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Hecate - Greek and Latin mythology

Hecate - Greek and Latin mythology


ECATE


Triform Hecate, relief, Saladinovo (Romania)

According to Greek mythology Hecate "She who strikes far away"he was initially a lunar deity who later became an infernal deity (the reasons are uncertain) feared for its ability to conjure up monstrous apparitions and terrible ghosts that terrified men at night.

According to Hesiod, Hecate was the daughter of the Titans Asteria and Perse, symbols respectively of the starry sky and its luminosity, and hence her meaning of lunar divinity probably derived. It is not certain why she became an infernal divinity: according to some as the personification of the moon and therefore of the night she was associated with darkness; according to others because in reality the daughter of Zeus and Herae, the mother, angry with her, immersed her in the Acheron, the river of the underworld.

It was customary to place his image with offerings in front of the doors of houses and crossroads to ward off misfortunes.

It was represented with only one body but with three heads that is to say with three bodies united by the back and it was said Hecate Trimorfaor Hecate Trivia.

According to some scholars it would be the mother of the sorceresses Medea and Circe.


HERE: INFERNAL OR HEAVENLY DIVINITY?

Roberta Astori - Essayist, subject expert at Romance Linguistics at the University of Trieste


Images of the gods of the ancients by Vincenzo Cartari Reggiano (Venetia 1556), image of Hecate Triforme

In these pages we will try to analyze the figure of the goddess Hecate from a symbolic perspective, trying to rehabilitate her image, often mistakenly relegated to the sole infernal domain. A preliminary, albeit brief, iconographic description of this divinity is therefore necessary. Hecate is almost always represented in triple form, so much so that the appellative that most often accompanies her name is that of Triformis. This triple aspect characterizes it as the tutelary deity of crossroads, that is, the crossing points of three roads headed in opposite directions. The triadic formation is typical of the ideal world of antiquity and often applies to powerful female deities. It is associated with the idea of ​​the cycle and evolution - both in temporal terms, as past-present-future (think, in fact, that in ancient times the division of the table was tripartite, and the three lunar phases of the month were precisely represented by the Lunar Hecate) and of conscience evolution, as a path from the chaotic-uroboric stage to the celestial one. Hecate, therefore, can assume both the face of a girl, that of a woman and of an old woman, or, enriched with further symbolic attributes, it often appears in a feral form: with the appearance of a dog, snake, horse or lion, depending on of traditions. His iconography is completed with other variables: in his hand he can carry lighted torches, an olive branch, a key or the so-called "magic top". On her feet she wears golden sandals. In his celestial form he wears white robes, while the infernal aspect is characterized by black clothing. It is often accompanied by a hound or a group of howling dogs.

Origins and textual sources

Hecate could be derived from the Egyptian deity Heket, which in turn evolved into Heq, matriarch of predynastic Egypt. In Greece, she was a pre-Olympic deity, later absorbed by the Hellenic pantheon. From the Theogony of Hesiod (411-413) we know that her genealogy derives from the Titans Phoibe and Koios, who had two daughters: Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, and Asteria, who from the union with Perses, gave birth to Hecate :

кd 'hupokusamenк Hekatn teke, tкn peri pantфn

Zeus Kronidкs timкse: poren de hoi aglaa dфra,

moiran echein gaiкs te kai atrugetoio thalassкs (1).

A later tradition makes her the daughter of Zeus and Hera, reducing her sphere of action to the chthonic world (2).

However, its origins are uncertain: the majority of scholars agree in affirming that this figure was born in western Asia Minor and precisely in the region of Caria. From the scarce evidence in our possession, we can infer that it was a deity connected to the passages through liminal zones: for this reason Thomas Kraus, in a monograph dedicated to the goddess, (3) associates her with Apollo who, in Greek mythology, with the epithet of Agyieus, had a similar function as guardian of doors and streets. Many scholars, however, assimilate it to the Great Anatolian Mother: although there is probably a certain amount of truth in this hypothesis, it does not have much relevance to the origins of Hecate herself, since virtually all female deities - and especially the oriental ones - they are linked to the figure of the Great Mother (4).

The first literary testimony in which Hecate makes his appearance as a protagonist is the Theogony of Hesiod (vv. 411-452): this is the well-known hymn dedicated to her, whose interpretation by scholars has generated numerous controversies over time in an attempt to explain the exaltation of the goddess above any other divinity, Zeus including, who "favored her more than all the other gods" (5). Justification - as J. S. Clay suggests in his essay The Ekate of the Theogony (6) - resides in its peculiar character as an intermediary between immortal and terrestrial beings: an aspect that makes it virtually a participant - or better advocate - of any relationship or connection between human and divine. In addition, Hecate belongs to the ranks of Panhellenic female deities to whom the cultural epithet of megas, "Great": Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter-Kore, Nemesis, Nike and Tyche.

The second appearance of Hecate in Greek literature is the Homeric Hymn of Demeter , on whose authenticity scholars are not entirely in agreement, considering it for the most part a subsequent interpolation. In any case, the passage must certainly be interpreted as the first explicit allusion to the goddess in her role of guide in the places and moments of passage or transition. In 1.24 we have in fact the story of the rape of Persephone by Hades, to which Hecate attends as a witness, together with the god Helios. Subsequently, in II. 51-59, becomes a sort of messenger for Demeter, to re-enter the scene in I. 438, immediately after Persephone's return to earth. From that moment, as the hymn says, "Queen Hecate became the one who preceded (propoloz) and followed (opawn) Persephone": therefore, she is both a guide and a protector. The text therefore suggests that Hecate is accompanying physically Persephone in his itinerary of descent into hell and in that of the subsequent ascent to earth. From the moment of the rape, the journey will be repeated every year, and for every year Hecate will escort Proserpina's daughter. In this way, it acquires a new characterization and the broader and more generalized role of ferryman of the souls of the dead.

Hecate also belongs to the texts of Sophocles, where it is mentioned with the epithet of Enodia , appellative also applied to other divinities that perform the same protective function of the liminal areas (doors and crossroads), such as Hermes. In Theogony Hesiod, in XXV. 4. Hecate Enodia (7) is therefore the numinous figure (8) and guardian of the roads, in particular in the points where they intersect. In Rome it will be Trivia: as the etymology of the term suggests, it takes its name and shape from its connection with the trivium itself, the three-way meeting area. Therefore, it will derive the name and the characterization of triforme, which will represent it, in traditional iconography, as a luminous figure with a triple aspect and a triple face: human in its terrestrial form, equine in its lunar robe and canine in its infernal habitus (9). In the following paragraphs, we will analyze in detail the symbolic role of the three and the different aspects that this triplicity makes the divinity in question assume. Here it is enough to make a brief mention of his connection with another divinity connected to the liminal areas, namely that of Janus, traditionally represented as two-faced.

Janus is mentioned together with Hecate in the sixth hymn of Proclus, in which the poet invokes the two deities to help and protect his own existential path, precisely as guardians of the doors, therefore - symbolically - of the regions and of the initiatory moments of life. Here Hecate is referred to as proquraia, "keeper of the doors", precisely (10).

Again in relation to Giano it is mentioned by Arnobio in his Adversus Nationes, in 3.29 (end of the third century A.D.), where a genealogy is drawn up in which the two-faced god appears to be the son of Hecate and of Heaven.

Furthermore, the two divinities share the same appellation of amfiprwspoz, "with a double face", an epithet that expresses the faculty of looking in two directions, applied in Proclus (11) to Hecate and in Plutarch to Janus (12). it can also refer to the ability to interact with two different realities: a peculiar characteristic of Hecate exalted in the Chaldean system, which will be discussed later. It should be noted that in the texts just cited we speak of a bipartite and not tripartite Hecate, as it is This may be due to the fact that, in the Chaldean system, the main function of Hecate was precisely that of mediation between the two intelligible and sensitive realms, between which it is placed as a cosmic soul.

Other literary documents bearing witness to the apotropaic role assumed by Hecate in the Hellenistic period can be found in Aeschylus and Aristophanes: in both cases, the goddess is mentioned as the tutelary deity of doors and entrances, with the epithet of Propylaia: it seems that he was consecrated to her. a cult on the Acropolis of Athens and in particular at its entrance, the Propylaea in fact, where a statue of the goddess was placed to protect the fortress.

Pausanias (13) also mentions this tradition, citing a Hekate epipurgdia, whose representation in its triform aspect was venerated on the Acropolis next to the temple of Nike. In all probability it is the same Ekate Propulaia mentioned by Aeschylus. Hecate assumes the role of guide and protector of not only physical but also temporal passages. This is how it also becomes the deity who presides over birth and death, being invoked - not by chance - in astrological moments of particular symbolic significance, such as the full moon. On this occasion - as testified by the scholiasta of Aristotle Apollodorus (III century AD) - Hecate was offered ritual banquets, called hekataia. In particular, the ritual sacrifice of the fish triglh, s acro to the goddess is mentioned here. Plutarch (14) also mentions these sacred banquets.

In Xenocrates (15) we find for the first time the name of Hecate in explicit association with the Moon, in relation to the Platonic theory according to which the nocturnal star has an intermediary function between the sensible and the intelligible world. Its nature as an intermediary is placed by Xenocrates within a tripartite system, where the sun and the stars occupy the part, so to speak superior (or the first pukna, as he himself defines it), the earth and the waters that lower and the moon the middle one. This conception also refers to the medical theory of Hippocrates, which assimilates the Moon to the diaphragm, that is to the median area of ​​the human body. But the moon is not only an intermediary, it marks and defines a boundary between two distinct areas, indeed it is in itself a boundary, a boundary between those two worlds.

It is precisely in these terms that Plutarch speaks of it (16), describing it as a barrier that divides the physical world from the spiritual one. Furthermore, it is described as the agent of a mediation - and therefore of a transmission - of the vital principle itself. This is not in contrast with Hecate's bisexual nature (17), which possesses in itself both the principles of generation, the masculine and the feminine.

Porphyry (18) and Eusebius himself had already referred to Hecate calling her "Moon" the same happens in the magical papyri, where the name of the goddess becomes interchangeable with that of Selene. Previously, the same assimilation with the Moon had belonged to Artemis, a divinity with which Hecate will in turn be identified and consequently confused.

Already with the Stoics (2nd century BC) an attempt was made to draw a parallel between Apollo / Sun and his twin sister Artemis, who became transitively, “Moon”. Since Plutarch's time, Artemis's association with the moon is now a topos .

"Here I am, a virgin with various forms, wandering in the skies,

A fragment of Porphyry (19) presents us with a true portrait of Hecate, in its syncretic aspect: the divinity is described here in some of its attributes as Selene, as Eleithya and as Artemis:

“With the face of a dog, three heads, inexorable, with golden darts. "

Other proofs of the correspondence between Hecate and the Moon can be found in Seneca (20) and in the aforementioned Plutarch.

Both authors were strongly influenced by the mystical-philosophical currents that were spreading with ever greater force already from the first century AD. These sources attributed to the moon an intermediary function and nature, as well as guiding the souls of the dead - better called daemones - on the limit that separates the terrestrial from the celestial spheres. This role is similar to that attributed to Hecate and therefore functional to the identification of the two entities.

Hecate therefore fulfills an eschatological function, that is, of salvation. Salvation consists, in this case, precisely with the passage, and therefore with the evolution and improvement of the soul. This eschatology of Hecate - mediated by the mystical-philosophical theories of Middle Platonism - is part of a cosmological system that Xenocrates describes as a triangular structure in which the demons and the Moon participate in both earthly and otherworldly nature. In post-classical antiquity, this character of sharing in the celestial and terrestrial nature is transferred to Hecate who becomes, consequently, the patroness of the demons, so much so that she is often called their "queen" (21), unlike what happened instead in the classical era, when it was rather the ruler of ghosts. At that time it was believed that these creatures, not well identified nor definable precisely because of their condition of fatal and eternal transience, wandered ceaselessly like souls in pain in a sort of Limbo, after a premature or violent death. It was also believed that these infested those tombs and crossroads (22) which, as it was said, were consecrated and Hecate and were the scene of his invocations. These restless beings took on a decidedly negative and terrifying connotation which, as we shall see, will only mitigate later thanks to the influence of the Middle Platonic theories that saw the daemones simply as a medium between the human and the supernal kingdoms. The sense of horror that surrounded these ghostly figures in classicism thus came to characterize that of theirs dominates.

We mentioned earlier the Middle Platonic theories that rehabilitated the role of demons and, consequently, also that of Hecate their queen. The Oracula Chaldaica (23), prophetic formulations composed in the epoch of second Hellenism, in which the name of Hecate often appears in association with the aforementioned guiding role through the liminal zones. But not only that: the goddess is also attributed a cosmological function, that is to say that of intermediary of ideas and therefore of structuring the physical world. In the late mystical-philosophical thought the concept of the triadization of entities and substances became very widespread and popular. In the Chaldean system, the cosmological triad is formed by a so-called "First Intellect", proponent of Ideas, a "Second Intellect" which phenomenizes them by bringing them to substance (the latter entity, identifiable with the Demiurge of Timaeus Platonic to which the Chaldean current largely refers) and a median entity (similar to the Cosmic Soul) which has the function of transmitting and transporting these ideas from the spiritual to the physical world. Hecate is similar to this Cosmic Soul. In particular, one of the functions of the Chaldean triad is that of measurement, that is, the division of physical substance into significant proportions: from the idea to matter, from primordial chaos to a harmonic structuring.In essence, Hecate is the median entity and the intermediary between these two extremes, as well as being in a certain sense also the creator, or rather "mother" of individual souls. In fact, one of the Hecatean attributes most often cited in Chaldean oracles is its "belly" (coupi), a symbolic representation of the organ of transmission of ideas and, therefore, of generation and materialization of physical substances. This belly is impregnated with thunder and lightning, emanations of the First Intellect (otherwise called First Fire) and symbols of the Platonic Forms or Ideas, and after giving them nourishment it releases them into the physical world.

In another Chaldean oracle (Frag. 52) Hecate is defined as the source of the water of the cosmic soul: symbolically, therefore, it is the source of life (24). In Frag. 51 it is also the source of light, fire, air and ether. In essence, Hecate is attributed the vital power over all the elements: it is the womb of the cosmos. This ability to animate everything with life also gives it the possibility of reanimating the dead, as Psellus claims in Hyp. Keph . 74.10 K.

Mediation, in the Chaldean system, is a purely vital act and therefore the mediator par excellence of all vital processes can only be the mother of the world. To summarize briefly, it can be said that, with Middle-Platonism, Hecate begins to be syncretized with other deities and his figure begins to include new traits: in late mysticism, his traditional role of guide and guardian is modified and expanded, in function of a growing interest in mediating entities, portrayed and considered as transcendent, detached from the human world.

This new interpretation is in contrast with the more sensationalist one of the witch-goddess which is dear to traditional popularization, and of which we find traces in much literature of classical Latinity: from Ovid's Metamorphoses (25), where Hecate is called into question by the sorceress Medea together with other entities of the chthonic world to invoke the return of Jason from Hades, to Seneca, who in Oedipus (26) he has a seer, intent on invoking the shadows of Tartarus, recite the following words:

"The blind Chaos is opening wide, and the people of Dis are opening a way to the supernal kingdom!", As soon as he hears the howling of the infernal dogs that always escort Hecate. The goddess, therefore, opens the way to the procession of deceased souls. On the contrary, it can also prevent their return: it is in these terms that Apuleius (27) and Luciano (28), who describes the goddess as she descends from the Earth into the infernal abodes accompanied by her cortege of souls. Even the Sibyl of Virgilian memory invokes Hecate "powerful in Earth and in Heaven", even before Persephone, the Night and the Earth, and offers her a sacrifice so that she can access the lands of Hades (29).

In Civil Bellum di Lucano (30) we witness a scene set in a cave described as a place "halfway between the upper and the underworld", where Ericto tries to revive a corpse with the invocation of Hecate, a god who allows her to enter contact with the dead. In relation to this magical-witchcraft aspect, it is necessary to mention those demonic entities called in the oracles "dogs" and traditionally considered to be the escort of Hecate in her epiphanies. They are creatures devouring souls, lying and evil beings who take advantage of human weakness to deceive and terrorize mortals, in order to make them divert their path towards purification. The dog is often named and associated, therefore, with the darker side of Hecate.

Horace talks about it in the eighth Satire (31), when he describes the necromantic evocation ritual officiated by the two hags Sagana and Canidia: while they perform the horrendous ceremony, which involves the sacrifice of a black lamb, the infernal dogs ( infernae canes) of Hecate howling in the distance.

Virgil (32) also names these howling dogs that accompany the arrival of the goddess as well as Apollonius of Rhodes (33) who describes them barking raucously, when a terrifying Ecate, the hair formed by horrible snakes, emerges from the earth. Licrofone (34) has Cassandra tell how her mother Hecuba will frighten mortals with her sinister barking, joining the ranks of dogs that accompany Hecate in her nocturnal raids. These dog-demons are therefore comparable to the nocturnal ghosts that were believed to accompany the goddess during her apparitions and could drive man mad. Their function was to fulfill the invocations and curses pronounced by the magician during the necromantic ceremonies, in which the name of Hecate was never missed. By virtue of its intermediary nature, it cannot but be the dominator of these intermediate essences, be they positive or negative, "good" or "bad". This is not in contrast with what has been said so far regarding the salvific image that emerges from the analysis of the Chaldean oracular literature carried out by the mid-Platonic currents at the turn of the second and third centuries. A.D. However, it must be said that in classical Greek and Latin literature, as well as in magical papyri, its chthonic and infernal aspect prevails.

On the other hand, even in the Neoplatonic doctrine, identified with the Cosmic Soul / Physis, it remains a tempting entity, since just as it can elevate individual souls, in the same way, accomplices the demons that make them cortege, it can attract them. inexorably downwards.

