Divine Feminine

Hekate, the Dark Mother and goddess of the Winter Sky

Image of Hekate by Thalia Took

Hekate (aka Hecate) is a Greek goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, the underworld, and  childbirth, and is The Midwife to the Otherworld, aka a Psychopomp, a guide of souls to the place of the dead. She is a triple goddess. And she is eternal love, a compassion companion and guide, and a fierce protector, and will always answer your call for support.

She is the goddess of the three paths (tri-via in Latin), goddess of the crossroads (both physical and spiritual). She is considered by many as the protectress of the oppressed, the marginalized  and witches.  She is often pictured with her keys (to open the doors, truth and mysteries) and lamp or torch (to illluminate where you are and where you are going), and with her animal familiars: a black she-dog and a polecat. Some say the dog was actually the Trojan Queen Hecuba, who fell to the sea after the fall of Troy and became a goddess. The polecat was said to be a witch, transformed by an angry goddess, but adopted by Hekate.

Hekate’s time is that of the Dark Moon, the time of release and renewal. She is honoured on the 30th (always her special day!) of each month, at the Dark Moon and at the beginning at sunset on November 16th (and until sunset the next day) each year, known as The Night of Hekate. There is also a special day for her — The Rite of Her Sacred Fires — on the May Full Moon each year.Hekate is the Goddess of the in-between, the liminal spaces, the boundaries and the transitional times of life including birth and death. As a Triple Goddess, she rules the realms of Earth, Sea and Sky; the conjunction of past, present and future; the Moon, Earth and Underworld. She is the keeper of the Keys. She carries a torch for illumination, not just of the dark but of our personal pathways, of our shadow side, guiding us through our choices at the crossroads and the path we eventually choose.

The wisdom of Hekate: “I see all paths”

Hekate’s origins are lost in time throughout the ancient world, possibly originating in ancient Thrace (close to modern-day Turkey and Bulgaria). She is a Dark Goddess, feared by some but loved by many. She is perhaps the original Crone, joining other Dark Goddesses such as An Cailleach at the start of Winter. She is also associated with goddesses of the moon such Selene, Artemis, and the goddess of the Underworld,  Persephone.

The latter is how many first hear of her, through the tale of Demeter and her daughter Persephone (aka Kore). Hekate guided young Persephone back to Hades each year at the start of Winter, and was her support throughout the dark months. Some myths suggest Hekate was Persephone’s sister, both daughters of Demeter and Zeus.Even at the darkest of times, Hekate’s light shines bright. She is the original Psychopomp. With her bright torch Hekate meets us at the crossroads of our path, supporting us in releasing what we no longer wish to carry. She opens our psyche to our true Self. It is said she will show you the part of her that you need the most… and the part of your Self that needs to be revealed.Working with Hekate can be demanding for some who resist working with their shadow side. But remember that she is the light bearer, the guide to our true path and inner wisdom.

ROOTS, PRONUNCIATION AND VARIATIONS

The name Hekate comes from the Greek word hekatos, which means “worker from afar” or “far-darter”,  a term also used with the Greek god Apollo. There is some evidence Hekate was also an early Moon Goddess, and has some associations with Artemis.As a triple goddess she is associated with the Moon (the time of night and darkness), with the Earth (supporting us in our earthly journeys, especially at times of crossroads or decisions) and with the Underworld (as our guide – Midwife – Psychopomp). Some also say her three realms are the past, the present and the future.

Her name is pronounced heck-AW-tay or heck-a-tay but it was not uncommon, from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century in England, to pronounce it heck-ate or heck-at. It was also sometimes spelled as Hecat.

This Dark Mother goddess of the Crossroads was also known by some bynames  such as Hekate Chthonia (Hekate of the Underworld), Hekate Trioditis (Hekate of the Crossroads) and Hekate Phosphoros(Hekate the light bearer), Hekate Kourotrophos, (Hekate,  nurse of the young), and to the Romans as Hekate Trivia (Hekate of the Three Roads).

Is Hekate a Celtic goddess? No . . .  but she too is a Dark Mother Goddess associated with the feminine half of the year, that time from Samhain to Bealtaine, which also celebrates other Dark Goddesses such as An Cailleach, Persephone, and Inanna. And like An Cailleach in the Celtic lore, Hekate’s lore predates much of the tales of other gods and goddesses in the Greek lore. Both are truly ancient.

Hekate’s Night

Hekate’s Night is traditionally celebrated at the end of what was initially a five-day (or more) Samhain Festival in earlier times. (Source for the Irish traditions, although not associated with Hekate: Irish Medieval History on Facebook, noting in their post that the Samhain dates have drifted, in part, due to adjustments between the old Julian calendar and new Gregorian calendar. Other sources say this “pause” is a three-day festival. Only our ancestors know for sure!)  

The Samhain nights marked the time when the veil closed between the Otherworld and our physical world and the beginning of the Leonid meteor showers (17-18 November). There are several days associated with Hekate, and this one was important in some Wiccan traditions, as it was a traditional date for initiating new followers.

On Hekate’s Night, honey and mushrooms — also known as Hekate’s Supper —are left out by the front door (the “crossroad” between indoors and outdoors, between one’s private space and common/public spaces) or at a crossroad, as an offering to Hecate as she roamed the Earth by night with her sacred dogs, and to invite her blessings for those inside.

Some saw  Hekate —and other Dark Goddesses of Birth/Life, Death and Regeneration — aligned with the Winter Constellations (Orion, The Pleiades, Castor & Pollus, Canis Major, Canis Minor), such as when Grandmother Moon journeys through Orion and his dogs (Canis Minor and Canis Major), much like the canine companions of Hekate herself. (Source: Marija Gimbutas in The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe: Myths and Cult Images).


Related Articles

This is the first of three articles posted today on Hekate. The other two are:

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