Parents: Asteria and Perses
Symbolism: Torches, keys, knives.
Sacred Animals: (Classical) Black dogs, polecats, serpents. (Modern) Ravens, crows, black cats, toads.
Sacred Plants: Monkshood, oak, yew, deadly nightshade, hellebore, hemlock, all plants governed by Saturn, classic “witching” plants.
Hekate is one of the most popular goddesses of modern witchcraft, Wicca and paganism. Her popularity is probably due to her being linked with the “crone” figure in the “triple goddess” myth, tying her in with The Goddess in a lot of neopagan practices. However, while Hekate is often referred to as being three-formed, three-faced or ruling over three realms, She is portrayed as a youthful goddess in Classical art, not as a wise old crone. Initially Her domains were over childbirth, protection of the young (including animals), and averting evil. Later She gained her associations with magic, witchcraft, herbal lore, necromancy, the dead and ghosts, thus possibly causing Her to become seen as a crone figure.
In Hesiod’s Theogony, She is the daughter of Perses (the Destroyer) and Asteria (the Starry), though other historians variously mention Zeus, Nyx or Demeter as Her parents. Asteria is the sister of Leto, which makes Hekate a cousin to Artemis and Apollon. During the war between the Titan ruling dynasty, and the upstart Olympians, She sided with Zeus and the younger generation of gods, and was highly honoured after Zeus ascended the throne of Olympos. She had a role during the Eleusinian Mysteries, as She helped Demeter search for Persephone, leading the way to the Underworld with her blazing torches. It’s possible that She obtained Her role as a psychopomp because of this, and along with Hermes, She is petitioned in modern magic to help open the gates of the Underworld in order to communicate with the souls of the dead.
Hekate gains her dominion over witchcraft possibly through figures like Medea and Kirke (Circe). Medea was a priestess of Hekate and called upon Her to aid with her spells, and the historian Diodorus Siculus claimed that Hekate was the mother of Medea and Kirke. The collection of texts known as the Greek Magical Papyri also feature spells and incantations, calling upon Hekate as a goddess of dark sorcery, necromancy, witchcraft and ghosts. Her knowledge of the magical properties of all herbs was recorded by Ovid in his Metamorphoses and by Apollonius Rhodius in his Argonautica.
Present day witches see Hekate (amongst other witching goddesses) as a patroness of their arts, and honour Her especially during the dark half of the year. The night of the new moon is sacred to Hekate, and historically this was when folk would leave meals, known as Hekate’s deipnon (supper), for the goddess at crossroads, boundaries and graveyards. Some modern witches have revived this practice, offering Hekate bread, cake, garlic, onions, cheese, fish and wine at the new moon. Other traditional offerings are any household sweepings, and modern witches may wish to donate the remains of spells, such as candle wax, incense ash and herbs to their own deipnon. In the wild She can be honoured in graveyards, at crossroads, in deep forests of on the edge of lakes.