Hekate: the Goddess of the Crossroads

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1. “Saffron-cloaked goddess of the Heavens,

The Underworld and the Sea

Unconquerable Queen, Beast-roarer,

Dishevelled one of compelling countenance

Keyholding Mistress of the Whole World”

Orphic Hymn to Hekate

2.  “Hail, many-named Mother of the Gods,

Whose children are fair

Hail, mighty Hekate of the Threshold”

“Hekate goddess of midnight,

Discoverer of the future which yet sleeps in the bosom of chaos,

Mysterious Hekate! Appear. “

Immortalita, Gunderode

3.  “I come, a virgin of varied forms, wandering through the heavens, bull-faced, three-headed, ruthless, with golden arrows; chaste Phoebe bringing light to mortals, Eileithyia; bearing the three synthemata (sacred signs) of a triple nature. In the Aether I appear in fiery forms and in the air I sit in a silver chariot.”

Chaldean Oracles

If I were ever to start a cult of a goddess I would choose Hekate as an object of worship. She is, next to Artemis, the one I am most drawn to in the entire Greek pantheon. Let me point out that she is in fact much older than all the gods of the Greek pantheon. Her origins are lost in the dark recesses of time. She may be as old and primordial as the time and the earth.

She may be the goddess most recognizable by those uninterested in Greek myth. In the mainstream culture she has been the recipient of many anti-feminine projections: she is the evil witch brewing her concoctions in the dark, a hag accompanied by whining and howling dogs, frequenting cemeteries and consorting with the dead. Even Alister Crowley had no love for her: “Hecate, a thing altogether of hell, barren, hideous and malicious, the queen of death and evil witchcraft.” Well, he was wrong or overly fixated on the dark aspect of the goddess.

But once we go beyond the popular representations, Hekate will emerge as a much more complex deity, and her three faces will show her multi-faceted nature. Let’s consider her possible origins and her parental lineage. She goes as far back as the ancient Neolithic Mother Goddess. She was conflated with the Anatolian mother goddess Kybele, with whom she shares a repertoire of attributes, namely dogs, keys (symbolic of her being the guardian of deep mysteries and a goddess standing at the gates of transition), lions, serpents, torches and caves. With time her power lessened and she was relegated to the fringes of the mainstream patriarchal culture. But in the pre-Hellenic Greece she might have been the most prominent and all-powerful goddess.Image

Her parents were Perses, the Titan God of Destruction and Asteria, Titan goddess of astrology and prophetic dreams. Asteria’s sister was Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, which makes them cousins of Hekate. Her lineage is very interesting because it explains why she was simultaneously revered as a goddess representing the cosmic order and a goddess of death and destruction of all outdated forms.

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Image via http://hrefngast.deviantart.com/art/Hecate-209240765

As a triple goddess she ruled the three phases of the moon (subsequently just the dark moon phase), she saw the past, the present and the future and presided over the sea, the earth (also the underworld) and the sky. An ancient ritual involved leaving food for her at the crossroads where three paths met. Why three? The Greek word for crossroads meant “the intersection of three roads,” while three roads denoted “leading everywhere, in all possible directions.” The ritual was performed when someone needed to take an important decision or before a trip: Hecate was helpful at this juncture as goddess of prophecy and vision. Her association with travel shows her deep connection with Hermes.  They were frequently paired: their statues were often placed together at the gates of Greek cities. Hekate was regarded as a gate-warder in ancient Greece: her statues stood before palaces, temple and private homes. She was a guardian of the threshold much like the three-headed Cerberus, often associated with her, was a guardian of Hades. The three-way crossroads were also liminal. Yakov Rabinovich (see sources below) makes an interesting point reminding us that the Egyptian glyph for “city” shows a crossroads. He continues: “This may help explain the weird feeling associated with a desolate crossroads far from any town — it’s like a city center without a city, roads converging on nowhere, or perhaps on the invisible?”

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Image via http://www.hecate.awebspider.com/history.htm

Hekate was further connected with Hermes through her role in the Eleusinian Mysteries. It is said that the mysteries most probably helped the initiates to improve their chances of having a good afterlife. During the mysteries the abduction of Persephone by Hades was reenacted. In the myth, Hekate saw the abduction from her cave and offered comfort and guidance to grieving Demeter. In the mysteries, she acted as a guide to Persephone in both her ascent and descent to and from the underworld. Hekate lit Persephone’s way with two torches while Hermes acted as psychopompos – guide of the souls.

