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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology

HEKATE (aka Hecate)

Hekate

Hekate in Greek mythology was a powerful Goddess representing the three aspects of the Great Goddess, or Triple Goddess: Goddess of fertility and plenty; Goddess of the moon; and Goddess of the night, ghosts and sHades, which led to her evolving as the Patroness of Magick and Witchcraft.   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.

Variously described by the Greeks as either as the daughter of Zeus and Hera, or of Perses and Asteria, she is the mother of Scylla and is specifically the Goddess of pathways and crossroads travelled by night.

She is depicted carrying a torch and an assortment of other attributes, and is sometimes depicted accompanied by coiled snakes and howling dogs.   In her dark aspect, she wears a necklace made of testicles; her hair is made of writhing snakes which petrify, like the Medusa.  She causes Nightmares and insanity, and was so threatening to the ancient people that she was called "the Nameless One."

Hekate is also known as the Goddess of the moon who became syncretized, in Hellenic times, with Selene.   In parts of Thessaly she was worshipped by Occult bands of moon worshippers and in some versions of the Persephone/Demeter legend she plays a role in the seasonal return of Persephone to her mother from the arms of Hades.

Hekate has three aspects: Goddess of fertility and plenty; Goddess of the moon; and queen of the night, ghosts and shades.   In her moon-Goddess aspect, she is often part of a trinity with Selene and Diana/Artemis - the Triple Goddess.

Hekate possesses infernal power, roaming the earth at night with a pack of red-eyed hell hounds and a retinue of dead souls.   She is visible only to dogs, and if dogs howl in the night, it means Hekate is about.   She is said to be the cause of Nightmares and insanity and is so terrifying that many ancients referred to her only as "The Nameless One."

The Hellenes emphasized her Hag aspects, but continued to worship her at places where three roads connected, especially in rites of Magick, Divination, and Necromancy.   Her images guarded three-way crossroads for many centuries, thus she was Hekate Trevia, "Hecate of the Three Ways."   Offerings, particularly on nights of the full moon, were left at roadside shrines built in her honour, especially by those wishing this Goddess of prophecy and magic to assist them on journeys.

Hekate is the Goddess of all Crossroads, looking in three directions at the same time.   In many cultures the crossroads are considered to be the place of intersection between worlds, the spiritual and the physical, the then and the now, the world of gods and the world of humans.   At the crossroads where her three-fold image stood, she brought messages to and from the other deities and, interceded with them, and secret rites were performed under a full moon to appease her.

Hekate has been associated with many Incantations, Sacrifices and rituals through-out history.   In ancient times, people sought to appease her by leaving chicken hearts and honey cakes outside their doors.   On the last day of the month, offerings of honey, onions, fish and eggs were left at crossroads, along with Sacrifices of puppies, infant girls and she-lambs.

Witches gathered at crossroads to pay homage to her and such infernal servants as the Empusa, a hobgoblin; the Cercopsis, a poltergeist; and the Mormo, a ghoul.   One petition for her patronage is recorded in the third century by Hippolytus in Philosphumena:
"Come, infernal, terrestrial, and heavenly Bombo (Hekate), 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 in the place of tombs, thou whose thirst is Blood, thou who dost strike chill fear into mortal hearts, Gorgo, Mormo, Moon of a thousand forms, cast a propitious eye upon our Sacrifice."
Hekate guarded the Limen, the doorstep - "Limenoskopos".   She was "Propylaia", the One before the Gate.   Statues of Hekate carrying torches or swords were erected in front of homes to keep evil spirits at bay.

Hekate ruled over ghostly or uncanny places: One of the Orphic hymns says she loves desolation.   A magical papyrus says she loves solitude.   She roamed the tops of mountains, deep forests, desolate heaths and secluded pools.   The man-made landscape of harbours and cemeteries, both places of passage and change, were also visited by her as were roads.

Her presence was sensed when the individual felt alone and afraid, cut off from domestic surroundings.   Hekate most often became present when awed by the power of nature or the strange or alien in the built environment.   She was (in this image) pre-eminently the Goddess of the uncanny and the supernatural.

Hekate ruled over wild beasts.   With her pack of hounds in attendance, she hunted wild creatures.   She was also a part of nature herself.   In her later manifestations she was seen not with human, but with animal heads.   Her aspect became part animal part Goddess.

