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  • Writer's pictureThe AlcheMystic

She Knew What the Rest of Us Did Not


THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT


Hecate (pronounced heh-KAH-tay) is the Greek goddess of the underworld, and of magic, divination, witchcraft, the night, the moon, and entrances. She is a beautiful and powerful goddess who can easily cross over from the underworld to the physical world, and is often considered the guardian of the crossroads, which represent death and rebirth. Hecate (meaning “worker from afar” or “the distant one”) is well-known in Celtic mythology for assisting Demeter in her search for her daughter Persephone, guiding her through the night with her flaming torches, and she eventually became minister and companion to Persephone in Hades.


The only child of Perses (Titan God of Destruction and Peace) and Asteria (Titan Goddess of Shining Light), Hecate’s domain was commonly known as the three-fold path because she was given power over earth, sea, and sky. She was the only one of the ancient Titans who Zeus allowed to retain their authority once the Olympians seized control. Zeus shared with Hecate, and only her, the awesome power of giving humanity anything she wished - or withholding it if she pleased.


A lover of solitude, Hecate was, like her cousin Artemis, a “virgin” goddess - unwilling to sacrifice her independent nature for the sake of marriage. Walking the roads at night or visiting cemeteries during the dark phase of the moon, she was described as shining or luminous. In other myths she is invisible, perhaps only glimpsed as a light. It may have been this luminous quality that marked Hecate as a moon goddess, for she was actually quite at home on earth. Some scholars believe it is because her mother was the goddess of shining light (the stars!) or because she always carried a torch on her journeys.


Hecate is commonly depicted as a woman holding twin torches, but, like Artemis, she is also often shown with her sacred dogs, two black wolf-hounds. Both Hecate and her dogs were sometimes said to have three heads so they could see in all directions. As guardian of the crossroads, she is usually depicted as a beautiful woman having three human heads (a triple goddess representing maiden, mother, crone), but other known images can appear quite fearsome.


The ability to see in several directions at once features largely in her most famous myth, the abduction of Persephone. For it was the goddess Hecate who "saw" and told the frantic Demeter what had become of her daughter. Hecate continued to play an important role in the life of Persephone, becoming her confidante when she was in the Underworld. Hades, thankful for their friendship, was more than hospitable, honoring Hecate as a prominent and permanent guest in the spirit world. Surely this had the effect of enhancing her reputation as a spirit of black magic with the power to conjure up dreams, prophecies, and phantoms. Hecate's ability to see into the Underworld, the world of the sleeping and the dead, made her comfortable and tolerant in the company of those most would shun out of fear or misunderstanding.


In her role as Queen of the Night, sometimes traveling with a following of ghosts and other social outcasts, she was both honored and feared as the protector of the oppressed and of those who lived on the “edges.” Hecate was often accompanied on her travels by an owl - traditionally a symbol of wisdom. Not really known as a goddess of wisdom, she is nevertheless recognized for a special type of knowledge – she knew what the rest of us did not. Her farsightedness and attention to detail, combined with her extraordinary interest in that which most of us discount as irrelevant or arcane, gave her tremendous powers.


It is hardly surprising that a woman who needed to make a trip alone at night would say a brief prayer to Hecate to seek her protection, for she, like her cousin Artemis, was known as a protector of women - especially during childbirth. Not only was Hecate called upon to ease the pains and progress of a woman's labor, but to also protect and restore the health and growth of a child. She was also called upon to help the elderly make a smooth and painless passage into the next life, and to stay with them, if need be, in the otherworld to help prepare them for their eventual return to the earth in their next life. Roles that, in modern times, we might describe as midwifery and hospice work.


In ancient times, Hecate was worshipped in Athenian homes to invite in her blessings and protection, and altars were placed at the gates of cities to protect the people from spirits. Shrines and altars were most commonly placed by the door, or in doorways, as she helps sift through all visitors. Three-faced masks were used to adorn the entrances of homes, both in Hecate’s honor and in hopes she would wield her influence over “spirits who traveled the earth,” - banishing those with ill intent and welcoming those who would bring good things. Often, a pole was erected at intersections and three masks would be hung from it to pay homage to Hecate and to request her guidance in helping choose the right direction. But she was most commonly worshipped in nature during the dark moon, the time of release and renewal, which is the best place and time to connect with her.


In Hecate’s Garden, the goddess and witch in all of us thrives. It is there she tends to her medicinal plants, her poisonous plants, and the serpents that live there. Hecate is considered by many as the protector of the oppressed, the marginalized, and witches. As Goddess of the in-between, the liminal spaces, the boundaries, and the transitional times of life, including birth and death, she carries a torch for illumination. This illumination is not just of the dark, but of our personal pathways, especially our shadow side, guiding us through our choices at the crossroads and the path we eventually choose.