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Hekate, Hermes and Persephone

Like Hermes, Hekate was a mediator: between the Titans (and chthonic deities) and the Olympians, between the upper- and underworld. She was a patroness of transition offering quick understanding that can literally open new doors for us. One of her attributes was a dagger that cuts through illusion and dispels darkness. Her torches are connected with one of her epithets – Phosphoros (bringing light).

The dark face of Hekate should not obscure her light and benevolent aspect. Two prominent ancient sources portray Hecate as the goddess of light: Hesiod’s Theogony and The Chaldean Oracles.

Hesiod wrote this of Hekate in Theogony: “And she conceived and bare Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods.” There were numerous coins excavated showing Zeus holding Hekate as a personification of the order of the universe that even the gods were subject to.

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The Chaldean Oracles (2nd century AD) have not survived in their entirety: what we have are Hellenistic commentaries on a very ancient, prophetic poem. It is said to have originated in the ancient Chaldea (Babylonia). In the oracles Hekate is portrayed as the chief goddess, a cosmic force, the vital life force, the World Soul and the Saviour. She is not lunar but solar and fiery. The serpents she is holding are the fiery, upward-spiraling Kundalini energy. The text connects her with Apollo: they even shared the epithet Hekatos, meaning “the far reaching one,” “the one operating from afar,” or “the far-darting one.” Both Apollo and Hekate were thus associated with the gift of prophecy and a far-reaching vision. The prophecies also described Hekate as the one that bestows the gifts of prophecy through sleep and dream symbolism. Further, the oracles show Hekate as the one who separates the purely intellectual fire of the Father from the material fire from which everything was created: she mediates between the higher and the lower realms.

Hekate seems to be an important goddess right now when the whole humanity is on the threshold of the paradigm shift. All great deities demanded sacrifice: the very name Hekate is a relative to the word “hecatomb” (a sacrifice of a 100). Interestingly, the asteroid Hekate got its name precisely because it was a hundredth discovered asteroid. This asteroid is conjunct my Ascendant, which may explain why I consider this goddess to be an important guide to me. Let’s hope she will be a benevolent and merciful guide in all our transitions. She was a guardian of midwives, hailing from the Egypian goddess Hequet who breathed life into the body at birth and who assisted at the birth of the Sun every morning: let’s hope she assists us in the birth of the new times.

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53 Responses to Hekate: the Goddess of the Crossroads

  1. Selena says:

    Thank you for this insightful and timely article. Definitely misunderstood, Hecates light shines through the shadows and leads us home.

  2. Selena says:

    Reblogged this on Selena Wolff and commented:
    I know this is the third post today, but I could not let this one pass by without sharing it here.

  3. Lehua says:

    Artemis & Hekate- Two goddesses that I most resonate with as well. Thank you for this wonderful post!

  4. Very informative post, thanks. As you point out, all of humanity stands “at the crossroads” at this time.

    The image of crossroads that comes to me, and accords with your comments is the legend of the early blues guitar virtuoso, Robert Johnson, who supposedly sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads to get his musical skill. Johnson fed that legend. One of the 30 or so recordings of his we have is called, “Hell Hound on my Trail,” and another is “Crossroads Blues” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsB_cGdgPTo). The legend was altered and retold in the 1986 movie, “Crossroads.” It’s been a while. I remember it as a good movie, if not great.

  5. Great presentation, as usual Monika!

  6. ~Felicia~ says:

    Awesome post! I love her.
    ~~~Felicia

  7. Hecate seems appropriate for this particular season. I could see you involved in a Mystery School. I would love it if you did a post about Hermes. For many reasons I am fascinated by him.

    excellent post, I expect no less 🙂

  8. Beautiful. Perfect timing as well. Her Spirit will be with us this week as we step further into underworld intensity.

    • Thanks, Gray. Actually, the asteroid Hekate will be participating in the eclipse this week! I listened to both lectures of Demetra George that you recommended on your blog and I felt like writing about Hekate, whose role is so similar to Hermes in many respects.

