Who is the Goddess Hecate?
Hecate, also spelt ‘Hekate’, is a goddess in ancient Greek religion and Greek mythology. However, it may come as a shock to learn that the idea of Hecate actually predates the establishment of the Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses.
Before Greek mythology became popular in Ancient Greece, other ancient cultures worshipped ‘mother goddesses’ who were associated with fertility, Earth, and other aspects of nature. Still, this hasn’t stopped Hecate from being revered in Greek myths.
She is even the focal point of a Greek Homeric hymn in Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica, which speaks about how Hecate was honoured by Zeus, the son of Cronos.
It states that “He [Zeus] 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 gods.” In some versions, the gods are also referred to as the ‘immortal gods’.
The exact origin of Hecate’s name has been widely debated, although most scholars agree that her name is more than likely derived from the Greek word ‘Hekatos’, which means “worker from afar”. However, another theory suggests a connection between Hecate and the obscure epithet of Apollo, ‘Hekatos’, meaning ‘the far-reaching one.’
What is Hecate the Goddess of?
Hecate is historically a multi-faceted goddess, which is perhaps why she is known as the Triple Goddess. This Greek goddess is known for her diverse associations and attributes, some of which include:
- The goddess of witchcraft/ the goddess of magic: The Greek goddess Hecate is perhaps most well-known for her association with witchcraft and magic, serving as a patron for anyone who practised these arts. However, she was also known as a protector against malevolent witchcraft and dark magic.
- The night: She’s also associated with the night, and has often been depicted with torches. She is believed to have guided people through the darkness with the help of these torches.
- The moon: Hecate has a connection to the moon, being associated with Selene, the Greek moon goddess. This has even influenced modern literature. For example, an extract from ‘Into the Cold Fire’ by Lynne Ewing reads “In antiquity, Hekate was loved and revered as the goddess of the dark moon. People looked to her as a guardian against unseen dangers and spiritual foes.”
- Ghosts and necromancy: Hecate is sometimes linked to the spirit world (especially protection against evil spirits), including the practice of necromancy and communication with the dead. This is why some spiritualists call on Hecate when they attempt to commune with spirits during a séance or other form of communication.
- Goddess of the crossroads: As the goddess of the crossroads, Hecate may symbolise choices or opportunities. She may also symbolise transitions in life, giving people the strength to accept unexpected changes.
- The virgin goddess: In some cases, Hecate is compared to Artemis and is considered a virgin Greek goddess. This is because she has often been depicted in artworks as virginal, with knee-length maiden dresses.
- Hecate’s association with herbs and poisonous plants: Herbology and witchcraft may sometimes go hand-in-hand. So, it may not come as much of a surprise that Hecate is associated with herbal knowledge, particularly in the use of plants for medicinal or poisonous uses.
As the Goddess of witchcraft, Hecate has been associated with several sacred animals and symbols. Modern witches and spiritualists use these magickal symbols in their practices or may take these symbols as signs of Hecate’s protection over them.
While some of Hecate’s symbols are historic and have been used for centuries, others have emerged in modern times and are linked to Hecate through association. The most common symbols for Hecate that symbolise her power include:
Since Hecate has been depicted holding twin torches, they have become representative of her role as the goddess of the night and the illumination of hidden knowledge. These torches help to guide people who seek her guidance through dark times, both literally and metaphorically.
Keys are another symbol of Hecate, signifying her role as the guardian of crossroads and doorways. The keys represent her ability to unlock hidden knowledge and opportunities, as well as her power to open gates to the mortal and spirit world.
While not as widely used as some of Hecate’s other symbols, snakes or serpents are used in more modern times to depict the goddess of magic. This is because snakes can represent transformation and connection between the physical and supernatural realms.
Dogs are often touted as the most prevalent sacred animal of Hecate. They symbolise her role as a protector and companion in dark times, as well as her vigilance and loyalty.
In some cases, Hecate is shown as being accompanied by lions. Lions are symbolic of power and strength in most cultures and religions, which may help to emphasise Hecte’s power authority and influence over magic and the supernatural.
Over time, Hecate has been depicted as a triple-formed goddess, with three bodies standing back to back. This triple form may be representative of her role as a goddess of the crossroads and the triple aspect of her power over the heavens, the earth, and the sea. It may also symbolise her ability to look in every direction simultaneously.
Is Hecate good or evil?
Like some other gods in Greek mythology, Hecate doesn’t necessarily fit into either category of ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Instead, her character is more ambivalent and the interpretation of her role depends on your specific beliefs, culture, and practices.
Is Hecate associated with any particular colours or gemstones in modern witchcraft?
Generally, Hecate is associated with two main colours: black and silver. Black is representative of the night, mystery, and the unseen. On the other hand, silver is representative of the moon. Since Hecate has lunar connections, many people use silver to symbolise her power.
If you use gemstones and crystals in your practices, you may want to know which ones to use on your altar or as a way to call on Hecate. Generally, spiritualists tend to use black tourmaline (for grounding and protection) or moonstone (for intuition and psychic abilities).
The history and origins of Hecate in Greek myth are complex, which has sparked a debate among spiritualists about who Hecate really is. However, her role as the goddess of magic and witchcraft has made her a prominent figure for modern witches who may look to her for guidance, strength, and assistance in their spiritual endeavours.
Whether you believe in witchcraft or not, Hecate’s role in your spiritual journey is up to you and how much emphasis you place on her specific attributes.