Hekate is a Goddess that is honoured today in very diverse traditions and on very different quite individual paths. She has followers that come more from a hellenic background, devotees that come from different paths of wicca, some from ceremonial magick and quite a lot from traditional witchcraft and a lot of her devotees follow a quite individual path today.
These different forms of worship and different backgrounds of her modern devotees create quite different views of Hekate. And the same was true in antiquity too, there was never one true form of Hekate or her worship, she was viewed and worshipped in quite different forms and ways from location to location and this changed over time too in general. There were even different phases in her ancient view and cults in general. In the archaic time period she was a primordial Magna Mater, in classical and hellenic time she evolved into a Goddess of transitions, liminality, crossroads, spirits and magic. In the roman period her lunar side got quite popular and in late antiquity she was seen as a great Goddess again, as mistress of the cosmos and the ensouler of the world(s). Her worship came into different cultures and some scholars have the theory that even the Greeks of the archaic time period adopted her (maybe from Asia Minor).
Hekate was honoured in diverse forms and today she can be honoured in different ways or forms too. With this article I will try to create a red thread to understand different of her devotion better in their essence. And I will speak a little bit about my personal different ways of devotion.
When I speak about devotion or worship in this article- I mean the practices cult of the Goddess. To maintain a shrine, to give her regular offerings, to spend some time regular in meditation, prayers and libations. All these forms of worship strengthen the connection between the Goddess and her worshippers. These practices bring the presence of the Goddess towards you and her blessings, guidance and protection.
In antiquity Hekate was an important Goddess of the household cults.
And for many devotees today this part of her worship is quite important.
Hekate can be a protector against negative influences, she can keep negative spirits away from the home and from the people who live there. And she can bring good spirits into the home of her worshippers and is able to connect the household to the ancestral spirits and their blessings, support and protection. She can act as an mediator between the worlds, she connects the home with the blessings of the Gods and with the spirit world.
She can bring good influences, success, wealth and prosperity into the home, she can let good things grow and fills the home with the warm comforting light of her torches.
In my personal practice I worship her in this aspect on my hearth shrine (a symbolic representation of the hearth). She is there as with her torches and brings the divine fire into our home. On the hearth shrine I honour the Gods and spirits of our household. Hestia, Zeus, Dionysos, Hermes and Apollon. And the Goddess Bast has her own small shrine next to the hearth shrine. Hekate is a kind of door opener for me in this aspect, she opens the doors to the realms of the Gods. But at the same time she is a door opener to the world of the spirits, she brings the good spirits and ancestors into our home- she mediates between the worlds. She feels much nearer then the other Gods and is always there with her might, even if it is sometimes just in the background. Sometimes her presence is like a bright heating flame, sometimes like the glow of still warm coals under already cold ashes. The hearth is a threshold between the worlds, the Gods of the household and the spirits get their offerings daily on the hearth shrine, libations, incense or some food of our meals. And I bring the libation bowl regularly outside of the house and empty it near a tree, or on the trees next to our front door. On the hearth Hekate is for me like a caring parent, supporting and illuminating, a bright, beautiful but powerful Goddess. She feels for me like Hesiod described her in his Theogony. She is the main focus of my household worship and the other Gods and spirits are connected to her worship in my practices- she is always present, the focus point, the way and the door through which the Gods and spirits are connected with our home.
But Hekate is also on the threshold of the home, she stands as Propylaia before the door. She protects the home against maleficent witchcraft, against negative spirits and against negative influences in general. This aspect of her is well known and many devotees began already to honour her in this aspect in their homes. In this aspect Hekate is like a guardian dog for me, fearful for outsiders. But a faithful companion for the family in the home.
Hekate was a quite important Goddess in domestic worship, she was part of the everyday live and I think this aspects of her are quite important for us as modern devotees. If you invite her into your home she will begin to care for your household and your family. She is not the scary dread Goddess in this aspects but a strong guardian, a strong ally and a mediating and caring Goddess.
Statue of Hekate as Mistress of witchcraft and spirits
Magic and Witchcraft:
Hekate was very connected to magical practices in antiquity. She was connected to the folk magic of antiquity but also to witchcraft and the art of theurgy. But most of her followers were not practising the magical arts, her role as Goddess of spirits and magic was for them more important in a different way- to get her protection against maleficent magic or evil spirits.
But there were also devotees who practised magic, witchcraft or theurgy.
And the same is true today. Many modern followers of Hekate come from a magical background. And Hekate can be a great aid in these practices. She is a teacher of these arts, a protectress and a strong source of power. Hekate is the patron Goddess of the “magical arts”, like Athene is a a patron Goddess of the arts and crafts or Apollon is a patron God of music, divination and healing skills.
I personal come more from the witchcraft background. My practices for/with Hekate in this aspect are different to my normal household worship. I have a separate shrine for her (as mistress of witchcraft) and the familiar spirits and other Gods that are connected to witchcraft. For me she is as Goddess of witchcraft more ecstatic, wilder and more untamed. She is more nocturnal, lunar and earthly then in her aspects as domestic Goddess (in this aspects she feels more solar and fiery).
She is the queen of the night that wanders with the spirits through the landscape, she whispers secrets, knows the mysteries of herbs, she helps to cross the boundaries between our world and the underworld (the world of spirits), she brings power into potions, powders, oils and other spells. She can give you the support of familiar spirits and other mediating spirits.
