Artwork by Shay Skepevski
Modern pagans and early scholars described Hekate often as a Goddess of the moon and connected her to lunar lore.
More recent studies broke with the view of Hekate as a Moongoddess.
In archaic and classical time she had no lunar roles in Greece or Asia Minor. The first hints of a lunar role emerged in the late classical time. Both Hekate and Artemis were seen as lunar Goddesses in that time and both were equated with Selene in a few sources (but on a higher level with Luna in the roman rime period).
But the view of Hekate as a Moongoddess got first popular during the roman times and more so in late antiquity.
Differences between lunar Goddesses and the Moongoddesses:
A Moongoddess is an embodiment of the moon. Like the Sungod is the embodiment of the sun.
In the Greek pantheon Selene was the Moongoddess. She is the moon- the moon is her physical incarnation and her domain of power. Luna was seen in that way by the Romans. Luna and Selene were both Moongoddesses.
But at the same time there were several Goddesses in the greco-roman world that had lunar symbolism connected to them. Goddesses who were connected to the moon but not completely. For example Hekate, Artemis, Diana, Juno, Athene, Isis and I think Aphrodite too. Hekate and Isis evolved with time from lunar Goddesses to real Moongoddesses.
How her lunar side evolved and how she turned into a Moongoddess:
Hekate was seen in her oldest emanations as a solar and chtonic Goddess. How did she got connected to the moon? I think this was a long process.
Selene had no cults in ancient Greece. She was the incarnation of the moon but had not much power or influence over other things. Hekate was a Goddess who was connected to the night strongly so I think it was just natural that she got a lunar side over time, because the moon illuminates the night, like Hekate herself with her torches (even if these had original a solar symbolism).
And I think that Selene had no cults and was not important, it was just natural that other Goddesses evolved a lunar side in ancient Greece.
But the key for her lunar side lies in the beliefs of the Romans. For them Luna was more important than Selene was for the Greeks. For the Romans the fertility of the land, of the animals and humans was connected to the moon and its phases (Jacob Rabinowitz explains that well in his book The Rotting Goddess). So many Goddesses who were connected to fertility in their original worship were connected to the moon by the Romans- because fertility was connected for them to the moon. Isis is a good example. In Egypt she wasn’t a Moongoddess or had lunar symbolism attached to her. But after her adoption by the Romans she was seen as a Moongoddess. Her lunar side got stronger over time until she was seen as an embodiment of the Moon (for example in the Golden Ass).
I think Hekate went through a similar process. She already had a weak lunar side attached to her when the Romans adopted her from Asia Minor (it got a roman colony) and was there strongly connected to fertility. And through the roman beliefs this side grew stronger and stronger.
Her lunar side was then strengthened through the Philosophy. In the Philosophy of the Neoplatonists the moon was seen as a mediator between the material world and the spiritual world. They called it a star-like earth- and an earth-like star. And connected the moon to Hekate who was at the same time an ouranic and chtonic Goddess- heavenly and earthly- like the moon itself.
The moon was seen as the place of daimons (mediating spirits) and in traditional religion Hekate was seen as mistress of daimons- so this too strengthened her lunar side in late antiquity.
To make the picture complete the moon was seen as the resting place of spirits and souls- Philosophy envisioned the realm of the dead now within the moon. Through that the moon was strongly connected to the underworld- and in traditional religion Hekate was strongly connected to spirits and the underworld since the hellenic time period. Her role as Goddess of witchcraft was important too for her development as a Moongoddess. For the Romans witchcraft was strongly connected to the moon. In ancient Greece the witches just drew down the Moongoddess from the sky to create an eclipse (so the dark moon out of its natural time). So Selene was a “victim” used by the witches. But in roman literature the witches were empowered by the moon and strongly connected to the lunar symbolism. Hekate was strongly connected to witchcraft and so she was fused with other lunar Goddesses in the roman writings about witchcraft.
In art Hekate was depicted with the crescent moon from roman times onwards. She was equated to Luna in many ancient texts and was even named as the moon herself.
For example in a fragment of Porphyry:
“But, again, the moon is Hecate, the symbol of her varying phases and of her power dependent on the phases. Wherefore her power appears in three forms, having as symbol of the new moon the figure in the white robe and golden sandals, and torches lighted: the basket, which she bears when she has mounted high, is the symbol of the cultivation of the crops, which she makes to grow up according to the increase of her light: and again the symbol of the full moon is the goddess of the brazen sandals. Or even from she branch of olive one might infer her fiery nature, and from the poppy her productiveness, and the multitude of the souls who find an abode in her as in a city, for the poppy is an emblem of a city. She bears a bow, like Artemis, because of the sharpness of the pangs of labour. And, again, the Fates are referred to her powers, Clotho to the generative, and Lachesis to the nutritive, and Atropos to the inexorable will of the deity. Also, the productive power of the corn-crops, which is Demeter, they associate with her, as the producing power in her. The moon is also a supporter of Kore. They set Dionysus also beside her, both on account of their growth of horns, and because of the region of clouds lying beneath the lower world.” – Porphyry on Idols
It is true that Hekate was original not a Goddess of the moon. Her lunar side grew and evolved over time and got very popular in the roman period of time. And this lunar side grew and evolved until she got a Moongoddess herself in late antiquity and was seen as an incarnation of the moon. But unlike Selene in ancient Greece- the Moongoddess was just one side of her being. And her other sides or spheres of influence stayed intact- even with this new domain.
I see Hekate as a Goddess of many things- her connection to the moon- or she as a Moongoddess is just one of many spheres of influence. I can understand that many hellenic recons don’t see Hekate as Moongoddess or don’t see the sources of roman rime and late antiquity as important and focus more on the sources from the times before. But I personal am not interested in a reconstruction of the Hekate who was worshipped in archaic- classical or hellenic times. But I learn from her history and the views and beliefs about her in all time periods. For me to not see the roman- and late antiquity sources in connection to her- is like cutting several centuries of her worship and history just out. Hekate was a primordial Goddess, a pre-greek Titaness. Even her views in the archaic time period were a change in her character and in the beliefs the people had about her, she got new roles and some of her older roles stayed alive. I see it in a similar way when it is about her lunar side- or the view of her as Moongoddess. Yes in her original form she was no Moongoddess or even had no lunar side. But that changed with time- this side grew and she adopted this symbolism.
I see Hekate strongly as the great Titaness like Hesiod described her. And for me her power over the moon (or the view of her as Moongoddess) works well with her power over earth, sky and sea.
For me the moon is part of her power over the sky. And the Titaness Phoebe who was Hekates grandmother in Hesiods Theogony, was connected to the moon, too.
So I think even in her genealogy there is a weak link to the moon- as well as to other spheres of influence she adopted from her ancestors (like the night from Asteria) her solar connection through Perses), her power over earth, land and sky from Gaia, Uranos and Pontos- all these elements come toegher in her genealogy. But that is just my personal view.