The rituals of the ancient Mysteries of Hekate and the instruction that prepared Initiates for them has been long lost.   So those who wish to reconstruct the Mysteries must of necessity be prepared to make mistakes in interpretation of a rich but fragmentary source material.   What follows below is one such interpretation.   It uses original source material but is by no means proscriptive of other alternative readings.   Some of it is frankly guesswork based on hints from antiquity and some resonable deductions from them.   Whilst acknowledging the assistance of modern classical scholarship it does not attempt to be rigorous in the way formal scholarship demands.

She represented both the sub-human and the super-human.   Both are potentially threatening and fear inducing.   Yet both are aspects with which Initiates may become reconciled, strengthening and protecting themselves in the process.

Hekate's Mysteries involved knowledge of the methods of self-transformation into animals.   She herself was transformed into a dog, a horse, a deer and other creatures.   She was the hunter, the hunted and the means of hunting.   She was like a bull or rode on a bull.   Her voice could be that of a bellowing bull or a dog.   The knowledge imparted by her Mysteries allowed the Initiates to pass into other states of mind and other personalities, particularly those of animals and birds, a practice now called "shapeshifting".

Hekate's Mysteries focused attention on sexuality in its most unfamiliar, uncanny aspect.   Witches of the Ancient World (Goes) used their Magick arts to attract sexual prey.   They prepared love Philtres and erotic Unguents.   Their approach to sexuality was predatory and self-assertive which was in itself an unsettling notion for a male dominated society.   It is still an unsettling notion today in the 21st Century.   For whilst we no longer subscribe to the contractual child bearing role predicated by ancient marriages, we have substituted notions of romance and partnership which can be equally challenged by the sexually predatory and assertive witch.

Some of the priests of Hekate were eunuchs, androgynous beings, sexually neither men nor women.   Nor was Hekate only considered to be the Hag part of the Triple Goddess as she often is in modern Wicca.   She is "beauteous" says an Orphic hymn.   She is "young" says a Greek Magical Papyrus.   Attraction and rejection were part of her mystery.   That someone old could suddenly seem to become young and vice versa was and still is unsettling and mysterious.

For women, Hekate's Mysteries may have been a source of added Psychic power.   By the late ancient world Hekate was identified with the moon.   Although it is open to question just how far the identification of the two went, it is likely that the Mysteries of Hekate contained a lunar component.   If this was so, a woman's monthly "curse" might have become a "course" of initiation, at each point of which ritual and other powers were available.

As the Goddess of all forms of Magick and Witchcraft, Hekate was far more important in antiquity than the mythical sorceress Circe, who was sometimes said to be her daughter, or the Witch Medea, also sometimes said to be Hekate's daughter, who helped Jason steal the Golden Fleece.

She is the Goddess of the dark of the moon, the destroyer of life but also the restorer of life.   In one myth, she turns into a bear or boar and kills her own son, then brings him back to life.   From the Goddess Heqit, Hekate derived her heavenly midwifery ability.   Heqit amalgamated the Seven Hathos of the birth-chamber, since she delivered the sun god every morning.   Heqit's totem was the frog, which symbolized the fetus.   Hellenic writers described Hekate as being in the houses of women in childbirth.

Therefore, since Hekate was at times represented by Artemis, it is no wonder that the latter was able to help in the delivery of her twin brother Apollo, and was petitioned for help by women having difficulty in child bearing.

However, Hekate destroyed as she created - she was Hekate the mighty, the raging, and the tremendous.   She punished those who failed her with the whip or a knife she carried in her hands.   Her knowledge took the searcher for truth into the darkest places of the imagination and the most carefully repressed places of the unconscious mind.   Her cult also reflected a fear of the "barbarian" religious practices and cultures which would eventually overwhelm and destroy the classical world.

In modern Wicca, Hekate is usually associated with the lunar trinity, the Triple Goddess and with the Dark Goddess.   She rules over the waning and dark moon, a two-week period that is best for Magick that deals with banishing, releasing, planning and introspection.   Ironicly, this traditionally bloodthirsty Goddess is invoked for justice and associated with Necromancy.

see also: GODDESS; DARK GODDESS; NECROMANCY.


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PLEASE NOTE:
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc



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