On Thursday I have cleansed and blessed my new three-formed Hekate statue. And posted pictures of the rite on some Hekate related discussion groups on Facebook. I was asked about the symbolism of the tools on the altar.
I have several shrines in the temple room. One main shrine for Hekate with an ensouled statue. A witchcraft connected shrine (that is more focused on the symbolism of Traditional Witchcraft).
In the middle of the temple room is the working altar- the focus of magical rites, the working space and the centre of group rituals in the temple room. The set up of this altar changes with my intentions, goals or for the rites that are performed.
Earth, sea and sky:
Hekate has dominion over the three realms- earth, sea and sky. I personal don’t see this symbolism so much connected to the elements- but more as the three physical realms. Earth is here the land, the ground under your feet. Sea is the realm of the oceans- but for me all the water in the clouds and the falling rain, too. All waters on earth are connected somehow with each other. The sea is mediating between earth and sky. The water from the sea goes up into the sky as fog- travels through the sky as clouds, falls again down to the earth. Mixes with the water of the rivers and flows back one day into the sea.
Sky is for me the physical sky- not so much a spiritual heaven (and sure Hekate is connected to the spiritual heaven and underworld, too), but in the symbolism of the three realms it is more about the physical earth, sky and sea. These realms are embodied through the three bowls on the altar. One with incense, one with herbs and salt, one with water. They are arranged in a triangle around the Hekate-Pillar.
I used the symbolism of the three realms as main focus of the altar set up.
Statue and pillar:
In the middle of the altar is a column- for me this is the symbol of the world tree and the Axis Mundi. It is the sacred pillar around which the three depictions of Hekate were erected as Hekateion. Around the pillar three Gorgons are arranged like the figures of Hekate in the Hekateia of the past. Hekate was described with snake hair too in ancient sources. So for me the Gorgons are fitting as symbols of Hekate. They are embodiment of Hekates apotropaic (averting of evil) aspects- the three-formed snake haired Hekate protects the thresholds between the worlds, she protects the axis mundi of the temple room (from my personal symbolism). On top of the pillar is the statue of the three-formed Hekate as central focus of the altar (and the temple room in general). Around the pillar are three blessed candles. They symbolise the divine fire of the Goddess, her sacred torches- the light of the divine.
The corners of the altar are connected to the four elements. Air in the east (raven feathers), fire in the south (the candle holder), water in the oinochoe in the west, snake skin and pomegranates for earth in the north. For me the elements are etheric energies that create the physical reality. The material manifestations of the elements- are symbols for the elements- not the element itself (so in my personal understanding the element earth is not the physical earth- but the physical earth is created from the element earth- and the energy of the element earth flows through the material physical earth. The burning candle is not the element fire- but the element fire flows through the material flame. But that is my personal understanding of the elements.
Wand- I use the wand to bless, to direct energy and to call spirits and Gods/esses.
Dagger- not a Athame. I use it as ceremonial knife, to cut things, harvest herbs, to banish negative energies or spirits. It symbolises Hekates dagger for me. In antiquity daggers were used to protect against spirits or to control them.
Oinochoe and libation bowl: I use the oinochoe to give liquid offerings into the libation bowl. Both are very old symbols of Hekate. And are next to the torch the most common symbols of her in ancient statues and depictions.
The whip-I use it for protective workings, to banish negative spirits or energies, when force and control are needed. It is Hekates whip. Whips were use in antiquity to control spirits.
Skull- the human skull (not a real one) is a symbol for the ancestors and the connection to the realms of Hades. In necromantic workings I use it as focus point for the spirits.
Iron key- before the skull is large iron key. It is a symbol of the key to Hades.
Animal skulls- the animal skulls are spirit vessels, they create a focus point for spirits in general. The human skull is more used for the spirits of the dead as focus.
Triangle of manifestation:
I used the artwork from this blog: magickfromscratch.com
It is under the surface of the shrine- direct under the Hekate-Pillar.
During the dark months I practised a lot spirit work (necromancy). So the altar had a strong focus on that theme. Now where the days get lighter again- the symbolism of the altar will get a different focus again, too.
Hi there – in your post you said:
Around the pillar three Gorgons are arranged like the figures of Hekate in the Hekateia of the past. Hekate was described with snake hair too in ancient sources.
I was curious if you had a list or any references to the sources with the snake hair. I’ve found a few in fictional literature. Would love to see what you have on this.
i have written an article about serpent haired Hekate and other serpent haired Goddesses for the last Askei Kataskei issue.
I will send you a list with references on Facebook in the next days