Hecate

Today I went through the strangest thought loop and it went like this: “Who is Hecate?” It just seems I have seen that name tossed around even though I can’t exactly recall the source of it. Perhaps I saw it written on some witchy merchandise in places where hand dipped candles, crystals, or sheets of botanical stationary with with melted wax seals are sold. I mean, there has been a lot of that going around. Tis the season, the Fall season to be exact, Mabon, Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, the witching hour or whatever you want to call it.

I felt my first signs of Autumn last week which I can’t really explain. It’s like Lorelei Gilmore smelling her first snow. If you know you know. It was like the scent of crisp apples in a scrunched up paper sack with a hint of storm. It was the way my sunflowers looked all golden standing tall against the backdrop of my neighbors Zinnias next to my daughter’s slick black car. It was after the Meteor. https://blogs.nasa.gov/blog/2022/08/18/fireball-lights-up-the-sky-over-salt-lake-city/#:~:text=A%20bright%20meteor%20flew%20through,%2C%20Aug.%2013%2C%202022.

Yes, a meteor blazed across the Salt Lake Valley and a loud boom was felt everywhere. Fragments are being found in people’s yards as we speak. I felt its blast while my family and I were gathering ourselves and making sandwiches to take with us to an amusement park. Amusement Parks in late summer are the best. A meteor that close, remarkable.

So here’s the tea. Hecate is a figure who also hails from celestial bodies from Greek Mythology but it’s much more loaded than that (her story may predate the Greeks) Hecate is often associated with the night and magic. If you are into mystical moon magic she is affiliated with the dark moon phase or the pause for setting intentions. Like nearly all other deities worshipped by old she was complex. She could be good and bad (Shakespeare went with the latter). She is a figure l I have pondered in terms of her relationship with Demeter and the disruption of seasons. She is also a pillar who stands at doorways and crossroads; often seen carrying torches or keys, and having the accompaniment of dogs or hell hounds.

Hecate is frequently mentioned in terms of threes. She is one of three mythological moon goddesses alongside Selene and Artemis (also representational of the moon phases; waxing, waning, and darkness). She is also renown for having three faces which are the Maiden (Virgin), Mother, and Crone. Throughout her epitaphs and other titles she is associated with Enodia, Trodia, and Propylaia. Which translates to “on the way, ” “frequenter of the cross roads,” and “of the gates.”

Hecate is attributed with coming to the aid of a mother who was in a most foul custody dispute. The kind of dispute where a woman becomes merely a hand maiden, a vessel for birthing, but denied all the endearments of mothering her child fully into adulthood. The child ensnared by flowers whose beauty defied all description, flowers that could only be connected to Narcissus. That child was Persephone.

So the story goes…Persephone became enthralled with some flowers she wanted to pick for her beloved mother Demeter when she was taken via fiery chariot into the underworld to be Hades bride. It seems Hades had developed a sort of fixation on the girl after becoming captivated by her immense beauty. Now, Demeter did not take the abduction of her child lightly.

Demeter was also no ordinary mother. She was the daughter of the Deities Cronus, and Rhea, who was sister and consort to Zeus (Which by the way was my great-grandmother’s name). Demeter was a regal maternal figure but also the goddess of harvest and agriculture. According to my research, “-meter” means mother, and “De-” by certain scholars translates to “-GE,” as in Gaea, which combined of course means “mother earth.”

Well the abduction of Persephone by Hades was a hard lesson for all as to why one should not vex mother earth. After Demeter wandered the earth for nine days looking for her daughter, Hecate came to her aid on the tenth day with torch in hand to help Demeter look for her, as she had heard Persephone crying out as she was being abducted (along with another witness, the all seeing sun god Helios). It should be noted that Demeter could not possibly access the underworld without the aid of Hecate. Underworld corp could only be accessed by very select few.

Demeter was angry that secrets about Persephone’s abduction and whereabouts had been concealed from her. She was also so distraught over her daughter’s disappearance she spent time away to mourn where she neglected all her duties. The earth became barren, crops failed, and people died of hunger. The Gods tried to appease her one by one by bearing gifts and pleading with her to no avail. Zeus himself finally took heart on the mortals whom he had no desire to see wiped out totally by famine or hunger so he agreed that Persephone should be returned by Hermes to his mother.

Once reunited with her mother, it was discovered that Persephone was tricked by Hades into eating one seed of a pomegranate from the underworld, and therefore was obligated to return there. Knowing this return policy would not please Demeter, Zeus concocted a custody arrangement where Persephone would reside part time with her mother and part time in the underworld with Hades. The time frame on this differentiates in what appears to be two thirds versus one third. Not exactly the four seasons of today.

Of course in the months where Persephone has to reside with Hades, her mother becomes again grief stricken, the land becomes barren and winter comes. Spring and summer bring forth a happy reunion burgeoning with new shoots, fertile fields, and abundant harvest. Persephone herself becomes symbolic of a seed buried in the ground to return once again from the underworld at the appropriate time.

