Hecate, The Goddess of Magic & Crossroads

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Hecate or Hekate was the goddess of magic and crossroads and was the powerful lady of darkness, reigning over evil demons, the night, the moon, ghosts, and the dead in Greek mythology and religion.

She was invoked by those who practiced black magic and necromancy. She shared the name Trivia with Diana/Artemis, who both had the role of guardians of highways and crossroads, among the Romans (trivia, “three ways”). Although the earliest recorded representations of the goddess are single, Hecate was typically shown as having three forms or three bodies. In the classical era, Hecate was strongly related to dogs. It is documented that dogs were offered to Hecate in Thrace, Samothrace, Colophon, and Athens. Hecate was strongly linked to plant mythology, the blending of drugs, and the creation of poisons. She was rumored to teach these closely linked talents in particular.

Related article: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Rome

Hecate was connected to boundaries, city walls, entrances, and intersections, and thus, to worlds beyond or beyond the living. She seems to have been especially linked to being “between,” which is why she is usually referred to as a “liminal” goddess. This function would seem to have some connection to Hecate’s iconographic association with keys. It may also have something to do with Hecate’s appearance holding two torches, which, when placed on either side of a gate or door, illuminated the immediate area and made it possible to identify visitors.

Triple-formed representation of Hecate. Marble, Roman copy after an original of the Hellenistic period
Triple-formed representation of Hecate. Marble, Roman copy after an original of the Hellenistic period (source)

Hecate is also known as a chthonic goddess because of her connection to borders and the liminal areas between realms. According to a poem written by Theocritus in the third century BCE, she is the owner of the keys that may open the gates between worlds and the gates of death. Hecate is equally “strong in Heaven and Hell,” according to Virgil, who in the first century CE named the gateway to hell “Hecate’s Grove.” Hecate is identified as the owner of the Tartaros keys in the Greek Magical Papyri. Hecate, like Hermes, assumes the responsibility of being the protector of all trips, including the voyage to the afterlife.

She is shown leading Persephone back from the underworld with her torches in myth and art, with Hermes. Hecate became widely connected with witchcraft, witches, magic, and sorcery by the first century CE due to her chthonic and nocturnal nature. Hecate was viewed as a triple deity who represented the Underworld and was associated with the goddesses Luna (the moon) in the sky and Diana (hunting) on earth.

Featured image: The Triple Hecate, 1795. William Blake


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