Hekate

It is no accident that Hekate (Ekath) played such an important role in Greek life. As the following texts illustrate, she was ubiquitous in everyday life (in domestic shrines at the threshold and at crossroads), in myth and in cult (particularly the mysteries). Since the Greeks were polytheists and therefore recognized multiple powers at origin (a recognition emphasized in the gigantomachia), they necessarily recognized at the same time those abysmal borders and spaces at origin which define and enable fundamental plurality. Hekate rules these borders and spaces. Therefore she rules all those separations of one thing from another which is inherent to journeys (Hekate Enoidia), to physical growth (particularly of children, Hekate Kourotrophe), to political and court judgements, and to understanding. Greek 'krinein' (krinein) which we preserve in words like 'crisis' and 'critic', means 'to separate', 'decide', 'judge', 'turn' (particularly in matters of health and war), and is cognate with Old Irish 'criathar' (sieve).

She is portrayed in triple form (Hekate Trimorphe) looking in three directions, usually with torches, to light her way in the dark, or with swords, to separate and to hold apart. She is goddess of the night and of the underworld and of those yet darker realms of the threshold and the crossway where an 'unheeded neither' (Beckett) allows both separation (of inside and outside, of direction) and jointure.

And she ['Asteria of happy name, whom Perses once led to his great house to be called his dear wife'] conceived and bore Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Cronos [Zeus] did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. Also, because she is an only child [ie, not supported by brothers], the goddess receives not less honor, but much more still, for [not a brother, but] Zeus honors her. Whom she will, she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less. So, then, albeit her mother's only child, she is honored amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Cronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young, and these are her honors. (Hesiod, Theogony 405ff)
Hekate Enoidia [of the roads and pathways], Triodite [of the three ways], lovely dame, of earthly, watery, and celestial frame, sepulchral, in a saffron veil arrayed, pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade; Perseia [daughter of the titan Perses], solitary goddess [only child], hail! The world’s key-bearer, never doomed to fail; in stags rejoicing, huntress, nightly seen, and drawn by bulls, unconquerable queen; Leader, nymph, nurse, on mountains wandering, hear the suppliants who with holy rites thy power revere, and to the herdsman with a favouring mind draw near. (Orphic Hymn to Hecate)
the lady Hekate was minister and companion to Persephone (Homeric Hymn to Demeter)
I have heard it foretold, that one day the Athenians would dispense justice in their own houses, that each citizen would have himself a little tribunal constructed in his porch similar to the altars of Hecate, and that there would be such before every door. (Aristophanes, Wasps 800ff)
Hecate whose name is howled by night at the city cross-roads. (Virgil, Aeneid 4.609)
She sprinkled them with harmful drugs and poisonous juices, summoning Night and the gods of Night, from Erebus and Chaos, and calling on Hecate with long wailing cries. Marvellous to say, the trees tore from their roots, the earth rumbled, the surrounding woods turned white, and the grass she sprinkled was wet with drops of blood. And the stones seemed to emit harsh groans, and dogs to bark, and the ground to crawl with black snakes, and the ghostly shades of the dead to hover. The terrified band shuddered at these monstrosities. She touched the fearful, stunned, faces with her wand, and, at its contact, the monstrous forms of various wild beasts appeared, as the warriors were transformed: none of them retained his human form. (Ovid, Metamorphoses 14.400ff)
You see Hecate’s faces turned in three directions to protect the triple crossroads. (Ovid, Fasti 1.141)
Of the gods, the Aiginetans worship most Hekate, in whose honour every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thrakian established among them. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.30)

July 13, 2004 in Gigantomachia/Titanomachia, Original difference, Pathways, Space of the door | Permalink

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