Faber-Castell Watercolour-Pencils “Albrecht Dürer” on Canvas
Ἑκάτη, as she is spelled in ancient Greek, is a Greco-Roman goddess who’s often associated with magic, witches, ghosts, and crossroads.
She is attested in poetry as early as Hesiod’s Theogony. An inscription from late archaic Miletus naming her as a protector of entrances is also testimony to her presence in archaic Greek religion.
The place of origin of her following is uncertain, but it is thought that she had popular followings in Thrace. Her most important sanctuary was Lagina, a theocratic city-state in which the goddess was served by eunuchs. In Thrace she played a role similar to that of lesser-Hermes, namely a governess of liminal regions (particularly gates) and the wilderness, bearing little resemblance to the night-walking crone she became. Additionally, this led to her role of aiding women in childbirth and the raising of young men.
Hecate also came to be associated with ghosts, infernal spirits, the dead and sorcery. Like the totems of Hermes – herms placed at borders as a ward against danger – images of Hekate were also placed at the gates of cities, and eventually domestic doorways. Over time, the association with keeping out evil spirits could have led to the belief that if offended, Hekate could also allow the evil spirits in. According to one view, this accounts for invocations to Hekate as the supreme governess of the borders between the normal world and the spirit world, and hence as one with mastery over spirits of the dead. Her power certainly came to be closely associated with sorcery.
The modern understanding of Hekate has been strongly influenced by syncretic Hellenistic interpretations. Many of the attributes she was assigned in this period appear to have an older basis. For example, in the magical papyri of Ptolemaic Egypt, she is called the ‘she-dog’ or ‘bitch’, and her presence is signified by the barking of dogs. In late imagery she also has two ghostly dogs as servants by her side. However, her association with dogs predates the conquests of Alexander the Great_ and the emergence of the Hellenistic world. When Philip II._ laid siege to Byzantium she had already been associated with dogs for some time; the light in the sky and the barking of dogs that warned the citizens of a night time attack, saving the city, were attributed to Hecate Lampadephoros (the tale is preserved in the Suda). In gratitude the Byzantines erected a statue in her honour.
Today, Hekate is the goddess of magic, enchantment and crossroads. She is also a moon goddess and embodies the waning and dark moon.
Animals associated with her are dogs, owls, snakes and wolves. She often carries a key – she opens the doors to the underworld.
The symbol at her side is called Strophalos of Hekate or Hekate’s Wheel. It symbolizes her in her triple aspect. Only one ancient source remains to shed any light on the emblem’s meaning. The second century Alexandrian text known as the “Chaldean oracle” describes the emblem as a labyrinthine serpent (emblematic of rebirth) surrounding a spiral, symbolic of the Iynges- “whirlings” or emanations of divine thought.
Sacred days are Samhain and November 16th, when sunset marks the beginning of the Night of Hekate
November 30th is the Day of Hekate at the Crossroads. In some traditions January 31st is the night that Hekate hands her torch to Brigid, whose arrival is celebrated at Imbolc.