This connection with the magical, therefore, seems to have never completely lost its suggestive force: even in the Neoplatonic system Hecate is an oracular divinity, able to give information to the theurgist on how to use magical means, in order to be able to go beyond the limits of the physical world. The link between the theurgist and the divinity is the so-called cosmic sympathy, made active by Hecate. This sympathetic correspondence is activated thanks to the use of symbols, emblems or magical means, such as the so-called "Hecate's top", described by Psello (35) as a "[...] golden sphere built around a sapphire and rotated by means of a leather strap, with engraved characters on it. By spinning it (the theurgist) he used to make invocations. And they used to call this instrument yugx, whether it was spherical, triangular, or some other shape. Turning it, it produced particular sounds, imitating the cry of a beast, laughing or making the air cry. (The oracle) teaches that the movement of the top, with its ineffable power, completed the rite. It is called "Hecate's Top" since it is consecrated to Hecate. " This instrument, also known as the "magic circle" is able to inspire prophetic visions. In this sense it refers to the lunar aspect of Hecate, also called Antea, that is "she who sends the visions". Lunar inspiration is often confused with madness: "the type of understanding or inspiration that the moon gives is not a rational thought, it is more similar to the artistic intuition of the dreamer or the seer". (36)

As for the use of the spinning top in magical ceremonies, it has been documented since ancient times. It is used in the rituals of envoыtement for its power to provoke love, in stormy ceremonies for the faculty of calling storms and in evocations for its power to bring about the appearance of divinity. Also in this case the power of the instrument lies in the fact that it produces enchanting sounds that were believed to have a propaedeutic effect in helping the sympathy between the elements of the cosmos, harmonizing them with each other. The harmonic movement of the rotating spheres, in fact, mimetically determined, by analogy, that of the celestial spheres and, therefore, of cosmic beings. As mentioned above, their sound played a fundamental role in this process, as well as any other device that was able to activate the sympathetic process: herbs, stones, shells and animals. Returning to Hecate, it has a fundamental role in the activation of this sympathy and cosmic harmony, since it presides over the functioning of the Yugx, which in the Chaldean doctrine, then mediated by Neoplatonism, are identified with the symbols that refer to the Ideas: the character of intermediation proper and peculiar of the divinity. Often, these symbols coincide with magical and secret words, pronounced by the officiant during the theurgic ceremony. These spells cause the appearance of Hecate, described in three fragments of the Oracula (37) in the form of fire, light or in the appearance of a white horse. His arrival is foretold by the darkening of the sky, the frightening tremor of the earth and the materialization of a speaking fire that gives responses. The abnormal physical manifestations that always accompany the advent of a numinous entity are due to the fact that this represents the breaking of a limit, the passage from the immortal to the mortal sphere. The vision of the universe is equivalent to that of a structure divided into hierarchically separate areas: Olympus inhabited by the gods, the Moon as the kingdom of souls, the Earth for men. The overturning of this hierarchy therefore causes a momentary disturbance of the cosmic order, which manifests itself with catastrophic or sensational events. As for the appearance of a speaking fire, which physically represents the voice of Hecate, it should be emphasized how often - and not only in the Chaldean system - light and fire are associated with the divine: it is symbolically evident how these elements represent the achievement of knowledge and contact with a higher dimension. Just think of their characteristics of luminosity and their ascensional symbolism that relates them to the celestial dimension. In this case, the vision is neither frightening nor terrifying, but it is synonymous with beauty: this ambiguity in the connotation of Hecate's appearance will become its peculiar character. The goddess can be horrible as well as splendid: here she certainly appears in a celestial form. In the same fragments taken into consideration it is also described in an equine form: in reality, there are few explicit associations of the goddess with the horse, and in any case they are subsequent to the one we find in the fragments considered. Rather, it is more correct to consider the equine one as one of the three faces of Hecate in its triadic form, which has already been mentioned. In any case, here it is important to emphasize how even its physical appearance, traditionally associated with darkness and horror, can instead be considered under a luminous and shining aspect.


Hecate - Paris - Cabinet des Medailles


Hecate - Greek and Latin mythology

"Hecate protector of the streets I celebrate, trivia, amiable,
celestial and terrestrial and marine, with a crocus-colored mantle,
sepulchral, ​​berry, with the souls of the dead,
daughter of Perse, lover of solitude, proud of deer,
nocturnal, protector of dogs, invincible queen,
heralded by the roar of the beasts, unbeatable, unbeatable,
tamer of bulls, lady who guards the whole cosmos,
guide, nymph, nurse of the young, frequenter of the mountains,
begging the girl to attend the pious celebrations
benevolent towards the cowherd always with a joyful soul ".

According to Hesiod Hecate's Theogony
she was daughter of the Titans Asteria and Perse:

"And Asteria got pregnant, and for life gave Ecate,
above all Jupiter Chronicle honored,
the most shining gifts: the earth's day part,
of the sea that never reaps:
and she too has power in the star-filled sky,
and more than any other, honor among the immortal gods collects.
And even now, when any of the men on earth make sacrifices,
and appeases, according to the customs, the Celestials, Hecate invokes by name.
And honor accompanies a mortal,
when the Goddess intends her benevolent prayers
and grants him prosperity: for very great is his may.
Because of how many were born from Earth and Urano,
and they had honors, this Goddess part has the honors of everyone
because Jupiter was not hard on her, nor did he take anything away from her
than she already had among the most ancient gods,
the Titans, but all the part it possessed at the time, owns.
Nor do I honor the Goddess less, because daughter is unique, she obtained,
not the lesser part of the earth, of the sky and the sea,
but indeed much more: because Croníde honors him a lot.
And it is close to those who want to protect, and it greatly benefits them.
In the assembly, the man who craves prevails among men:
when the people arm themselves to war, extermination of men,
Hecate here, the Diva, shows herself, and to those she wants,
Willing glory grants, grants victory:


where justice starts, she sits next to the righteous kings:
even when men contend in agons, it helps:
because the Diva also goes to them and assists them,
and who of strength prevailed, of strength, the beautiful prize
easily earns, covers his children with glory.
He also knows, when he wants, to bring assistance to the knights.
And to whom in the glaucous sea troubles, and in the wrath of the waves Hecate invokes,
and the deep resounding Enosigèo, the famous Goddess,
easily concedes every prey, easily,
and, after finding it, if you like, it takes it off.
She can multiply the cattle indoors with Ermète.
The herds of bullocks, the flocks full of goats,
the herds of woolly sheep, wherever she wants it,
from a few to many heads, from many it reduces to very few.
So she, who was her mother's only daughter,
honor over all the Names that were born more ancient, it redeems.
And the Chronicle of children made all the protector
that the eyes after her opened to the rays of the sun:
so from before she was an honored guardian to children "

According to a later tradition, she would be the daughter of Zeus and Hera. but the Greek Hecate was still a mysterious divinity, linked to the moon and the world of the dead, in some cases confused with Artemis or Selene or Persephone.

However, he had an independent cult, especially in Asia Minor. The Goddess possessed the ability to pass from the world of the living to that of the dead and was a psychopump, that is, she accompanied men still alive in the kingdom of the Underworld.

Protector of roads, crossings and passages, her statues and altars were found in front of houses or along the streets, as protection for travelers.
The procession that accompanied her was made up of ghosts and howling dogs: for this reason it was customary to place offerings of food at crossroads, to make it benevolent, especially on the last day of each month, dedicated to her.

In Aeschylus and Aristophanes the Goddess is indicated as the tutelary deity of doors and entrances, with the epithet of Propylaia: it seems that a cult was consecrated to her on the Acropolis of Athens and in particular at its entrance, the Propylaea precisely, where it was located a statue of the Goddess protects the fortress.

Hecate represented the most mysterious aspect of the moon, the one in the waning phase, in relation to witches and magical rites.

Protector of dogs, animals consecrated to her, together with the dove.

The most important center of the cult was in Aegina, where dogs and black-haired victims were sacrificed to her, like all the other deities of the Underworld, but she was also invoked for a good harvest.

Hesiod, in his Theogony, dedicates this hymn to Hecate, where Zeus grants the Goddess glory and supreme power over earth, the underworld and the sky, also granting her the original rights as a descendant of the primordial deities, including that of granting or denying to mortals what they want:

that of all Zeus Chronides honored, and gave her illustrious gifts,
what power he had over the land and the barren sea
even in the starry sky it has its share of honor
and by the immortal gods she is supremely honored.



ASPECTS AND ATTRIBUTES

In more ancient times she was depicted as a young woman dressed in a chiton and holding torches in her hands, often close to Cerberus: this is how she is found on red-figure vases and coins.

In the Orphic rites she was venerated together with Demeter and Cybele and is depicted trimorphic, with three different bodies, or with three heads: the young woman, the mother and the old woman. The number three is its sacred number. His daughters were called Empuse, monstrous beings who could take on different aspects both animal and human.

Some authors attribute to terrestrial Hecate the face of a lion, others of a snake, others of a dog. Porfirio describes it: "With the face of a dog, three heads, inexorable, with golden darts".

The sculptor Alkamenes, as Pausanias recounts, made the trimorphic Goddess, with three bodies very close to each other.
Still triple is the Ecate Chiaramonti (Vatican Museums) or the bronze statuettes preserved one in the Capitoline Museums and the other in Boston.

Other images had a single body, but with three heads and six arms.In the relief of the Gigantomachy of the Pergamon Altar (Pergamon Museum of Berlin) Hecate has three heads and six arms and fights with the torch, sword and spear, accompanied by the Molossian dog.

In other images it has, in addition to the aforementioned a key or the so-called
"magic top". This is a golden sphere built around a sapphire and spun on a leather strap, with engraved characters on it. By spinning it, the invocations took place. This instrument was called "iugx", whether it was spherical, triangular, or some other shape.
Turning it, it produced particular sounds, imitating the cry of a beast, laughing or making the air cry. The movement of the top, with its magical power, completed the ritual. It is called "Hecate's Top" since it is consecrated to Hecate.

This tool, also known as the "magic circle", is capable of inspiring prophetic visions. In this sense it refers to the lunar aspect of Hecate, also called Antea, that is "she who sends the visions".

(Cf. Apud Eusebio, Praeparatio Evangelica, IV, 23, 175, c-d.) In this passage, Porphyry describes the lunar attributes of a statuette depicting the figure of Hecate:
- white robes,
- golden sandals - or bronze, depending on whether it is a crescent or full moon
- and some lighted torches in his hands.
- In the arms, a basket full of wheat,
- an olive branch
- and poppy flowers.

In the myth it was Hecate who heard Persephone's request for help, kidnapped by Hades, so as to warn Demeter and bring her daughter back from the kingdom of the dead.

“… .But when the bright dawn finally came for the tenth time
Hecate came to meet her, holding a torch in her hand
and, eager to inform her, he spoke to her, and said:
"Venerable Demeter, bearer of crops, with magnificent gifts,
some among the heavenly gods or among mortal men
did he kidnap Persephone, and throw anguish into your heart?
In fact, I have heard the screams but I have not seen with my own eyes
who the kidnapper was: I told you everything, briefly and sincerely ".
Thus Hecate spoke and did not answer her
Rea's daughter with beautiful hair, on the other hand, quickly with her
moved, holding burning torches in his hands ... .. "


All the sorceresses, like Medea and Circe, invoked her in the preparation of filters and spells. The Cumaean Sibyl was consecrated to her, drawing from Hecate the ability to give responses, even from the spirits of the dead.

Apollodorus (III century AD) informs us that Hecate was offered ritual banquets, called hekataia, a tradition also confirmed by Plutarch. In the banquets the ritual sacrifice of the fish took place, sacred to the Goddess. Sometimes the only symbol of the fish became the symbol of the Goddess. Symbol that will then pass to Christians.

In Eleusis, Poseidon and Hecate shared the same temple where Hecate was the guardian of the marine world. In Aegina, the Sacred Mysteries took place in the temple dedicated to her, and every year there were celebrations around the wooden statue of the Goddess. All this even in the era of Roman domination.

In addition to the temples, there were places sacred to her, such as the island near Delos called in her name Hekatez Nisoz. Furthermore, as the goddess of the limes, she was present on the thresholds and in the crossroads with aedicules and images and the Hekataion, votive shrines at the entrance of the houses that protected the dwelling were dedicated to her. As proof of the custom, Aristophanes writes "just as a hekataion is to be found next to every door". The limes were also those between the worlds, for which she presided at birth and death, as well as at the full moon, the maximum expansion as a Moon Goddess.

ECATE ITALICA

Hail, o mother of the gods, of many names, of beautiful offspring
"
Hail, O Hecate, keeper of the gates, of great power


Hecate: infernal or celestial deity? A possible symbolic analysis

of Roberta Astori

"Images of the gods of the ancients by Vincenzo Cartari Reggiano" (Venice 1556), image of Hecate Triforme.

In these pages we will try to analyze the figure of the goddess Hecate from a symbolic perspective, trying to rehabilitate her image, often mistakenly relegated to the sole infernal domain. A preliminary, albeit brief, iconographic description of this divinity is therefore necessary. Hecate is almost always represented in triple form, so much so that the appellative that most often accompanies her name is that of Triformis. This triple aspect characterizes it as the tutelary deity of crossroads, that is, the crossing points of three roads headed in opposite directions. The triadic formation is typical of the ideal world of antiquity and often applies to powerful female deities. It is associated with the idea of ​​the cycle and evolution - both in temporal terms, as past-present-future (think, in fact, that in ancient times the division of the table was tripartite, and the three lunar phases of the month were precisely represented by the Lunar Hecate) and of conscience evolution, as a path from the chaotic-uroboric stage to the celestial one. Hecate, therefore, can take on both the face of a girl, that of a woman and of an old woman, or, enriched with further symbolic attributes, it often appears in a feral form: with the appearance of a dog, snake, horse or lion, depending on of traditions. His iconography is completed with other variables: in his hand he can carry lighted torches, an olive branch, a key or the so-called "magic top". On her feet she wears golden sandals. In his celestial form he wears white robes, while the infernal aspect is characterized by black clothing. It is often accompanied by a hound or a group of howling dogs.

Origins and textual sources

Hecate could be derived from the Egyptian deity Heket, who in turn evolved into Heq, matriarch of predynastic Egypt. In Greece, she was a pre-Olympic deity, later absorbed by the Hellenic pantheon. From the Theogony of Hesiod (411-413) we know that her genealogy derives from the Titans Phoibe and Koios, who had two daughters: Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, and Asteria, who from the union with Perses, gave birth to Hecate :

and d ’hupokusamene Hekaten teke, ten peri panton
Zeus Kronides timese: poren de hoi aglaa dora,
moiran ekhein gaies te kai atrugetoio thalasses [1].

A later tradition makes her the daughter of Zeus and Hera, reducing her sphere of action to the chthonic world [2].

However, its origins are uncertain: the majority of scholars agree in affirming that this figure was born in western Asia Minor and precisely in the region of Caria. From the scarce evidence in our possession, we can infer that it was a divinity connected to the passages through liminal zones: for this reason Thomas Kraus, in a monograph dedicated to the goddess [3], associates her with Apollo who, in Greek mythology, with the he epithet of Agyieus, had a similar function as guardian of doors and streets. Many scholars, however, assimilate it to the Great Anatolian Mother: although there is probably a certain amount of truth in this hypothesis, it does not have much relevance to the origins of Hecate herself, since virtually all female deities - and especially the oriental ones - they are linked to the figure of the Great Mother [4].

The first literary testimony in which Hecate makes his appearance as a protagonist is Hesiod's Theogony (vv. 411-452): this is the well-known hymn dedicated to her, whose interpretation by scholars has generated numerous controversies over time in the attempt to explain the exaltation of the goddess above any other deity, including Zeus, who "favored her more than all the other gods" [5]. Justification - as J.S. Clay in his essay The Ekate of the Theogony [6] - resides in its peculiar character as an intermediary between immortal and terrestrial beings: an aspect that makes it virtually participant - or better advocate - of any relationship or connection between human and divine. In addition, Hecate belongs to the ranks of Panhellenic female divinities who have been given the cultural epithet of megas, "great": Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter-Kore, Nemesis, Nike and Tyche.

The second appearance of Hecate in Greek literature is the Homeric Hymn of Demeter, on whose authenticity scholars are not entirely in agreement, considering it for the most part a subsequent interpolation. In any case, the passage must certainly be interpreted as the first explicit allusion to the goddess in her role of guide in the places and moments of passage or transition. In 1.24 we have in fact the story of the rape of Persephone by Hades, to which Hecate attends as a witness, together with the god Helios. Subsequently, in II. 51-59, becomes a sort of messenger for Demeter, to re-enter the scene in I. 438, immediately after Persephone's return to earth. From that moment, as the hymn says,

Queen Hecate became the one who preceded (propoloz) and followed (opawn) Persephone

Therefore, she is both a guide and a protector. The text suggests, therefore, that Hecate physically accompanies Persephone on her journey of descent into hell and in that of her subsequent ascent to earth. From the moment of the rat, the journey will be repeated every year, and for every year Hecate will escort Proserpina's daughter. In this way, it acquires a new characterization and the broader and more generalized role of ferryman of the souls of the dead.

Hecate also belongs to the texts of Sophocles, where it is mentioned with the epithet of Enodia, a name also applied to other deities who perform the same protective function of the liminal areas (doors and crossroads), such as Hermes. In the Hesiodic Theogony, in XXV.4. Hecate Enodia [7] is therefore the numinous figure [8] and the guardian of the roads, in particular at the points where they intersect. In Rome it will be Trivia: as the etymology of the term suggests, it takes its name and shape from its connection with the trivium itself, the meeting area of ​​three ways. Therefore, it will derive the name and the characterization of triforme, which will represent it, in traditional iconography, as a luminous figure with a triple aspect and a triple face: human in its terrestrial form, equine in its lunar robe and canine in its infernal habitus. [9]. In the following paragraphs, we will analyze in detail the symbolic role of the three and the different aspects that this triplicity makes the divinity in question assume. Here it is enough to make a brief mention of its connection with another divinity connected to the liminal areas, namely that of Janus, traditionally represented as two-faced.

