Wayfaring Woman: Honoring Hekate in the Rite of Her Sacred Fires

Wayfaring Woman: Honoring Hekate in the Rite of Her Sacred Fires May 22, 2016

a painting by William Blake depicting a triple-formed figure, Hekate, a horse, and an owl
The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy aka The Triple Hekate or Hekate by William Blake – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday night I honored Hekate as a part of the annual Rite of Her Sacred Fires, coordinated by Sorita d’Este, founder of The Covenant of Hekate. I have known Hekate for nearly a decade now. She has been an integral part of my personal and spiritual growth. She has also guided my professional work in addition to my spiritual vocation.

In my experience, Hekate is a complex goddess with many faces. Through research into her traditional areas of jurisdiction as well as personal gnosis gained through experience and communication with the goddess, I have come to understand Hekate as a goddess with three major domains of influence – liminality, transitions, and transformation – and a vast many related “minor” domains.

an ornate, human-sized stone door in a garden
diego_torres / pixabay.com

In my personal practice, I associate her with liminality because of her ancient post as a goddess of gateways. Her altars were sometimes kept at the entrance to the temples of other prominent Greek deities. The people of Greece also kept personal altars to the goddess at their front door. Posted in/at/as the doorway, Hekate occupied a unique space, a liminal space, the space between, the space that is neither this nor that, here nor there. For this reason, to my mind, when we are betwixt and between, when we are nowhere at no time for reasons that are unclear to us, we are in her realm. These liminal spaces can be a source of grace where we can gather our thoughts and feelings with the focused illumination provided by Hekate Phosphoros (the Light Bearer) and then strike out boldly in some productive direction of our own choosing with Hekate serving as Propolos (the attendant who leads). However, liminal spaces can also become bastions of fear, doubt, and confusion, painful places that look more like prisons than havens. In either case, they are not places where one should linger indefinitely. Hekate is a patroness of such places in their light and in their dark aspects. The beauty and terror of these places is also the beauty and terror of Hekate. Here, she is prominently Hekate Atalos (the Tender) as well as Thea Deinos (Dread Goddess) and Hekate Brimo (the Terrible).

a crossroad in a wood
MoneyforCoffee / pixabay.com

In ancient Greece, the crossroads – a liminal space because it is where roads meet (it is none of the roads yet it’s part and parcel of each) – were the jurisdiction of Hekate Trioditis (of the Crossroads) or Enodia (of the Three Ways). Crossroads were understood as particularly dangerous places where all manner of seemingly vial and nefarious beings took up residence. These beings were usually the spirits of the restless dead led on their nightly revels by Hekate herself in her Nyktipolos (Night Wandering) aspect. Because Hekate leads and rules these beings, she was often invoked in Greece as Hekate Apotropaia (Averter of Evil) for protection against these nightly terrors. It is common for deities to have the power to bring on or hold at bay those forces under their sway. Ghosts and other restless dead were and are no exception. Hekate can prompt them to induce terror or calm their wrath.

three skeleton keys on a key chain
condesign / pixabay.com

Hekate’s second most prominent domain is transitions; she is nothing if not a goddess of the core processes of life, death, and rebirth. This is not surprising for a goddess of gateways; she is, after all, Hekate Propylaia, the one before the gate. As Hekate Kleidouchos, she is Keeper of the Keys, the keys that lock and unlock that gate. Through the metaphor of unlocking a gate, Hekate facilitates movement, the transition from the liminal space into a more definite space, whether it be from the doorway to the inside of a temple or from a state of indecisiveness to decision or from a state of confusion and fear to understanding and confidence. She bears the torches that light the way to the gate and she keeps the keys that unlock the gate allowing each initiate passage through. We also see Hekate as a goddess of transitions in her role as Kourotrophos, the nurse of the young. She governs the developmental stage from marriage to childbirth and, similarly, the final stages of life where a person passes out of the world of the living and into the world of shades. As Hekate Chthonia (of the Underworld), she greets souls at the gates of the underworld, unlocks them, and ushers souls through to the other side. She is also a companion to Persephone, Queen of the Dead, and she accompanies her yearly as she descends into and ascends out of her underworld abode. This is one of the most powerful and prominent transitions in Greek myth and the core of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The third major domain that I associate Hekate with is transformation. Transformation is a necessary outgrowth of her role as a goddess of liminality and transitions. Change is inevitable. Each transition teaches us its mystery and provoke us to change in dynamic relation to all of the steps that have gone before. Productive transition is a type of transformation. I also associate Hekate with transformation because of her ability to help us ascend out of and descend into our psyche. She can help us delve into our underworld (the unconscious), drag what’s concealed there past the gate (into the subconscious, because she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty), and then hold a glaring light to it (conscious awareness). With the light cast upon it, we can assess it, process it, and then use it in a productive and healthy way toward our becoming. It is as Perseis (the Destroyer) that she aids us in destroying thought and behavior patterns, relationships, and anything else that no longer serves us. It is as Hekate Soteira (the Saving Goddess) that she helps us to create new patterns and relationships that heal us and advance us on our spiritual soul journey. It is also in this capacity that she can link us to other deities, other beings, and other worlds.

