I am Hecate of the Ways, of the Cross-Ways, of the Darkness, of the Heaven and the Earth and the Sea; saffron-clad Goddess of the Grave, exulting among the spirits of the dead; Perseia, lover of loneliness; Queen who holdest the Keys of the world…
— from The Woman at the Cross-ways by Fiona Macleod (William Sharp)
Today is the last day of the month, which is always sacred to the Triple Goddess, Hecate. Hecate, Greek Goddess of the three paths, guardian of the household, protector of everything newly born, and the Goddess of Witchcraft, was once a widely revered and influential Goddess. In current times, She is usually depicted as a “hag” or an old witch stirring the cauldron, an image that is greatly diminished from how our ancestors knew Her.
(Please note: I would be the last person to imply that there is anything inferior about being an old Crone stirring a cauldron. After all — I ought to know!)
But while She is indeed a symbol of the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess, She was also known to be a beautiful and powerful Goddess in Her own right. The Greek Goddess Hecate was the only one of the ancient Titans who Zeus allowed to retain their authority once the Olympians seized control. Zeus shared with Hecate, and only Her, the awesome power of giving humanity anything She wished (or withholding it if She pleased).
Usually classified as a “Moon Goddess”, Her realms are actually three-fold — the earth, sea, and sky. Having the power to create or withhold storms undoubtedly played a role in making Her the Goddess who was the protector of shepherds and sailors.
A lover of solitude, Hecate is, like Her cousin Artemis, a “virgin” Goddess, unwilling to sacrifice Her independent nature for the sake of marriage. Walking the roads at night or visiting cemeteries during the dark phase of the moon, the Goddess Hecate is described as appearing to be shining or luminous.
In other legends She is invisible, perhaps only glimpsed as a light, a “will-o-the-wisp.” Possibly, it was this luminous quality that marked Hecate as a “Moon Goddess,” for in personality, She is not characteristically an ethereal sort of Goddess, but solid and earthy. Some scholars believe it may be because Her mother is Asteria (Titan Goddess of the Shining Light or “Star”) or because, sensibly, She always carries a torch on Her journeys.
Like Artemis, Hecate is usually depicted with Her sacred dogs, although Hecate (and even Her animals) are sometimes said to have three heads and are able to see in all directions. Although usually depicted as a beautiful woman who just happens to have three human heads, some images are fearsome indeed — with one head being that of a snake, one that of a horse, and the third a boar’s head.
In ancient times, on the last day of the month (which, if we are going to be scrupulously accurate, would not be our solar month, but the lunar month), Hecate’s worshippers would leave a “Hecate’s Supper” outdoors, usually at a Y-crossroads, with specially prepared foods as offerings to Her. These offerings were also gifts to appease the restless ghosts, called apotropaioi by the Greeks.
At whatever crossroads you might find yourself this night, I hope you will pause and welcome the mighty presence of Hecate, who empowers the downtrodden, the marginalized, and all in need, especially women and children. May She guides us wisely and well, as we travel through this darkest time of the year.