A to Z Challenge Folklore

Underrated Hecate #folklore #AtoZChallenge

U is for Underrated

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the challenge here.

I first saw Hecate in Disney’s Hercules. I prefer how she’s portrayed in the Percy Jackson books, though.

Hecate. Image credit


Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology edited by William Smith [1849]

HE′CATE (Hekatê), a mysterious divinity, who, according to the most common tradition, was a daughter of Persaeus or Perses and Asteria, whence she is called Perseis. (Apollod. i. 2. § 4; Apollon. Rhod. iii. 478.) Others describe her as a daughter of Zeus and Demeter, and state that she was sent out by her father in search of Persephone (Schol. ad Tleocrit. ii. 12); others again make her a daughter of Zeus either by Pheraea or by Hera (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 1175; Schol. ad Theocrit. ii. 36) ; and others, lastly, say that she was a daughter of Leto or Tartarus. (Procl. in Plat. Cratyl. p. 112 ; Orph. Argon. 975.) Homer does not mention her. According to the most genuine traditions, she appears to have been an ancient Thracian divinity, and a Titan, who, from the time of the Titans, ruled in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, who bestowed on mortals wealth, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle; but all these blessings might at the same time be withheld by her, if mortals did not deserve them. She was the only one among the Titans who retained this power under the rule of Zeus, and she was honoured by all the immortal gods.

She also assisted the gods in their war with the Gigantes, and slew Clytius. (Hes. Theog. 411-452; Apollod. i. 6. § 2.) This extensive power possessed by Hecate was probably the reason that subsequently she was confounded and identified with several other divinities, and at length became a mystic goddess, to whom mysteries were celebrated in Samothrace (Lycoph. 77; Schol. ad Aristoph. Pac. 277) and in Aegina. (Paus. ii. 30. § 2; comp. Plut. de Flum. 5.) For being as it were the queen of all nature, we find her identitied with Demeter, Rhea (Cybele or Brimo); being a huntress and the protector of youth, she is the same as Artemis (Curotrophos); and as a goddess of the moon, she is regarded as the mystic Persephone. (Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 25, with the commentat.; Paus. i. 43, § 1.) She was further connected with the worship of other mystic divinities, such as the Cabeiri and Curetes (Schol. ad Theocrit. ii. 12; Strab. x. p. 472), and also with Apollo and the Muses. (Athen. xiv. p. 645; Strab. x. p. 468.) The ground-work of the above-mentioned confusions and identifications, especially with Demeter and Persephone, is contained in the Homeric hymn to Demeter; for, according to this hymn, she was, besides Helios, the only divinity who, from her cave, observed the abduction of Persephone. With a torch in her hand, she accompanied Demeter in the search after Persephone; and when the latter was found, Hecate remained with her as her attendant and companion. She thus becomes a deity of the lower world; but this notion does not occur till the time of the Greek tragedians, though it is generally current among the later writers. She is described in this capacity as a mighty and formidable divinity, ruling over the souls of the departed ; she is the goddess of purifications and expiations, and is accompanied by Stygian dogs. (Orph. Lith. 48; Schol. ad Theocr l. c. ; Apollon. Rhod. iii. 1211; Lycoph. 1175; Horat. Sat. i. 8. 35; Virg. Aen. vi. 257.) By Phorcos she became the mother of Scylla. (Apollon. Rhod. iv. 829 ; comp. Hom. Od. xii. 124.) There is another very important feature which arose out of the notion of her being an infernal divinity, namely, she was regarded as a spectral being, who at night sent from the lower world all kinds of demons and terrible phantoms, who taught sorcery and witchcraft, who dwelt at places where two roads crossed each other, on tombs, and near the blood of murdered persons. She herself too wanders about with the souls of the dead, and her approach is announced by the whining and howling of dogs. (Apollon. Rhod. iii. 529, 861, iv. 829; Theocrit. l. c. ; Ov. Heroid. xii. 168, Met. xiv. 405; Stat. Theb. iv. 428 ; Virg. Aen. iv. 609; Orph. Lith. 45, 47; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1197, 1887; Diod. iv. 45.) A number of epithets given her by the poets contain allusions to these features of the popular belief, or to her form. She is described as of terrible appearance, either with three bodies or three heads, the one of a horse, the second of a dog, and the third of a lion. (Orph. Argon. 975, &c.; Eustath. ad Hom. pp. 1467, 1714.) In works of art she was some-times represented as a single being, but sometimes also as a three-headed monster. (Paus. ii. 28. § 8. 30. § 2.) Besides Samothrace and Aegina, we find express mention of her worship at Argos (Paus. ii. 30. § 2.) and at Athens, where she had a sanctuary under the name of Epipurgidia, on the acropolis, not far from the temple of Nice. (Paus. ii. 30. § 2.) Small statues or symbolical representations of Hecate (hekataia) were very numerous, especially at Athens, where they stood before or in houses, and on spots where two roads crossed each other; and it would seem that people consulted such Hecataea as oracles. (Aristoph. Vesp. 816, Lysistr. 64; Eurip. Med. 396; Porphyr. de Abstin. ii. 16; Hesych. s. v. Hekataia). At the close of every month dishes with food were set out for her and other averters of evil at the points where two roads crossed each other; and this food was consumed by poor people. (Aristoph. Plot. 596 ; Plut. Synmpos. vii. 6.) The sacrifices offered to her consisted of dogs, honey, and black female lambs. (Plut Quaest. Rom. 49; Schol. ad Theocrit. ii. 12 ; Apollon. Rhod. iii. 1032.)

