An Introduction to Hekate

Hekate, goddess of pathways and crossroads, is also associated with magic, witchcraft, and ghosts. She is as well a protective goddess, particularly of women, and many houses had a small shrine to her (called a hekataion) at the door. She is often accompanied by dogs. She was never, in antiquity, depicted as a crone or old woman.

Myths and Stories

Not a great deal is known of Hekate in terms of myth; however, she is said to have received a share of earth, sea and sky, and is well-respected by Zeus.

Hekate plays a significant role in the story of Demeter and Persephone. When Demeter’s daughter Persephone was abducted, it was Hekate who heard her cries and told Demeter what had happened.

Names and Epithets

Hekate Enodia (Hekate of the Crossroad). Refers to Hekate’s role as guardian of the crossroads.

Hekate Chthonia (Chthonic Hekate). References Hekate’s connections with the underworld as a psychopomp.

Hekate Kourotrophos (Hekate Nurse of the Young). Refers to Hekate’s protection of children and other young animals.

Worship and Festivals

Hekate’s worship may have originated in Caria, and her most important cult center was Lagina. She was especially dear to women. She did not have a large public cult but was frequently honored within the home, and many homes had a hekataion–a small shrine to Hekate–at the door.

As a crossroad goddess she received offerings at the crossroads during the dark moon of each month.

Symbols and Attributes

Hekate is often depicted in art carrying torches, both a reminder of her role in the reunion of Persephone and Demeter and of her role as a goddess of protection in the night. She is frequently accompanied by her sacred animal, the dog, and is often shown carrying keys.

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