My patron goddess, last and lowest form
Of Hecate through whom the shades and I
Hold silent converse; warder of the gate
Who castest human offal to the dog:
Ye sisters who shall spin the threads again;
Pharsalia (aka "The Civil War") BOOK VI
Then, earth began to bellow, trees to dance
And howling dogs in glimmering light advance
Ere Hecate came.
Aeneid, Book VL
"Witchcraft celebrates pale Hecate's offerings"
Hecate/Hekate (She who works from afar) is a goddess with power over several spheres of influence but has become most famous for her aspect of Cthonia ("of the earth/underworld"), the goddess of the moon, witchcraft, ghosts, and the crossroads. The Romans knew her as Trivia (three ways), a reference to the crossroads. Like the Egyptian goddess Isis, Hecate has a large number of alternative names and titles and is identified and equated with multiple goddesses, such as Selene (goddess of the moon), Artemis (goddess of the hunt), Demeter (goddess of agriculture), Persephone (goddess of the dead), Eleiythia (goddess of childbirth), Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty), and Ereshkigal (The Sumerian goddess of the dead).
Appearance: Hecate in her role of Cthonia is portrayed as having three bodies standing back-to-back and carrying in her arms torches, whips, daggers, keys and serpents. Hecate has also been portrayed as having a single body with three animal heads, that of a dog, a snake, and a mare, however such representations appears to be rare. In her original form, Hecate was portrayed as a maiden carrying torches. In the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece, the witch Medea gives Jason the ritual to summon Hecate under the name of Brimo. The goddess is described as wearing a crown of oak leaves and having serpents in her hair and encircling her neck and arms. For images of Hecate in her Chtonia aspect, click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.
Lore: Daughter of either the Titans Perses and Asteria or else of Nyx (Night) and Tartarus (Hell), Hecate held sway over portions of heaven, earth, and the sea. Hecate was one of the few Titans to have fought on the side of the Olympians during their war against the Titans. Because of such, Zeus did did not take away her powers but instead granted her one wish in exchange for her loyalty. Hecate wisely chose the power to grant unto any mortal anything they desired, if it be her will.
Hecate's main story in myth involves the abduction of Persephone. When Persephone disappeared, Demeter travelled to Hecate's cave in the underworld to inquire if she knew anything about her daughter's disappearance. Hecate responded that she heard Persephone being abducted but did not actually see who took her. Hecate then helped in the search for the missing goddess. Later Hecate would become Persephone's attendant and guide in the underworld.
Some of Hecate's original roles were the warding off of evil spirits, the protection of those who travel by night, as well as a deity that was invoked in ritual incantations in magic spells. However, the power to protect from evil spirits can also be warped into the power to send evil spirits, which is how Hecate came to be viewed.
Sacred Objects And Animals:
Torches - Her oldest symbol and sacred object, possibly a lunar symbolism but more closely connected to Hecate's role as divine guide.
Whips/Scourge - To punish wrongdoers and to control phantoms and a symbol of Hecate's role as mistress.
Keys - Represent the keys to the underworld and of her power over phantoms.
Daggers - Represents protection from evil, her healing powers of midwifery, and also her magical abilities
Cord - Represents her magical powers of witchcraft as well as her power to bind evil spirits
Golden Sandals - Symbols of protection and deity
Serpents - Identifies her as a chonian deity.
Dogs - Hecate's sacred animal are dogs, especially black female dogs.
Plants - Hecate's sacred plants include yew, oak, garlic, willow, cypress, black poplar, dittany, as well as the poisonous plants and herbs used in magical rituals, such as mandrake, belladonna, henbane, hemlock, and monkshood.
Some Names and Titles
Angelos - Messenger (It was claimed this was Hecate's true name.)
Lampadophoros - Torch bearer
Erodia - Gate keeper
Bombo - ?