Hecate. Image credit

Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi

CROSSROAD is a symbol of union and the joining of paths. The crossroad has been associated with Witchcraft since ancient Greek and Roman times. The classic crossroad is a joining of three roads. The crossroad also symbolizes the balance of opposites, as well as the meeting of time and space. In the Aegean/Mediter-ranean region crossroads were sacred to Hecate Triformis and Diana. Ovid, an ancient Roman writer, speaks of Hecate having three faces with which to guard the crossroads as they branch out. The ancient writer Varro equated Diana with Hecate and noted that images of Diana were set at the crossroads. Other writers of this period call the goddess Artemis-Hekate and also attribute a mother goddess aspect to her (Rabinowitz, The Rotting Goddess: The Origin of the Witch in Classical Antiquity. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1998, pp. 18-20).

HECATE is the oldest goddess in Western culture to be associated with Witchcraft. However, if we accept that the biblical “Witch of Endor” (eleventh century B.C.) was indeed a Witch, and not simply a Canaanite Pagan sorceress, then her goddess Ashtoreth would actually be the earliest connection. The phrase used in the Old Testament referring to the “Witch of Endor” is ba alath ob, which means “mistress of a talisman.” When first translated into Latin this was rendered mulierem haben-tem pythonem, which means a “woman possessing an oracular spirit.” (Russell, Jeffrey Burton. A History of Witchcraft. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980, p. 31).

Among the Greeks, Hecate was a goddess of the moon, the Underworld, enchantment, and night spirits. (Cumont, Franz. After Life in Roman Paganism. New York: Dover Publications, 1959, pp. 92, 134). Hecate belongs to the class of goddesses known as the torchbear-ers. Such goddesses were deities of the moon, possessing the knowledge of spirit realms and holding the secrets of Nature in their hands. Hecate was also known as Anthea, the sender of night visions.

In Hesiod’s Theogony, written sometime around 700 B.C., Hecate is portrayed as a goddess of fertility. Greek literature of this same period portrays Hecate as “mother of gods and men, and Nature, Mother of all things . . .” (Rabinowitz, pp. 127-128). Hecate controlled the three great mysteries: birth, life, and death. She had power over heaven, earth, and the Underworld. Hecate was also known as Tri-formis, a name shared with the Roman goddess Diana, whose festival day also fell on August 13. As the goddess of Witchcraft, Hecate was worshipped at night with torches placed at a crossroad. From this practice she came to be called Trivia, goddess of the three paths (Murray, pp. 43, 70-71, 140).

Ancient statues and iconography depict Hecate in three forms holding a torch, a dagger, and a serpent. In late antiquity the Mysteries of Hecate merged with the Orphic Dionysian Mysteries and those of Mithras (Campbell, Joseph, editor. The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978, p. 244).

*More can be read in the book.

Hecate. Image credit

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

Empusa (or Empousa, pl. Empusae)—A shapeshifting female monster in Greek folklore, she is human from the waist up, with one leg of an ass and the other of brass. The goddess Hecate sends Empusa to harass lone travelers on dark country roads.

*More can be read in the book.