Janus is mentioned together with Hecate in the sixth hymn of Proclus, in which the poet invokes the two divinities to help and protect his own existential path, precisely as guardians of the doors, therefore - symbolically - of the regions and the initiatory moments of life. Here Hecate is referred to as proquraia, “keeper of the doors”, in fact [10].

Again in relation to Janus it is mentioned by Arnobius in his Adversus Nationes, in 3.29 (end of the 3rd century AD), where a genealogy is elaborated in which the two-faced deity turns out to be the son of Hecate and of Heaven.

Furthermore, the two divinities share the same name of amfiprwspoz, “with a double face”, an epithet that expresses the faculty of looking in two directions, applied in Proclus [11] to Hecate and in Plutarch to Janus [12]. The adjective can also refer to the ability to interact with two different realities: a peculiar characteristic of Hecate exalted in the Chaldean system, which will be discussed later. It should be noted that in the texts just cited we speak of a bipartite and not tripartite Hecate, as it is traditionally described. Perhaps this is still due to the fact that, in the Chaldean system, the main function of Hecate was precisely that of mediation between the two intelligible and sensitive realms, between which it places itself as a cosmic soul.

Other literary documents bearing witness to the apotropaic role assumed by Hecate in the Hellenistic period are found in Aeschylus and Aristophanes: in both cases, the goddess is mentioned as the tutelary deity of doors and entrances, with the epithet of Propylaia: it seems that she was consecrated to her. a cult on the Acropolis of Athens and in particular at its entrance, the Propylaea in fact, where a statue of the goddess was placed to protect the fortress.

Pausanias [13] also mentions this tradition, citing a Hekate epipurgdia, whose representation in its triform aspect was venerated on the Acropolis next to the temple of Nike. In all likelihood it is the same Ekate Propulaia mentioned by Aeschylus. Hecate assumes the role of guide and protector of not only physical but also temporal passages. This is how it also becomes the divinity who presides over birth and death, being invoked - not by chance - in astrological moments of particular symbolic significance, such as the full moon. On this occasion - as testified by the scholiasta of Aristotle Apollodorus (III century AD) - Hecate was offered ritual banquets, called hekataia. In particular, the ritual sacrifice of the triglh fish, sacred to the goddess, is mentioned here. Plutarch [14] also mentions these sacred banquets.

In Xenocrates [15] we find for the first time the name of Hecate in explicit association with the Moon, in relation to the Platonic theory according to which the nocturnal star has an intermediary function between the sensible and the intelligible world. His nature as an intermediary is placed by Xenocrates within a tripartite system, where the sun and the stars occupy the part, so to speak superior (or the first pukna, as he himself defines it), the earth and the waters that lower and the moon the middle one. This conception also refers to the medical theory of Hippocrates, which assimilates the Moon to the diaphragm, that is to the median area of ​​the human body. But the moon is not just an intermediary, it marks and defines a limit between two distinct areas, indeed it is in itself a limit, a border between those two worlds.

It is precisely in these terms that Plutarch [16] speaks of it, describing it as a barrier that divides the physical world from the spiritual one. Furthermore, it is described as the agent of a mediation - and therefore of a transmission - of the vital principle itself. This is not in contrast with Hecate's bisexual nature [17], which possesses in itself both the principles of generation, the masculine and the feminine.

Porphyry [18] and Eusebius himself had already referred to Hecate calling her "Moon" the same happens in the magic papyri, where the name of the goddess becomes interchangeable with that of Selene. Previously, the same assimilation with the Moon had belonged to Artemis, a divinity with which Hecate will in turn be identified and consequently confused.

Already with the Stoics (II century BC) an attempt was made to draw a parallel between Apollo / Sun and his twin sister Artemis, who became transitively, "Moon". Since Plutarch's time, Artemis's association with the moon is now a topos.

Here I am, a virgin with various shapes, wandering in the skies.

A fragment of Porphyry [19] presents us with a real portrait of Hecate, in its syncretic aspect: the divinity is described here in some of its attributes as Selene, as Eleithya and as Artemis:

With the face of a dog, three heads, inexorable, with golden darts ...

Other evidence of the correspondence between Hecate and the Moon can be found in Seneca [20] and in the aforementioned Plutarch.

Both authors were strongly influenced by the mystical-philosophical currents that were spreading with ever greater force already from the first century AD. These sources attributed to the moon an intermediary function and nature, as well as guiding the souls of the dead - better called daemones - on the limit that separates the terrestrial from the celestial spheres. This role is similar to that attributed to Hecate and therefore functional to the identification of the two entities.

Hecate therefore fulfills an eschatological function, that is, of salvation. Salvation consists, in this case, precisely with the passage, and therefore with the evolution and improvement of the soul. This eschatology of Hecate - mediated by the mystical philosophical theories of middle Platonism - fits within a cosmological system that Xenocrates describes as a triangular structure in which the demons and the Moon participate in both earthly and otherworldly nature. In post-classical antiquity, this character of sharing in the celestial and terrestrial nature is transferred to Hecate who becomes, consequently, the patroness of the demons, so much so that she is often called their "queen" [21], unlike what happened instead in the classical era, when it was rather the ruler of ghosts. At the time it was believed that these creatures, not well identified or definable precisely because of their condition of fatal and eternal transience, wandered ceaselessly as souls in pain in a sort of Limbo, after a premature or violent death. It was also believed that these infested those tombs and crossroads [22] which, as it was said, were consecrated and Hecate and were the scene of his invocations. These restless beings took on a decidedly negative and terrifying connotation which, as we will see, will only mitigate later thanks to the influence of the Middle Platonic theories which saw the daemones simply as a medium between the human and supernal kingdoms. The sense of horror that surrounded these ghostly figures in classicism thus came to characterize that of their domination.

We mentioned earlier the Middle Platonic theories that rehabilitated the role of demons and, consequently, also that of Hecate their queen. The Oracula Chaldaica [23] belong to this current, prophetic formulations composed in the era of the second Hellenism, in which the name of Hecate often appears in association with the aforementioned guiding role through the liminal areas. But not only that: the goddess is also attributed a cosmological function, that is to say that of intermediary of ideas and therefore of structuring the physical world. In late mystical-philosophical thought, the concept of the triadization of entities and substances became very widespread and popular.In the Chaldean system, the cosmological triad is formed by a so-called "First Intellect", proponent of Ideas, a "Second Intellect" which phenomenizes them by bringing them to substance (the latter being identifiable with the Demiurge of the Platonic Timaeus to which to a large extent) and a median entity (comparable to the Cosmic Soul) which has the function of transmitting and transporting these ideas from the spiritual to the physical world. Hecate is similar to this Cosmic Soul. In particular, one of the functions of the Chaldean triad is that of measurement, that is, the division of physical substance into significant proportions: from the idea to matter, from primordial chaos to a harmonic structuring. In essence, Hecate is the median entity and the intermediary between these two extremes, as well as being in a certain sense also the creator, or rather "mother" of individual souls. In fact, one of the Hecatean attributes most often cited in Chaldean oracles is its "belly" (coupi), a symbolic representation of the organ of transmission of ideas and, therefore, of generation and materialization of physical substances. This belly is impregnated with thunder and lightning, emanations of the First Intellect (otherwise called First Fire) and symbols of the Platonic Forms or Ideas, and after giving them nourishment it releases them into the physical world.

In another Chaldean oracle (Frag. 52) Hecate is defined as the source of the water of the cosmic soul: symbolically, therefore, it is the source of life [24]. In Frag. 51 it is also the source of light, fire, air and ether. In substance, Hecate is attributed the vital power over all the elements: it is the womb of the cosmos. This ability to animate everything with life also gives her the possibility of reanimating the dead, as Psellus argues in Hyp. Keph. 74.10 K.

Mediation, in the Chaldean system, is a purely vital act and therefore the mediator par excellence of all vital processes can only be the mother of the world. To summarize briefly, it can be said that, with Middle-Platonism, Hecate begins to be syncretized with other deities and his figure begins to include new traits: in late mysticism, his traditional role of guide and guardian is modified and expanded, in function of a growing interest in mediating entities, portrayed and considered as transcendent, detached from the human world.

This new interpretation is in contrast to the more sensationalist one of the witch-goddess which is dear to traditional popularization, and of which we find traces in much literature of classical Latinity: from Ovid's Metamorphoses [25], where Hecate is called into question by the sorceress Medea together with other entities of the chthonic world to invoke the return of Jason from Hades, to Seneca, who in the Oedipus [26] has a seer recite, intent on invoking the shadows of Tartarus, the following words:

Blind Chaos is opening wide, and the people of Dis are opening a way to the supernal realm!

As soon as he hears the howling of the infernal dogs who always escort Hecate. The goddess, therefore, opens the way to the procession of deceased souls. On the contrary, it can also prevent their return: it is in these terms that Apuleius [27] and Luciano [28] mention it, describing the goddess as she descends from the Earth into the infernal abodes accompanied by her cortege of souls. Even the Sibyl of Virgilian memory invokes Hecate "powerful on Earth and in Heaven", even before Persephone, the Night and the Earth, and offers her a sacrifice so that she can access the lands of Hades [29].

In the Bellum Civile di Lucano [30] we witness a scene set in a cave described as a place

halfway between the world above and below

where Ericto tries to revive a corpse with the invocation of Hecate, a god who allows her to come into contact with the dead. In relation to this magical-sorcery aspect, it is necessary to mention those demonic entities called in the oracles "dogs" and traditionally considered to escort Hecate in his epiphanies. They are creatures devouring souls, lying and evil beings who take advantage of human weakness to deceive and terrorize mortals, in order to make them divert their path towards purification. The dog is often named and associated, therefore, with the darker side of Hecate.

Horace talks about it in the eighth Satire [31], when he describes the necromantic evocation ritual officiated by the two hags Sagana and Canidia: while they perform the horrible ceremony, which involves the sacrifice of a black lamb, the infernal dogs (infernae canes) of Hecate howling in the distance.

Virgil [32] also names these howling dogs that accompany the arrival of the goddess as well as Apollonius of Rhodes [33] who describes them barking raucously, when a terrifying Ecate, the hair formed by horrible snakes, emerges from the earth. Licrofone [34] has Cassandra tell how her mother Hecuba will frighten mortals with her sinister barking, joining the ranks of dogs that accompany Hecate on her nocturnal raids. These demon-dogs are therefore comparable to the nocturnal ghosts that were believed to accompany the goddess during her apparitions and could drive man mad. Their function was to fulfill the invocations and curses pronounced by the magician during the necromantic ceremonies, in which the name of Hecate was never missed. By virtue of its intermediary nature, it can only be the dominator of these intermediate essences, whether they are positive or negative, "good" or "bad". This is not in contrast with what has been said so far regarding the salvific image that emerges from the analysis of the Chaldean oracular literature carried out by the mid-platonic currents at the turn of the second and third centuries. A.D. However, it must be said that in classical Greek and Latin literature, as well as in magical papyri, its chthonic and infernal aspect prevails.

On the other hand, even in the Neoplatonic doctrine, identified with the Cosmic Soul / Physis, it still remains a tempting entity, since just as it can elevate individual souls, in the same way, thanks to the demons who court them, it can attract them. inexorably downwards.

This connection with the magical, therefore, seems to have never completely lost its suggestive force: even in the Neoplatonic system Hecate is an oracular deity, able to give information to the theurgist on how to use magical means, in order to be able to go beyond the limits of the physical world. The link between the theurgist and the divinity is the so-called cosmic sympathy, made active by Hecate. This sympathetic correspondence is activated thanks to the use of symbols, emblems or magical means, such as the so-called "Hecate's top", described by Psello [35] as a

… Golden sphere built around a sapphire and spun on a leather strap, with engraved characters on it. By spinning it (the theurge) he used to make invocations. And they used to call this instrument yugx, whether it was spherical, triangular, or some other shape. Turning it, it produced particular sounds, imitating the cry of a beast, laughing or making the air cry. (The oracle) teaches that the movement of the top, with its ineffable power, completed the rite. It is called “Hecate's Top” since it is consecrated to Hecate.

This tool, also known as the "magic circle" is able to inspire prophetic visions. In this sense it refers to the lunar aspect of Hecate, also called Antea, that is "she who sends the visions". Lunar inspiration is often confused with madness:

The kind of understanding or inspiration the moon gives is not a rational thought, it is more like the artistic intuition of the dreamer or seer [36].

As for the use of the spinning top in magical ceremonies, it has been documented since ancient times. It is used in envoûtement rituals for its power to provoke love, in stormy ceremonies for the ability to call storms and in evocations for its power to determine the appearance of divinity. Also in this case the power of the instrument lies in the fact that it produces enchanting sounds that were believed to have a propaedeutic effect in helping the sympathy between the elements of the cosmos, harmonizing them with each other. The harmonic movement of the rotating spheres, in fact, mimetically determined, by analogy, that of the celestial spheres and, therefore, of cosmic beings. As mentioned earlier, their sound played a fundamental role in this process, as did any other device that was able to activate the sympathetic process: herbs, stones, shells and animals. Returning to Hecate, it has a fundamental role in the activation of this sympathy and cosmic harmony, since it presides over the functioning of the Yugx, which in the Chaldean doctrine, then mediated by Neoplatonism, are identified with the symbols that refer to the Ideas: the character of intermediation proper and peculiar of the divinity. Often, these symbols coincide with magical and secret words, pronounced by the officiant during the theurgic ceremony. These spells cause the appearance of Hecate, described in three fragments of the Oracula [37] in the form of fire, light or in the appearance of a white horse. His arrival is foretold by the darkening of the sky, the frightening tremor of the earth and the materialization of a speaking fire that gives responses. The abnormal physical manifestations that always accompany the advent of a numinous entity are due to the fact that this represents the breaking of a limit, the passage from the immortal to the mortal sphere. The view of the universe is equivalent to that of a structure divided into hierarchically separated areas: Olympus inhabited by the gods, the Moon as the kingdom of souls, the Earth for men. The overturning of this hierarchy therefore causes a momentary disturbance of the cosmic order, which manifests itself with catastrophic or sensational events. As for the appearance of a speaking fire, which physically represents the voice of Hecate, it should be emphasized how often - and not only in the Chaldean system - light and fire are associated with the divine: it is symbolically evident how these elements represent the achievement of knowledge and contact with a higher dimension. Just think of their characteristics of luminosity and their ascensional symbolism that relates them to the celestial dimension. In this case, the vision is neither frightening nor terrifying, but it is synonymous with beauty: this ambiguity in the connotation of Hecate's appearance will become its peculiar character. The goddess can be horrible as well as splendid: here she surely appears in a celestial form. In the same fragments taken into consideration it is also described in an equine form: in reality, there are few explicit associations of the goddess with the horse, and in any case they are subsequent to the one we find in the fragments considered. Rather, it is more correct to consider the equine one as one of the three faces of Hecate in its triadic form, which has already been mentioned. In any case, here it is important to emphasize how even its physical appearance, traditionally associated with darkness and horror, can instead be considered under a luminous and shining aspect.

Symbolic analysis: The three

According to the Pythagorean philosophy, each form can be expressed numerically and the numbers themselves are divine archetypes, creating the harmony of the cosmos with their relationships. They are therefore the archè, the principle of everything. God, the original, is the One, who manifests himself in duality. Finally, the synthesis of the Trinity arises from thesis and antithesis, which represents the integration of opposites and, therefore, perfection. In ancient times, the triadic form was mainly associated with female figures: the Graces (Gratiae and Charites), goddesses of beauty following Venus / Aphrodite: Aglaia, Eufrosine and Talia, daughters of Zeno and Eurinome le Ore, personification of the seasons according to an original calendar tripartition of the year: Thallus (flowering), Auxo (growth) and Carpo (fruit), daughters of Zeus and Themes. Then there were the Fates (or Moire, or Fairies), daughters of the night, who had the task of assigning their destiny to men. They were represented in the act of spinning, with the spindle in their hands.

Lotus weaved the web of life, Lachesis kept it and Atropos, inexorably, cut it. Another female triad is that of the Gorgons: Stimo, Euryale and Medusa, terrifying beings with serpentine wings and hair. Sisters of the Gorgons, the Graie Enio, Pefredo and Dino: the "Vecchie" with the "beautiful cheeks", had one eye and one tooth in common. Other frightening deities, the Erinyes or Furies, goddesses of vengeance. born from the blood of Uranus, Aletto, Tisipone and Crone were represented with serpent wings and hair, whips and torches in their hands. In their connotation, as protectors of the moral order, they were called Eumenides. Finally, think of the Muses, which originally had to be three and only later were increased to the second power, nine in number. Also in classical Latin we find several female divinities with a ternary structure, generically called Matronae.

The same happens in other traditions and cultures, even in more recent times: think of the Three Beth of the Alpine area (Ainbeth, Wilbeth and Warbeth, otherwise called Caterina, Barbara and Lucia), to which the three Norns of the Germanic area correspond, the Trimurti of the Hindu tradition (Brama, Shiva and Vishnu), comparable and in turn to the Christian Trinity, representation of the unity of the divine nature in the three personal expressions of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Furthermore, in the alchemical doctrine, as well as in the Chaldean tradition mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is the world itself that is tripartite into body, soul and spirit.