Gorgo - Gorgon
Argiope - Savage face
Brimo - The angry or terrifying one
Adamantaea - Unconquerable
Cthonia - 'Of the earth/underworld'
Prytania - Queen of the dead
Eileithyia - Goddess of childbirth
Enodia - Goddess of the paths
Aphratoss - Unspeakable one
Eukoline - Good natured
Propolos - The leading attendant
Soteira - Savior
Antaia - She who encounters you
Kerket - Power of the night
Anassan - Mistress
Trivia - Three ways
Krokopeplos - She who wears the saffron robe
Empylios - Of the gate
Philermonia - Lover of solitude
Triformus - Three formed
Tricephalus - Three headed
Einalian - Of the sea
Antania - Enemy of mankind
Crataeis - Powerful one
Epipyrgidia - From the tower
Kurotrophus - Nurse and protector of the young
Phosphoros - Light bringer
Epaine - Awe inspiring
Apotropaia - She who turns away or protects
Propylaia - She before the gate
Kleidouchos - Key holder
*Artemis of the crossroads
*The Bitch goddess
Goddess of the Moon
Hecate originally wasn't associated with the moon. However, during Roman times Hecate was identified as being a lunar deity, likely due to her identification and equation with the goddesses Selene and Artemis.
The Hounds of Hecate
On the dark of the moon, the time each mother during the new moon where there is no visible moon in the sky, Hecate was believed to roam the land with her pack of supernatural hounds. The barking of hounds at night was believed to have been an omen of the approaching goddess. At least one myth leads one to believe that these hounds may have been humans at one time. In the tale of Hecuba, the poor Queen was either stoned to death or killed herself and was then transformed into a black dog by Hecate.
On nights of the dark moon, worshippers would leave offerings of food at the crossroads. These meals came to be called Hecate's Suppers and it has been suggested that the poor and needy consumed the goods. Food such as eggs, fish, bread, olives, lamb, honey cakes, and honey were given to the goddess.
Hecate is the mother of some interesting characters. Among them include the witches Circe and Medea, as well as the monsters Scylla and the Empusa, which devour human beings.
Invocations or Hymns to Hecate
"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 in the 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."
Hippolytus in Philosphumena
A beautiful invocation or hymn to the goddess can be read HERE.
Hecate's Worship Today
Hecate is a popular goddess with people of the Wiccan faith, as well as other Neopagan groups. Wiccans tend to portray the goddess as a crone or elderly woman, though this was definitely not how the ancient Greeks viewed her. You can view examples of these Wiccan interpretations of Hecate HERE and HERE. It should be stated that Wiccans and other Neopagans tend to focus on only the positive aspects of the goddess.
Powers: In her aspect of Cthonia, Hecate is the mistress of witchcraft and has the power to both protect from evil spirits as well as to send them. Hecate has both the ability to inflict madness or insanity upon people, as well as cure it. Hecate has the power to grant unto mortal any desire, if it be her will. Hecate was also believed to bring nightmares and nocturnal storms.
Hecate In Culture: In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Hecate is the goddeess whom the Weird Sisters worship and obey as mistrees. In fact, Hecate has a presence in several of the bard's plays, including A Midnight Summer's Dream, King Lear and Hamlet. In 1795, poet, painter and mystic William Black created a popular painting of the goddess, which you can view HERE. In the t.v. series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hecate is invoked in several spells by the witches Willow and Amy. In one notable scene in the episode Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, the character of Amy attempts to put a curse on a teacher. Amy speaks outloud the incantation that begins with, "Goddess Hecate, to you I pray, with this...", but is stopped when the character of Xander places his hands on her mouth and says, "Would you quit with the Hecate".
Trivia: The words trivia and trivial, both come from the Roman name for Hecate, the goddess of the crossroads.
*Hekate in Early Greek Religion
*Hekate in Ancient Greek Religion by Robert Von Rudloff
(*Note: These are must-reads for people who are interested in the goddess. The only criticism I would have is that the author is heavily biased against the cthonic associations of the goddess. The book is now rather expensive. I was lucky to get mine inexpensive when it first came out about ten years ago.)