Category Archives: Hekate

The Dance of the Horae

Not all the material I wrote made it into my book some bits didn’t make the grade and were left out, one of them was the concept of a Hekate related calender, after a debate with a fellow Covenant of Hekate member this evening, I thought it was time to post up one of the sections that didn’t get included as it may help others in thier journeys, I do hope you enjoy it.

The Attic Calendar

“All-coloured Horae, rich increase your care, circling, forever flourishing and fair”

We briefly touched upon the subject of the Attic Calendar in the chapter for divination, as it is the Hellenic calendar which has survived in the most complete format, it is appropriate to use this upon which to base a ritual year.  The months as has been explained before do not correlate directly to the months in the modern calendar as we understand it, and it is this common misconception that leads to comments like “the 13th of August is sacred to Hekate”, which undoubtedly came a about as a result of the 30th of the Month (Deipnon) falling upon August  13th rather than the actual date of the 13th being sacred.

The Dance of the Horae
The Horae or seasons of ancient mythology were originally just two, spring/summer & autumn/winter, however over the centuries this grew, the a large majority of writers named them as three and artwork of three seasons is quite common, these seasons correlating to Spring and new growth after a fallow period, Summer when the fruits and beans were in season and Autumn when the grain crops were ready for harvest. This can also cause some confusion for the seasons in the Mediterranean do not correlate accurately into a Celtic Northern European wheel of the year, the fallow period was considered to be during what we would know as midsummer, for this was a time of drought, with the planting of wheat happening later in the year when the first rains arrived sometimes as late as November or December by our reckoning, and then harvested in May or June, as a result Persephone’s decent into the underworld for example would be most fitting on or around the summer solstice, not the winter, and rites that you may choose to create around this mythology involving Hekate should reflect this.

Provided below is a list of the Attic months, and other information such as known dates of festivals to Hekate or associated deities which can be used to create a more complete ritual cycle2, in cases where a festival or mystery rite took longer than one day, such as the lesser mysteries during Anthesterion, a shorter 2 day period has been indicated for modern usage; Also for convenience sake modern seasons have been included but traditional festivals have retained their rightful place in the dance of the Horae as it would have been.

Attic
Gregorian
Festival
Hecatombaion
Jul – Aug
  1. Noumenia
30   Deipnon
Metageitnion
Aug – Sept
  1. Noumenia
16   Sacrifice – Kourotrophos, Hekate, Artemis
30   Deipnon
Boedromion
Sept – Oct
1     Noumenia

20   Greater Mysteries
21   Greater Mysteries
30   Deipnon
Pyanopsion
Oct – Nov
  1. Noumenia
30   Deipnon
Maimakterion
Nov – Dec
  1. Noumenia
30   Deipnon
Posiedeon
Dec – Jan
1     Noumenia

26   Haloa
30   Deipnon
Gamelion
Jan – Feb
1     Noumenia

27   Sacrifice – Kourotrophos, Hera ,Zeus, Teleius, Poseidon.
30   Deipnon
Anthesterion
Feb – Mar
  1. Noumenia
12   Anthesteria Khoes
20   Lesser Mysteries
21   Lesser Mysteries
30   Deipnon
Elaphebolion
Mar – Apr
  1. Noumenia
30   Deipnon
Mounichion
Apr – May
  1. Noumenia
6     Didymeia
30   Deipnon
Thargelion
May – Jun
  1. Noumenia
19   Bendidea
30   Deipnon
Skirophorion
Jun – July
1    Noumenia

3    Sacrifice – Kourotrophos, Athene, Polias, Aglaurus, Zeus,  Polieus, Poseidon, Pandrosos.
30   Deipnon


Noumenia – The first day of the new moon and of the new month, this was associated with Hekate through the works of Pindar who said that Hekate gave omens of victory on the 1st day of the Month, this day is a particularly fortuitous day to perform works of divination at dawn, oracular work and skrying can also incorporated into the rite. As the start of a new month this is a good time to perform devotional work and a reaffirmation of your dedication to the Goddess in the coming month.