Following this long and nourished tradition, Hecate is also presented in a triadic form. Here is what we can read in one of the well-known magical Papyri [38]:

Come to me, divine lady, Selene with three faces [...]
queen who brings light to us mortals,
you who call from the night, bull face, lover of solitude [...]
goddess of crossroads [...]
Be merciful to me who invoke you,
listen kindly to my prayers,
you who reign over the whole world at night

And again, in Dante's Paradise [39]:

Which one of the serene full moons
Trivia laughs among the eternal nymphs
who paint the sky for all breasts

As is evident, Hecate has been interpreted as a triadic figure in relation to the Moon and, in particular, to the cycle of its phases (rising, waxing and waning), or, similarly, in its anthropomorphic representation, as a girl, woman and old woman. Consider how it always comes to the concept of metamorphosis or transformation with regard to the passage of time or better still in relation to the completion of a circular path, which from birth leads to death and vice versa, through regeneration and resurrection.

Or, triadic Hecate is Trivia, tutelary deity of doors and crossroads, therefore a mediating divinity and guide in the passages. Its function, however, is similar, if not the same. In any case, in fact, the role of the goddess is to help and favor the completion of a path that presents intermediate stages.

As regards this role of mediator, it will be deepened in its symbolic values ​​in the paragraph dedicated to "Intermediary Hecate", while the lunar symbolism will be discussed in the following paragraph.

To conclude the discourse on triform Hecate, we proceed to an analysis of the symbolic elements most frequently described as its typical attributes in the triadic form.

1. The dog
Hecate, in his infernal guise - as already highlighted above - is in canine form. The dog is an animal associated with the chthonic world, just think of the aforementioned Cerberus, guardian of the gates of the underworld. Since it is considered a faithful guide during earthly life, the dog was sacrificed to the dead to accompany them on their ultra-worldly journey: this was also the case in pre-Columbian cultures, where the animal was used in funerary cults always with the same function. Even the deities associated with death presented themselves in canine form in the guise of psychopomps: thus the god Xolot of ancient Mexico, who escorted the dead on their way to the afterlife and the Egyptian Anubis, represented in the form of a jackal. In relation to the world of the dead in its terrifying connotation, the dog is associated with infernal demons and therefore with the diabolical and witchcraft domain. We recall in this regard the dog-demons who court Hecate in his apparitions: latravit hecates turba, Seneca testifies in Oedipus, 568. These dogs are infallibly black, another color associated with night, death, the infernal world and Hecate , often identified and referred to as the Black Moon.

2. The horse
Despite representing strength and vitality, this animal is also placed in relation to the kingdom of the dead. It is loaded with a strong symbolic ambiguity: it is a solar emblem if it pulls the chariot of Apollo, but it evokes death as the mount of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. It is also associated with magic and is attributed to divination and prophetic powers, especially in medieval times. In any case, it is connected to the idea of ​​asceticism in particular in its winged representation (Pegasus), so it is well suited to the celestial aspect of the triform goddess.

3. The Lion, The Serpent
As already mentioned, some traditional sources attribute to the terrestrial form of Hecate the aspect of a lion or a snake.
The lion associates with the sun and strength. Beyond its traditional symbolic connotation, here it suffices to emphasize that it is often represented as a guardian of doors: so in Japan, in the form of a dog-lion (karashish), at the entrance to the Templar areas.
The Snake, on the other hand, is connected to death and the hellish world due to its habit of hiding in underground places, on the other hand it can have a positive connotation in association with life, but above all with the resurrection. In fact, consider its ability to regenerate after moulting. Therefore, it represents faith in rebirth which, as we have said, is one of the strongest and most pregnant symbolic attributes of the earthly triform Hecate. Also, think of the figure of the uroboros, the proverbial "snake biting its own tail", a symbol of the cyclical passing of time in an eternal return. In alchemical symbology, moreover, it is also linked to the idea of ​​refining and perfecting substances: to a purification process that, again, brings us back to the idea of ​​asceticism, which belongs to the symbolic context of the celestial Ecate.

4. The golden darts, the lighted torches
Like our Hecate, other deities similar to or associated with her (Apollo, Artemis / Diana and Eros) were equipped with arrows, which represented an offensive weapon and a distinctive feature at the same time. The arrow, due to its characteristics of dazzling speed and destructive aggression, can be associated with lightning, a symbol of divine illumination and vital energy. Being struck by lightning (as well as by the dart of eros, for example) corresponds to a change of status, or means to receive a divine signature, a sign of election. Therefore, Hecate's golden darts, also for their color and brightness, can be symbolically associated with the lighted torches that she holds in her hand and, therefore, with that celestial aspect that we will try to highlight better in the following pages.
In the fundamental dualistic system that contrasts light and darkness, Hecate certainly plays both roles, but basically represents the one who illuminates, albeit in the darkness. Lunar Hecate, in fact, symbolizes the illumination obtained through speculation, through a cycle that from the original principle (dark, indistinct) leads to spiritual harmony (symbolically connected to light in different traditions) through an upward evolution.

1. The olive branch
The olive tree is universally known as a symbol of victory and triumph and, consequently, of peace. However, it represents election, in relation to the sacred. Chrism, that is, olive oil is often used in purification rites and initiation ceremonies (over which Hecate presides by definition): just think, for example, of Christian baptism. Christ himself is the "Anointed of the Lord", that is, he who is marked by the Chrism.

2. The poppy, the basket of wheat
Both of these elements undoubtedly recall the figure of Demeter-Kore / Ceres / Cybele, a syncretic divinity with a different name depending on the origin (Greek, Roman, Anatolian), with which Hecate is connected by the mythical Homeric tale which has already been mentioned. previously, in relation to the abduction of Proserpina, daughter of Demeter, of which the nocturnal goddess is a witness.
Ceres / Cybele, identified with the Greek Demeter, daughter of Saturn and mother of Proserpina, is a female and maternal deity associated with the earth and fertility. His was mainly a tutelary function, of protection of crops and cultivated lands, especially wheat. She was also the goddess of birth: all flowers, fruit and living things were considered her gifts. Traditional iconography portrays her with a scepter, a basket of flowers (including poppies), fruit and a wreath made of ears of wheat. In mythology, the poppy is inextricably linked to the concept of fertility, as well as having magical values ​​due to its hypnotic properties, known since ancient times. For these characteristics the flower is also associated with the semantic sphere of dream and sleep and therefore, metonymically, of the night to which Hecate is often connected, so much so that even Sheakespeare in his King Lear (Act I, Scene I), offers dreams symbolically. to the "mysteries of Hecate". For her prophetic and oracular faculties, given by her triple nature, which allows her to look in every direction - past, present and future - Hecate is also connected to the interpretation and reading of dreams. Returning to poppy and its derivatives, these substances were first used for purely medicinal purposes, then ingested for pleasure or hallucinogenic purposes, finding wide use also in the sabbath. Often, in fact, the participants in the sabbatical rite took psychotropic substances that helped them to embark on their dream journey. It is not unlikely that the Sabbath itself and the actions that took place there - night flights, embraces with the devil, animal metamorphosis, etc. - were the result of a hallucination resulting from the ingestion of drugs.
But what counts here again is the inspiring source of the myth, linked to agrarian activity and fertility, agriculture and its symbols (wheat, ear) are the basic substratum from which the whole mythical story develops, which it culminates in the abduction of Persephone, and results in the alternation of the seasonal cycle of birth-death-rebirth, a key concept in the symbolic analysis of the figure of Hecate. Another element that confirms the possible association between this agrarian and cereal divinity and Hecate is the cave, home of Ceres and symbol of the entrance into Hades, therefore, in relation to the underworld: it is always through a cave that one enters the kingdom of afterlife, and it therefore represents the link between life and death. Furthermore, a parallelism can be drawn with the seed linked to the seasonal cycle, in fact under the ground it prepares to come out with the summer, in the light of the sun matures and dies, to restart the cyclic circuit: we find again, therefore, the concept of eternal return, at the basis of many mystery celebrations officiated in the cults dedicated to the goddess.

3. The golden (or bronze) sandals
The sandals metonymically represent the journey of Hecate / Moon in the sky, while their color (changing according to the phases of the moon) symbolizes the variant brightness of the star during its monthly cycle.

4. The moon
The night star is very rich in symbolic implications, which we will try to examine here in relation to the figure of Hecate. As repeatedly pointed out, the goddess is associated with the concept of cyclical transformation, well represented by the phases of the moon. The moon grows until the full moon, and then declines until the phase of the so-called "black moon" (new moon), and then rises again after three days of eclipse. The eclipse is total in the moment of exact opposition with the sun, if instead a perfect conjunction occurs there is a solar eclipse. The phases of the moon symbolically correspond to birth, growth, death and resurrection. Therefore the moon is associated with the generative phenomena that it actually influences (just think of its influence on the plant world), with becoming, afterlife and, more generally, with the ideas of cycle, dualism, polarity, opposition but also complexio oppositorum.
On the night of the new moon it disappears, with the promise of a forthcoming rebirth. The darkening of the star was often represented by a rat, a killing, but at the same time also by the union of the "celestial wedding". This union, which occurs at the peak of the lunar cycle, is an incestuous union, since the sun and the moon have been variously interpreted as father and daughter or brother and sister, depending on the different mythical traditions.
In any case it contains the two sides of the same coin: the mirror and complementary opposites. The conciliation, which takes place at the moment of conjunction, however requires a sacrifice, a martyrology, a symbolic death.
This sacrifice is the pledge to be paid for the renewal of the universe, as evidenced by a passage by Saint Ambrose:

The moon goes down to give strength to the elements. So this is the great mystery. It was offered by the one who gave thanks to all. He consumed it, so that it would regenerate, he who consumed himself so that everything was regenerated has in fact consumed himself to descend to us, descended to us to ascend to all things [...] the moon therefore announced the mystery of Christ [ 40].

Here is the parallel between the saving function performed by the moon (and subsequently also attributed to the celestial Hecate mentioned above) and the Savior of the Christian religion who, not surprisingly, dies and then rises again after three days.
If the chthonic aspect of the black moon is mortal, the divine and celestial aspect of the "white moon" has the connotation and impassive face of those who live in the immortal and eternal spheres. It therefore represents liberation from the bonds of suffering and fear that characterize the earthly dimension, vital and fruitful, but destined for death.

5. The night
The moon is a nocturnal star par excellence and shares the same symbolic values ​​with the night. The night is connected to the idea of ​​darkness, primordial chaos and, therefore, also to the womb of the protective mother, therefore to generation. On the contrary, it is associated with Thanatos, thus becoming the realm of spirits and ghosts. Again, the same symbolic connotation brings us back to the ideas of cycle and life-death affair. But the night is not only the domain of Thanatos: it is also the domain of Eros. Nyx is, in fact, also the mother of dreams and amorous pleasures. In any case, its appearance is disturbing, so much so that, according to the myth, even Zeus was afraid of it. The same features of Hecate are described ambiguously, now as beautiful and shining, now as horrid and terrifying: in any case, her appearance is cloaked in mystery, like everything that is shrouded in the dark veil of the night.

6. Black
The great goddess Nyx of the Greek myth is described to us as a woman dressed in black, with a dress covered with stars. During the day she lies in a cave, to get out of it at sunset in a chariot drawn by black horses. Another representation portrays her as a woman with large black wings.
There are other female deities mainly characterized by this color, such as the so-called “Black Madonnas” whose cult can be traced back to the pre-Christian Eastern culture, in which the Black Moon, otherwise called Hecate, was venerated.
It is known that black, as opposed to white, is the color of mourning, of darkness, of the absence of conscience despite it having taken on a decidedly negative connotation, in relation to the diabolic and demonic sphere (to Satan, often depicted as a man or black beast, they sacrificed a rooster or a goat of the same color), in reality it has the symbolic value of the absolute: the idea of ​​death is however connected to that of purification and future resurrection. So also in alchemical philosophy, where black is the color of the philosopher's stone (nigredo) capable of transforming matter in view of a spiritual ascent.
On the contrary, it should be considered that the goddess, in the description provided by Porphyry (cf. p. 6), wears a white dress, that is, the color that represents total purification. In various cultures, white clothes are typical of the priestly class, in symbolic association with the idea of ​​truth. However, white is negatively connoted in reference to death and is the color of ghosts, of the souls of the deceased: in China, for example, it is the color of mourning. In the alchemical doctrine, however, it represents the path towards knowledge.

7. Sexuality: feminine or hermaphrodite?
Living by reflected light, the moon represents passivity, fatality, predestination. Therefore it is associated with the symbolic sphere of the feminine. In primitive cultures, we frequently find the image of the moon linked to that of rain and that of woman: the imaginary connection was established between the cold image of the moon and that of the cold rain, but also between the generative power of both: moon and rain favors fertility, both of the plant world and of the human one, so much so that it is precisely on the lunar cycle that the hormonal phases of the woman are regulated. Furthermore, the ambiguity that characterizes the lunar star is also inherent in the female characterization: creative and destructive, tender and cruel, protective but deceptive, generative and murderer. As mentioned, in the most varied traditions (Assyrian, Maya, Egyptian, Mediterranean, etc.) the attribution of female characteristics to the moon is widespread, due to the association between the lunar cycle and the physiological cycle, in relation to the phenomena of generation and fertility however, in other cultures it assumes masculine traits: a Sumerian hymn, in fact, calls the Moon-god "Watchful Bull with tireless feet". Even the Eskimo populations consider the Moon to be male, believing that it descends from the sky during the night to unite with their women. Even in Australian mythology the Moon is a seducer who abandons the woman after making her a mother. In some traditions, it is even attributed the ability to make pregnant the imprudent who, in the evening, urinate turned towards her! This ambiguity in the sexual characterization, but above all the coexistence and complementarity of traits of opposite sign, make it in some way similar to the mythical figure of the hermaphrodite [41]. Furthermore, all the myths of lunar origin, which have been mentioned, underline that his generation took place anyway in an incestuous context, and that therefore it was somehow born from his own blood. In the myths about the origins of the world, the ancestral memory of a female desire for autonomous reproduction is preserved, later canceled by a male power that reserved for itself the possibility of giving life: the mother was left with the sole function of welcoming the generative elements of others.
The mythical image of a maternal body that generates by itself is characteristic of primordial time, and we find it in the archetype of the Great Mother, from which, as mentioned, the figure of Hecate could also derive. From the Babylonian Tíamat begins, without male intervention, a universe still nameless, chaotic, disordered, undifferentiated.

When no one had yet made a word of a sky up there / And no one had yet thought that the earth down there could have a name […] Tíamat, the original female divinity, reigned.

According to the Orphic tradition, it is the goddess Night - symbolically associated with Hecate - who originates the world. Fertilized by the wind, the Night with large black wings generates in itself an immense silver egg. Eros, the god of love, is born from the egg, revealing what was hidden in the silver egg: the whole world. The sky (the upper concave space) is coupled with the earth (the lower space), bringing to light Oceano and Teti, a primordial couple, brothers and spouses together, born to a parent who "had not known any marriage". (Kereny, 1951).
According to the Hesiodic version, however, the Earth (Gaia), which emerged from the chaos of the primeval Chaos, gave birth to Uranus, the starry sky, without any coupling, so that he could embrace it entirely and be an eternal and safe seat for the gods.

Intermediary Hecate

8. The door
We have said that Hecate presides as guardian at the liminal zones, on the boundaries, both physical and symbolic. She is often named or described as "the one who holds the key" (Hekate Kleidoukoz) [42], controlling the passage through the gates of Hades and therefore both death and the eventual return after death. The door, in fact, is a border that can be crossed in both directions, both in and out and, therefore, does not represent a threshold from which there is no return: this testifies once again that the goddess is not bound to an imaginary of ineluctability, but in any case it is symbolically associated with the cycle of birth-growth-death-rebirth. The door is not only the symbol of the entrance, but also of the secret space behind it, a space of strong symbolic significance. Crossing a threshold still means performing a rite of passage towards a "further" existential stage, or towards a different state of consciousness, or a different condition of existence.

9. The crossroads
In addition to being the meeting point of particular lines of cosmic energy, the crossroads represents the union between opposing systems, the transition point between three roads, no man's land, an indistinct and undifferentiated area. It is, therefore, the theater of choice for the conduct of magical ceremonies. Having no belonging, it can represent the unknown and generate terror, also because it is the space chosen by the entities without a precise belonging, such as the souls who wander in Limbo waiting to conquer a more stable spiritual condition, as already pointed out above. Due to its indeterminate nature, it is loaded with immense potential, also because it collects and multiplies the energy potential of the space systems which at the same time unites and divides. The crossroads is power, potential and therefore the possibility of choice: the intersection implies different directions to be taken. Again, we find in this symbolic element characteristic of the divinity under consideration, an idea of ​​dynamism that is completely foreign to that image of terrifying inevitability that portrayed her solely as a horrible goddess of death.

Magical Hecate: the wondrous herbs

As already mentioned, in literary documents - especially of classical Latinity - the name of Hecate is associated with the magical world, especially in relation to scenes of necromantic evocations and amatory magic rituals. Especially in the second case, the goddess is invoked in support of spells to create or maintain a bond of love.Often, the recitation of the formula is accompanied by the preparation of potions or filters for the object of the spell to drink and the ingredients of the drink, typical of the magical pharmacopoeia, are loaded with a high symbolic value. According to tradition, in the underground dwellings of Hecate, there is a secret garden where her priestesses, Circe and Medea collect these plants with wonderful effects. Ovid includes aconite among these, explicitly mentioned as "Hecate's herb". Legend has it that this herb was generated by the burrs of Cerberus (the mythical three-headed dog, guardian of the gates of hell), while Hercules dragged it out of Hades another tradition [43] makes it born from the blood of torn Prometheus from the eagle. In the popular pharmacopoeia it bears the name of "Devil's herb" and is therefore associated with the infernal world and therefore linked to witchcraft.

Among the herbs of Hecate we also find cyclamen, called “Hecate's plant” and, again, “devil's flower”.

