Goddess of the Witches
Hecate is a powerful goddess representing the aspects of the Triple Goddess: goddess of fertility and plenty; goddess of the moon; and goddess of the night and the underworld, which led to her evolving as the patroness of magic and Witchcraft. She mixed fertility with death to be used as earth power. She has been called supreme, both in heaven and hell. It is believed that even Zeus called on her whenever he wished to grant something to someone. Hecate is portrayed as the most powerful – who could give aplenty or destroy totally. She is said to have the power to bestow on or withhold from mortals any gifts she chose. All the secret powers of Nature were at her command. She had control over birth, life, and death. Because of her power in the three areas of nature, heaven and earth she was represented as a triple form.
She is most known as an underworld goddess; the Goddess of the Dark of the Moon, the nights that there is no moon and the world above is as dark as the world below. She was the overseer of the world of the dead. At night she traveled roaming the earth accompanied by her dogs, Hermes, and dead souls. Some say she sent demons from the lower world at night and that she causes nightmares and insanity, and was called “the Nameless One.”
Goddess of Fertility
Hecate was looked upon as a goddess of fertility, whose torch was carried over freshly sown fields to symbolize the fertilizing power of moonlight. In women’s agricultural mysteries her trinity took form as Kore the green corn, Persephone the ripe ear, and Hecate the harvested corn. She is closely associated as a Goddess of Midwives and pregnant women. Hecate is described by Hellenic as being in the houses of women in childbirth. Since she is a Goddess of the underworld which deals with life and death it little wonder that she was petitioned for help by women having difficulty in child bearing.
Goddess of the Underworld
Because of her connection to the underworld, Hecate is often portrayed as having similar traits as those of Persephone. Hecate assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone and after their reunion became Persephone’s minister and companion in Hades. And it was she who offered to make sure that Zeus’ ruling was obeyed when it was decided that Persephone’s time would be divided between her mother and Hades. Thus she was closely associated with Eleusinian Mysteries. Like Hades and Persephone, Hecate was never allowed to sit as a member on the council of Olympians. The Crossroads As Goddess of the Crossroads she is usually portrayed with three faces, thus she was Hecate Treyia, “Hecate of the Three Ways.” And it was at the crossways where three roads met where the Greeks left their monthly offerings. Offerings, particularly on nights of the full moon, were left at roadside shrines built in her honor, especially by those wishing this goddess of prophecy and magic to assist them on journeys. All those who embarked on a journey or a venture, war, adventure, harvest – anything, always offered their prayers to Hecate, for it was upon the crossroads that you would meet her.
Throughout the ages incarnations have been chanted to her, sacrifices were offered to her. Food offerings called “Hecate’s Supper” were left there late at night on the eve of the full Moon. The person leaving the food walked away without looking back, for they were afraid to confront the goddess face to face. This was a way of honoring the threefold goddess where on could look three ways at once. One petition for her patronage is recorded in the third century by Hippolytus in Philosphumena:
Come infernal, terrestrial, and heavenly Bombo (Hecate), goddess of the broad roadways, of the crossroad, thou who goest to and fro at night, torch in hand, enemy of the day. Friend and lover of darkness, thou who doest rejoice when the bitches are howling and warm blood is spilled, thou who art walking amid the phantom and the in place of the tombs, thou whose thirst is blood, thou who doest strike chill and fear in mortal hearts, Gorgo, Mormo, Moon of a thousand forms, cast a propitious eye on our sacrifice.
Aspects and Imagery
In vase paintings she holds two torches while in statuary she was frequently depicted as having three heads and three bodies. In later times Hecate took on the form of a pillar called Hecterion. One statue shows her with three heads and six arms, bearing three torches and three sacred emblems. A key, rope, and dagger. With the key to the underworld, Hecate unlocks the secrets of the occult mysteries and knowledge of afterlife. The rope symbolizes the umbilical cord of rebirth and renewal. The Dagger or Athame is a symbol of ritual power.
She is “The goddess that troubles the reason of men.”
The Greeks called her “The Hag of the Dead”
She is also called “the most lovely one” a title of the moon.
The owl is her messenger, and the willow is her tree.
Rides a chariot pulled by dragons.
Depicted wearing a gleaming headdress of stars.
She was connected to the goddess Artemis, Diana, and Persephone.
Closely associated with Eleusinian Mysteries.
It is believed that her powerful position was derived from the Egyptian mid-wife goddess Heqit, Heket, or Hekat, who in turn evolved from the heq or tribal matriarch of pre-dynastic Egypt, who was a wise-woman in command of all hekau or “mother’s Words of Power.” In her moon-goddess aspect she is often part of the trinity with Selene, and Diana/Artemis. In Greek mythology Hecate was the only child of the Titanes Perses (god of man-made destruction – he who lays waste) and Asteria (flaming one: goddess of fire. After the fall of the Titans she was pursued by Zeus. She cast herself into the sea as a flaming meteor from heaven and was transformed permanently into the island of Delos which later became a sanctuary for Leto to give birth.) . From her parents she inherited powers over the earth, sea and heavens. Hecate was the only Titan who retained her power after Zeus’ victory. During the Middle ages, Hecate became known as Queen of the Ghostworld, or Queen of Witches. She was particularlly demonized by Catholic authorities.
Festivals and Celebrations
On the Greek isle of Aegina a festival was held every year in her honor. Mystery rites were held in her behalf.
On August 13 in Greece at the House of Storms and Fertility. It was held to aid in keeping the harvest storms from destroying the harvest.
Hallowmas held on October 31 to honor Hecate at a time when the veil between the world was the thinnest.
In Italy by the lake of Avernus, there was a scared dark grove of Hecate. In private worship to her followers were offered Hecates suppers. The leftovers were placed outdoors as offerings to this goddess and her hounds.
Sacred to Hecate
Key, torch, cauldron, dogs, owls, wild animals
Poppy, animals dog, willow, star
Medea was a priestess of Hecate. In some accounts she is actually Hecate’s daughter.
The appearance of black howling dogs at night meant that Hecate was near, and their barking announced her approach. “If the dogs are traveling at night, it means Hecate is about.”
She is only visible to dogs.
Her name was called at night at the cross-roads of cities.
She is said to live near the tombs of the victims of murder.