If you begin to work with Hekate as mistress of witchcraft you will notice that she will lead you to a quite different path then it is often described in wicca 101 books. Her witchcraft is more connected to the traditional views about witches, to wander through the night, collecting herbs in forests and on old cemeteries, to get in touch with the spirit world, to learn about herbs, necromancy and the secret powers of nature and you will begin to get in touch with the underworld and its spirits and powers through her guidance.
But she was not only the Goddess of witchcraft, other magical paths and practices were connected with her too. She is a Goddess of liminality and her roles as Goddess of magic are quite connected with this aspect. Ceremonial magicians will benefit from the contact to Hekate too, like the theurgists in antiquity. But there she is not so much the lunar-earthly Goddess of witchcraft- more the solar-mercurial Goddess of theurgy who is able to open the doors to the empyrean realms and its beings, the guide to the ascending of the soul which she purifies with her empyrean fire.
Not all Gods were worshipped by all people on a every-day level. Most Gods had their special times and festivals where many people worshipped them. The same is true for Hekate. Even if the every-day devotion to Hekate brings a lot of benefits (in the household worship- or in witchcraft for example) this is not the right path for all people. Maybe because of time issues or because other Gods have a more important focus in their lives. But on the festivals of a God or Goddess many people worshipped them and the same is true today. In our modern world some festivals for Hekate evolved and these festivals are a great time to worship her, even if you are not an active regular devotee of her.
Even if you worship her regular or every day, you can use festivals as special times to give her some special attention, to do something bigger or more as usual.
Some festivals where she is honoured are:
Deipnon and Noumenia (dark moon and first crescent each month)
13th of August and 16th of November and the neopagan Samhain gets connected to her more and more too. There are several other dates too, but these are the most known today.
Service as Priests/esses:
In antiquity most Gods had their priests and priestesses who served them in temples, on public shrines in small sanctuaries or in sacred groves.
This form of worship is different then the normal forms of worship.
As priest/priestess you act not for your own interests or the interests of your household/family but you serve the Deity. Hekate had only a few known temples in Greece- these were more small sanctuaries in comparison to the big temples of other Gods. But Hekate had shrines in the temples of other Gods and Goddesses and priests/esses there for sure as well. In Aisia Minor she had a great temple in Lagina and had priests/esses in other locations as well.
The roles of priests/esses were quite different from location to location and cult to cult. But in essence they served a God or a Goddess and served not the community like in Christians priests today. The roles and workings for the community of worshippers evolve through the service of the Deity. Not the other way around. To be a priest was a job- to care for the sanctuary, to care for the offerings, to keep the sanctuary clean, to care for worshippers who came to the temple, to do rites in honour of the Deity.
Today we have not temples but I think that will change with time.
I personal see myself as priest of Hekate, but I personal don’t like to highlight this role very much. In modern paganism there are so many people who use the title priest or high priestess as a title to be more important and special. And I personal don’t see it that way.
I did a rite of dedication to her as priest in 2005 and she accepted this. After this I grew into the roles and workings that she wanted from me as priest. I began to organise open rituals for her, so that other people can come into closer contact with her through rituals, I began to do regularly special rites to bless her devotees in general in her name. I began to bless the local spirits in her name and to act towards the goal bring the essence of Hekate more into the world through my acts and my service to her. I created a shrine on a crossroad in a public place and care for this shrine since than. I personal don’t see the role as priest as something special, it is more that you take more responsibility for the Goddess then you had as normal devotee before.
This year I became a torchbearer of the CoH and opened a CoH sanctuary. This brought more the community aspect into my former roles (for me personal). Now there is not just the community of devotees in general where I feel a connection, but a more formed community as well where I feel responsibility and try to bring myself into the community as torchbearer.
In my roles as priest I experience Hekate more as great and universal Goddess, as the ensouler of the worlds and key holding mistress of the cosmos. I personal see her other forms as different aspects of her. She has many forms and many faces. When it is about my home and personal live in general I encounter her as domestic Goddess, when it is about my witchcraft practices I experience her as queen of the night and mistress of spirits. In my service of her I encounter her more as great Goddess, maybe because as priest it is not about personal contact for my personal needs but the focus is more on her needs and on the community of her worshippers in the background. As priest I see my work as a kind of mediating function at times, to bring the blessings and energy of Hekate into the world and to the people (and spirits), to be a guide at times, to help through a transition here and there for some people, or to help to open doors. To give advice and informations and just to be open that she brings me to the right time to the right places and people.
There are different ways to connect yourself with Hekate. Not all people who worship Hekate are interested in magic or witchcraft. They see her more as a domestic Goddess and her role as Goddess of witchcraft has not much space in their lives. But there are as well people who are interested in magic or practice witchcraft- for them this role can be quite important. And their practices can be quite different then the practices of a normal devotee. I personal see the household worship- or every-day worship as the basis on which other more mystical ways of worship can grow and evolve if this wanted (or needed). Other people maybe just get in touch with her when it is about magical practices or witchcraft and she has not much space in their every-day life at all.
Maybe some people don’t pay her attention every day but worship her on her festivals. The connection to a deity is something quite individual. And there are different ways to express this connection.
For me personal there are different layers of Hekate worship in my life- they are interconnected but different at the same time.
Links to other websites- one shows the view of a hedge witch, the other of a hellenic recon: