Updated: Oct 14, 2020
THE MAIDEN, THE MOTHER, THE CRONE
Hecate was a goddess in Greek mythology, considered to be the goddess of magic and witchcraft.
Writings throughout the centuries have woven different tales about Hecate and her role as a goddess. In current times, she is usually depicted as a "hag" or old witch stirring the cauldron. Nothing could be further from the true.
In art, she was initially depicted as being a single figure. However, in later periods, statues depicted her as three-fold, having three faces and three bodies united.
The triple Hecate represented three aspects of a single goddess, often associated with the three stages of life – youth, adulthood, and old age.
The most repeated story of her birth was that Hecate was the daughter of Perses and Asteria, two second-generation Titans.
Hecate was honoured in households as a protective goddess who brought prosperity.
She was also closely associated to the spiritual world, ghosts, and the dead.
She was a goddess of boundaries and “in between” spaces. In the physical world.
The boundaries she oversaw were not limited to the physical world, though. Hecate also presided over more mystical boundaries.
One of these was the boundary between life and death.
This made her one of the few deities to have the power to move freely between the world of the living and the underworld. Not only could she move between the realms, but she had power to control the passage of others.
Even in her origin, Hecate moved between two places. She was born into the world ruled by the Titans, but continued to be influential and powerful in the Olympian pantheon.
Her association with dark magic is also tied to her identification as an underworld goddess. As one of the deities capable of passing between realms, she had access to the secrets of the dead.
Although much of her power appeared generally dark or menacing, Hecate could also be a merciful goddess. In literature, there is a clear link between her, Demeter, and Persephone. When Persephone was abducted to the underworld by Hades, Hecate was the only witness willing to help Demeter search for her daughter.
Hecate was virgin goddess. She was unwilling to sacrifice her independent nature for marriage. She could be found wandering the roads at night during the dark phases of the moon, and was described as luminous, Perhaps it was this luminous quality that marked Hecate as a "moon goddess”.
She was gifted with farsightedness, and could see in several directions at once (the past, present, and future). Hecate's ability to see into the Underworld, the "otherworld" and the dead, made her comfortable and tolerant in the company of those who most would shun out of fear or misunderstanding.
The goddess Hecate was known as a protector of women, especially during childbirth.
Hecate was called upon to ease the pains of a woman's labor, but especially to protect the child, She also played a role of helping the elderly, make a smooth and painless passage into the next life.
New beginnings, spiritual or mundane, aren't necessarily easy.
Hecate is there to support you. She loans her farsightedness for you to see what lies forgotten and hidden, then she can help you make a choice and find your path. Often, she shines her torch to guide you while you are in dreams or meditation.
Dogs were closely associated with Hecate, In art and in literature Hecate is constantly represented as dog-shaped or as accompanied by a black dog. Hecate's dog came to be thought of as a manifestation of restless souls who accompanied her, its original signification was positive and thus likelier to have arisen from the dog's connection with birth than the dog's underworld associations.
The association with Black dogs, particularly female dogs, could be explained by a metamorphosis myth. The friendly looking female dog accompanying Hecate was originally the Trojan Queen Hekabe, who leapt into the sea after the fall of Troy and was transformed by Hecate into her familiar.
Another story of Hecate’s protective nature, involves another of her sacred animals.
The story of how the polecat became one of her companions.
When Alcmene was in labour with Heracles, Hera attempted to stop the child from being born. She convinced her daughter Eiliethyia, the goddess of childbirth, and the Moirai, to prevent the birth.
The Moirai crossed their arms and Eileithyia refused to help the laboring woman.
Galinthias tricked the Moirai into thinking the child had been born despite their interference.
When they heard this the Moirai uncrossed their arms, releasing the bonds that had kept the infant Heracles from being born.
In revenge for this trick, Eileithyia turned Galinthias into a polecat.
Hecate, however, took pity on Galinthias. She could not undo the curse, but she made the polecat her sacred servant.
Of course, as with many stories of Hecate there was also a darker version. Another story said that Hecate herself had cursed a witch named Gale to be a polecat for disgusting her with incontinence and abnormal desires.
Hecate was closely associated with plant lore and the concoction of medicines and poisons.
The yew in particular was sacred to Hecate.
Greeks held the yew to be sacred to Hecate... Her attendants draped wreathes of yew around the necks of black bulls which they slaughtered in her honor and yew boughs were burned on funeral pyres. The yew was associated with the alphabet and the scientific name for yew today, taxus, was probably derived from the Greek word for yew, toxos, which is hauntingly similar to toxon, their word for bow and toxicon, their word for poison. It is presumed that the latter were named after the tree because of its superiority for both bows and poison.
She is also sometimes associated with cypress, a tree symbolic of death and the underworld.
A number of other plants (often poisonous, medicinal or psychoactive) are associated with Hecate. These include belladonna, dittany, mandrake and aconite (also called hecateis).
It has been suggested that the use of dogs for digging up mandrake is further corroboration of the association of this plant with Hecate. The apparently widespread practice of using dogs to dig up plants associated with magic.
Hecate is recognized as a underworld goddess. The liminal spaces between worlds, As the holder of the key that can unlock the gates between realms. Hecate takes on the role of guardian not just of roads, but of all journeys, including the journey to the afterlife.
Earliest written source mentioning Hecate, its emphasized that she was an only child, the daughter of Perses and Asteria, the sister of Leto (the mother of Artemis and Apollo). Grandmother of the three cousins was Phoebe the ancient Titaness who personified the Moon.
In various later accounts, Hecate was given different parents.
According to Musaeus; the daughter of Aristaeus the son of Paion.
As a virgin goddess, she remained unmarried and had no regular consort, though some traditions named her as the mother of Scylla.