Mythology Mondays: Hekate, Goddess of Witches

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Hekate has a lot of things under her belt. She’s the goddess of witches, the night, the moon, necromancy, ghosts, magic…she’s pretty busy.

Hekate is also often misrepresented. While I’d never say how gods can appear to mortals (read: however the fuck they want), there’s a difference between how they might appear to individual followers and what is historically known about them. We need to distinguish between these two things.

Very often, I see Hekate referred to as “the ancient crone goddess” or similar by modern followers of pagan gods as if it’s historical fact.

Ah, nope. She might appear as a crone to individual followers. This does not make her an ancient crone goddess. She was consistently depicted as a maiden in Greek art. I think this tendency to call her a crone goddess comes from people’s associations of witches with cronehood. Witches can be any age.

Mini-rant about ahistorical representation and ageism in witchcraft out of the way….

Titans of Industr—Witchcraft

Hekate is a Titan — one of the original Greek gods. Which I suppose means “OG” could be one of her modern epithets.

You may know that the reign of Zeus and the Olympians came when Zeus overthrew his father, Kronos, leader of the Titans. (The Disney movie Hercules VASTLY oversimplifies this story.) He was a bit grumpy about his dad, you know, eating all his siblings.

The goddess Hekate was born of Perses and Asteria, two other Titans. She also supported Zeus in the overthrow, and so became a favorite of his and not, you know…killed, or exiled, or generally in the disfavour of the Olympians. #NotAllTitans.

Hekate in triplicate. Photo by Zde / CC BY-SA

She assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, using her twin torches to light the way. Later, when Persephone becomes queen of the dead, Hekate is in her retinue. (It was common for Greek gods to have groups of other gods or spirits who hung out with them.)

Hekate has a lot of power — over heaven, earth, and sea. It’s said she gets her power from her parents. Perses is a Titan of destruction; his name means “the destroyer” and he was likely connected with Sirius, the dog-star. Asteria means “Starry One” and she is the goddess of falling stars and divination through dreams and the stars (oneiromancy and astrology).

There may be a connection with Hekate’s association with dogs and the fact that her father is associated with the dog-star, but there’s not much detail about it.

Puppers and … checks notes … animal sacrifice???

Yes, dogs! Hekate is a dog goddess. In ancient times this meant, erm, sacrifices of said animals, but in modern times we don’t have to do that. (Don’t do that please.)

WHY would they sacrifice a poor pupper, you ask? Well, animal sacrifice used to be a lot more common in ancient days and, you know, they didn’t have the internet repository of dog pictures that we do, or Twitter telling them “They’re all good dogs Bront.”

Also you’ll note a sort of paradoxical attitude towards sacred animals to the gods — they are honored and held in high esteem, but also ritually murdered.

This is actually a common sort of idea with sacrifice, in general. You love it and honor it because the god you honor does, and so you give it up to that god. With, say, jewelry, this means you give up the best pieces (gold, silver, shiny precious gems) to the gods. With living beings, this means you kill them.

Usually dogs would be sacrificed at Hekate’s Deipnon in a form of expiation of a family’s sins. Deipnon means “evening meal” and Hekate’s was held every new moon. It was said she’d roam the earth with vengeful, wronged spirits of the underworld and her nymph retinue, the Lampades.

The family would touch the dog, giving all their sins to it, and then through ritual sacrifice of the dog the family would be cleansed of sins (and hopefully the dog would have an honored place at Hekate’s side in the Underworld).

Celebrating Deipnon with Less Murder

Modern pagans — or anyone who wants to celebrate Deipnon — can be less murder-happy! Expiation of one’s sins at the Deipnon can easily be handled by putting them all into a clay dog, or a drawing of a dog, or some other representation of it, and then destroying the representation.

Uncomfortable with even destroying a representation of a dog? I humbly suggest using the Canada Goose. No one likes those motherfuckers.

Other ways to celebrate Deipnon include cleaning your entire house (I’m sensing a theme with most gods…they all want me to clean my house) and leaving food at the crossroads.

Historically, this food was said to be eaten by Hekate on her roaming the countryside, but more likely was eaten by the poor and less fortunate mortals in the area. Thus, some modern followers choose to donate their time to the food bank or local soup kitchen instead.

Deipnon, by the way, is coming up on the seventeenth this month — mind those Lampades!

#SquadGoals: Drive Mortals Insane

The Lampades who accompany Hekate on her Deipnon are said to carry torches that can drive a man mad simply by looking at them.

This was something I learned in brushing up my Hekate knowledge for my newsletter and this post, and I have to say…it’s spinning up some pretty killer story ideas revolving around a dangerous group of young girlfriends in a YA horror story, ala those ones by Christopher Pike we all read in the 90s.

At any rate, I would advise if you’re out and about on the night of the new moon, be wary of flickering torch light. Or perhaps flashlights, the modern torches.

All I can say is it explains a hell of a lot about me.


That’s all I have for you today — any more and this post will tumble out of your computer screen and to the floor in an incredibly large scroll.

If you want to learn more about Hekate, I suggest reading her page at Theoi.com! Full of info from primary sources.


Witchy Giveaway!

Before you leave, allow me to tempt you to enter a witchy giveaway…it ends soon, so don’t miss out on your chance to win several hardback witchy books, a candle, and more.

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i love you. 
-katje

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