Sacrifice to Kourotrophos – This sacrifice happens during 3 months of the yearly cycle, Metageitnion, Gamelion, Skirophorion, and although only one specifically names Hekate, the epithet of Kourotrophos appears in all these festivals which make them appropriate to celebrate for you can evoke Hekate in that aspect, in addition you may wish to also evoke, Artemis and Zeus as appropriate. As they are relatively evenly spaced throughout the year and are an excellent time for topping up defences around the home petitioning the Goddess to protect it, and its inhabitants, particularly children, records show that a suitable sacrifice for the Goddess at these times were pigs, as many today may not wish to handle pork (or any meat) products creating a votive offering in the image of a pig and immolating it would be another alternative to consider, do however make sure you inscribe it and dedicate it to Hekate. If at all possible try and make this rite in the month of Metageitnion coincident with a clear night when it may be possible to witness the Perseid meteor showers, which are named after Hekate’s father.

Greater Mysteries – These are the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis, in which not only was Hekate perceived to guide the Mystai with Iakkos, but also when she became companion and guide to Persephone. This is a most fortuitous time for rites of self dedication and initiation, it should be marked annually with a day of fasting (or abstinence) followed by a night time vigil or procession celebrating Hekate in her aspect of torchbearer and light bringer. This is also a time for making reparations over past wrong doings, and offering the olive branch to would be enemies, clearing the slate and stating anew.

Haloa – Whilst for a us a midwinter festival, this would have been a festival of growth in the Mediterranean world, it was considered a time of feasting and thanks marked with bonfires and banquets and an all night vigil to greet the rising sun, as this falls so very close to Yule and Christmas, it would be more than acceptable to perform this rite on a solstice night, evoking Hekate and inviting her to attend a feast in her honour which should be contained within the ritual circle, Reif3 does suggest that this may have been a “women’s only” rite of a rather bawdy nature, think hen party and then some, so you may like to consider telling the males in your group to find a quiet pub to spend the night in for this one, after all we don’t really wanting them to know “all” the women’s mysteries now do we girls?

Anthesteria Khoes – The Attic equivalent of the day of the dead, the God Hermes in his role of psychopomp was honoured on this night, when the spirits of the dead were said to wander abroad. This is an excellent night to honour both Hermes and Hekate together as well as honouring ancestors and those who have passed with a dumb supper rite, the records note that casseroles with root vegetable were offered most probably because they grew underground.

Lesser Mysteries – All initiates of the Greater mysteries first had to undergo the lesser mysteries and these took place every four years, the gods honoured during these rites were traditionally Demeter, Persephone and Dionysus and was considered by some to be the nuptial celebration of the divine couple; this is an excellent time for performing rites of blessing, both upon relationships, but also new ventures, homes and welcoming family into the fold both magickal and physical. Within that remit it is worth evoking Hekate alongside the deities mentioned above, especially considering her close connection with the greater mysteries. This would also be a time for prospective initiates to request initiation at the following Greater Mysteries and dedicate to the period of study required to undergo such a rite.

Didymeia – This was an annual Pythian rite to Apollo held in the town of Miletus in Caria, the date is ambiguous, but some academics have surmised that it took place in the Milesian month of Taureon, which is believed to have occurred some two months after Anthesterion, this date would correlate for the rite was sacred to Apollo and this date ties in with the Attic date which is recognised as Apollo’s birthday. During this rite two large stone cubes were placed before “Hekate at the Gate”; during this ritual, temples both astral and physical should be cleansed, magickal protections should be reinforced and divination should occur to ascertain the direction of your work (or groups work) during the following year.

