down how to adapt this to our modern lives, from working with Hekate's Sacred Flame through the Triformis Ritual, cleansing through khernips, making meaningful offerings, and going on a Dark Moon Crossroads pilgrimage.
Then I lead us through a meditative journey to Hekate's Garden where we leave our offerings on the Moon Altar at the crossroads.
Hekate. Her name awakens the soul of a witch. This unfoldment occurs as we learn to listen to the voice of the goddess.
The pull of the Cave of the Goddess is strong. We are drawn to stones and crystals without connecting them to the deep underworld from whence they came, for example. When we shift our understanding of these treasures of the cave, we see that they are the gifts of The Great Mother.
Stretching back across the centuries, we see that others venerated Hekate as The Great Mother. The Great Mother, to the ancients, was life and death, blessing and bane. Nor is she merely a Goddess of Motherhood, although Hekate has always had a special interest in mothers and children. She was often described as Midwife in ancient texts.
Hekate is a complex goddess with a long history. She is the Goddess of Witchcraft, a guide along the path, and the universal Keeper of the Keys. There is much to learn about Hekate from the written records, but for a witch to truly know Hekate, we need to experience her. This is our awakening to what has always been within us. She is Psychopomp, The Guide who leads us back to our soul. And she is a face of The Great Mother, creatrix and destroyer of all.
Associated with ancient medicine, from healing of the mind to inducing madness in those who attempt to abuse her. She is the fearless guide who resides in the spaces between the world of humans and the world of spirits, offering us a way for spiritual transformation. She resides at the crossroads where we transcend the material to dive into the unseen river that is her realm. For all her otherworldly roles, she is also Enodia, which translates as "The Way," but symbolically refers to her powers over the civilized world, including roads and perhaps even waste management. Thus, her medicine is that of both the world of spirits and the mundane.
Hekate's Garden: The Poison That Heals And The Witch
What is for certain is that Hekate's Witches have always been associated with magick, medicine and mystery. We are the dangerous sorceresses whose herbals bring healing or poisoning, depending on our needs.
Hekate's eternal daughters, Medea and Circe, brought forward the practice of pharmakeia, plant spirit medicine. In the early myths, these stories are of healing, while the later ones twist their tales into spiteful vengeance of out-of-control wild women.
Keeper of the Keys
Her archetypal keys represent the opening to the mysterious and her guidance along our earth-bound journeys. She is Anima Mundi, the very soul of all creation. She is the essence, the vibration and the magick. Unknowable, yet as close as our breath. To her witches, she is The Mother. Liberator. The One.
Hekate holds the keys to the unseen worlds. She stands at the juncture of the mundane and mysterious.
Hekate and the Darkness
She is The Star Walker, reigning over the night from above, yet she is also the one who wanders the night to rescue lost souls, while bringing vengeance to those who defile her beloveds. She is the Dark Mother who offers respite to the weary and the banisher of evil.
Hekate and the Dark Moon
The dark moon, the night of the astrological new moon, has been sacred to Hekate's Witches since ancient times. On this night, sacred rites are performed in her honor.
The Dark Mother from whose womb we are born, and to whom we must return. Goddess of Witches. Necromancer. Healer. Terrifying Queen of the Underworld. This is Hekate or Hecate. She cares not how you spell or pronounce her name. She is beyond such things.
Her witches are part of her horde. This is our spiritual family of goddesses, gods and other etheric beings. Ancestors of flesh and spirit, the wrongful dead. She is the devourer of flesh, eater of filth and the unconquerable one.
Her Witches Are Her Chosen
We return to Hekate for she is the immovable yet always evolving soul of the witch. There is no separation between her and her kin. Certainly not a goddess for everyone. Her witches know whose they are. We know our time has come.
Our awakening is now. Remember whose you are.
Hekate and Women
The history of Hekate is the history of women, especially those of us who are deemed witches. For some of us, we truly are, but many of the women persecuted were not. They were simply independent, unruly outlaws of their times. Because of the entwinement between how Hekate is portrayed in historical records and the patriarchal disempowerment of women, there is a necessity to step beyond the history to learn from our ancestors and to listen to our souls. However, the history provides rich detail while reminding us that we must always be wary of the powerful.
