In Greek society, Hecate was known as the goddess of the crossroads. She was considered an underworld goddess, guarding the boundary between life and death — between the world of the living and the world of spirits and ghosts. Since she is placed at the crossroads of life, she is also a goddess of childbirth, much like the Greek goddess Artemis and the Roman goddess Diana. She was also recognized as a guiding moon goddess. She appeared as the dark part of the moon, lighting the way through the night.
Gods and goddesses represent aspects of the human psyche and human experience, giving us inspiration and a way to make sense out of the confusion life sometimes brings. As a goddess of the crossroads, Hecate can help us when we are between a rock and a hard place, during a life transition or a time of difficult decision-making. Hecate helps one find the courage to trust in intuition, open oneself to love and make important life-changing decisions.
So many of us can relate to Hecate because she was an outsider-goddess. We all know what that feels like! The powers and domains attributed to her are so vast that she can easily be seen as a manifestation of the Great Goddess. In fact, it is more than likely that she is descended from early Mother Goddesses associated with the wilderness and childbirth. She was never officially part of the Greek pantheon of Olympian gods, but she nonetheless played an important and influential role in Greek societies. The she-dog or bitch was, oddly enough, her animal symbol. Later, Greek and Christian patriarchs would unfairly demonize her as a goddess of sorcery and witchcraft. So the next time you hear someone use the B-word, just think of Hecate and all her great power and wisdom!
One of the interesting things about Hecate was her threefold representation. She was often depicted with three heads — dog, snake, horse or sometimes lion — or with three distinct bodies. Standards, each bearing masks of one of her heads facing in different directions, were often placed at three-way crossings. Symbolically, this was taken to mean that she had the power to see in all directions (to see all things) and she could be approached by anyone, from anywhere. So, though Hecate was later associated with evil and witchcraft, she was in many ways a warm and welcoming goddess.
Another example of Hecate’s goodness (particularly to women) occurs in the myth of Persephone. It was Hecate who crossed over into the underworld and brought Persephone (who had been abducted as bride by Hades, king of the underworld) back to her mother Demeter. As such, Hecate also figures in the trinity of women: Hecate (Wise Woman), Persephone (Bride) and Demeter (Mother) — also understood as the three phases of a woman’s life in Greek society. Later, Hecate would be characterized as the Sorceress Crone, wandering lonely in the night.
Her statue was also often placed at entry points to keep out evil spirits. Because of this practice, conversely it was believed that if offended, she would let evil spirits in. This may be why she later became known as the Queen of Ghosts.
Today, Hecate has been appropriated by feminist-inspired neo-pagan religions like Wicca. Whether she is the Crone or the Maiden, Hecate is an inspiration, someone who can see and be all things. She is someone who can navigate between many worlds — this world and the underworld, the conscious and subconscious, reason and intuition, the dream world and the world where dreams come true. She can be called on at every crossroads.
Being a Woman of Greek heritage myself, I loved reading and studying mythology as a child. I collected books and all kinds of research materials about every one I could find. Now I love the myths about the males too…but the goddess stories are what really excite me. I learn a lot from re-reading and studying them still today. When I was little I used to fantasize that I was Athena, because I shoot a wicked bow and arrow too…not to mention that I love bladed weapons. I was always fighting with someone too…so I thought she had to be my personal goddess. Today as a grown-up I realize that they are all my goddesses…the stories are here to teach us more about ourselves…all the aspects of being a female. I hope you enjoy this weekly feature.
I hope you have a “see-in-all-ways” day!