Then there is the crocus, an inferior flower, connected to the chthonic and funerary sphere. Since the Mycenaean era, it was used for sacred uses, as evidenced by Stazio [44], who documents the use of burning it at the stake of the most eminent public figures. In relation to Hecate, it is named in Arg., Orph. , 915 et seq., As one of the flowers collected by the aforementioned Kirke in the enchanted garden of the goddess. This sorceress belongs to the mythical traditions of primitive Mediterranean cultures: she is the daughter of the Sun and mistress of plants, from which she draws the elements for the preparation of her portentous filters. The flower in question, in fact, can also have aphrodisiac and even lethal effects, becoming a powerful venenum, a term proverbially associated with magic together with that of philtrum and that of carmina, the magic words, such as those (hecateia carmina) mentioned by Ovid [ 45].

Finally, with regard to its sacred use, it is worth mentioning the association of the crocus with the cult of Artemis and Apollo (entities which, as we have already pointed out, were in close symbolic relationship with Hecate), whose altars it adorned during the rites. celebrated in his honor in Cyrene. Here it is important, however, to highlight its link with the chthonic sphere and with death or, better said, the close relationship between land - death - vegetable, typical of agrarian cultures. The same mythical origin of the crocus sativus is linked to the semantic sphere of death: according to the most accredited tradition, it was born from the blood of Krokos, "the hero of the Crocus", involuntarily killed by Hermes while playing the disc. To confirm what has just been said, it is also associated with a tomb cult that took place during the Eleusinian mysteries [46].

Its color, on the other hand, is linked to the female world: Ovid (Met., X, 5) describes the robe of the god Hymen who presides over wedding rites as saffron yellow. The cloth of the officiants of the funeral ceremonies will be of the same color: the link between the union-generation (marriage) and death (funeral) is once again confirmed.

The asphodel is also linked to the world of the dead, being destined to adorn the garlands offered to the subterranean divinities (Dyonisios chtonio, Semele and Persephone), among which we could also include, by analogy, Hecate.

Another vegetable popularly referred to as "Hecate's plant" is the mandrake, also known as the "devil's plant"), an element of choice in magical potions, consecrated to the forces of hell and loaded with immense symbolic power: its branched root resembles a human figure. It therefore seems to bear the signature of the "total man" and is therefore considered a real panacea. Furthermore, it contains some toxic and hallucinogenic components, finding wide use in magical rituals and in the witchcraft sabbath. Also for its extraction it is necessary to punctually follow precise ritual prescriptions: the root must be extracted in the light of the sunset, facing the sun, after tracing three magical circles around it with an iron sword never used.

To conclude the review of the plant substances that can be associated with Hecate in his "magical" guise, we can mention the verbena, popularly called "herb of the cross": in fact, it was hung for a defensive-apotropaic purpose, in the form of a cross, on the doors and in the crossroads. In addition, the same fragrant plant was often used, together with incense, in magical fumigations.

Celestial or infernal Hecate?

In conclusion, let's try to consider the traits analyzed thus sketching a new portrait of this divinity often connoted in a negative or incomplete way. Hecate has been relegated ineluctably to the sphere of evil due to its links with magic (understood in the worst sense of the term), or with the infernal domain, painted as a horrible and terrifying figure, associated with the typical fatality of female nature.

Its features are typically feminine, as are the elements it is associated with and the underlying ambiguity that characterizes it. An ambiguity and a characterization that are, however, subject to different interpretations. This attempt at symbolic analysis really wanted to rehabilitate the figure of Hecate by highlighting and focusing a different point of view and a different criterion of observation of this mythical character, overturning the perspective according to which Hecate - perhaps also precisely because it is typically female - must be considered only in relation to the dark, the tenebrous, the infernal. It certainly possesses the characteristics of all the great female divinities and the underlying ambiguity that connotes femininity itself: enormous generative and destructive potential at the same time, infinite strength that derives from its irrational, chaotic, primal and undifferentiated matrix.

The upper region of the sky and the stars, from which the light and the fecundating rain descend, is [...] assigned to the "higher powers, that is, to God and the angels, while the earth remains the sphere of mortal humanity, below of which lies - which implies an even more radical up / down polarity - the kingdom of hell. [...] Since "all good descends from above", in male-dominated societies the sky is considered to be male, while the earth and chthonic (underground) depth are female [...]. The upper sphere mostly represents the spirit, the lower one instead matter, and man considers himself a "being that belongs to two worlds", between which he must find his way [...] [47].

It is evident that in this "vertical" perspective, Hecate can find a place in every point of the axis, from its vertex, to the median area, to the bottom. In fact, it possesses the so-called celestial characteristics, those that are usually associated with the masculine polarity: a harmonious rationality, detachment, the "superior" vision, to which the symbolic elements of light correspond [48] - the lit torches, the darts / lightning - usually regarded as a divine masculine and fire trait, both associated with the dimension of spiritual enlightenment. On the other hand, Hecate also collects in itself the specularly opposite traits: darkness and infernal darkness. His figure is absolutely multifaceted or, better said, in the round, summarizing in itself the totality and unity of the elements, creating that complexio oppositorum that coincides with harmony and perfection. This is why it can become the symbol of a completed spiritual search, or rather in continuous and constant evolution and renewal. Therefore it is a dynamic figure - recalling the idea of ​​the cycle and the eternal return - positive and saving. In fact, it is she who helps man, trapped or lost between the two worlds mentioned above, to find or, only, to recognize the right path.

[1] Trad: And she (read: Asteria) conceived and generated Hecate, to whom Zeus son of Cronus honored above all things. He gave her wonderful gifts, to govern the land and the hostile sea together. She also received the dominoes of the starry sky.

[2] Chtonio: The term derives from the Greek chtón, "earth", and designates that symbolic sphere linked to the underground and underworld and, therefore, to the chaotic and uroboric dimension that is a prelude to creation. From the mythological point of view, the chthonic dimension is associated with the idea of ​​generation and therefore with the figure of the Great Mother, that is the mythic stage dominated by the dark and feminine Divinity of the omnipotent and terrible generatrix, which, as such, can also become assassin, because able to give and take away life. As a chthonic divinity, Hecate appears in a spell belonging to the Greek magical Papyri, and precisely to the "Enchantment (praxis) of the cat" (PGM III, 1-164, in the edition edited by Preisendanz, Leipzig, 1928). In this spell, which can be used for various purposes - mainly amatory magic - the officiant ritually drowns a cat in water and at the same time recites some spell of spell invoking mysterious entities, including Semea (Syrian divinity), the Persian Mithra, the Judeo Jahweh, the Greek Errmes and Hecate, who is named as "mistress of the dead". Here the female divinity has the function of symbolically chaining the object of the spell. It is therefore a “fetter” and a “rapist”, but at the same time vivifying of its “limbs” and its “member”. A figure capable of giving and taking life, with strong sexual values ​​and enormous power. In this regard, cf. Giovanni Casadio, Hellenistic magical syncretism or a new religion? About a recent study on Greek magical texts, in "Orpheus", Review of classical and Christian humanity of the Center for Studies on Ancient Christianity of the University of Catania, N.S., Year XI, 1990, Fasc. 1.

[3] T. Kraus, Hekate, Heidelberg 1960, p. 13. On Hecate and the Theogony, cf. also D. Boedeker, Hecate: a Transfunctional Goddess in the Theogony, in “Transactions of the American Philological Association”, 113: 79-93, 1983 J.S. Clay, The Hekate of the Theogony, in “Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies”, 25: 27-38, 1984 M.L. West, Hesiod: Theogony, Oxford 1966 F. Pfister, Die Hekate-Episode in Hesiods Theogonie, in “Philologus”, 84: 1-9, 1928 P.J. Jouve, Ecate, Milano, Ricci, 1964 Other monographs on the goddess: W. Berg, Hekate: Greek or Anatolian? , in “Numen” 21: 128-40, 1974 W. Burkert, Greek Religion, Cambridge 1985 L.R. Farnell, The Cults of the Greek Statues, 5 vols., Oxford 1896-1909 M.D. Fullerton, Hekate Epipyrgidia, in "Archaologischer Anzeiger", 669-75, 1986 Hekate-Henoch, in "Reallexikon fur Antike und Christentum: Sachworterbuch zur Auseinandersetzung des Christentums mit der antiken Welt", in Verbindung mit Franz Josephmann und Hans Lietz besonderer Mitwirkung von Jan Hendrik Wasznik und Leopold Wenger herausgegeben von Theodor Klauser [later] Ernst Dassman, Stuttgart, A. Hiersemann, 1987, 14: 10 SI Johnston, Hekate Soteira: a study of Hekates roles in the Chaldean oracles and related literature, Atlanta 1990 Kentauroi et Kentaurides-Oiax et addenda Hekate, Hekate (in Thracia), Heros Equitans, Kakasbos, Kekrops, in “Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicoe: LIMC ", Publiée par la Fondation pour le Lexicon Iconographicum mithologiae classicoe (LIMC)], Zurich, Artemis Munchen, c1992, 6.1 T. Kraus, Hekate: Studien zu Wesen und Bild der Gottin in Kleinasien und Griechenland, Heidelberg, C. Winter, 1960 PA Marquardt, A Portrait of Hecate, in "American Journal of Philology", 102: 243-60, 1981 M. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion, 2 ed., 2 vols., Munich 1967. E. Petersen, Die Dreigestaltige Hekate, 2 vols., AEM: 4, 1880 AEM: 5, 1881 WH Roscher, Hekate, in “Lexicon”, II.1, 1885-1910 E. Wallinger, Hekates Tochter: Hexen in der romischen Antike, Wien, Wiener Frauenverl., 1994.

[4] For an in-depth analysis of the figure of the Great Mother, see H. Neumann, The great Mother, Astrolabe, Rome, and by the same author, History of the origins of consciousness, chap. I and II, Astrolabe, Rome, 1978.

[5] Cfr .: Hesiod, Theogony, 411 - 413: Trad: And she (read: Asteria) conceived and begat Hecate, to whom Zeus son of Cronus honored above all things. He gave her wonderful gifts, to rule the land and the barren sea together. She also received the dominoes of the starry sky.

[6] J.S. Clay, The Ekate of the Theogony, GRBS, 1984, pp. 27-30.

[7] The same name is also applied to other deities such as Artemis - often identified with Hecate herself - Selene - another figure often associated with Hecate in her lunar aspect - Persephone - whose connection with Hecate has already been mentioned - Brimo and Bendis. In addition, there is news of another divinity worshiped in Thessaly with the name of Enodia: in this regard, the data are rather scarce, it is only known that she must have been an expert in filters and potions, a sorceress, in short. Her homeland immediately brings us back to the memory of Medea, another figure traditionally associated with Hecate in her aspect of patroness of the magical arts.

[8] The name of "numinous" is applied to that mysterious, terrible and fascinating dimension from which the divine will then take shape. It is an impersonal and omnipotent dimension which is a prelude to the identification of Divinity. In this regard, cf. E. Neumann, op. cit.

[9] The sources do not agree on this type of representation: some attribute to terrestrial Hecate a lion's face, others a snake's.

[10] "Hail, o mother of the gods, with many names, with beautiful offspring / salvation, O Hecate, keeper of the gates, of great power / but also to you, O Janus, progenitor, / Zeus imperishable salve, Zeus supreme / brighten the path of my life, / full of goods, divert the fatal diseases / from my limbs, and the soul, which on earth raves, you draw high up, purified by the initiations that awaken the mind. / I beg you, extend your hand to me, and the divine ways. Show me, that I desire the most precious light for her, I want to look at, / from which I have been given the opportunity to flee from the turpitude of the gloomy generation. / I beg you, extend your hand to me, and with your breaths / troubled me push into the port of mercy. / Hail o mother of the gods, with many names, with beautiful offspring / salvation, o Hecate, keeper of the gates, of great power / but also to you, o Janus, progenitor, / Zeus imperituro salve, Zeus supreme ".

[14] Cf. Quaestiones Romanae, 290 d.

[15] See Apud Plut., De Fac., 943 f.

[17] However, it must be said that she "is seen mainly as a female figure, for example in the ancient yin ideogram, where there is a celestial body that receives light passively, but also for the analogy between the lunar month and the menstrual cycle female". See H. Biedermann, Italian translation Encyclopedia of symbols, Milan, Garzanti, 1999, p. 277.

[18] Cf. Apud Eusebio, Praeparatio Evangelica, III.11, 113 c.

[19] See Apud Eusebio, Praeparatio Evangelica, IV, 23, 175, c-d. In this passage, Porphyry describes the lunar attributes of a statuette that portrays the figure of Hecate: white robes, golden sandals - or bronze, depending on whether it is a crescent or full moon - and torches lit in his hands. In the arms, a basket full of wheat, an olive branch and poppy flowers.

[21] Cf. Porphyry, Apud Eusebio, Praeparatio Evangelica, III.16.126 c Praeparatio Evangelica, IV.23, 174 a, V.24, 202 c / d.

[22] In Rome, rituals were celebrated in honor of the heroes who had fallen for the defense of the city, in memory of which King Servius Tullius decreed that temples be erected on the crossroads. On these altars sacrifices were offered to the Lares Compitales, divinity of the crossroads as the Latin etymology compita (cross) suggests. These later became their tutelary deities, who were Christianized in the following centuries. The aedicules erected at the crossroads were later transformed from places of worship of the protected entities of the territory to small temples where the memory of the dead was venerated. The ritual ceremonies that accompanied the worship of these aedicules took place every year, in January, thus coinciding with a very specific astrological moment - the winter solstice - which marked the entry into the new year and represented a liminal moment charged with a strong value. symbolic. The ceremonies included a ritual inversion of social rules, being presided over by a priestly college made up of slaves and freedmen. This ritual moment was consumed in the most free wildness, between offers and libations, so much so that a term was coined ad hoc that still remains in its negative connotation: trivial derives from trivium, the "crossroads", from which - as previously mentioned - “Trivia”, our triform Hecate. Furthermore, being beyond the control and any possible categorization, the liminal zones become the realm of ghosts and so-called "souls in pain".

[23] The Chaldean Oracles are an incomplete and fragmentary collection that tradition attributes to an author named Julian, whose precise identity is unknown (it could be Julian the Chaldean or his son Julian the Theurgist, who lived towards the end of the 2nd century AD). Marsilio Ficino, confirming the enormous popularity that this literature enjoyed in the Renaissance period, when Neoplatonic theories came back into vogue, argues that the Oracula paternity is even due to the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. These compositions are fully inserted in the literature typical of late Hellenistic syncretism in which Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic elements converge, together with Orphic, Gnostic and Eastern mysteriosophical suggestions.Orphism arises between the common Olympic religion and a new mystical conception, nourished by initiatory spirits, soteriological interests, and mystery-type practices. It arises from the synthesis of dualistic positions mediated by Platonism, and a monism that refers to the fragmentation of an original Unity. In any case, the common denominator of these doctrines is the belief in a Divinity that can only be reached through an intuition that occurs in the context of revealed knowledge and which - in parallel - is also conceived as a creative entity, knowable through creation. From this double conception derive two ethics of different sign: one of contempt for the world, the fruit of an evil god, and the other of love for creation, a creature generated by a good god. In any case, in this period the esoteric need for a mediation between divinity and man begins to grow stronger: Hecate herself is a mirror of this trend and this cultural need. See E. Des Places, ed., Oracula chaldaica, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1971 H. Lewy, Chaldean oracles and Theurgy: mysticism, magic and Platonism in the later Roman Empire, Institute d’Archeologie Orientale, Le Caire 1956.

[24] This generative character meant that in the second century. A.D. was associated with Rhea, also in reference to Hesiod's Theogony.

[36] See M.E. Harding, The mysteries of woman, Astrolabe, Rome 1973, p. 221.

[38] Preisedanz, Magical Papyri, I, p. 119.

[39] Dante, Comedy, Paradise, XXIII, 25-27.

[40] Ambrose, Exameron, IV, 8, 32.

[41] On the astronomical level, as Empedocles already pointed out, the moon, being between the earth and the sun (DK 31 B 47), receives the light of the sun and, like the sun, illuminates the earth (DK 31 B 42, see 45). This intermediate location and the succession of lunar phases make the moon a place of reconciliation of opposites. Hence its ambivalent character, even in the field of sexuality, as Plutarch attests (De Iside et Osiride 368 c-d) identifying the Egyptian goddess Isis with the moon. (In this regard, see J. Gwyn Griffiths, edit., Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride, University of Wales Press, 1970). There is therefore a disturbing aspect of unity, a manifestation of which consists precisely of androgyny, bisexuality. To reject division and separation means to remain in chaos or to return to it. Consequently, the separation between heaven and earth, the distinction between gods and men and the difference between the sexes are in solidarity with each other and ensure the maintenance of an anthropological, cosmological and even theological order which they bring into play the double beings of the myth, wanting to abolish any distance between heaven and earth, between gods and men. The desire for total fusion seems to lead to a confusion that destroys the current order of things, in respect of which virtue ultimately resides for man.

[43] See Pliny, Nat. Hist. , XXVII, 4.

[46] See C.M. Edwards, The Running Maiden from Eleusis and the early Classical Image of Hekate, in “American Journal of Archeology”, 90: 307-18, 1986.

[47] See H. Biedermann, Op. Cit., P. 524.

[48] ​​Note that one of the epithets with which the goddess was named was Phosphoros, "bearer of light", a name which, significantly, was also attributed to Venus, the morning star.


ECATE

She is often called the Goddess of witches and magic (in Greek and Roman religion) and many witches revere her as a moon deity. For the mortals, who have studied his life a lot, they place it with uncertainty originating from Thrace or Anatolia (pre-Indo-European divinity) which would later be inserted into the Greek pantheon by the merger between peoples, but not only, others see it akin to the Egyptian goddess Ḥeqet, goddess of fertility and regeneration.