Women were suspect, and still are. The system sought to rob us of our power. Hekate as an archetype of the powerful woman/witch has endured a great deal at the hands of men, whether through their words or actions. Her eternal witches, such as Circe and Medea, have also been defiled throughout history. They, too, are emerging as mighty forces today. For me, they are my closest spirit guides. They speak to me of the truth about our Witch Mother, which is often in stark contrast to the history.
Hekate is the mystery of the unseen world. She appears differently to each of us. She is often the veiled one, obscuring her power, calling us forward to reveal our own.
Torch Bearing Goddess of the Underworld
During this time, her image as a goddess of the underworld was also born. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Hekate answers Persephone's cries when no one else does. She becomes Persephone's guide between the Underworld and the human one, using her torches to light the way along the journey. Hekate as a torch-bearer or lamp-carrier became one of the dominant themes of her depictions during ancient times.
Hekate's Wheel: She Is The Weaver of Time On Which We Tread
Hekate's Wheel, associated with her since ancient days, has also been referred to as the strophalos and is associated with the iynx. This spinning wheel is the symbolic representation of her as the Anima Mundi who creates all, including time and our fates. She has governance over The Fates, who are part of her horde.
Triformis: Hekate as The Triple Goddess
Hekate's role as Keeper of the Keys is vital to understanding her essence as Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World. Other ancient writers used this metaphor to describe her power as the Mediator between humans and the deeper world. Within the Persephone myth cycle, she replicates this archetype. She is the guardian to Persephone when she is deeply troubled, she guides her back and forth, ensuring the seasons change, and she is the keeper of the keys of wisdom and transformation.
Hekate, Persephone and Demeter form one version of the Triple Goddess. The Triple Goddess to the ancient writers represented the power of transformation, the ability to shapeshift and the seasonal progression. In this way, the Triple Goddess is Triformis (Three Formed) and Trimorphis (Three Morphed). The Triple Goddess also represented the three visible phases of the moon. Thus, Hekate as part of the Triple Goddess was often associated with Selene (Luna in Latin) and Artemis (Diana).
Hekate and the Moon
Indeed to the ancients the moon was under Hekate's domain. In addition to her association with the dark moon, she was revered as a Moon Goddess. The moon's deep association with women and witchcraft and the goddesses of both, further illustrates the complexities of Hekate's vast powers.
The origins of Hekate lie in the mists of the distant past. The most likely beginning of Hekate was in Asia Minor and parts of Eastern Europe. From these regions, her cult spread to Ancient Greece where she was viewed as a Titan. Unlike the rest of her Titanic pantheon, she wasn't killed by the upstart Olympians. Instead Zeus gave her dominion over land, sea and sky, according to Hesiod's Theogony (approximately 8th century BCE).
The Ancient Greeks worshiped Hekate in various ways, notably she was seen as a matron watching over households. It is from this role that the common contemporary practice of giving her offerings on the dark moon grew. In ancient Greece, a Hekate's Supper was left out, usually at a three-way crossroads, to seek her favor over a household for the coming month. Her association with the number three extended to her being viewed as a triple goddess.
Ancient Hekate's Many Roles
From the ancient sources, we know that Hekate was seen as a liminal goddess, standing between worlds, particularly at the threshold of life and death. She was given many (over 200) epithets including Mother of All, Queen, Liberator, Mistress of Corpses, and World Soul. The variety of the titles bestowed upon her by the ancients often appears contradictory. We need to keep in mind two things. One is that the ancient writers held vastly divergent views of Hekate. The other is that Hekate has always been a complex goddess with multiple roles and abilities.
As the patriarchy grew in power, and as Christianity spread, Hekate was redacted, defiled and minimized by those in command. Where she was once Hesiod's all powerful goddess, to whom Zeus succumbed, she became an evil crone.
Writings About Ancient Hekate
The Greek Magical Papyri (PGM), an ancient text combining Greek, Roman and Egyptian deities, portrays Hekate as an all-purpose goddess. In many spells, she is addressed as everything from the bringer of beginnings to the mistress of corpses. In the PGM she is clearly seen as a goddess of the moon. There are other sources of evidence indicating that she was seen by some as a triple-moon goddess.