Bendidea – The annual rite of the Thracian Goddess Bendis mentioned by Plato in his work Republic, it was considered quite a spectacle and involved horseracing by torch light through the streets of Athens. Whilst it appears that the original rites were one of purification and solemnity, they eventually because fairly bawdy raucous affairs, if working in a group, this might be a suitable ritual for the gentlemen to get all down and dirty with the men’s mysteries, you know, beer, wine, song, curry etc. etc. Competitions both physical and mental could also be incorporated into this rite.

Deipnon – Performed monthly during the dark moon the Deipnon was primarily about cleansing, and petitioning Hekate to keep the house safe during the coming months, because of the offerings given it eventually became a time for charity for the poor it was said, fed from the suppers laid out on the crossroads for Hekate.  Suitable offerings would be eggs, garlic, fish, honey and cheesecakes, which should be placed outside separately from the cleansings of the home. It is a good time to perform physical cleansing as well as magickal cleansing, make sure all tasks that need to be done such as any outstanding obligations, household or work related paperwork etc. In fact any ends you want to tie up should be done so before performing this rite.

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1 Orphic Hymn to the Horae
2 Festival Dates taken from http://www.numachi.com/~ccount/hmepa/
3 Reif, J. Mysteries of Demeter 

The Priestess & The Ferret

“They turned her into a deceitful weasel (or polecat), making her live in crannies and gave her a grotesque way of mating. She is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through the throat. Hekate felt sorry for this transformation of her appearance and appointed her a sacred servant of herself.” ~Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 29 (accessed online www.theoi.com)

The part Hekate plays in the transformation of a person is often profound, and is a reoccurring theme in ancient literature and the myths surrounding Hekate, some more pleasant than others. The except above, is part of a retelling of the birth of Herakles; the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alkmene, Hera in her usual jealous rage for her husbands philandering had persuaded both the Moirai and Eileithyia, (a Cretan Goddess who was adopted into the Greek Pantheon, and later became syncretised with Artemis and possibly even Hekate) to keep the poor woman in perpetual labour. The friend and former childhood play-mate of the afflicted Alkmene contrived to break the concentration of the Goddesses, thus allowing the birth of Herakles, but for her impudence was turned into a polecat. Hekate however took pity and made her a sacred servant.

Aelian, however, claimed that the Polecat was in fact the Sorceress Gale who had angered Hekate; the inference is that it was her “incontinence and abnormal sexual desires” that were the cause of this transformed state; but I do have to query if this was that case, for Hekate is generally the one who takes on unfortunate creatures transformed by other Gods and when you consider the shenanigins that some of her Priestesses get up to, a little bit of a “womans problem” and some unusual appetites seems to have a ring of untruth about it, especially when the Polecat it seems was a sacred servant to the Goddess; whilst of course we cannot always claim to the know the will of the Gods, why on earth would you “punish” a person by elevating them, through transformation, to a position of favour?

This theme of taking the unwanted, ill-favoured and outcast is even further supported by the story of Hekate and Hekabe, who after the fall of Troy murdered a Thracian King and then commited suicide to avoid an unelegant death, but by Hekate’s will was transformed into a hound who was the goddess’ attendant, again when you consider that history is pretty much told by the victors, and the trojan war is one celebrated in the Greek tradgedies, we see Hekate taking the role of adoptress or mother of the underdog heroine or outcast; those whose side of the story will or can never be told.

Even Hekate herself can be considered a victim of transformation in the manner I have discussed, for according to Hesiod, in his catalog of Women, the Maiden Iphigenia, was sacrificed by her own father to appease the Goddess Artemis, but the Goddess felt sympathy for the maid and transformed her into “Hekate”. What Hesiod meant by this is unclear, obviously the knee jerk reaction is to assume that the girl literally became the Goddess Hekate; but I have harboured a small thought in my mind for a while, and I believe it is possibly supported by Euripides version of events portrayed in his two plays “Iphigenia in Aulis” and “Iphigenia in Tauris”. The former play describes the events around the slighting of Artemis and the girls sacrifice to aid her father, and how at the last minute the girl was whisked away by the Goddess and a deer left in her place, the latter then tells how Orestes, the maidens brother is sent by the God Apollo to Tauris to perform a task (again as recompense for a wrong doing) where upon we discover that the Priestess of Artemis is none other than Iphigenia herself.