Hecate. Image credit

Further Reading:

Hecate. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Hecate is the goddess of magic and crossroads. She has knowledge of all things pertaining to magic, such as herbs, necromancy and spells. She’s the daughter of the Titans Perses and Asteria – and thus a Titan herself, though she is counted as a goddess under Zeus’ rule. She has power over the heavens, earth, the seas and the underworld. When Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, she not only heard it happen but also helped Demeter – torch in hand – look for her. Each time Persephone returns to the Underworld to be with Hades, Hecate accompanies her.

She is a triple goddess, being seen throughout antiquity with three separate bodies – the maiden, the mother and the crone. Some tales have Hecate with three bodies in one, looking in different directions at once as she guards the crossroads, but these tales are newer in origin. She is usually seen with a single body, holding a key and a torch, accompanied by dogs and snakes. At one point, she had a big following of witches in Thessaly; these days, she’s revered among those practicing witchcraft and in Neopaganism – such as Wicca – alike.

Her sacred tree is the yew, but she is known to enjoy garlic. Several plants are associated with her, such as belladonna, dittany, mandrake and aconite – these are all either poisonous or medicinal.

During Roman times, she was delegated to the Underworld and most of her powers were assumed by other gods and goddesses. But Hecate remained a liminal goddess: from her birth to being a goddess, transcending the Titan/Olympian barrier, to being able to travel with ease from the physical world to the Underworld, this goddess also regulates light and night.

The nymphs of the underworld, the Lampades, were a gift from Zeus for her loyalty, and they carry torches as they accompany Hecate on her nocturnal travels.

This goddess is sometimes portrayed as sinister, but she can be kind and helpful. She’s an Underworld goddess, a but also a leader of dogs. And she has always been the patron goddess of witches – even those with shady legacies like Medea.

Hecate. Image credit

Hecate in Modern Culture

Doing a quick Google search shows that there are a plethora of books about or featuring Hecate. I decided to only feature two: a romance and an urban fantasy series.


Goddess of the Rose by P.C. Cast

When modern-day Mikki ends up in the strange Realm of the Rose, Hecate has been waiting for her. So too has her gorgeous guardian beast, who soon has Mikki swooning. But to save the realm, Mikki will have to sacrifice her life-giving blood.

Check it out on Goodreads.

Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan

Hecate is the Greek goddess of magic, the Mist, crossroads, necromancy, the night and the moon. She is a Titaness of the third generation, daughter of Asteria and Perses, and serves the goddess Persephone as her attendant and minister. Her Roman counterpart is Trivia. She is often accompanied by a black Labrador retriever and a polecat, who used to be mortal women before she turned them into her familiars.

The House of Hades

Hecate made Hazel Levesque choose her path in the three gates in the Mist. It is revealed that she helped Marie find the spell that resulted in Hazel’s birth. Hecate promised to obscure the progress of the Seven but said that Hazel needed to learn to manipulate the Mist. At the climax, Hecate fights by Hazel’s side against the Giant Clytius. Together, they defeat the bane of magic.

Learn more here
Hecate. Image credit

Disney’s Hercules

Hecate is the Olympian demigoddess of witchcraft and the night. She appeared in the Hercules: The Animated Series episodes “Hercules and the Underworld Takeover” and “Hercules and the Disappearing Heroes” as the main antagonist.

Hecate is an embittered demigoddess who has always wanted to prove her skills to everyone. Since she always comes second best to Hades, she has developed a sinister, bitter jealousy and personal hatred of Hades, and tries to steal the Underworld throne from him.

As one of the Olympian gods, Hecate possesses all the powers standard to them, such as omnipresence, vast strength, and shape shifting. She displays expertise in stealing others’ powers away, using a crystal to contain and drain Hades’ flame and a monster to inherit heroes’ prominent traits.

Learn more here
Hecate. Image credit

Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series

Hecate, referred as “goddess of creatures great and small” and “queen and protector of witches,”[1] was a higher being frequently invoked in spells of transmogrification.[2][1][3] According to Willow Rosenberg, Hecate hated when rituals invoking her were disrupted and required starting over.[3]

Learn more here

Hecate in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Hecate

Hecate is the goddess of magic, witchcraft, spells and magical plants. She has nymphs who follow her around, as well as black dogs. She keeps to herself as other gods and goddesses tend to take everything she says literally: not all crossroads as actual roads, but choices. She’s fond of Artemis and Persephone as they treasure nature as much as she does.

See her in action:

Origin of Irascible Immortals (Origin of the Fae #7)

What do you think of Hecate? Where did you hear about Hecate for the first time? Any folklore about Hecate you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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