The Hekate of The Chaldean Oracles, written after the earlier texts, is a complex figure who is seen as The World Soul. As such, she acts as a sort of protective membrane between the human world and the realms. She is seen as a savior who helps human souls ascend.
This is the Hekate of the ancient world. If you are interested in reading more about ancient Hekate, there are many ways to going about this. You can sort through the translations of The Greek Magical Papyri or The Chaldean Oracles yourself. Sorita D'Este's book Circle for Hekate provides a great summary of historical Hekate.
Historical Hekate: Early Christian Era - 19th Century
As Christianity spread, the early propagandists preached on the evilness of Hekate as part of their joint campaign against women and the older deities. Hekate underwent a striking narrowing of her abilities. While the ancients revered her as a goddess with many characteristics and abilities, the image that emerged afterwards is limited to that of an underworld goddess. One example of this restricted view of Hekate is found in Pistis Sophia where she is portrayed as basically the queen of hell.
20th Century Hekate
In the early 20th century Hekate's limited capacity as an underworld goddess was further reinforced through the works of Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner. Hekate (usually spelled the Latin way: Hecate) became widely known as The Goddess of Witchcraft in neo-pagan circles. It is obvious from the lives and works of these men, and others like them, that they held deeply troubling views of women. While their words may be inspiring, they are tainted by their spirits of depravity, misogyny and outright abuse. Our understanding of Hekate must be liberated from such entanglements, while acknowledging the beauty of some of these portrayals.
Somewhere along the way, Hekate as a crone became a commonly held belief among neo-pagans. In addition to this interpretation of her as an individual, she was also placed in the "Maiden Mother Crone" tripartite goddess structure as the crone or as the entire trio. While the veracity of these applications of Hekate has been debated, there is ancient evidence that solidifies her as a maiden. Her role as a mother is reinforced through ancient epithets, such as Pammetor, and there are a few tales portraying her as a biological mother. Accompanying this new application of Hekate's ancient characterization as a triple goddess was the Wiccan association of her with the moon.
Thus, the 20th century witches understanding of Hekate was limited to two roles. As part of the Triple Goddess imagery she was often celebrated as the wise woman. In her dark goddess incarnation, she could be given homage as Queen of the Witches and summoned for certain types of witchcraft. Feminist scholars and goddess reclaimers began to speak the truth of Hekate through their rituals and writings.
Contemporary Hekate: The Dark Mother Rising
Today, many Hekatean witches view Hekate as the Dark Mother, the Goddess of Witches and Anima Mundi. This understanding of Hekate was greatly informed by the scholarship about her ancient origins that occurred in the late 20th century, notably S.I. Johnston's Hekate Soteira. As the 21st century began, other writers were presenting alternative ideas about Hekate, too. Accompanying the expansion of academic knowledge has been the surge of spiritual writings about her. Thomas Moore wrote of her in Dark Nights of the Soul. This is one example of the many deeper explorations of Hekate. Alongside these currents of awakening, many pagan and witchcraft traditions include Hekate. In popular culture, she has been featured in many books, comics, movies and songs. The Dark Mother is Rising.
Sometimes Hekate is the focus of a certain path, like with the Covenant of Hekate's approach to her as the soul of the world, but other times she is part of a framework rather than the focus. Some of these perspectives are more intellectual and theurgical, while others are more witchcraft based. What these approaches have in common is that Hekate is a mighty goddess and that she is a powerful magickal force available to practitioners. Another shared thread is that all these perspectives use the historical interpretations of Hekate in developing their understanding.
The Covina Institute: The Keeping Her Keys Tradition
The Keeping Her Keys Tradition, of which I am the founder, views Hekate as The Mother, the fiery soul of the world whose magick, medicine and mystery is in all creation. She is The Dark Mother from whom we are born and to whom we return for our medicine, represented by her keys, her plants, her torches and her wheel. We are a Coven of Hekate dedicated to pursuing the sacred within through The Mother, and for sharing our medicine with those who seek it. Our work is that of the ancestors to bring healing and power to those who return to Hekate.