As you may know, on the last day of each month, I give honor to the Goddess Hecate. For once, this last day of our solar calendar month syncs up with the last night of the lunar month, and the dark of the Moon. What could be a better, more authentic time to give honor to Her?
So I thought I would expand a bit on my usual blurb. Invaluable help for this was obtained from the well-researched Goddess Gift website.
The Encyclopedia Mythica suggests Her name is pronounced, “hek’-a-tee” and this is probably the most common among English-speaking people. However, another etymology expert suggests, “In its original [Greek] pronunciation, the accent is on the second syllable, [and] the H is almost silent: eh-KAH-tee.”
Well, any way you want to call upon Her, Hecate is a Greek Goddess of magical crossroads and the three realms of Earth, Sea and Sky. She is a guardian of the household, protector of everything newly born, and the Goddess of Witches. She was one of the oldest and most universally revered chthonic Goddesses of the ancient world.
In current times, thanks to modern mythological interpretations such as Frazier’s The Golden Bough, She is often depicted as a symbol of the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. But this is an image that is rather limited, compared to how our ancestors knew Her.
While it is not wrong to see Her as the elder face of the Goddess, the ancients knew Her as the Maiden and Mother as well. Not only was She associated with guarding the cemeteries and the dead, She was a protectress of children, midwives and mothers giving birth.
She, like her cousin Artemis, is given to more solitary ways, and like Artemis, is sometimes thought of as a virgin Moon Goddess. (By the way, “virgin” does not mean She is uninitiated into the act of sex, but instead that She is unwilling to sacrifice Her independence to marriage).
Also like Artemis, Hecate is usually depicted with Her sacred dogs. She and Her animals are sometimes said to have three heads and are able to see in all directions. Although often depicted as a beautiful woman who just happens to have three human heads, some images are more disturbing, with Her three heads instead being a snake, a boar, and a horse.
Walking in the night or visiting cemeteries during the dark phase of the Moon, She has been described as luminous or shining.
But don’t be misled. Unlike Artemis and many other Moon Goddesses, Hecate is not ethereal or a “will-o-the-wisp.” She is a powerful Earth Goddess, a daughter of Gaia and the only surviving Titan (the pre-Olympian deities).
In fact, Hecate was the only one of those most ancient Titans that Zeus allowed to retain their authority once the Olympians had taken over. Zeus shared with Hecate, and only Her, the awesome power of giving humanity anything She wished (or withholding it if She pleased).
Hecate is sometimes accompanied on Her travels by an owl, ancient symbol of wisdom. Although not a Goddess specializing in wisdom along the lines of, say, Minerva, Hecate gives expert counsel to those at the crossroads.
As Queen of the Night, those who seek Her protection can move safely in the darkness. But She should not be romanticized or feared as a “dark Goddess,” please! Hecate also gives voice to the highest wisdom, divination and dreams.
This farsightedness, and Her ability to see in several directions at once (including the past, present, and future) featured largely in Her most famous myth, the abduction of Persephone.
It was the Goddess Hecate who “saw” and told the frantic Demeter what had become of Her daughter.
Hecate continued to play an important role in the life of Persephone, becoming Her confidante while the daughter of Demeter was in the Underworld each year. Hades, glad for this friendship, was more than hospitable, honoring Hecate as a prominent and welcome guest in His spirit world.
This probably enhanced Her reputation as being friendly with the dead, as well as being a weaver of subtle magic, empowered in the realms of dreams, prophecy, and ghosts.
Hecate’s ability to see into the Otherworlds of the sleeping and the dead makes Her comfortable and tolerant in the company of those most would shun, out of fear or ignorance.
In Her role as ‘Queen of the Night,’ sometimes travelling with a following of ghosts and other social outcasts, She was both honored and feared as the protectress of the oppressed and those whom society marginalizes. In Rome, many of the priests in Her sacred groves were the lowest of the low in society – former slaves who were released to work in Her service. But by Her presence, they were elevated.
Her powers are vast and varied. She does not choose to live above mortals on lofty Olympus, but remains firmly on the Earth, involved in the day-to-day activities of humans. She is always here at our own most important crossroads – helping us in childbirth, and escorting the dying to the Underworld.
She also can create or withhold storms. As such, She is especially honored by sailors and shepherds. In light of the horrific storms being endured in the U.S., taking some time to honor Hecate tonight might be a good idea.
In ancient times, on the last day of the 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.
Frequently a pole was erected at the intersection and three masks would be hung from it, as homage to Hecate and to request Her wise guidance when making choices.
Three-faced masks and other images of Hecate were also placed at the gates of cities, and domestic doorways.
Although Her name may mean “The Distant One,” Hecate is always close at hand in our times of need, helping us to release old, unhelpful habits and situations, and find our the courage to greet the new beginnings that surely come with the New Moon.
May mighty Hecate bring us safe shelter in all storms, and grant us Her wisdom and guidance, especially on this dark and Moonless night.