Some gods come into sharper focus the more you learn about them, while others become ever more mysterious and beguiling. Hecate, the patron goddess of witches, is among the latter, at any rate for me.
Hecate, also spelled Hekate, is a complicated woman associated with light and darkness, crossroads, and communicating with the dead. She is smart and powerful!
I will explore both who this goddess was to the ancient Greeks, and how she is celebrated today. Keep reading!
Who is Hecate?
Is she an old crone or a radiant youth?
Is she a virgin or, as a different tradition holds, the mother of the famous witches Circe and Medea?
Is she a protector of our homes, or does she roam crossroads and graveyards like a bloodthirsty ghost?
The simplest—and most difficult—answer to such questions is both. For good reason, then, the pagan scholars of old interpreted her name as Hekatera, meaning “Both” in Greek.
Greek mythology provides conflicting answers to the question of Hecate's origins, but the most common answer is that she is the daughter of an obscure Titan called Perses, “the Destroyer.”
It wasn't by birthright but because Zeus paid special honor to her that she became a co-ruler of the three realms: the sky along with Zeus, the sea with Poseidon, and the earth and underworld with Hades.
Since her power extends to all things, it's always good to invoke her, no matter who else you pray to and what you are praying for. For me, this usually means nothing more than adding “... and Hecate!” somewhere in my invocation.
Hecate's threefold rulership is often symbolized by portraying her as a goddess with three bodies—or in other words, as three goddesses.
As the moon goddess Selene, with the power of birth, she rules above the earth.
On the earth, she is Artemis, who preserves life.
Below the earth, she holds sway as Persephone, the bride of Hades, and controls death.
All three goddesses are aspects of the one Hecate, and she not only has these three powers but a hundred (Hekaton in Greek), according to my favorite Roman antiquarian Servius.