Many people have a very general knowledge of the ancient Gods- often the Gods are reduced to one single aspect of their being. For example Aphrodite as the Goddess of love, Ares as the God of war, Hermes- the messenger of the Gods, Artemis the Goddess of hunt, Apollon the God of light, Hera the Goddess of marriage (or just named as the wife of Zeus), Zeus the supreme God etc…
But if you begin to delve deeper into the old Gods you will notice that these Gods are more than just this label. The gods of ancient Greece had many spheres of influence, much more depths and aspects. For example Dionysos was not just the God of wine- sure wine is one of this gifts to humankind. But he is a God of ecstasy, joy, mysteries, dance and music, theatre, a liberator and a God of the growth in nature- and many things more. Artemis was not just the Goddess of the hunt and her brother Apollon not just the Lord of light. All Gods had more depth, character and aspects.
And there was never one true view of the Gods in ancient Greece. The same God/Goddess could be viewed much different in different regions and locations. Even our modern view of THE 12 OLYMPIAN GODS was in antiquity never standardised (like we view it today). In different locations which Gods were part of the great 12 could be different than in other locations (and for example on the islands Crete and Chalke Hekate was part of the great 12 instead of Hera). The Gods were not viewed through one fitting label in the ancient world.
The same is true for Hekate. And today it is not that easy to find one fitting label for her- or not that easy than to the other ancient Gods. She had not one sphere of influence- but many. Many find a solution and label her as Goddess of spirits, necromancy and witchcraft (which she is of course) but if you pin her down to this aspects- you see just the top of the iceberg.
Hekate is a Goddess that has not one fixed form, she has many aspects, many emanations- she is Polymorphos- with many forms.
This is part of her character. She has power in different realms and can appear in these realms in different forms. She is one Goddess- but expresses herself in many forms. There was never one true fixed view of Hekate in antiquity. In art she was first shown as seated on a throne (a small votive statue found in Athens).
Than she appears in art (as depiction or statue) as a maiden with torches- or as maiden with torch and an oinochoe or phiale in her hands (ancient libation bowls). Sometimes standing near a burning hearth/altar.
Than she was portrayed as Hekateia (three formed images of her, depicted around a central pillar). Later on in triple form in reliefs, too. But the single and triple depictions of her stayed alive side by side through the ages.
In late antiquity she was even portrayed in four-formed images.
Hekates appearance in literature can bring headache to the people- in some sources she is described as a Great-Goddess figure- almost almighty (like in Hesiods Theogony, some invocations in the PGM, the “Orphic Hymn to her” or in the Chaldean Oracles). In some sources she is describes as shining young maiden, with good heart, filled with light. In other sources she is a dark and fearful Goddess, with snake hair and mistress of restless spirits and witchcraft. In some sources she is described as having animal heads (but there is not one statue of her who show her like this) and in one description she has even the lower body of a snake instead of legs.
If you accept that Hekate has not one true fixed form, it gets much easier to get a sense through the different views of her. Often it gives even a better sense if you look to the time and location of the source. For example all fearful descriptions of her came after the fifth century before Christ. Before this time she was described as a quite benign Goddess without any fearful attributes. And this view stayed alive over the centuries next to her fearful emanations, too. Often it gives more sense if you look to the realm that gives her these attributes. You will experience the empyrean Hekate (of the divine realm) different than the mistress of Tartaros. Hekate appears in the different realms in different forms and draws her power from these realms- from my experience.
From the sources in antiquity it gets quite clear that Hekate changed and evolved over time. First she was seen as a primordial Titaness- a kind of Great-Goddess figure in the beginning of the archaic time period. In the classical time she was described as a beautiful, shining maiden figure that was connected to thresholds and liminal times and spaces and who was able to guide through these and light the way. In the hellenic time period her darker emanations got more and more popular and she was seen as a sometimes fearful Goddess of night, magic, witchcraft, spirits and necromancy.
In the roman time period she evolved more and more into a lunar deity. And in late antiquity she again was seen as a Great-Goddess figure- as the empyrean Queen from which womb the worlds were born, the cosmic world soul and embodiment of nature and the natural cycles. But even with this evolutions the other aspects stayed alive, too. Even in the hellenic time when her fearful side was popular in literature- we still have sources that describe her as benign, beautiful and shining Goddess. The different views of her were alive side by side through the ages.
Hekate can appear as the gentle maiden Goddess, filled with light and light bringing. Like a star in the darkness. But she can appear as the dark mistress of restless spirits, too. Our you can experience her as a Great-Goddess figure, too- ruling over fate and change. Hekate is all that and more- she is Polymorphos- the Goddess of many forms.
She is not just the Goddess of crossroads, spirits, necromancy and witchcraft- like many believe (but she is that of course) but much more.
And I will delve into her aspects, spheres of influence and realms during the following articles.
If you want to understand Hekate- accept that there is not one true form of her- or ever was. To express herself in many forms is part of her being. To understand this is the first step to understand her.