The most widespread etymology of the name Hecate makes it derive from the female equivalent of Hekatos, an obscure epithet of Apollo (Hecate and Apollo were often combined in oracular places). It has been translated in many ways, such as "operating from afar and striking". According to others, the name derives from the Greek word for "desire, volere" (in dispenser of desires), for still others her name would have the same root as the Greek word "one hundred", alluding to the many forms that she can take: Hecate, descendant of the Titans, the "multiform".

Hecate is defined as the goddess of spells and ghosts, and is depicted as threefold - trivia - triodîtin - (young, adult / mother and old), and the same number Three sees her representation. His sculptures were placed in the crossroads (trivi), to protect travelers (Hecate Enodia or Hecate Trioditis). Hecate was also associated in the lunar cycle along with other lunar deities such as Artemis / Diana (crescent moon) and Selene (full moon) to symbolize the waning moon and for this she became the lady of the night. Hades himself, despite being married to Proserpina, preferred the company of Hecate among the shadows, the goddess exercised her terrible and violent dominion, sending demons (Émpousa and the Lamiai) to torment men and wandering among tombs and crossroads. In the iconography Hecate is represented not only as a trivia, but also as a dog or accompanied by howling infernal dogs. Another animal sacred to this deity was the dove.

His daughters took the name of Empuse: Le Émpousai (empuse), tormented travelers with the appearance of ravenous bitches, cows or charming ladies. With the appearance of young girls of impetuous beauty, the empuse, they lay with men to suck away their vital essence and lead them to death. The only way to make them back off (with loud screams) was to offend them by shouting. Although the myth of the empuse (daughters and servants of Hecate) have a different origin from the myth of the lamias, they are often identified as the same thing (the lamias were female figures partly human and partly animals, kidnappers of children or seductive ghosts who lured young men to feed on their blood and flesh).

Hecate was also identified as the nocturnal goddess of ghosts. Queen and mistress of magic and the occult arts, she was a teacher of sorceresses and witches. His teachings ranged from the evocation of the dead to the most terrifying curses.

In the myth Hecate is considered feminine but her nature is often considered bi-sexed, as she possesses both the principles of generation: the masculine and the feminine (for this reason she is defined as the source of life and is attributed the vital power over all. the elements).

  • THE TORCH of Hecate illuminates the souls in their passage from light to darkness, as well as lighting the spark of life. The Apollo - Hecate couple present in many oracular places, (such as in the cave of the Cumaean Sibyl) tells us about two-folds of the "light of wisdom": the Apollonian light of daylight and the interior one of nocturnal Hecate.

Poscere fata / tempus, ait - deus ,ecce deus![... it is time, he says, / to ask for fate - the god, here is the god!]

(Virgil, Aeneid, VI 45-46)

  • THE KNIFE is associated with Hecate as a midwife who cuts the umbilical cord of the infant, but is also metaphorically associated with the role of companion in death, where she herself cuts the bonds between the physical body and the soul
  • THE KEY: "She who holds the key" from the realm of the known to the unknown. Hecate controls the transition from the world of the living to the chthonic world of Hades. Hecate becomes "guardian of the thresholds" and the key is Hecate herself who can choose who can have access to them
  • THE SNAKE is the animal that emerges from the chthonic world (associated with regeneration and renewal due to its continuous changing of skin) takes on the significance of a labyrinth, of the intricate road of life and death.
  • WHEEL OF ECATE In the Chaldean Oracles (late 2nd century AD by Julian the Theurgist), published in Alexandria (referring to Babylonian wisdom), the Goddess was associated with the symbol known as the wheel of Hecate, with serpentine shapes that draw a labyrinthine figure in three directions (life , death, rebirth, renewal and other of its meanings are enclosed in this ancient symbol)
  • TROTOLA DI ECATE- IUGX- The top is a golden sphere built around a sapphire and spun by a leather strap, with engraved characters on it. By spinning it, the invocations took place.
  • THE OWLS are his messengers William Shakespeare in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", shows the owl as "herald of Hecate's arrival":

PUCK
"The lion roars in the dark air,
The wolf howls to the moon.
The peasant sleeps in peace,
Tired, and the last embers are red.
To the sick man who lies in sweat
The screeching owl makes heart.
The graves opened and stealthy and light
The ghosts wander on the silent paths.
And to us spirits, who have a disgust
The light and the dawn in spite,
And on the pair of Hecate lace,
Before the rosy morning breaks,
We pursue happy and trusting
The deep and silent dark shadows,
Let us spirits be satisfied at this hour
Any desire for games and entertainment.
Not a mouse disturbs at this time
The great peace of our home.
I came before the others,
And I provided myself with a broom,
To sweep away from the threshold
Every speck of dust or leaf ".

  • THE BLACK DRAGONS William Shakespeare, in his readings of Ovid's Metamorphosis (cult of the triform goddess) finds the nature of the goddess as a lace. From Golding's translation the goddess was called Hecate or Proserpina in the underworld, Diana on earth, Luna, Cinzia or Phoebe in heaven. Shakespeare as Puck refers to Hecate as the goddess of the moon and the night, whose chariot was drawn by two dragons.
  • DOG - HORSES - BLACK CATS: Some authors attribute to terrestrial Hecate the face of a lion, others of a snake, others of a dog. Porphyry describes it: “With the face of a dog, three heads, inexorable, with golden darts”.
  • BLACK POPLAR - WILLOW: in Northern Europe the bond of the willow with the witches is so close that the word witch derives from the same name that in ancient times designated the willow, from which wicker (wicker) is also derived. Traditionally, the broom is still made today with wicker ties in honor of the goddess Hecate.

Phoíbē d ’aû Koíou polyḗraton êlthen es eunḗn
kysaménē dḕ épeita thea theoû en philótēti
Lētṑ kyanópeplon egeínato, meílichon aieí,
meílichon ex archês, aganṓtaton entòs Olýmpou,
ḗpion anthrṓpoisi kaì athanátoisi theoîsin.
Geínato d ’Asteríēn eyṓnymon, hḗn pote Pérsēs
ēgáget ’es méga dôma phílēn keklêsthai ákoitin.
ḗ d ’hypokysaménē Hekátēn téke, tḕn perì pántōn
Zeùs Kronídēs tímēse póren dé hoi aglaa dôra,
moîran échein gaíēs te kaì atrygétoio thalássēs.
Hḗ dè kaì asteróentos ap ’ouranoû émmore timês
athanátois te theoîsi tetiménē estì málista.
Kaì gar nûn, hóte poú tis epichthoníōn anthrṓpōn
érdōn hiera kala kata nómon hiláskētai,
kiklḗıskei Hekátēn pollḗ té hoi héspeto timḕ
hreîa mál ’, hôı próphrōn ge thea hypodéxetai euchás,
kaí té hoi ólbon opázei, epeì dýnamís ge párestin.
Hóssoi gar Gaíēs te kaì Ouranoû exegénonto
kaì timḕn élachon, toútōn échei aîsan hapántōn.
Oudé tí min Kronídēs ebiḗsato oudé t ’apēúra,
hóss ’élachen Titêsi meta protéroisi theoîsin,
all ’échei, ōs tò prôton ap’ archês épleto dasmós,
kaì géras en gaíēı te kaì ouranōı ēdè thalássēı
oud ’, hóti mounogenḗs, hêsson thea émmore timês,
all ’éti kaì polỳ mâllon, epeì Zeùs tíetai autḗn.
Hôı d ’ethélei, megálōs paragígnetai ēd’ onínēsin
én te díkēı basileûsi par ’aidoíoisi kathízei,
én t ’agorê laoîsi metaprépei, hón k’ ethélēısin
ēd ’hopót’ es pólemon phtheisḗnora thōrḗssōntai
anéres, éntha thea paragígnetai, hoîs k ’ethélēısi
níkēn prophronéōs opásai kaì kûdos oréxai.
Esthlḕ d ’aûth’ hopót ’ándres aethleúōsin agôni,
éntha thea kaì toîs paragígnetai ēd ’onínēsin
nikḗsas dè bíēı kaì kárteϊ kalòn áethlon
hreîa phérei chaírōn te, tokeûsi dè kûdos opázei.
Esthlḕ d ’hippḗessi parestámen, hoîs k’ ethélēısin.
Kaì toîs, hoì glaukḕn dyspémphelon ergázontai,
eúchontai d ’Hekátēı kaì eriktýpōı Ennosigaíōı,
hrēidíōs ágrēn kydrḕ theòs ṓpase pollḗn,
hreîa d ’apheíleto phainoménēn, ethélousá ge thymōı.
Esthlḕ d ’en stathmoîsi sỳn Hermê lēíd’ aéxein
boukolías d ’agélas te kaì aipólia platé’ aigôn
poímnas t ’eiropókōn oíōn, thymōı g’ ethélousa,
ex olígōn briáei kaì ek pollôn meíona thêken.
Hoútō toi kaì mounogenḕs ek mētròs eoûsa
pâsi met ’athanátoisi tetímētai geráessin.
Thêke dé min Kronídēs kourotróphon, hoì met ’ekeínēn
ophthalmoîsin ídonto pháos polyderkéos Eoûs.
Hoútōs ex archês kourotróphos, haì dé te timaí.
Phoíbē the lovable ascended bed of Koíos,
conceived and then, goddess for the love of a god,
gave birth to Lētṓ from the blue peplum, the ever sweet one,
kind to men and immortal gods,
she mild from the start, the most forgiving in Olympus.
It generated the famous Asteríē, which Pérsēs once upon a time
led to his large house to be called his bride.
She conceived and generated Hekátē, which among all
Zeus Kronídēs honored, and gave her illustrious gifts,
what power he had over the land and the barren sea,
even in the starry sky it has a part of honor
and by the immortal gods she is highly honored.
And indeed even now, when any of the men
who inhabit the earth make sacrifices according to the laws and beg for grace,
invokes Hekátē and great favor follows him
easily, benevolent to him, the goddess welcomes prayers,
wealth grants him to him, because of this he also has power.
For how many were born from Gê and Ouranós
and received honor, share in the privileges of all of them
she didn't even the Kronídēs of something he violently deprived
of those he had obtained among the Titânes, the first of the gods,
but he possesses it, as was initially the partition
nor, because she was the only begotten, did the goddess receive less honors,
and has power on earth and in the sky and in the sea,
much more, because Zeús honors her.
To whom it wants ample favor and help it grants
and in the tribunal she sits with respected kings
and in the assembly among the peoples she makes what she wants to shine
or when they arm themselves in the murderous war
the warriors, the goddess assists the one she wants
adorn, benign, with victory and offer him fame
benign also assists the knights, those who want
benign even when men fight in competition:
there the goddess assists and helps them
and who with strength and vigor achieves victory, the prize is beautiful
takes happy and adorns parents with glory.
And to those who work hard in the stormy blue
and pray Hekátē and the thundering deep Ennosigaíōs,
easily a prey the noble goddess provides copious,
but easily even if he takes it away,
as soon as it appears, if his heart so wills.
And with benign Hermês in the stables he makes the flocks grow,
the ranks of oxen and the large herds of goats
and flocks of woolly sheep, if his heart wills it,
from small it makes them big and from many it reduces to few.
So, although she was born the only begotten of her mother,
among all immortals she is honored with gifts
she made the Kronídēs nurse of young people, as many as faithful to her
they saw with their eyes the light of the all-seeing dawn.
So she was, from the beginning, a nurturer of young people and these are her honors.
Hēsíodos: Theogonía [402-452]

From Hesiod we know that Hecate's privileges extended on land, in the sea and in the sky, a rare circumstance among the divinities of the Theogonía, and that she had retained her abilities even when Krónos was overthrown by his son Zeus. From this scene it is clear that Hecate had taken the side of Zeus during the Titanomachy. We also learn from Apollodorus and other mythographers that Hecate fought alongside the Olympic gods during the great rebellion of the Giants.

If with Hesiod we are at the birth of the Greek myth, the Orphic hymn to Hecate belongs to a much later period, almost at the sunset of Hellenic paganism.

Einodíēn Hekátēn klḗızō, triodîtin, erannḗn,
ouraníēn chthoníēn te kaì einalíēn, krokópeplon,
tymbidíēn, psychaîs nekýōn méta bakcheúousan,
Perseían, philérēmon, agalloménēn eláphoisin,
nykteríēn, skylakîtin, amaimáketon basíleian,
thēróbromon, ázōston, aprósmachon eîdos échousan,
tauropólon, pantòs kósmou klēidoûchon ánassan,
hēgemónēn, nýmphēn, kourotróphon, ouresiphoîtin,
lissoménois koúrēn teletaîs hosíēısi pareînai
boukólōı eumenéousan aeì kecharēóti thymōı.
Hekátē patron of the streets celebro, trivia, lovable,
celestial and terrestrial and marine, with a crocus-colored mantle,
sepulchral, ​​berry, with the souls of the dead,
daughter of Pérsēs, lover of solitude, proud of deer,
nocturnal, protector of dogs, invincible queen, heralded
from the roar of the beasts, without a belt, with an unbeatable appearance,
tamer of bulls, lady who guards the whole cosmos,
guide, nymph, nurse of the young, frequenter of the mountains,
begging the girl to attend the pious celebrations
benevolent towards the cowherd always with a joyful soul.
Orphikôn hýmnoi - Hekátēs

BIRTH OF THE GODDESS ECATE

Its origins are little known but we have several writings that tell us about this great goddess.

For Hesiod, Hecate belongs to the Titanic lineage, the only begotten daughter of Perse and Asteria. The Hesiodic magisterium is accepted by Apollódōros. Perse is mentioned as the father of Hecate in the Homeric Hymns, in Apollṓnios Rhódios (Apollonio Rodio), in Lykóphrōn (Lykophrōn of Chalcis) and in Ovidius (Ovid) Some sources refer to Hecate with the name of Persaíē, “Daughter of Pérsēs”. Asteríē, as the mother of Hekátē, is instead cited by Cicero.

For the poet Kallímachos, on the other hand, Hecate was the daughter of Zeús and Dēmḗt collocr, thus placing her in the Olympic generation.

Kallímachos literally says: "Joining Dēmḗtēr, Zeús generated Hekátē, who stands out among the gods for strength and stature ». He claims that she was sent underground by her father in search of Persephónē. Therefore, even today, it is called Ártemis, Phýlax, Daidoûchos, Phōsphóros and Chthonía.

Kallímachos: Phragmenta [466] ex Scholio apud Theókritos: Eidýllia [II: 12]
= Orphicorum Phragmenta [K42]

Kaì tóte dḕ Hekátēn Dēṑ téken eupatéreian. And then Dēṓ [Zeús] generated Hekátē, daughter of an illustrious father
Scholius apud Apollṓnios Rhódios: Tá Argonautiká [III: 467] = Orphicorum Phragmenta [K41]

The tradition also seems to be shared by some Orphic poets:

The poet Bakchylídēs (Bacchillides), also mentioned by a scholiaste of Apollṓnios Rhódios (Apollonius Rhodius), places Hecate among the sons of the night-goddess, Nýx (primordial deity of the Night. Nýx was one of the most ancient deities, and dwelt in Hades according to Homer, even Zeus was afraid of it).

Hekáta daidophóre, Nyktòs megalokólpon thýgater ’... OR Hekátē, torch bearer, daughter dthe Nýx with large breasts ...
Bakchylídēs: Phragmenta [1B] ex Scholio apud Apollṓnios Rhódios: Tá Argonautiká [III: 467]
= Orphicorum Phragmenta [K41]

That other traditions existed in ancient times, regarding the genealogy of Hecate, is confirmed by the scholiaste himself, who reports an interesting series of alternative traditions, mostly dependent on lyrical and Orphic texts:

Some argue that [Hekátē] is the daughter of Zeús. In the Orphic poems it is made to descend from Dēmḗtēr: "And then Dēṓ [Zeús] generated Hekátē, daughter of an illustrious father ". Bakchylídēs, on the other hand, says that she is the daughter of Nýx: "O Hekátē, bearer of torches, daughter of Nýx with a wide womb". Mousaîos, on the other hand, of Asteríē and Zeús. Pherekýdēs of Aristaíos, son of Paíonos.

Scholius apud Apollṓnios Rhódios: Tá Argonautiká [III: 467] = Orphicorum Phragmenta [K41]

The version of Mousaîos is referred in a further scholium to Apollṓnios Rhódios (Apollonio Rodio), in which it is reported that Asteríē was Zeús' mistress before being given to Pérsēs. Therefore, staying with this "truth" we could affirm that Hecate was the daughter of Zeús and not of Pérsēs:

Mousaîos recounts that Zeús, falling in love with Asteríē, was joined with her, and after joining he gave her to Pérsēs, to whom she generated Hekátē.

Sc holius apud Apollṓnios Rhódios: Tá Argonautiká [III: 1179]


DESCENDANCE

Unlike the other gods, Hecate will have neither spouses nor children. The two known testimonies regarding a lineage of Hecate are in fact "wrong" (understood as confused). Apollṓnios Rhódios (Apollonio Rodio), identifying it explicitly with Krataiḯs (goddess Crateide), attributes her as daughter Skýlla (Scilla), had by Phórkys (Forco). Since Scylla is the daughter of Crateinde, there is the possibility that there have been some mixes. A very particular thing is what Diódōros Sikeliṓtēs (Diodore de Sicile) which replaces it with the oceanine Eidyía. Hecate is called the grandson of Helios and mother of Medea and Circe. It is a strongly euhemerized tale, and therefore devoid of mythological value. In the mythological tradition Hecate will have as children the empusas sometimes mistakenly replaced with the lamias.

