Who Is Hecate?

Who Is Hecate?

At night, particularly at the dark of the moon, this goddess walked the roads of ancient Greece, accompanied by sacred dogs and bearing a blazing torch. Occassionally she stopped to gather offerings left by her devotees where three roads crossed, for this three-fold goddess was best honored where one could look three ways at once. Sometimes, it was even said that Hecate could look three ways because she had three heads: a serpent, a horse, and a dog.
While Hecate walked outdoors, her worshippers gathered inside to eat Hecate suppers in her honor, gatherings at which magical knowledge was shared and the secrets of sorcery whispered. The bitch-goddess, the snake-goddess, ruled these powers and she bestowed them on those who worshipped her honorably. When supper was over, the leftovers were placed outdoors as offerings to Hecate and her hounds. And if the poor of Greece gathered at the doorsteps of wealthier households to snatch the offerings, what matter?

Some scholars say that Hecate was not originally Greek, her worship having traveled south from her original Thracian homeland. Others contend that she was a form of the earth mother Demeter, yet another of whose forms was the maiden Persephone. Legends, they claim, of Persephone’s abduction and later residence in Hades give clear prominence to Hecate, who therefore must represent the old wise woman, the crone, the final stage of woman’s growth- the aged Demeter herself, just as Demeter is the mature Persephone.

In either case, the antiquity of Hecate’s worship was recognized by the Greeks, who called her a Titan, one of those pre-Olympian divinities whom Zeus and his cohort had ousted. The newcomers also bowed to her antiquity by granting to Hecate alone a power shared with Zeus, that of granting or withholding from humanity anything she wished. Hecate’s worship continued into classical times, both in the private form of Hecate suppers and in public sacrifices, celebrated by “great ones” or Caberioi, of honey, black female lambs, and dogs, and sometimes black human slaves.

As queen of the night, Hecate was sometimes said to be the moon-goddess in her dark form, as Artemis was the waxing moon and Selene the full moon. But she may as readily have been the earth-goddess, for she ruled the spirits of the dead, humans who had been returned to the earth. As queen of death she ruled the magical powers of regeneration; in addition, she could hold back her spectral hordes from the living if she chose. And so Greek women evoked Hecate for protection from her hosts whenever they left the house, and they erected her threefold images at their doors, as if to tell wandering spirits that therein lived friends of their queen, who must not be bothered with night noises and spooky apparitions.

The New Book Of Goddesses and Heroines by Patricia Monaghan..

The Goddess Companion

Pomona lived in ancient times,
a nymph whose merest touch would green
an orchard, would fill its boughs with fruit.
Oh how Pomona loved her orchards!
The rest of nature left her cold, but
fruit trees! apples! pears! These were
Pomona’s great delight, her fiercest joy.
She bore a knife, but not for hunting:
no, hers was used to trim a hedge
of rose or cherry-wood, or to prune
a fruitless tree, or graft an aged apple
so that it burst forth anew.
Orchards were her secret nurseries
and trees were her beloved ones
who never thirsted, never withered.
Oh! to live among Pomona’s trees!
Oh! to be loved as much as that!
~Ovid, Metamorphoses
 
The Roman Goddess Pomona was honored as the spirit of fruit trees, and also as the gardener who tends them. For many people, connection with nature occurs primarily through gardening. Even in urban areas, a pot of marigolds on a balcony will brighten the darkest day. The connection between people and plants is one that has always illuminated myth and ritual. Although few rituals exist today to celebrate the great productivity of plant and animal life each summer, we can build our own with friends and family. Eating the first corn, cutting the first ripe tomato, grilling fresh fish in the open air: if done consciously, these can become rituals of thanksgiving and love to the earth that sustains us.
 
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By Patricia Monaghan

The Goddess Companion

The Goddess Companion

 

The law of the season becomes
the law of religion. According to that law,
the day born of this night is sacred. 
for on this day offerings are made
that dedicate all ships to me.
As this day dawns, the storms of winter
lose their strength. The surging waves
grow calm. The sea is a highway once again.
Go through this day with a mind not clouded
by worry over the past or fear of futures
that have not yet come to be.
~The Goddess Isis, speaking in Apuleius’ The Golden Ass
 
Although Isis was originally an Egyptian Goddess, her worship spread to Rome during imperial times. There she was honored as the Goddess of the sea, Stella Maris, Each year at this time, all the boats that would ply the waters during the summer were blessed in lavish festivals. The Goddess was invoked to keep the sea-farers safe and to bring the goods they sought safely back to port.
 
We too are sailors, navigating the oceans of our lives, often buffeted by storms and gales. We leave the safe harbour of our homes each day to travel in search of the goods we need to survive. Yet we have no seasonal festivals that bless our voyages. Taking time to ask for the kindness and protection of the Goddess as we move through the day is a small ritual, but one that can sustain us as we travel.

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By Patricia Monaghan