Hecate (also spelled Hekate with a ‘K’) is a Greek Goddess. The Goddess of witchcraft, magick, necromancy, ghosts, the Underworld, sacred animals, poison, the three paths, guardian of the household, childbirth, and all newly born, Hecate is a powerful deity, to say the least. She is also a triune or Triple Goddess and as such rules the:
-Coexistence of the Past, Present, and Future
-Moon, Earth, and Underworld
-Earth, Sea, and Sky Realms
Regarded as the protectress of Witches, the ignored, and cast-off, Hecate has countless devotees – myself included. She is the Goddess of the liminal, in-between spaces and boundaries, as well as transitions and crossroads (think birth and death).
Hecate’s father was said to be Perses, a Titan god who represented peace and destruction. Her mother Asteria was said to be the Titan Goddess of Shooting Stars and Nocturnal Oracles.
SYMBOLS OF HECATE
While Hecate is a Triple Goddess and is represented as such presently, her original representation as a goddess was singular. The earliest statue found was made from terracotta and discovered in Athens. We know this to be Hecate as the inscription was dedicated to her. Furthermore, the date was determined by the writing style associated with that of the 6th Century.
The sculptor Alcamenes from the late 5th Century BC Greek Classical period is credited with Hecate’s first triplicate depiction. The marble relief statue featured a triple Hecate set around a centered column, known as a hekataion. While the original artwork is lost, hundreds of copies still exist. They were typically placed at the entrances to holy temples and civilian homes, as well as crossroad shrines to protect spaces from evil influences.
Hecate is well-known for holding several items in her hands, the most common being torches, keys, daggers, and serpents. She is often depicted being surrounded by skulls at her feet and having dogs standing vigil at her side. But while this is a typical depiction, it is important to note that the interpretation of the Goddess of Witches is vast and varied.
HECATE AND SACRED ANIMALS
Dogs mark at the top of Hecate’s list of sacred animals. The following are ways in which she is connected with canines:
-Hecate is depicted as dog-shaped herself or joined by a dog in classic art and literature.
-Dog howls denoted when Hecate was approaching.
-Sacrificial rites were made to Hecate through the slaughter and eating of dogs.
-A racehorse owner dedicated a marble relief statue to Hecate shown with a dog next to her in the 4th Century BCE.
-Many believe Hecate is associated with dogs as they are also sacred to birth goddesses, which ties to her Mother Goddess role.
-Some think of Hecate’s canines as manifestations of restless demons or troubled souls who stay by her side.
-One myth about Hecate’s alliance with female dogs in particular is surrounded by the story of the Trojan Queen Hekabe. It is said that the female canine glued to Hecate’s side is the Queen who leapt into the sea following the fall of Troy who the Goddess transformed into her familiar.
Other animals of note associated with Hecate include:
HECATE AND SACRED PLANTS
Closely tied to sacred plants, Hecate is believed to bestow guidance and direction in the creation of botanical poisons and medicines. In mythology, Hecate is mentioned as the teacher who instructed Medea to “work in drugs.”
THE SACRED TREES OF HECATE
The first is the evergreen yew tree. The Greeks honored the Goddess via the yew in a couple of different ways. Attendants of Hecate draped yew wreath on the necks of black bulls that were set to be sacrificed in the veneration of the Goddess. Yew boughs were burned on funeral pyres in honor of Hecate.
Another tree used to honor the Goddess is oak. Hecate has been historically described as donning oak twigs and fragments in her hair. Other renditions of this description includes serpents that twine and twist around the oak branches.
The cypress tree is associated with death and the Underworld. Because of this, Hecate is tied to cypress trees by some.
OTHER SACRED PLANTS
The following is a list of other botanica associated with and/or favored by Hecate:
Hecate can be honored every day, during the Dark Moon, on the 30th of every month and on the Night of Hecate. As a devotee of hers for years now, I do all four of these.
Falling on November 16th, Hecate’s Night begins at sunset and goes until the sunset of November 17th. Historically, those devoted to the Goddess would hold dinners in honor of her. They were called Hecate Suppers. And unsurprisingly, food offerings were at the center of these feasts.
HOST YOUR OWN NIGHT OF HECATE SUPPER
Plan your own feast to honor Hecate! You can do this alone or with others. You may even wish to invite all of your fellow practitioners to honor the Goddess of Witches. Enlist the help of others to decorate the room in which you will be dining. Use black, white, red, and gold for the colors of your Hecate Night Supper.
An activity I like to do is on the Dark Moon before Hecate’s Night. I take the time to do my usual rituals with the addition of dressing candles to use during the feast to celebrate Hecate. I choose candles in her colors and dress them with herbs associated with her. You could opt to do this as well, either by yourself or with those who plan to sup with you.
As for the menu, the following foods are those that Hecate and her animal companions are fond of:
- Goat Milk
- Breads and pastries in crescent shapes
- Leeks and onions
You may also wish to make an Amphiphon. It’s a customary cheesecake or cheese pie offering. Decorate the Amphiphon with small candles in quantities of 3, 7 or 13.
The way that I offer my food to Hecate and other deities I work with is to give first bites to them. I take portions of the all the dishes made for the celebration and set them aside. As I scoop the first bites on the serving dish (biodegradable is key here!) I invite her to sup with me (and my guests if applicable). I make sure to thank Hecate for her blessings and protection she bestows on me and my house throughout the year.
After her plate is made and before eating, time is taken to make petitions to the Goddess. These can be spoken incantations – out loud or internal – or written requests that will accompany the offering. The oblation is then set at a crossroads for Hecate and her hounds to consume as they roam the land of the living.
A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE
When you give your offering to the Goddess at the crossroads and make your petition, turn around and walk away. DO NOT LOOK BACK. This is set in the traditional belief that any offerings being consumed by restless spirits would anger and in turn release their negative energy upon the looker-on’s entire house. It is also thought that those who turn and look back on what they left at the crossroads would go insane.
A MODERN ALTERNATIVE
Making your way to a crossroads could prove difficult for you. Modern ritual practice does include an alternative where you place your first bites on a plate and set it on an altar dedicated to Hecate in the centermost place in your home. Allow it to rest there for an entire day before disposing of the offering. Make sure that any pets or small children will not be able to disturb the altar.
FINISH THE FEAST
Once the offering and all petitions have been made, dig in! Enjoy the food and the company, all while relishing in Hecate’s wonder. Her strength, her wisdom, her power – everything that puts you in awe of her.
And if at any time you hear a dog howl during Hecate’s Night, she has heard you and is pleased.
OTHER DATES TO HONOR HECATE
As aforementioned, Hecate can be exalted every day, at the Dark Moon, on the 30th of every month, and on November 16th – Hecate’s Night. But I would be amiss if I did not mention that you may also honor her on other days throughout the year:
- January 31st: Hecate’s Feast Day
- August 13th: Traditional Greek Day of Offerings for Hecate (leave offerings at a crossroads)
- October 31st: Samhain (the liminal festival where the veil is thinnest between worlds offers a great chance of connecting with deities)
Do you celebrate Hecate’s Night? Do you or have you worked with her? Let me know in the comments!