Hecate reminds us of the importance of change, helping us to release the past - especially those things that are hindering our growth - and to accept change and transition. She sometimes asks us to let go of what is familiar, safe, and secure and to travel to the scary places of the soul, but she loans her farsightedness to us so we may see what lies deeply hidden or forgotten, make choices, and find our path.


She acts as guide and protector in the darkness, the shadows, and the Underworld. Her torch oftentimes guides us in our dreams and meditations. She teaches us to trust in our own intuition, and can provide insight and clarity about the next steps on our journey. She offers her assistance to those looking to gain an understanding of things beyond the physical realm, and helps us connect with our higher selves, which allows us to see ourselves and others in a clearer light. Hecate is especially helpful to call upon when doing personal shadow work. She can assist us in learning how to manage our emotions, give us insights in how to move forward in a healthy manner, teach us how to connect with our inner voice and wisdom, and to pay attention to signs from nature. Hecate can help us identify and overcome the woundings and challenges in our life. She does not judge or hold grudges; all we need to do is ask for her support.


Hecate is still a favorite goddess in modern times, and she is one of very few ancient goddesses with centuries of almost unbroken worship. Her powers of life and death, herbalism, religious mysteries, and necromancy have helped her work her magic for a long time. Both the ancients and modern witchcraft see her as a Goddess of Medicine, Mother of All, and one who heals and guides us through life.

THE NIGHT OF HECATE


The Night of Hecate begins at sunset on November 16th and ends at sunset the following day. On this night, feasts, suppers, and food offerings of wine, honey, crescent-shaped breads and pastries, eggs, garlic, fish, or mushrooms may be served. These offerings are both consumed by those celebrating, and placed by the front door on a plate or flat stone as an offering to Hekate as she roams the Earth by night with her sacred dogs, to invite her blessings on those who dwell inside. On this sacred night, acknowledge Hecate’s strength and recognize her as the protector of all realms of existence. Make your invocation and petition, ask for her assistance to release something from your life, and then walk away without looking back. Encountering or hearing a dog is an indication that your petition has been heard by Hekate and her sacred dogs.


PRAYER TO HECATE


I call on you, Goddess Hecate

Queen of the Underworld

Mother of Souls

Guardian of Diviners

Protector of Travelers


To guide me on my journey

To lead me safely through the darkness

To light the way and watch over me

To keep me safe and protected


I honor your eternal cycle

And celebrate the death that feeds rebirth

I lay to rest that which came before

And welcome a new light in the darkness


As you freely guide me through the crossroads

I open my mind to the knowledge that awaits me

I open my mind to the power of intuition

I open my mind to abundance and creativity

I open my mind to introspection and healing


CREATING A PRACTICE TO HECATE


Ways to honor Hecate: study herbalism, create an altar to her, perform dark moon rituals, volunteer for canine care, do spirit work in the cemetery, practice divination, make a sacred tea, locate Sirius, the Dog Star, in the night sky, place offerings by the door.


Symbols/Talismans: torch, dark moon, crossroads, three-headed animals or statues, the number 3, masks, candles


Animals: dogs, mares, black female lambs, owls, bats, snakes, boars, polecat


Plants/Trees/Herbs: willow, dark yew, blackthorn, groves of trees, saffron, mugwort, garlic, lavender, gourds


Scents: Queen of the Night, cinnamon, myrrh, frankincense, lime, lemon verbena


Gems/Metals: sapphire, silver, gold, moonstone, black tourmaline, black onyx, hematite, smoky quartz


Colors: black, orange, yellow-orange, red-orange


Offerings: red mullet, sprat, red meat, breads, raw eggs, cheese, garlic, raisin and/or currant cakes, honey, mead, red wine


Allies: Artemis, Circe, Medea, Cybele, Hermes, Diana, Persephone, Demeter, Dionysus


When you are trying to gain Hecate's blessing or are asking for her assistance, you must always offer her something in return. A simple offering is to burn some hand-mixed incense or create a sacred tea. Try these simple recipes:


Incense:

1/2 tsp dried bay leaves

1/2 tsp dried mint leaves

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Pinch of myrrh resin

Pinch of frankincense resin

Pinch of Cinnamon

13 drops of cypress oil

3 drops of lavender oil

3 drops of camphor oil


Sacred Tea:

1 tsp loose-leaf black tea

½ tsp dried peppermint leaves

¼ tsp dried lavender

8 ounces hot water

Pomegranate slice (optional)

Honey (optional)


Pour the hot water over the loose-leaf ingredients and let steep for 5 - 7 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. Strain. If desired, add a small slice of fresh pomegranate and honey to taste.

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