GODDESS OF SPIRITS AND HELL

Hecate is a very complex goddess with many shades: able to travel freely between the world of men, that of the gods and the kingdom of the Dead. She is often depicted with torches in her hand, precisely because of her ability to accompany the living to the kingdom of the dead (the Cumaean Sibyl, consecrated to her, drew from Hecate the ability to give responses coming, in fact, from spirits or gods) . Now we will look at the goddess in hellish robes. We already find this "transformation" in the Homeric Hymns, where Hecate comes to the aid of Demeter, desperately looking for her daughter Proserpina kidnapped by Hades. It is important to remember the alternative genealogy that HEcate is the daughter of Nýx or Tártaros.

The image of Hecate soon specializes in a dark, nocturnal figure linked to witchcraft and the underworld. Brimṓ, the "furious", defines her several times Apollṓnios Rhódios ...

…The goddess Brimṓ, the great nurse,
Brimṓ nocturnal, infernal, the queen of the dead,
in the black night, covered with black clothes.

Apollṓnios Rhódios: Tá Argonautiká

... And he also called the night queen, hellish,
that was benevolent to her, and granted her the undertaking.

Apollṓnios Rhódios: Tá Argonautiká

The appearance of an underworld divinity, lady of witches and magic, only arrives at a later age. In Ovid's Metamorphosis he draws adjectives from the name of the goddess, using them as true synonyms of “infernal, terrifying, occult”.

"By sprinkling the juice of Hecateïdos herbae on the unfortunate Aráchnē, Athēnâ will turn her into a spider [VI: 139] by reciting Hecateïa carmina, Kírkē prepares the potion that will transform Skýlla into a horrible monster [XIV: 44]."

Virgil, inÆneides (Aeneid), paints Hecate as a creature linked to the underworld. When Æneas (Aeneas) turns to Sibylla Cymæa (Sibilla Cumana, Priestess of Apollo), to give him the opportunity to undertake his journey towards the kingdom of the dead, he appeals to the authority of Hecate, as it is in her name that the Sibyl was placed to guard the Avernus. In the poem, the Sibyl, in addition to being consecrated to Hecate for the underworld, has the double function of a seer and guide of Aeneas in the afterlife. A legend is also linked to her figure of the Sibyl: "Apollo in love with her offered her anything as long as she became his priestess, and she asked him for immortality. But he forgot to ask for youth and, therefore, he grew older and older until, indeed, the body became small and worn like that of a cicada. So they decided to put her in a cage in the temple of Apollo, until the body disappeared and only the voice remained. However, Apollo gave her a chance: if she had become completely his, he would have given her youth. But she, in order not to renounce her chastity, decided to refuse "

..Gnatique patrisque,
alma, precor, miserere (potes namque omnia, nec te
nequiquam lucis Hecate praefecit Auernis).
Of the son and the father,
please have mercy, or divine: you can do everything, neither
Hekate has placed you in vain to guard the Avernus woods.
Publius Virgilius Maro: Æneides [VI: 116-118]

And it is the Sibyl herself who adds to the dose, stating that Hecate herself had instructed her, guiding her in the regions of Tartarus, which were closed to every pious man.

... sed me cum lucis Hecate praefecit Auernis,
ipsa deum poenas docuit perque omnia duxit.
... but when Hecate placed me to guard the Averno woods
she herself brought me here, showing me the pains inflicted by the gods.
Publius Virgilius Maro: Æneides [VI: 564-565]

Before accompanying Aeneas to Avernus, the Cumaean Sibyl offers a bloody sacrifice, in which she associates Hecate with various deities of darkness, earth and the underworld. The goddess was not long in making her appearance.

Quattuor hic primum nigrantis terga iuuencos
constituit frontique inuergit uina sacerdos,
et summas carpens media inter cornua saetas
ignibus imponit sacris, libamina prima,
uocans Hecaten caeloque Ereboque potentim.
supponunt alii cultros tepidumque cruorem
succipiunt pateris. ipse atri uelleris agnam
Aeneas matri Eumenidum magnaeque sorori
ense ferit, sterilemque tibi, Proserpina, uaccam
tum Stygio regi nocturnas incohat aras
et solid imponit taurorum uiscera flammis,
fat super oleum fundens ardentibus extis.
Ecce autem, prima sub lumina solis et ortus,
sub pedibus mugire solum, et iuga coepta moveri
silvarum, visaeque canes ululare for umbram,
adventante goddess.
Four oxen first bring the priestess here,
pours wine on their foreheads
and plucks a tuft of hair between the horns
and places it on the sacred fire as the first offering
calling out loudly Hecate, mighty lady of heaven and Erebus.
Others with knives slash the necks of the beasts and the blood
collect in cups. Himself, Æneas, slaughtered a black lamb
he offers it to [Nox], mother of the Eumenides, and to [Earth], his big sister,
To Proserpina, on the other hand, he sacrifices a sterile cow.
At night the ritual continues: offering to the king of the Styx
the entrails of the bulls, placed over the fire,
and while those burn, he pours fatty oil into them.
And here, as soon as the sun rises on the eastern threshold,
the earth begins to reverberate underfoot, the high peaks tremble
of the woods, and in the thick darkness the howling of the bitches resounds
when the goddess arrives.
Publius Virgilius Maro: Æneides [VI: 243-258]

THE KIDNAPPING OF PROSERPINA

Hecate is present in the myth of the abduction of Persephónē (Proserpina) by Háıdēs (Hades). It appears there already in the Homeric Hymns, where it helps the goddess Demeter in her desperate search for her missing daughter at the hands of the god of the Underworld.

… Oudé tis athanátōn oudè thnētôn anthrṓpōn
ḗkousen phōnês, oud ’aglaókarpoi elaîai †
ei mḕ Persaíou thygátēr atalà phronéousa
áien ex ántrou, Hekátē liparokrḗdemnos,
Ēéliós te ánax, Hyperíonos aglaòs hyiós,
koúrēs kekloménēs patéra Kronídēn…
... but none of the immortals or mortal men
he heard his voice and not even the olive trees with their shiny fruit.
Only the daughter of Pérsēs, heard her in her cave,
Hekátē with a candid mind, with a shining veil
also the divine Hḗlios, luminous son of Hyperíōn,
he heard her call on her father's name Kronídēs.
Homḗrou hýmnoi [2]> Eis Dēmḗtran [22-27]

And so Hekátē accompanies Demeter to the underworld.

... all ’hóte dḕ dekátē hoi epḗlythe phainolìs ēṓs,
ḗntetó hoi Hekátē, sélas en cheíressin échousa
kaí rhá hoi angeléousa épos pháto phṓnēsén te:
pótnia Dēmḗtēr, hōrēphóre, aglaódōre,
tís theôn ouraníōn ēè thnētôn anthrṓpōn
hḗrpase Persephónēn kaì sòn phílon ḗkache thymón?
phōnês gàr ḗkous ’, atàr ouk ídon ophthalmoîsin,
hóstis éēn: soì d ’ôka légō nēmertéa pánta.
hṓs ár ’éphē Hekátē: tḕn d’ ouk ēmeíbeto mýthōi
Rheíēs ēykómou thygátēr, all ’ôka sỳn autêi
ḗix ’aithoménas daîdas half chersìn échousa ...
But when the bright dawn finally came for the tenth time
Hekátē met her, holding a torch in one hand
and, eager to inform her, he spoke to her, and said:
"Venerable Dēmḗtēr, bearer of harvest, of magnificent gifts,
some among the heavenly gods or among mortal men
did he kidnap Persephónē, and throw anguish in your heart?
In fact, I have heard the screams but I have not seen with my own eyes
who the kidnapper was: I told you everything, briefly and sincerely ».
So then spoke Hekatē and did not answer her
Rhéa's daughter with beautiful hair, on the other hand, quickly with her
moved, holding burning torches in his hands ...
Homḗrou hýmnoi [2]> Eis Dēmḗtran [51-61]

GODDESS OF WITCHERY AND MAGIC

The witch most devoted to Hecate, in all sources, is Mḗdeia, better known as the sorceress and enchantress Meda of the Kolchís. As we anticipated above, in an alternative genealogy, Diódōros Sikeliṓtēs states that the two major enchantresses of the Hellenic myth, Mḗdeia and Kírkē, were daughters of Hekátē, here represented as the supreme queen of unprecedented cruelty.Diódōros's account, although evemerized, perhaps contains elements of some ancient lost myth about Hekátē.

We said that Hḗlios had two sons, Aiḗtēs and Pérsēs. Aiḗtēs became king of Kolchís and the other king of Chersónēsos, and both were frighteningly cruel. Pérsēs had Hekátē for his daughter, who surpassed her father in audacity and recklessness. She loved the hunt, but when she was out of luck, she aimed her arrows at humans instead of beasts. Likewise, she was skilled in mixing deadly poisons, and discovered the drug called aconite, which, when mixed with the food offered to guests, took away the power of any poison. Due to his experience in such things, [Hekátē] first of all poisoned his father, thus succeeding him to the throne. Then, consecrating a temple to Ártemis, he commanded that foreigners who landed in those lands should be sacrificed to the gods. She became very famous far and wide for her cruelty. that the foreigners landed there should be sacrificed to the goddess, he became well known and wide for his cruelty. She married Aiḗtēs and had two daughters, Kírkē and Mḗdeia, and a son, Aigialeús. [...]

Diódōros Sikeliṓtēs: Bibliothḗkē Historikē [IV: 45: 1]

In mythology, Hecate is an underworld and dark goddess. His relationship with Circe and Medea is mostly one of fear and devotion.

In Apollonio Rosio's Argonautics, Medea was a priestess of Hecate. He guarded the temple consecrated to the goddess and solemnly went there to pray to the goddess, evoke her or prepare magical filters. To Hecate, Medea turned in case of need, and her spells and sorceries were practiced under the direct tutelage of Hecate. Much of Medea's wisdom and magical powers came from the goddess herself:

Lives a girl in the palace of Aiḗtēs,
that the goddess Hekátē has more than any other educated
in the art of all filters, which produces the land and the infinite sea:
with them he knows how to tame the force of tireless fire,
and stops in a moment the pouring waters of rivers
chains the stars and the sacred ways of the moon.

Apollṓnios Rhódios: Tá Argonautiká [III: 528-533]

The apparition of Hecate is precisely described with terrifying accents:

Then he dug a one cubit pit in the ground,
and heaping up the wood, he cut the lamb's throat
and spread it over there, then set fire to the wood,
he mixed and poured the libations, invoking
Hekátē Brimṓ in aid of his enterprises.
When he had invoked her, he turned back. The goddess
terrible heard it and from deep recesses
came to receive the offer. The head was girded
of frightening snakes, intertwined with oak branches:
the immense glow of the torches flashed
all around the infernal dogs howled with high pitched barks.

We find a similar image in the Argonautics of Orpheus, where Hecate appears:

Then he dug a one cubit pit in the ground,
and heaping up the wood, he cut the lamb's throat
and spread it over there, then set fire to the wood,
he mixed and poured the libations, invoking
Hekátē Brimṓ in aid of his enterprises.
When he had invoked her, he turned back. The goddess
terrible heard it and from deep recesses
came to receive the offer. The head was girded
of frightening snakes, intertwined with oak branches:
the immense glow of the torches flashed
all around the infernal dogs howled with high pitched barks.

Together with her came another one with an iridescent shape,
three-headed at sight, a fatal monster, unimaginable,
Hekátē daughter of Tártaros. From his left humerus he leapt
a long-maned wolf on the right could be seen
a bitch with a furious look, in the middle a wild looking snake:
in both hands he had daggers with hilts.
Here and there they ran all around the pit
Pandṓrē, and Hekátē and le Erinýes with them they proceeded in leaps.

Orpheōs Argonautiká [974-982]

… Postquam plenissima fulsit
ac solid terras spectavit imagine luna,
egreditur tectis vestes induta recinctas,
nude pedem, nudos umeris infusa capillos,
fertque vagos mediae for muta silentia noctis
incomitata gradus: homines volucresque ferasque
solverat alta quies, nullo cum murmure saepes,
inmotaeque silent frondes, silet umidus aer,
sidera sola micant: ad quae sua bracchia tendens
ter se convertit, ter sumptis flumine crinem
inroravit aquis ternisque ululatibus now
solvit et in dura submisso poplite terra
«Nox» ait «arcanis fidissima, quaeque diurnis
aurea cum luna succeditis ignibus astra,
tuque, triceps Hecate, quae coeptis conscia nostris
adiutrixque venis cantusque artisque magorum,
quaeque magos, Tellus, pollentibus instruis herbis,
auraeque et twenty montesque amnesque lacusque,
dique omnes nemorum, dique omnes noctis adeste,
quorum ope, cum volui, ripis mirantibus amnes
in fontes rediere suos, concussaque sisto,
stale concutio cantu freta, nubila skin
nubilaque induco, ventos abigoque vocoque,
vipereas rumpo verbis et carmine fauces,
vivaque saxa sua convulsaque robora terra
et silvas moveo iubeoque tremescere montis
et mugire solum manesque exire sepulcris! ... "
When the moon shone full
and with all the brilliance of his disk he turned towards the earth,
[Mḗdeia] went out of the house wearing a loose robe,
barefoot and bareheaded, hair spread over his shoulders,
and in the middle of the night, in that dead silence, aimlessly,
alone she began to wander. A profound stillness drowsed
men, birds and beasts. Not a buzz in the hedges
the fronds are silent, the humid air is silent
only the stars beat. And she holds out her arms to them,
turns three times on itself, three times sprays the hair
with river water, thrice he opens his mouth wide
in plaintive cries and, falling to her knees on hard ground:
"O Night" he invokes, "faithful keeper of mysteries of gold stars,
that alongside the moon you alternate with the glow of the day
and you, Hecate triceps, that you are aware of my business
and help with spells and the art of magicians
or Earth, which brings miraculous herbs to the magicians
and you breezes, winds and mountains, you rivers and lakes,
all gods of the woods, all gods of the night, all of you assist me!
Thanks to you, when I want, the rivers return, amazed
of the shores, at their source by enchantment I shock the sea
in calm, I placate the stormy one, I clear the clouds
and I thicken them, drive away the winds or solicit them
reciting my formulas I tear the throat of the vipers,
from their land I uproot and move living stones,
oaks and woods, I command the mountains to tremble,
to the ground to bellow, to the shadows to come out of the tombs! "
Publius Ovidius Naso: Metamorphoseon [VII: 180-206]

The link between Medea and Hecate is present in all mythological literature: from Euripides' Medea to Seneca's Medea, up to Valerius Flaccus's Argonautica. Other episodes will see Medea in search of Hecate, one of them is when she wants to rejuvenate the now old king Aeson, father of her lover Jason. The sorceress Medea formulates another dark spell, in which she raises two altars: one to Hecate, the other to Iuventas, the Roman goddess of youth.

In the account of Diodorus Siculus, Medea and Circe were sisters, daughters of Hecate (Bibliothḗkē Historikē [IV: 45: 1]). But although, in mythological literature, it is above all Medea to be linked to Hecate, there are examples in which the sorceress Circe appeals to the goddess for her spells. Below I report the passage in which Circe transforms men into animals:

Illa nocens spargit virus sucosque veneni
et Noctem Noctisque deos Ereboque Chaoque
convocat et longis Hecaten ululatibus orat.
exsiluere loco (dictu mirabile) silvae,
ingemuitque solum, vincinaque palluit arbor,
sparsaque sanguineis maduerunt pabula guttis,
et lapides visi mugitus edere raucos
et barking canes et humus serpentibus atris
squalere et tenues animae volitare silentum:
attonitum monstris vulgus pavet illa paventis
now come tetigit mirantia virga,
cuius ab attactu variarum monstra ferarum
in iuvenes veniunt: nulli his mansit imago.
She then spreads poisons of death and evil juices,
from Erebus and Chaos he calls Nox and the gods together
of the Night, invokes Hekátē with long wild cries.
The forests leapt (incredible to say),
the ground groaned, the trees beside it turned pale,
the pastures oozed around with drops of blood,
the stones seemed to emit dull bellowing,
that the dogs barked, that the ground was swarming with blacks
snakes and the spirits of the dead soar in flight.
Horrified by the wonders, the group trembles and she with the wand
magic touches their face numb with terror,
and at that touch the young men change their aspect into monstrous one
of various animals: none retained their nature.
Publius Ovidius Naso Metamorphoseon [XIV: 403-415]

THE LADY OF THE TORCHES

To cross the darkness, Hecate carries torches with her and in her best-known depictions we see her, in fact, holding a torch, a key and a snake in her hands (for example in the relief from the altar of Pergamum, 4th century BC). Even Bacchilides, called her «Hekátē bearer of the torch», the torches could also be used as fearsome weapons. In Apollodorus, we are told that in the course of the fight, which the Giants waged against the Gods of Olympus incited by their mother Gaea and the Titans, Hekátē killed on the side of the Olympic gods kills the giant Klýtios with his torches. As I have already said above, Hecate is able to travel freely between the world of men, that of the gods and the kingdom of the Dead and the torches held in hand also represent the ability to accompany the living in the kingdom of the dead.

Hecate is also associated with dogs, (in the iconography Hecate is often represented with three bodies or with the appearance of a dog or, accompanied by howling infernal dogs as she was considered protector of dogs - Nónnos Panopolítēs) whose barking procession accompanied her in the darkness of the night and announces its terrible apparitions. We have already seen how, invoked by Medea, Hecate appears in a flash of torches, her head surrounded by snakes, while her infernal dogs howl around her (Tá Argonautiká [III: 1217]). Even in Ovid, the invocation to Hecate arouses a series of supernatural events, including the impression of hearing dogs barking (Metamorphoseon [XIV: 410]).

... visaeque canes howl for umbram,
adventante goddess.
... and in the thick darkness the howling of the bitches resounds
when the goddess arrives.
Publius Virgilius Maro: Æneides [VI: 257-258]

In other stories, however, it seems that dogs were sacrificed to Hecate (an uncommon sacrifice, limited to small local cults), given that Pausanías speaks of it as an exception rather than a rule.

