I get a lot of questions from people coming into Hellenismos from a Neo-Pagan path. Very often, they are looking to honor the ancient Hellenic Gods in a more Traditional manner, and I applaud that! I recently receive another one such question, about Hekate specifically, but it contains many things I come across often, so I've decided to post the full reply on my blog today, with the parts I usually leave out, to maybe help other seekers along.

"Hello, I hope you are well. I have a question about Ækáti. I've know of Her for years, and She has tried to garner my attention many, many times. I'm in a place now where I am ready to approach Her, and I'm planning on following the traditional Hellenic ritual style, but I am new to the idea of Hellenismos. I'm wondering what I should expect, if anything, when approaching a deity of Ancient Hellas, especially a Titaness like Ækáti. Her reputation is definitely intense, and while I have worked with a figure of similar nature from European folklore, that figure was not a titan, nor so immense as Ækáti seems to be. There are plenty of people in the witchcraft tags who claim a relationship with Ækáti, but I want to know the perspective of someone who practices Hellenismos. I know Her cultus was fairly infamous in Ancient Hellas, and that she was and is most revered and favored by Zeus, all of which has me wanting to make sure I am respectful in approaching her. I've begun crafting up an incense for Her comprised of Frankincense, Myrrh, Benzoin, Laurel leaves, Henbane, and Mandrake as offering, and have the translation of the Orphic Hymn to Her (not the Taylor version, but the one closer to the word for word translation) to recite at the opening the rite. In your opinion, would this be a good way to begin?"

Khaire and welcome to Hellenismos and the worship of Hekate! I'm going to get to your questions, but let me start off by getting a few misconceptions out of the way. For one, I see you've found hellenicgods.org. "Ækáti" is a name for Her I have literally only seen from Callimachos and I have no explanation for why he chooses to use it. His approach to Hellenismos is entirely Orphic, so perhaps that's part of it, but I'd feel a whole lot better if you would either use the Greek Ἑκάτη or the English Hekate. It's up to you, of course, but since the request was for information about a Traditional approach to Her worship I wanted to put it out there.

I have another tiny personal pet-peeve to advise you on, if you don't mind: Taylor. Unlike Callimachos, I don't have a problem with his translations and I don't find them to be inferior at all. They convey the spirit of the hymn just as well as the version Callimachos preaches, and which I think he translated himself. It's a beautiful version, so don't be afraid to use it, but Hellenismos and the worship of the Gods in general is a matter of the heart, not the mind, and if the heart connects more with the Taylor (or any other) version over the literal translation, then go with that. A hymn should be recited--called out, shouted, proclaimed--with power and love: it's a call to the Gods that says: "I am here and I love you! Come to me, please, to accept Your offerings and listen to my pleas!". Find the translation that you connect with to your bones and you will be able to do that. Which translation that is, does not matter. Remember: worship of the Gods is about Them, not you.

...which brings me to something else I hear a lot from people who come to Hellenismos from a more general neo-Pagan worship: the dreaded "working with". If you want to practice Hellenismos in a Traditional manner, those two words together should be the first to get scrapped from your vocabulary.

Within Hellenismos, the Gods rule supreme. We are here to serve and honor Them, and in return, They provide us with what we need to survive. This practice is called "kharis" (loosely translated as ritual reciprocity) is one of the pillars of Hellenismos. Not complying with the will of the Gods is called "hubris". Hubris, in dictionary terms, means excessive pride or arrogance and comes from the Greek (hýbris, ὕβρις). For me, hubris is not an adjective but a verb. It describes the act of willful or ignorant refusal to comply by the will of the Gods.

Human kind is said to be a step above animals because we have the ability to think about our actions and predict their consequences, but we are below the Gods, because we are mortal. Unlike the Gods, we do not plan centuries ahead; we have only a limited amount of time to live, and our actions reflect that. We are encouraged to use our ability to think logically about our actions and choose wisely. It's not wise to put yourself on the same level as the Gods--they are Gods, not our co-workers. You work with co-workers, not with Gods. You honor, worship, and subject yourself to Gods.

Okay, with all of that out of the way, I'll get to what you were actually asking about: Hekate. You might want to read this post in its entirety, but I'll summarize the bits that matter the most. 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.

It's is speculated that Hesiod hailed from a region where Hekate was heavily worshipped, and as such, his views upon Her power and stature were not reflected in the rest of Hellas, where other--Olympian--divinities took up her role--Artemis as the protector of animals, Nemesis as the administrator of justice, Selene as Theia of the moon, etc. As such, it was only logical that her power was dwindled down some--or, more accurately, focused--into darker territories like the night, the (new) moon, spirits, the underworld, and sorcery when her cult spread throughout Hellas.

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.

Hellenic tragedians felt drawn to the Khthonic side of Hekate, and slowly Hekate transformed into a Titan Goddess of the night, the moon, and (protection against) witchcraft, ghosts and necromancy. In this period, roughly around the fifth century BC, She also became the Goddess associated with crossroads. 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 (spiritual pollution, you could say) 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 and be more likely to have Her look favorably upon the supplicant.

As you can see, even much later in ancient Hellenic times, Hekate was not a Goddess who was "infamous", she was a much-honored household deity who protected the home and everything in it from outside and internal harm. She is kourotrophos (a protector of children) born into each and every single household, and helped Demeter get her daughter Kore (Persephone) back after Her abduction. She is a Goddess who brings luck and good fortune to households who honor Her faithfully and Her importance in Hellenismos cannot be overstated. It's because of this that I struggle a lot with this continual pigeonholing of Her as a Goddess of witchcraft. Literally her only link to witchcraft was that the ancient Hellenes feared it and they prayed to Hekate to protect their homes against it. That's it. To me it's vitally important that you know who Hekate was to the ancient Hellenes and that you understand how much her "image" has changed in the centuries that followed. If you want to honor Her Traditionally, you'll invest time in the "Hesiodic" version of her, which was the version of Her honored above all. The dark version of Her Callimachos describes on his website was not a version of Her that was honored in a widespread manner.

Now, as for worshipping Her: I describe the pantheon of Hellenic Gods like a tapestry. The major displays woven into it are undoubtedly the Olympians, but the fringes of the tapestry are just as colorful as the main display. They hold the “minor” Gods and Goddesses and the Gods who ruled before the Olympians. Without these, the tapestry would not only be plain, it would be threadbare. It’s my firm belief that it’s impossible to practice Hellenismos and only worship one or a handful of Gods. One must invest in at least the pursuit of knowledge about every single God or Goddess in our pantheon to fully grasp the parts you thought you already understood. Without the details of the tapestry, its full beauty can’t be appreciated, after all.

If you want to honor Hekate, honor Her parents as well, honor Zeus, whom She is very close to. Honor Demeter and Kore, honor Hermes whom is close to Her in Her khthonic persona, and if you honor Her in a specific aspect (kouroptrophos, for example), honor the other Goddesses and Gods who guarded over that aspect as well. What makes Hellenismos, Hellenismos, is that only very, very rarely (and I can't even think of one example) a deity is honored alone during a rite.

Your incense sounds lovely! Most, if not all the ingredients would be available to the ancient Hellenes, which is always good. Note that mandrake is slightly psychoactive, so don't use too much in your mixture to be safe. We don't have an incense recipe from ancient times with which Hekate was honored, so your guess is as good as mine!

I hope this helps you form and enjoy your worship of Her, and pray you may build kharis with Her and others steadily!