Hecate and Her History
Hecate is a threefold Moon Goddess connected with the feminine independence from the masculine. Hecate is an ancient Goddess from an early, pre-Greek period of myth. At first, the Hellenic Greeks found Hecate difficult to fit into their pantheon. Although she was not considered a part of the Olympian company, she had retained dominion over sky, earth and the underworld making her the bestower of wealth and the blessings of life. Zeus himself honored Hecate so greatly that he always conceded to her the ancient power of giving or denying to mortals any desired gift.
Hecate is skilled in the arts of divining and foretelling the future. She gives humans dreams and visions which, if interpreted wisely, led to greater clarity. Also, because of her association with Persephone, she is connected to death and regeneration. Her presence is the land of the underworld allows for the pre-Hellenic hope of re-birth and transformation as opposed to Hades, who represented the inevitability of death.
Hecate's name derives from the Egyptian midwife-Goddess Heqit, Heket, or Hekat. The hag was the tribal matriarch of per-dynastic Egypt and was known as a wise woman. Heket was a frog headed Goddess who was connected with the embryonic state when dead grain decomposed and began to germinate. She was also one of the midwives who assisted every morning at the birth of the Sun.
In Greece, Hecate was a Moon Goddess, one of the original trinity who were connected with the moon's three phases and ruled heaven, earth and the underworld. She was especially worshipped at places where three roads met and was known as Hecate Trivia, Hecate of the Three ways. Some scholars say that Hecate was not originally Greek, her worship having traveled south (where she had been worshiped as Isis), or from her original Thracian (Indo-European) homeland. In any case, the antiquity of Hecate's worship was recognized by those pre-Olympian divinities whom Zeus and his cohort had ousted. The newcomers also bowed to her antiquity by granting to Hecate alone a power shared with Zeus that of granting or withholding from humanity anything she wished.
Hesiod in Theogony says that Hecate was the daughter of the Titan Perses and the Tiantess Asteria, a star Goddess, both symbols of shining light. Asteria was a sister of Leto who gave birth to Apollo and Artemis, making Hecate a cousin to Artemis. An even older tradition saw her as a more primal Goddess and made her a daughter of Erebus and Nyx (Night). A later tradition says Hecate was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Some say she remained a virgin by choice and others say she was married to Hades.
During the middle ages, Hecate became known as Queen of the Witches. Catholic authorities said that the people most dangerous to the faith were those whom Hecate patronized - midwives, healers and seers. They also saw the simple peasants practicing folk religion as "devil worshippers" and Hecate was portrayed as an ugly hag leading covens of witches in these practices.
Hecate of the Amazons was a Moon and underworld deity. Her chariot was often pulled by dragons. She was the oldest Greek form of the triform Goddess, who ruled heaven, the underworld and the Earth. After the matriarch fell, the Greeks worshiped Hecate only as Queen of the Underworld and ruler of three-way crossroads. In Greek Mythology, when the Olympian Gods claimed fame, Zeus did not dare try to take any of Hecate's powers from her, as he knew her powers were just as great as his if not greater.
As Hecate Trivia, Hecate of the Three Ways, Her images stood at the crossroads, where offerings of dogs, honey and black lambs were left on Full Moon nights, Divination and communication with the dead were performed in these places.
She was also know as angelos (angel) and phosphorus (light). In the myth of Kore-Persephone, Hecate does not interfere when the Maiden is dragged down into the underworld. Demeter is outraged and vengeful, but Hecate remains calm, knowing that certain things in life must come to pass and there is little point in becoming hysterical about them. This inner illumination (phosphoros) of consciousness, this learning to roll with the punches and then coming back to better things is the deep wisdom taught by the Dark Mother, the dark angel (angelos) of the collective unconscious. If we do not know this aspect of the Goddess or acknowledge Her wisdom, we cannot have a truly integrated personality.