      • Wow, you are correct- and you who else is involved for real- Artemis. Artemis is almost exactly on the Eclipse, in between the Eclipse and Saturn. I may need to end up writing about this somehow… just not enough time, especially because I also now want to write about Lou Reed’s passing…

      • I hope you do write something for the eclipse. Seems like we’ll be all walking on the wild side, so you could weave Lou Reed’s passing into this, somehow.

  9. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    Hecate…Artemis the two I wander with…in dreams and more…
    I see a blacker than black Hound within the moment of a Dark Moon….
    She stands in the middle of the road watching….I am always drawn to go out and
    stand with Her…
    a most interesting post….Thank you for sharing….
    Take Care…You Matter…
    )0(
    maryrose

  10. Since she also presides over the sea, we must do her homage in these dark times when the Fukashima disaster continues. Or maybe the tragedy is one of the results of our lack of respect for the triple Goddess.

  11. shreejacob says:

    Awesome post and thank you for sharing your knowledge on the Goddess Hekate. Reading the three poems dedicated to her I saw The Mother Earth, The Virgin Mary and The Goddess Kali. Reading through the post, I realized that she embodies us..the dark and the light, the gifts of prophesy too!

  12. Erik Andrulis says:

    Of three heads I have three modes, from despair to hope to action, I am Hekate. Thanks for the lesson about Myself. Peace, Ik

  13. Stuff Jeff Reads says:

    Thanks for another great post. The crossroads is a very powerful symbol. I recently read a book on Haitian voudou what describes the crossroads as the intersection between the two planes: the horizontal plane representing the material realm and the vertical plane representing the spiritual realm. The crossroads is where one can move between realms. I guess it is appropriate that Hekate is associated with the crossroads.

  14. Don says:

    Love the dagger that cuts through illusion and dispels darkness and her torches. So much symbolism. Loved the post.

  15. Once again, Monika, you unveil deep mysteries. It is not only the subject matter that is engaging (Hectate the Mother, source of our relation to the dark womb of birth-death and of our relation to awareness-light), it is the connections that you stir in my soul and mind. Thank you. Hectate might be a gate-warder but you are the veil-lifter of the mysteries.

  16. Thank you, I love this goddess story… IAM all of her…

  17. Soul Fields says:

    Where can I find the positions of Hekate asteroid you mentioned in your reply to Linda? (Astro.com doesn´t include it). Hekate was even referred to during my mediation last evening.

    And thanks for a multifaceted approach. They are always appreciated by me, especially when relating to character traits. I enjoyed, and enjoy, your delicate manner.

  18. Your posts hold such a wealth of knowledge upon subjects I never studied and I am forever learning… Thank you for your gifts as I read these interesting facts 🙂 xxxx
    Sue

  19. renatembell says:

    Another insightful, well-written post. Thank you, Monika. And, I agree with Linda. You would share your own perspective and intelligence on the rich subject of Hermes. Continue shedding light. We always learn from you. 🙂

  20. Aquileana says:

    What a thorough well documented post… I’ll be posting on Hecate and as I liked your post a lot, I will add your link on my blog. Thanks for sharing. Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

  21. Pingback: Greek Mythology: “Hecate, Goddess of Crossroads” / Literature: D.G. Kaye’s New Book: “Words We Carry”.- | La Audacia de Aquiles

  22. 1weaver says:

    i don’t dream often (I say, because I don’t recall them 99% of the time) but when I do, its pretty dramatic. on December 11th of last year, with no more than a passing notice of her years ago, I had a doozy that ended with me both hearing her name and seeing it in big block letters across the screen of my mind. I was gobsmacked, as you might imagine. I started googling and pondering and pacing; ‘help from afar’, ‘far reaching help’ were most comforting (naturally 😉 ) a few days later, I cast my wheel for the dream date and lo, there she was right on top of my moon! a little later, I heard a podcast in an unlikely place and out of the blue the speaker mentioned ‘non-local information’ and suddenly my mind was finishing off his thought with its own ending…’which you need to USE your access to.’. (ping!)
    this is pretty serious stuff and I am just sitting with her as we now (consciously) ride together up to my hekate return. I am full of serious/sober anticipation (a nod to sat in sag) as I do so.
    all this so that you could fully appreciate how much I SO appreciate this posting on her and I will be coming to this page often to soak in her various archetypal manifestations.

  23. Pingback: Hail to All Witches | symbolreader

  24. Pingback: New Moon in Cancer | Gray Crawford

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