What if by becoming a Priestess, the girl had in effect become Hekate; I have in my personal practise worked with the concept of “becoming Hekate”; the Chaldeans named Hekate as the world soul, and Theurgists strived to gain union with this divine essence; what if Iphigenias willing act of sacrifice allowed her to achieve, even momentarily, this union, this state of oneness with the divine?

Many Priests and Priestesses I know who name themselves as one of Hekates own, often place an emphasis on service, both to the Goddess and those around them who would strive to become closer and learn more; and her demands are often very precise, works of art and literature are often cited as being “by her command” and what better way to bring a soul closer to the divine than via the mediums which inspire and elevate the human condition.

Our transformations will obviously never be so physically profound as the anti-heroines of old, but that does not preclude them from being as meaningful, and with each little metamorphosis, perhaps, just perhaps, we will step one pace further towards becoming Hekate.

Her Sacred Fires – Redux

It barely seems more than a month or two ago that I travelled through an ever darkening sky from my home in Cheshire to the Brecon Beacons. Unlike other magickal journey’s I have undertaken in the past, this inclement weather bore no omen for me other than a sense of familiarity, more than a few wild and drunken weekends of my misspent youth were passed in the Black Mountains and their temperamental weather systems; so in many ways the journey felt a little like “coming home”.

The journey this time was for a different purpose; I was to spend the weekend with the enchanting Sorita d’Este and her lovely husband David Rankine, with the intention of participating in the inaugural performance of The Rite of Her Sacred Fires, a rite which was initially concieved as a celebration of the release of a unique collection of essays written by Hekate devotees from across the world.

We already knew in our hearts the potential enormity of what we were doing, after all when Hekate has a hand in something it far from inconsequential and she’s been nadgering a lot of folks for a lot of years, myself included. But quite how large, this rite would become had yet to be revealed; thousands of people from across the world working together in harmony for a common purpose, to show devotion to the Goddess Hekate!

Within hours of the final performances of the rites which had been rippling across the globe during the 24 hour time span given, people were asking if it could be repeated again the following year, a new festival for Hekate. It certainly seemed like a good idea, but that was a long time away, a whole 12 months, I had much work to do in the intervening time; even just a fortnight ago it still seemed like an age away, even when fellow Devotee’s & Torchbearers of The Covenant of Hekate started talking about their plans, and how to publicise the event this year it still hadn’t quite sunk in how quickly the time had passed.

On that stormy night we had decorated the altar with Cherry blossom, and it was only this weekend whilst collecting blossom for my newly constructed outdoor shrine that I stopped dead, flowers in hand, the blossoms were out again, it was nearly time, on the 16th / 17th of May 2011 we will again join together across the world to celebrate her mysteries and dance in the light of her sacred flames.

Seeing through different eyes.

So I did promise you a post about my recent eye surgery and this morning seems like a good time to write it; I woke early, before it was even daylight and sat on my doorstep drinking a coffee, the moon very low and very golden watching over me. I can see her still even though dawn is now upon me, over my shoulder through my office window.

It was a gorgeous day yesterday, balmy, the blossom is out on my Damson tree in the garden its delicate white petals literally just sprang forth over night and the birds have all gone twitter-pated as my dad used to call it. Spring has definitely sprung. But the spirits of winter cling albeit deperately on for a few more weeks and beautiful clear days are followed by bitterly cold nights and last night was one of those nights, the grass is covered in a freezing glistening coating of very heavy dew, almost frost.