I know that no other Greek population has the habit of sacrificing puppies, apart from the inhabitants of Kolophṓn. They sacrifice a puppy, a black bitch, a Enodía [Hekátē] […], at night.

Pausanías: Periḗgēsis [III: 14: 9-10]

For Licòfrone of Chalcis, dogs were sacrificed in the caves of Mount Zērýnthos, on the island of Samothrákē. This cult of Hecate was very famous at the time, and also testified by other authors. Ovid testifies to a very similar cult among the Sabaean tribe (they were a community of faithful of religions who lived in the Harran region, an area between South Eastern Anatolia and northern Syria).

Exta canum vidi Triviae libare Sabaeos
et quicumque tuas accolit, Haeme, niues.
I saw the Sabeans and those who dwell near your snows,
o Haemus, offer to Trivia dog entrails.
Publius Ovidio Naso: Fasti [I: 389-390]

ECATE AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF ECUBA

The king of Troy Priam first married Arisbe, daughter of the visionary Merope, and she gave him a son named Esaco, also a soothsayer. But when he was tired of her, he repudiated her entrusting her to Irtaco, who in turn fathered with her two sons, Asio and Niso, the Irtacidi, who later took part in the Trojan war.

Priam secondly married Hecuba, who was then very beautiful and young, with whom he had fallen deeply in love. She bore her husband nineteen of the fifty children Priam had including Hector, Paris, Cassandra, Eleno and the first Polidoro. Priam instituted polygamy in order to also marry Laotoe, daughter of the king of Lelegi, who gave him two other children (Lycaon and the second Polidoro), while all the others were generated with concubines and slaves. (but this is denied by Euripides, who brought the number of children to fifty and considered them all procreated by Hecuba alone).

Takes a leading role in Euripides' tragedy: "The Trojan women and Hecuba". In the first Hecuba is destined as a slave to Ulysses and she has to witness the death of her nephew Astianatte. In the second, a personal drama, the pride and love of a queen who sees her children perish one by one is exalted. The death of her son Polidoro at the hands of the king of Chersonese Polimestore is avenged by her with the blinding of Polimestore himself. Hecuba became angry at the fall of Troy and the killing of its inhabitants and killed Helen, the granddaughter resulting from Paris's embrace with Helen.

Hecuba was destined as a slave to Ulysses and set sail for Chersonese, in Thrace, but insulted Ulysses and his crew for their lack of speech and cruelty to the point that the soldiers put her to death. Her spirit took on the appearance of a hideous black bitch that follows Hecate, dived into the sea and swam up to the Hellespont. She was buried in a place, which took the name "Sepolcro della Cagna". There are numerous versions of the dramatic story, certainly the best known is that of Ovid but we also see hints of it Hyginus. It is Licòfrone of Chalcis who tells us that it was Hecate who transformed Hecuba into a bitch and to his court of dogs. According to this source, it was Ulysses himself who threw the first stone at Hecuba, outraged by a curse she had launched against the Achaeans. Once landed in Sicily, oppressed by anguished dreams, the hero of Ithaca had erected, on the promontory of Páchynos (now Cape Passero), near the banks of the Hélōros river, a sepulchral monument to Hecuba and a temple to Hecate:

O mother, painful mother,
not even the memory of you will remain dark.
Follower of Brimṓ Trimorphos, daughter of Pérsēs,
you will land at night, with barking,
mortals who do not honor with torches
to the simulacra of the goddess Zērynthía [Hekátē],
lady of the Strymṓn,
placating the goddess of Pheraí [Hekátē] with sacrifices.
A revered cenotaph will arise
on the rocky island of Páchynos,
in the face of the currents of Hélōros,
erected by the arms of your master [Odysseús],
after the funeral, following a dream.
On that shore for you, [Hekábē] unfortunate,
[Odysseús] will make libations, terrified by the anger of the goddess of the three hills,
because it was he who threw the first stone of the stoning
and to offer Haıdēs the first fruits of a grim sacrifice.

Lykóphrōn: Alexándra [1174-1189]

Klaúdios Ailianós (Claudius Eliano, Roman philosopher and writer) reports a story where the goddess Hecate, punished the sorceress Galê in a marten for excessive promiscuity (Perì zṓıōn Idiótētos [XV: 11). According to the version of Antoninus Liberalis, (where the name of the sorceress from Galê becomes Galínthias), the goddess, repenting of her gesture, would have made amends by associating the marten with her procession (Metamorphṓseōn Synagōgḗ [29]).

REPRESENTATIONS OF ECATE IN HISTORY

The earliest representations of Hecate are single and not triple. Lewis Richard Farnell argues that:

“The testimony left by the monuments on the characteristics and significance of Hecate is as rich as that transmitted by literature, but only in the later period do they express its multiple and mystical nature. Before the fifth century it is almost certain that it was often represented as a single form, like any other deity, and this is how the poet of Boeotia imagined it, because nothing in his verse alludes to a threefold deity. The oldest monument is a small terracotta found in Athens, with a dedication to Hecate (plate XXXVIII. A), in a typical script of the sixth century. The goddess is seated on a throne and has a crown around her head she has no distinctive traits or features and the only value of the work, which is clearly of a common type and is worthy of mention only for the inscription, is that proves that the single form was the original one and that it was known in Athens before the Persian invasion ".

The Greek writer Pausanias (Pausanìas also called Pausanias the Periegeta) claimed that Alcamene (Greek sculptor) was the first to create Hecate in his triple form towards the end of the fifth century. In several iconographies, we find the goddess in triple form holding a torch, a key and a snake, while others represent her in a single form.In Greek esotericism, of Egyptian derivation, with reference to Hermes Trismegistus and in the magic papyri of Late Antiquity it is described as a three-headed creature: one of a dog, one of a snake and one of a horse.

Hecate's triplicity is expressed in a more Hellenic form, with three bodies, as he takes part in the battle against the Titans (the Titans in Greek mythology and religion, the most ancient gods (próteroi theoí), were born before the Olympians and generated by Uranus - Heaven and Gaia / Gaia - Earth), in the vast frieze of the great altar of Pergamum, now in Berlin.

“Titanic tales deal with gods who belong to such a distant past that we know them only from a particular kind of story, in which they figure in a particular function. The name Titani, with which we define them, has designated for a very long time the divinity of the Sun and it seems that originally it was the high title attributed to the gods of the sky, but to the very ancient gods of the sky, not yet subject to any law and savages . For us they were not deities to whom worship was attributed, except perhaps Cronus and Elio. […] Who had their cults here and there. Instead they were gods who had a part only in mythology. This part is always that of the vanquished ... These vanquished carried within themselves the characteristics of an older male generation, of ancestors, whose dangerous qualities are repeated in their descendants. "

(Károly Kerényi, The gods and heroes of Greece. Milan, the Assayer, 1963, p. 29)

In Argolis, near the shrine of the Dioscuri, Pausanias, a great traveler during the second century of the Christian era, saw the temple of Hecate in front of the sanctuary of Ilizia: The image is the work of Scopas, made of stone, while the images in bronze that are in front, which always have Hecate as their subject, were made respectively by Polycletus the young and his brother Naucide, son of Motone. (Description of Greece ii.22.7)

A marble relief from the 4th century AD. of Crannone in Thessaly bore a dedication from a horse owner. The relief showed Hecate, in the company of a dog, placing a wreath on the head of a mare. This statue is in the British Museum, inventory no. 816. The bitch is her companion and animal equivalent and one of the most common forms of offering was to leave meat at crossroads (sometimes the dogs themselves were sacrificed to her).

In other images it has, in addition to the aforementioned, a key or the so-called "magic top". This is a golden sphere built around a sapphire and spun on a leather strap, with engraved characters on it. By spinning it, the invocations took place. This instrument was called the "iugx", whether it was spherical, triangular, or some other shape. Turning it, it produced particular sounds, imitating the cry of a beast, laughing or making the air cry. The movement of the top, with its magical power, completed the ritual. It is called "Hecate's Top" since it is consecrated to Hecate.

APPOINTMENTS

Chtonia (Of the underworld)
Antaia (She who meets)
Apotropaia (Protector)
Enodia (The goddess who appears on the street)
Kourotrophos (Nurse of children)
Propulaia / Propylaia (She who stands in front of the door)
Propolos (She who serves)
Phosphoros (Lightbringer)
Soteira (Knowledgeable)
Triodia / Trioditis (Who frequents crossroads)
Klêidouchos (Who carries the keys)
Trimorphe (Triple)

ECATE ITALICA

“Hello, mother of the gods, of many names, of beautiful offspring

Hail, O Hecate, keeper of the gates, of great power
but also to you, O Janus, progenitor,
Imperishable Zeus Hello, supreme Zeus
brighten the path of my life,
full of goods, avert the fatal diseases
from my limbs, and the soul, which on earth raves, you draw up, purified
from the initiations that awaken the mind.
I beg you, extend your hand to me, and the divine ways. Show me why I want them
the most precious light I want to aim,
so that turpitude is given to me to flee
of the dark generation.
I beg you, give me your hand, and with your breaths
Push me troubled into the port of mercy.
Hello o mother of the gods, with many names, with beautiful offspring

Hail, O Hecate, keeper of the gates, of great power
but also to you, O Janus, progenitor,
Imperishable Zeus hello, supreme Zeus ”.

In Campania, the goddess Hecate had a sacred wood next to Lake Averno. Among its dense trees, its rituals were celebrated and the lake itself was considered the gateway to enter the underworld (as will later also be identified Lake Pilato - Lake of Sibilla on Mount Vettore in the Marche). Cicero speaks of Lake Averno, where people went to learn about their future from the dead spirits. Lake Averno is one of the many gates that lead to Hades. The rivers or lakes of Greek mythology are often associated with the world of the Underworld. According to the myth they are direct branches with the river Styx, through which Charon ferried the souls of the dead. Its best known tributaries are the Piriflegetonte and Cocito rivers (river of pain) and the main Acheron is located in Epirus, a north-western region of Greece, near the town of Parga. It is a tributary of Lake Acherusia and in its vicinity there are the ruins of the Necromanteio, the only known oracle of death in Greece.

Plato in the dialogue Phaedo states that the Acheron is the second largest river in the world, surpassed only by the ocean: he claims that the Acheron flows in the opposite direction and from the ocean goes towards the earth. The term Acheron has sometimes been used as a synecdoche to mean Hades in its entirety. Virgil speaks of the Acheron together with the other infernal rivers within his description of the Underworld, placed in book VI of the Aeneid. In Dante's Inferno (canto III), the Acheron river represents the boundary of Hell for those arriving from Antinferno.

Hecate, as we have already said above, in the representations in which she is Trivia, wears a moon, a flame, a crown on her head. In her hands she almost always carries a torch, a rope, a snake and a rake and like all the triform goddesses, she was also considered a unique goddess or rather a Great Mother. It is assumed that the church drew inspiration from the goddess, to give shape to the holy trinity, and also for the Black Madonnas so well known in the Italian peninsula and in the world. Some Madonnas were originally dedicated to both the goddess Egyptian Isis (black because the goddess represented the night that gave birth to the dawn, that is, the sun God) and Hecate with the same value as the goddess of the night. Subsequently, with the spread of Christianity, many statues were modified to take on the features of a Madonna.

In the Abbey of San Pietro (Perugia), set in the seventeenth-century cloister there is a fresco depicting the three-headed Trinity in a female version (three-headed Madonna). Although experts deny the evident female body, declaring it male, many have seen the eternal figure of Hecate in this fresco.

HECATE ROMAN

In Rome the goddess was celebrated as the Lady of magic and of the night. In the imperial period (since the first century) in Turkey, precisely in Antioch, monuments and temples had been built, and a large temple was dedicated to Hecate, under which a large crypt was placed for the celebration of rites. Considering that Antioch was considered the most prosperous and important city of the Empire, after Rome and Alexandria, the deities were of fundamental importance, including the goddess Hecate among the most important.

Under the empire of Nero (54-68 AD), Marco Anneo Lucano composed the Pharsalia also known as De bello civil, or Bellum civile. He composes this epic work that does not celebrate the greatness of the Roman people and state, as Virgil did in 'Aeneid (29-19 BC), but which, on the contrary, shows the disaster and ruin to which the internal wars have led.

"The sorceress Eritto presents her most horrifying crimes as if they were merits that she can boast of against the gods of Hades. There captatio benevolentiae takes place through the enunciation of heinous crimes such as the sacrifice of the wombs of fertile women or the heads of children. Here Lucano probably reaches the heights of his taste for the horrid and macabre. Evidently, all the deities and beings of the Underworld are cruel and evil and can only be indulged by attesting to the evil that has been done. The sorceress Eritto wards off the "Eumenides, shame of the Styx, punishment of the guilty", the "Chaos eager to confuse countless worlds", the "Styx, lord of the earth", the "Elysium that no Thessalian deserves", "Persephone", L'"last phase of our Hecate"Who grants her and" the shadows / the faculty to communicate in silence ", the Fates (" the sisters "who spin" the stamens of life / and then cut them off ")," the ferryman of the boiling wave, / old by now tired "(Charon). In this way the reader becomes aware of the characters and places of Hades. The sorceress asks for a soul who has just died, not one «already sunk in Tartarus, / and long accustomed to darkness», but «one who has just left / the light and is descending is still standing on the threshold / of the pale Ogre »".

Horace also speaks of the goddess Hecate in the eighth Satire, where he describes the necromantic evocation of the two witches Sagana and Canidia, with the sacrifice of a black lamb, and the infernal dogs howling in the distance.


SO WHAT: daughter of Zeus and Hera, sister of Ares and Ilizia, she is a symbol of eternal youth and vital force. Handmaid of the gods mixes the nectar in golden cups at their banquet, helps her mother to prepare the chariot, washes and dresses Ares.
In theIliad, when Ares is wounded by Diomedes, Hebe heals his wound. When Heracles reached the end of his mortal life, killed by the poisoned tunic that his wife Deianira had dipped in the blood of Nessus, the gods welcomed him into heaven purifying him of the crimes committed on earth and gave him Hebe as a new heavenly bride, who He fathered him two children, Alessiare and Aniceto. For his sake Hebe gave the grandson of Heracles, Iolaus, his youth, so that he could go back to fight again Iolaus in fact killed Eurystheus, who persecuted the Heraclids with his hatred.
In Rome Hebe was identified with the indigenous Juventus, which symbolized not so much youth, when rather it was an image of the perennial flourishing and rejuvenation of the state. And of this signification is proof of the cult that was made to it: in large families a feast with an official character was celebrated when young people replaced the toga praetexta of childhood the manly toga. They then went to the Capitol to pay tribute to the Goddess and prayed to her together with Jupiter. Juventus he had a temple near the Circus Maximus.

ECATE: very ancient chthonic divinity perhaps originating in Thrace. The name means, according to some, she "who works from afar", but its etymology is not sure. It is not mentioned in Homer Hesiod in the Theogony he celebrates her as superior to the other Titans, to whose family she belongs as the daughter of Perse and Asteria but others consider her the daughter of Zeus and Asteria, or Demeter, or Hera, or Tartarus. Moreover, the passage of Hesiod is believed to have been interpolated by the Orphics through whom Hecate became an important divinity in the sixth century BC. It exercises a great power over all the kingdoms of nature: in the sky, on the earth, in the sea, beneficial to men, to whom it gives wisdom, happiness and health. The character of a mystical divinity also came from the Orphics and was confused with Artemis, Demeter, Persephone, Rhea, Cybele. United with Demeter, of whom she becomes handmaid to accompany her everywhere in search of Persephone, she became a lunar deity and lady of the night which chthonic goddess Persephone is faithful to Hades, but she had no children from him and prefers the company of Hecate. Zeus himself honors Hecate so much that he did not take away from her the ancient prerogative he always enjoyed: to be able to grant or deny any desired gift to mortals. Among the shadows, Hecate exercises his terrible and violent dominion, sends demons (the Empuse and the Lamie) to torment men and wanders among the tombs and trivii, whence the epithet of "trivia" came to her. The Embuse, daughters of Hecate, have the habit of terrifying travelers, but they can be driven away by breaking out into insults, since on hearing them they flee with loud screams. They take on the appearance of bitches, cows or beautiful maidens and, in the latter form, they lie down with men at night or during the afternoon siesta, and suck their vital forces leading them to death.
As the nocturnal goddess of ghosts and spells it was natural that she presided over magic, that she was a master of witches in their spells, conjurations and summons of the dead. Circe and Medea had learned their art from Hecate and they were ministers of it.
Hecate was venerated both with public worship and with secret worship in Samothrace, Lemnos, Asia Minor, Thessaly, Boeotia together with Demeter and Hermes in Aegina and Athens. Temples were dedicated to her in Aegina, Argos, Samothrace and in many cities of Asia Minor. The Athenians erected a statue for her on the Acropolis, statues were erected in the trivii, dogs were sacrificed to her as expiatory victims of the dead, at the end of each month her images were adorned with flowers and various food offerings were offered sacrifices of black lambs and gifts of milk and honey precisely as chthonic divinities.
The Romans certainly accepted this Greek divinity, but in Rome it was much less important than in Greece and its personality is impoverished. Greater diffusion Hecate acquired in the last centuries of paganism, together with the revival of the magical arts in the imperial age. In the western provinces of the Empire one rarely encounters invocations to Hecate, more frequently instead to Trivia in the provinces of Germany.
Poets usually portray her with a terrible appearance, with snakes in her hair, with snake feet and with three heads, one of a horse, one of a dog, one of a lion, hence it was called triforme, triceps. The art instead represented her now as a woman of mature age, now with three figures or with three heads, and in this form she was placed in the trivii mostly carried torches, keys, or other symbolic attributes were dogs, snakes, ropes, daggers, lotus flowers.


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