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

There are a few different variations of this story. My biggest question remains as to how Persephone was transferred back and forth to the underworld and by whom. It seems that both Hermes and Hecate had the ability to travel between worlds as possible escorts and both are attributed with such. Hecate was a great companion to Persephone in the underworld but she was also a friend to Hades which is why she is often associated with darkness. I have got to give her props though for coming to the aid of Demeter with torch in hand to assist her in retrieving her stolen daughter, or at least, helping to locate her after a time of withholding. She was also tasked with ensuring that Hades kept his part of the bargain while keeping Persephone content in Hades via her friendship. In a way, she became a light in the darkness for Persephone.

There are other stories in mythology that go into further depths with Hecate. I admit, the story of Persephone is the one I find most intriguing and relatable. Second to which is the story of how Hades made a sacrifice to Erebos, exhausted himself into a slumber only to awake finding Hecate entertaining Kronos. Hades soon recognized her and she asked him how it felt to be a King. I admire the curiosity of a woman who has the audacity to question the power and authority of a man as if she is imagining her own possibilities in alternate roles.

Hades is another matter. Was he good or bad or did he just have a job to do? All resources indicate he just drew a bad lot. Hades itself was not necessarily hell just a place where all the dead would go. In other Greek myth there were multiple sections to the underworld listed by merit and Hades ruled them all. There was Elysium (Heaven), Asphodel (Limbo for those who were neither virtuous nor misbehaving) and Tartarus (Hell). There is also mention of a special section in Elysium called the Island of the Blessed that seems to be affiliated with reaching Elysium through three different rebirths or incarnations; also considered the resting place of heroes.

So yes, Hades is an enigma as ruler of the dead (not necessarily hell) but as such, is most often viewed as adversary. In the kidnapping of Persephone, his trickery in baiting Persephone with the flowers of narcissus, and initiating the eating of pomegranate seeds, one can clearly see he was capable of deceit. However, most of the gods in the Pantheon were capable of deception or scheming, all of them multi-faceted and that is probably the biggest attribute that made them relatable to humans.

I suppose my curiosity with Hecate came about because of her association with moon cycles, necromancy and/or magic. Initially, I thought that is a rabbit hole I didn’t want to go down. I suppose I may believe or participate in magic but Deity worship from the realms of mythology are not necessarily my forte.’ Magic is also a loaded term because we are all participators in magic to some degree. Everyone just goes about it differently. Some are just more eccentric about it than others, and some forms of “magic” are more socially acceptable than others.

I like to think some days that my magic lies in story. I’ve thought long and hard about why I went down this thought loop with Hecate and I decided it was because I was intrigued by her ability to assist a mother with a stolen child or to stand at the gates.

The truth is custodial disputes are a mess. I find it interesting they go back to Greek mythology. I’ve been party to that mess myself in my time, and I have friends (males too) who have had to deal with custody disputes as survivors of Domestic violence and/or psychological abuse that went beyond. I get the sorrow of Demeter, the deception of Narcissus, and the schemers like Hades. Shared time with a child does not have to bring anxiety, desolation, and sorrow when a child is absent, but sometimes it surely can. I praise those who can do shared parent or child time in a healthy way where there is no stark difference between realities or reason for justifiable angst.

I suppose I look to Hecate as a symbol of resolution and soothing things over for everyone between worlds, including looking out for the child. To me, that is a profound gift. I was rather shocked while having a conversation with a friend recently over the ins and outs of an upcoming court battle she is facing with a child that has nearly emotionally broke her, taken all her resources, and bled her dry (which it is designed to do). For no reason at all I said, “Have no fear. Your case has some strong Hecate energy coming to it.”

At first I was perplexed by why I would throw some deity in there from Greek mythology I hardly knew. Now, I get it. I so get it. Also this friend and I have both worked as gatekeepers ourselves with birthing and dying (Hospice work, doula services, chaplain, and labor and delivery). We have assisted those coming into the world and those leaving it. This has been one of the pillars of our life’s work. Why wouldn’t we metaphorically speaking feel some type of affiliation to the mythical Hecate who stood at the gates or who assisted a distraught mother retrieve a child from the ploys of Hades?

I’m also finding myself approaching another milestone. I have been maiden and mother, but someday (sooner than I’d like, and god willing) I shall also become crone. There is nothing sinister to any of it. Every older person I know still feels they carry younger versions of themselves on the inside. So cheers to Hecate and any other woman who has been fortunate enough to be the same person honoring three faces.
Of course, we as women are conditioned to conceal our age at all costs, as if the final phase of “Crone” is our own failure for not cheating fate. It’s an impossible endeavor like drowning a witch. We become crone or die in our prime immortalized like some sort of Hollywood Marilyn Monroe. We must recondition ourselves to feel the blessings of having the privilege of wearing all three faces and attributing each with equal power as does Hecate. So is Hecate a figure to fear or adhere? Well…that’s as complicated as one makes it.

Until next post!

Rachelle Whiting


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