On a morning such as this I would normally have stepped out from my cozy kitchen and instantly steamed up; it would have taken much polishing of glasses to afford me a clear view of the moon above me, removing them would have been pointless for I would not have even been able to make out the step at my feet let alone a solitary satellite orbiting above. But this morning there I sat shivering just a little in my dressing gown and pyjamas staring in wonder. Even now nearly two months after my surgery little things such as this, something many take for granted, delight me.

It not all a bed of roses though, one eye didn’t take the surgery as well as the other and as a result I have some ghosting/double vision in that eye, but combined my binocular vision is 20:20 so my jury is still out as to whether I will take the surgeon up on the offer to have a 2nd surgery to try and correct it. Life after all is not perfect, its all about tolerances. Look at any machine or gadget in your home, it functions, serves it purpose, as a complete unit you could say it is an item of perfection, yet its component parts may be far from perfect, all manfactured to a specification plus or minus a certain degree of tolerance. The natural world operates in the same manner, the seasons, the weather, when the flowers bloom and when the animals breed happen to a timetable but that timetable again has more than a little bit of flexibility in it and it happens in its own sweet time and its own sweet way, but it does happen, it works, a perfect item.

I’ve pondered long and hard as to why so many people purporting to lead magickal or spiritual lives seem so dissatisfied with thier lives, their constant striving for perfection (however they define it) leads to naught. And I think the problem comes down to understanding the tolerances involved, the balance that is required to take these imperfect things we are given and make them a working whole. We are all given a bunch of pegs and a board full of holes, and if peg A is just a little too large to fit in hole A, we shouldn’t sit down and moan that we have no sandpaper to make it fit, first we should try and see if peg A fits in holes B, C, D or E first, we may find that all the pegs fit in a hole somewhere even if it isn’t in the order we imagined and no sandpaper is required.

Somebody asked me about spellwork and Hekate the other day, and seemed quite disgusted when I suggested that Hekate was not generally the Goddess to approach for everyday spells. “Why is she known as the Witches Goddess then?” I was asked. And it is an interesting question. And I think it comes down to perception of what a witch is and what a witch does. And in my opinion a witch does what works! Let me explain; I was for over a decade an Engineer and a large part of that time I worked in Quality Assurance, I could look at a circuit board under a microscope and tell within a thousanth of an inch if the tracks printed on it were too close together, too thin, too thick, too raised or any number of other criteria given by the designers. If you place tracks too close together wierd stuff happens, odd harmonics can be created by the signals running down these little strips of metal affecting the operation of the device, shorts can happen, tracks that heat up can buckle causing catastrophic failure, those boards are rejected, or sometimes sent back for rework; the witch does the same, s/he takes what they are given they inspect it and accept or reject it, and unlike the clear cut function of a circuit board which is either fit for purpose or it isn’t, a witch can take what they are given and find a purpose for it. They have to look at things with different eyes, Witches are in short the Quality Assurance of the natural world.

And Hekate is the Project Manager, you can tell her you need more pegs, (or boards to inspect – pick your metaphor), but she rules the work flow. She knows what needs doing and when, she will present you with something, but it might not be the something you were expecting, or even specifically asking for, but it will be a something you can use. After all what is it Hesiod said?

By Whomever she chooses, she comes and stands in full presence and helps him.


 

The Covenant of Hekate

On this Halloween day, I sit here typing with a building sense of excitement, something special is about to happen, people across the globe are coming together as a community to work for a common purpose, regardless of background, tradition or religious persuasion.

The Covenant of Hekate (CoH) was born out of the desire to create a community and centre of study for those who share a passion for the history, mysteries and magic of the Goddess Hekate. This desire was dramatically demonstrated on 27th May 2010 when thousands of people worldwide performed the Rite of Her Sacred Fires ritual created by Sorita d’Este as an act of devotion to the goddess Hekate.

I am deeply honoured to announce that I have been invited to be one of the first Torchbearers, who can offer mentoring, teaching, workshops and help facilitate the running of this community. The applications for membership are open on the 1st of November; thats just a very few hours away. I look forward to meeting so many new people who dance in her flames.