Later, studies show Hecate with three heads and six arms, or merely as a pillar called a Hecterion. Hecate was shown holding three torches, a key, a rope, and a dagger. With the key, she unlocks the deep mysteries, the rope is a symbolical umbilical cord, the dagger, which has become the athame of Witchcraft, cuts through illusion to true power. But Hecate was also known as the most lovely one, a name for the Moon. It was said that She wore a shimmering headdress and was second to none in her powers. A statute from the 8th century BCE shows Hecate with wings and holding a snake.
Hecate was called the Silver-Footed Queen of the Night, as was Persephone. In Italy at Lake Averno, an extinct volcanic crater, the thick, dark forest surrounding the lake was known as Hecate's sacred grove. Actual temples to this Goddess were rare. During the Middle Ages, Hecate became known as Queen of the Witches.
Hecate is known for her gifts of prophecy, her clear vision, and her knowledge of the magical and occult arts. Because she stands at the crossroads, she can look into the past, present and future, Her Priestesses were many, including Medea and Circe. Medea had Hecate's foresight and wisdom, Circe her gift of the magical arts. Since Hecate had three faces, she could look to the past, the present ,and future, thus she was highly skilled as a visionary.
Hecate's worshipers invoked her in ritual and placed food for her as an offering. This was known as Hecate's supper. Rituals were always in the darkest hours of the night. Worshipers gathered to study and learn occult wisdom (later refereed to as the "black arts"). Initiations in the name of Hecate are still carried out by many witches whether they be solitaire or in covens.
Hecate is the Dark Mother, in both the positive and the negative sense. She can send demons to torment men's dreams, she can drive them mad, if they are not well integrated enough to cope with her, but to those who dare to welcome her, she brings creative inspiration. She is Hecate Antea, the Sender of nocturnal visions.
When one learns from Hecate with patience and love, one learns that She is not an ugly hag, but a beautiful Goddess. One must be willing to "sacrifice" oneself on the inner altar in order to gain Her good will. This type of sacrifice does not literally mean immolation or austerity of unnatural kinds, This is a spiritual sacrifice, willingness to give up negative habits and friends, taking time for meditation and ritual, being kind and understanding to your fellow person, and open to new ways of spiritual thought and understanding. The only thing we have of value to offer the Dark Mother is the life force of our being. When we can offer ourselves without reservation, the Crone gives in return far more than we can imagine. Like Loki, we lose nothing, what we gain, is up to our intentions.
Hecate, the Crone, is the power behind the Throned Queen Mother, She is the ultimate advisor, for She sees clearly back into the past through the present and on into the future. She is the Keeper of the Key to the Akashic Records. The final mysteries of life and the universe are Hers. She is the gentle Death Priestess who meets us at the end of our lives and guides us into the world of spirit.
Hecate, the Crone blends with the Maiden and Mother as they blend with Her. She is the greatest of Teachers and Initiator, for She leads us downward into the entrance of the labyrinth web. From that point, we have no choice but to face the cycle of life and death. We are shown past lives, the mistakes, the victories, and the talents gained. Only when we can accept and understand, at least in part, does the Crone show us the most sacred of Her Mysteries: that the labyrinth does not end but continues on, back into life, a never-ending cycle of existence.
Today we can relate to Hecate as a guardian figure in our unconsciousness, holding the key to the dark realms within us and bearing torches to light our way into the depths of our inner being. Our patriarchal civilization has perhaps taught us to fear this figure, this terrible hag, but if we trust in her ancient energies we will find her a kindly guardian. She stands at the triple crossroads that exists at all levels of our being, manifesting as spirit, soul and body. We should recognize that the terrible, awful hag-like image of Hecate is merely a document of the unconscious fear of the feminine which men, immersed in a one-sided patriarchy, have over the millennia projected in this archetype.
We must visit and come to terms with the dark unconscious side of our "inner nature" for, if we avoid this realm, we create polarity and eventually develop a dualistic world view. We have to face up to our inner Hecate, make a relationship with her as guardian of our unconsciousness, our dark side, and, trusting Her stewardship, allow ourselves to grow into an awareness of the rich realm of our personal underworld. Only through this can we become integrated beings.