Hekate: A Devotee’s View
Hekate (Hecate is the Latin spelling and being Greek I prefer the Greek one) is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted and misrepresented deities in modern Paganism. From being given the Crone aspect when no historical or mythological source supports it verifiably (and because Neo-Paganism tends to cater to stereotypes heavily) to the misinterpretation of Her triplicity to unfounded overemphasizing of Her darker traits to virtually anything you can imagine.
Hekate has been misconstrued by many Neo-Pagans, mainly due to the lack of research and study of reputed sources (Hesiod’s Theogony comes to mind as a very basic and vital work on the mythology of the Gods) but also due to the overwhelming sense of “being special” that many Neo-Pagans seem to have. Note that this isn’t a blog on poking the – admittedly big – portion of the “bad apples” in our big community tree. This is a post attempting to educate somewhat regarding a well-known but also exploited deity. However, in order to do so, one needs to shed light upon the shadows of ignorance and misinformation that cloud Hekate’s image.
Before I delve deeper into Hekate’s case, let me share some information on Her.
Hekate is the daughter and only child of the Titans Perses and Asteria. She inherited power over the earth, sea and sky from Her parents. Hekate is one of the very few Titans to have survived the Titanomachy and the Olympian reign “unscathed” (which is an allegoric/mythological way to portray the survival of Her cults and worship as opposed to that of most other Titans) as well as the only Titan to be praised equally to the Olympians. In the Theogony, Hesiod notes how Zeus praised Her above all others, did not take anything from Her power and even gave Her a share in the dominion of most other Gods. She is the one He often went to for advice.
Hekate is a Goddess of liminal places and times, key and torch bearing maiden, guide, psycho pomp and “opener of ways”. She is a counselor and companion of those in need and protectress from and against witchcraft. At the same time She is the governor of all magical acts and believed to have invented theurgy. That is also why Hekate, alongside Hermes and/or Iris, was to be appeased and petitioned before any ritual act for the Gods, as She was the one (or rather one of those) responsible for and permitting the mortals to reach out for the Gods. Should Hekate refuse to aid you, your calls will remain unanswered and fall to deaf ears.
Hekate is also a Goddess related to the Moon (especially with the Dark/New Moon) , childbirth (or more appropriately, child-nurturing) and crossroads. She is one of the minor household deities, a protectress of the home and household from outside perils, alongside Hermes. Note that she only has a connection to the moon. The only Moon Goddess (and that is understood as the one presiding over, embodying and ruling the Moon) in Greek mythology and theology is Selene.
She presides over the darker side of the self as well as the inner one. She governs intuition, divination and insight. Hekate is the Goddess-In-The-Shadows but also the one who can pierce the shadows. She is a “dark Goddess” in the sense that She is Queen of the Unseen but not in the sense of negativity or “evil”. Gods are beyond such human concepts.
She is a maiden Goddess and not a crone contrary to popular (mis) belief. Most mythological-related texts consider Her a virgin as well although some have her double as the mother of Skylla (by Phorkys – in the works of Apollonius Rhodius) or as the mother of Circe, Medea and Aigialeus (by Aeetes – in the works of Diodorus Siculus) . Personally, I prefer the virgin Goddess theory since the rest conflict with the other mythological family trees.
Hekate is often portrayed as a crone due to Her association with Magic. In medieval times, the image of Hekate merged with the stereotypical image of an elderly, scary-looking woman over a cauldron. From that, as well as Her, somewhat “grim” duties, spawned the image of a physically old Hekate, which is, of course, mistaken.
Another “faulty” interpretation of Hekate is Her triplicity. Due to the popularity of the Wiccan/Neo-Wiccan tenet of a Triple Goddess, other “Triple” Goddesses were misappropriated and deemed as being “triple” in the same manner. That is also incorrect. Hekate is triple in a literal sense. Being associated with crossroads and liminal places, Hekate is literally a “three-headed/formed figure”, seeing in all directions. The Triple Goddess tenet of modern Paganism (specifically Wicca) is allegoric in the sense that it’s related to aspects and periods as opposed to a literal, physical figure. In addition, Hekate was also portrayed often as a single person or as having three distinct bodies.
Finally, Hekate is a strict and stern Goddess. She can be very loving, warm and intimate with Her followers, especially those that praise and satisfy Her but She is also not as forgiving as other deities as well as intolerant of many vices, in a greater degree than most deities. A bright example is how She can be quick to remove (at least temporarily or until reformation occurs) Her favor and aid from even a devoted follower of Hers, should he/she stray from the path and fail to meet the requirements and standards set, not so much by the Goddess Herself, as much as by the person. Unlike other deities, Hekate is less direct and more influential, meaning She works in more subtle and indirect ways as well as more affecting ones, since She approaches you in a gentle fashion as opposed to a strong, straightforward manner.
If Hekate calls to you, don’t freak out. She can be strict but also very rewarding. As Hesiod says: “He who has her favor will be showered with riches, for it is within her power.” (paraphrased) . However, be wary. She won’t tolerate the unworthy.
Hekate: Her Sacred Fires, edited by Sorita D’Este
the Theoi (dot) com website