Greek mythology is surely filled with many interesting gods, goddesses, mythical creatures and heroes each with their own unique stories to amaze us all. Perhaps, as one of the most unique characters of all Greek mythology, Hecate’s story might be more interesting than others you might have heard.
Who was Hecate ? What was her story? Here are the answers you are looking for.
Who was Hecate?
Hecate was the Greek goddess of magic, witchcraft, crossroads, ghosts, necromancy, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants. She was also known as the goddess of the moon and night.
Since the ancient stories changed quite a bit over time, there are more than a few ideas about who Hecate’s parents were.
Greek mythology scriptures don’t give an accurate description regarding Hecate’s parents, however, these four pairs of beings are told to be them in different sources: Perses and Asteria; Zeus and Demeter; Zeus and Hera; Leto and Tartarus.
While this fact differs from tale to tale, the rest of story is usually pretty consistent in the accounts.
Hecate was considered an ancient Thracian divinity and she was also a titan; the titans ruled the heavens, the earth and the sea. They gave mortals wealth, victory, wisdom and luck. According to her story, Hecate sometimes withheld these blessings if she felt mortals did not deserve them.
When the Olympians defeated the titans, Hecate was the only one allowed to retain her powers under the rule of Zeus. She was honored by all the immortal gods.
Hecate’s Specialties and Powers
Hecate was considered the god of magic, witchcraft, crossroads, doorways/gates, ghosts and necromancy.
With time, people started to consider of one of the following three “triple goddesses”:
- Persephone as the young maiden
- Demeter the mother
- Hecate the wise woman
Hecate was a wise goddess and she often helped gods in their wars against giants.
Hecate and the Underworld
Hecate was called the queen and goddess of the night. Accompanied by her hounds, ghosts and people who were considered social outcasts, she took trips during nighttime. Some of these trips were made to the underworld – sometimes to help other gods according to the myths.
The underworld was a land of the sleeping and the dead, a place that would not particularly be a choice for a goddess born in the Greek heavens.
Hecate felt comfortable in the underworld. Who did she find there? She found those who were shunned out of fear or misunderstanding.
As she was also different than most beings, she enjoyed these unique individuals’ company.
Hecate witnessed the abduction of Persephone. Hecate saw Hades abduct Persephone to make her his new bride. After this happened, Zeus asked Hecate to go and search for Persephone.
Hecate found Persephone, but the outcome was not what Zeus wanted. Hecate went to the underworld and helped a frightened Persephone adjust to her new life. Hades appreciated this gesture. To show gratitude for Hecate’s actions, Hades invited her to be a permanent resident in the underworld. Hecate could come and go as she pleased.
Hecate’s decision was unique, and it benefited her in the end.
Hecate as The Goddess of Crossroads
Hecate was often depicted to have three heads. This translates into the belief that she could see in all directions and also all parts of the timeline; the past, the present and future.
This is why she was called “the Goddess of Crossroads”.
Hecate considered these directions as roads that converged. These crossroads were sacred to her. Since she could see in all directions, it gave her wisdom that many beings sought. She used this power of hers to determine if mortals were worthy of any blessings.
In ancient times, all crossroads were marked with three masks on a pole. Many people left food—such as garlic and cypress—next to these poles as a way to honor Hecate and feed those who wandered the night with her.
As it can be understood, Hecate’s unique characteristics were not considered evil or scary. People believed she could use her magic for good.
Hecate as the Protector
Thanks to her magical powers, Hecate was thought to be the protector of young children, shepherds and sailors.
Her believers counted on her to help those that were dying. Hecate was believed to ease their transitions into the “otherworld,” as she did for Persephone.
Hecate in Ancient Greece
People often incorporated Hecate and her stories into their daily lives:
- Households in ancient Greece looked up to Hecate and she was honored to help bring prosperity
- Shrines of Hecate were built in homes and entrances to many cities to ask Hecate not to bring any evil spirits into their world
- People trusted and prayed for Hecate to keep them in touch with their spiritual sides
Today, some of these beliefs are still held on to by a small number of people.
Hecate in Art
Artists have sculpted or painted Hecate in one of three ways:
- She was painted holding twin torches with a knee length maiden skirt and boots. This type of paintwork symbolizes the event in which she helped Demeter look for Persephone
- Ancient sculptures represent her with three heads to celebrate how she could look in all directions
- Some artworks portray her with two other people as part of the “triple goddesses”
There are six symbols associated with Hecate:
- The pair of torches
- A key
In most depictions, Hecate is either shaped as or accompanied by a dog. They played important roles:
- Used as sacrificial animals
- Helped her dig up plants which she needed for medicine or magic
Not fitting in usual descriptions made by others, Hecate was surely one of the most interesting goddesses in Greek mythology. Hope you liked the post about Hecate, the Greek goddess of magic, witchcraft, crossroads and necromancy. Share it if you did!