Hekate's (Ἑκατη) worship was most likely imported from Thrace or Anatolia, where--especially at the latter--records were found of children being named after Her. This version of Her is single-faced, rules in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, is a Theia of childbirth--to both animals and humans--and it is She who bestows wealth on mortals, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle. Yet, if mortals do not deserve Her gifts, she can withhold them from them just as easily. After the Titanomachy, Zeus bestowed upon Her the highest of honors. This is the Hekate found in Hesiod's Theogony, written around 700 BC:
"Again, Phoebe came to the desired embrace of Coeus. [...] And she conceived and bare Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Cronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea.
Also, because she is an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her. Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents.
And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less. So, then. albeit her mother's only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Cronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young, and these are her honours." (ll. 404-452)
Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
- Krataeis (the Mighty One)
- Kourotrophos (nurse of children)
- Soteira ("Saviour")
The Homeric Hymn to Demeter--composed somewhere in the late seventh century BC or the sixth century BC--sets this in motion, making Her an Underworld Goddess, and giving Her a Khthonius character. She becomes linked to caves, to torches, to night, and the Underworld itself. This transitional Hekate--still a protector of youth, and a bringer of plenty, but a more mysterious Goddess, linked to both the upper- and lower world--aids Persephone by being a torchbearer to Her mother, and by watching over Persephone when She is in the Underworld. When it is time for Persephone to leave, it is Hekate who guides Her out. It is this Hekate that is linked to the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Epithets associated with these events are:
- Propolos (the attendant who leads)
- Phosphoros (the light-bringer)
"Of the gods, the Aeginetans worship most Hecate, in whose honor every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alcamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hecate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipurgidia (on the Tower); it stands beside the temple of the Wingless Victory." [2.30.2]
There are two versions of this depiction. Both forms--when made into a statue--are called 'Hekataia'. The first are three women, beautiful and young--a maiden, as Hekate was always depicted--usually around a pillar, holding various attributes. A version of Her in this depiction can be found on the right. Statues like these used to stand at crossroads in ancient Hellas, as well as near the gates to a home, which was just as much a crossroads. Hekate, in this form, became a Goddess of purification, expiation, and protection, associated with thresholds and gates, both reaching back to the Underworld association. Very rarely, She was represented with a single body, and three heads, all looking different ways.
In another, scarier, and more bestial version, Hekate is depicted similarly as above, but with the heads of various animals. The Greek Magical Papyri, or Papyri Graecae Magicae, name the three as such, but variations exist:
"Take a Lodestone and on it have carved a Three-faced Hekate. And let the Middle Face be that of a Maiden wearing Horns, and the Left Face that of a Dog, and the One on the Right that of a Goat."
It is this Hekate that is appeased with the Deipnon, at the new moon: the last day of the month. These days, when the nights kept getting darker and darker, were some of the scariest days of the month, and were considered impure. The night when the moon completely disappeared was sacred to Hekate, as Hekate was able to placate the souls in Her wake, and could purify the household of miasma accumulated during the month. Removing this miasma allowed the members of the household to call on Hekate during the following month in times of need--as we have seen was common practice--and be more likely to have Her look favorably upon the supplicant.
Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
- Apotropaia (that turns away/protects)
- Enodia (Goddess of the paths)
- Klêidouchos (Keeper of the Keys)
- Propylaia (the one before the gate)
- Tricephalus or Triceps (The Three-Headed)
- Triodia/Trioditis (who frequents crossroads)
- Trimorphe (three-formed)
Dart-shooter Artemis, Persephone, Shooter of Deer, night shining, triple-sounding,
Triple-headed, triple-voiced Selene, Triple-pointed, triple-faced, triple-necked,
And Goddess of the Triple Ways, who hold untiring Flaming Fire in Triple Baskets,
And You who oft frequent the Triple Way and rule the Triple Decades, unto me
Who'm calling You be gracious and with Kindness give Heed, You who protect the Spacious World
At night, before whom Daimons quake in Fear and Gods Immortal tremble, Goddess who
Exalt Men, You of Many Names, who bear Fair Offspring, Bull-eyed, Horned, Mother of Gods
And Men, and Nature, Mother of All Things, for You frequent Olympos, and the broad
And boundless Chasm You traverse. Beginning and End are You, and You Alone rule All.
For All Things are from You, and in You do all Things, Eternal One, come to their End.
As Everlasting Band around Your Temples you wear Great Kronos' Chains, unbreakable
And unremovable, and You hold in Your Hands a Golden Scepter. Letters 'round
Your Scepter Kronos wrote Himself and gave to You to wear that All Things stay steadfast:
Subduer and subdued, Mankind's Subduer, and Force-subduer; Chaos, too, You rule.
Hail, Goddess, and attend Your Epithets, I burn for You this Spice, O Child of Zeus,
Dart-shooter, Heav'nly One, Goddess of Harbors, who roam the Mountains, Goddess of Crossroads,
O Nether and Nocturnal, and Infernal, Goddess of Dark, Quiet and Frightful One,
O You who have Your Meal amid the Graves, Night, Darkness, Broad Chaos: Necessity
Hard to escape are You; You're Moira and Erinys, Torment, Justice and Destroyer,
And You keep Kerberos in Chains, with Scales of Serpents are You dark, O You with Hair
Of Serpents, Serpent-girded, who drink Blood, who bring Death and Destruction, and who feast
On Hearts, Flesh Eater, who devour Those Dead untimely, and You who make Grief resound
And spread Madness, come to my Sacrifices, and now for me do You fulfill this Matter."
Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
- Antania (Enemy of mankind)
- Khthonian (Earth/Underworld goddess)
- Prytania (invincible Queen of the Dead)
"Have I not reason, beldams as you are? Saucy and overbold, how did you dare to trade and traffic with Macbeth in riddles and affairs of death, and I, the mistress of your charms, the close contriver of all harms, was never called to bear my part, or show the glory of our art?"
Hekate as the Queen of Witches, teacher of magick, ready to deal with desperate souls. This version of Hekate, especially combined with the Papyri Graecae Magicae, inspired occultist Aleister Crowley to write his Hymn for Her, and describe Her as a maiden-mother-crone trinity with Persephone and Demeter--the Goddesses with whom she was identified at Eleusis--in his 1917 novel 'Moonchild':
"...and thirdly, she is Hecate, a thing altogether of Hell, barren, hideous and malicious, the queen of death and evil witchcraft. [...] Hecate is the crone, the woman past all hope of motherhood, her soul black with envy and hatred of happier mortals; the woman in the fullness of life is the sublime Persephone, for whose sake Demeter cursed the fields that they brought forth no more corn, until Hades consented to restore her to earth for half the year."
Image source: Hekate with dog, Hekataia, 'Hekate: Wanderer of Tombs' by superboy783