To my thinking, these three major domains are the backbone of magic. Liminality, transition, and transformation are the forces that bring things together or tear them apart. They are womb and tomb simultaneously. They are also the means by which we make things happen. The various processes that move our lives along are in continuous motion. Birth, growth, death, and rebirth. Begin, develop, end, and begin again. Due to Hekate’s connection to these transitions, we are always oscillating between the points in a given cycle, hence the liminality and also the transformation (as we inch forward in the cycle). Hekate, in her glory, rules all of this. Any undertaking that requires a link between two or more states, stages, or steps requires her might. She is magic.

a series of lit tea light candles
kyasarin / pixabay.com

This is the awesome Lady that I honored during the Rite of Her Sacred Fires. Last year and this year, I augmented the original ritual that Sorita d’Este created for use in my own observance of the rite. On the website for the rite, Sorita d’Este gives all participants permission to alter the rite for public or private, non-commercial use. I have included my version of the rite below for those who may be interested. Any ritual text or instructions from d’Este’s original ritual are underlined for ease of reference within my version.

Wayfaring Woman’s Version of the Rite of Her Sacred Fires

Triple-formed representation of Hecate in marble; a Roman copy after an original of the Hellenistic period / Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Triple-formed representation of Hecate in marble; a Roman copy after an original of the Hellenistic period / Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Process to the ritual area. Ring bell three times.


Anoint self with consecrated oil, and ground and center. Bring attention to this place and moment, setting aside all else for this time. When ready, gaze at the altar.


Temple Opening


With clear water and purifying herbs, I cast out all unwanted influences.

Pick up the bowl of holy water and asperge the room and self, saying:

Hekas, hekas, este bebeloi!
Begone, begone, that which is profane!

Pause at the altar still holding the used khernips bowl. Carry the now impure bowl of khernips to a designated area away from the altar.

Here I stand, purified.




With pearl-white barley I consecrate the altar.

Pick up the bowl of barley and strew its contents across the altar.

Barley-blessed altar stand firm, joining the Mortal and Immortal Realms!

Pause. Stand in the presence of the barley covered altar for a time.

Here I stand, barley-blessed.




By the power of Hestia, the living flame, I ignite the holy fire and prepare the temple.

Pick up the lighter and light a white votive candle saying:

Fire, burn warm and radiant,
Be made godly for good sacrifice by blessed Hestia,
Whose delicate locks drip with soft oil.

Pause. Allow the glow of the flame to fill the room.

Here I stand, made holy by Hestia’s light.

Pause. Raise an opened bottle of wine.

To Hestia, I pour the first libation, for you own the first and last portion of every offering to the Deathless Gods.

Pour the wine.

Accept my offering. Be well disposed.


Cleansed with khernips, consecrated with barley, and blessed with flame, the temple is open.


Prelude and Purpose

Place both your hands on your heart (three heartbeats), your forefinger and middle finger of your dominant hand to your lips (three heartbeats), and then to your brow (three heartbeats). 

Place incense onto the charcoal.

I am come to this sacred place to honor Hekate, Most Manifest Goddess! She offers many blessings, much wisdom, and great insight to those who seek her mysteries. The magic of liminality, the generative power of transformation, and the measured grace of transitions are hers. Hekate, to you I pray, hear me!

Raise your hands to the sky, palms open. Now bring your right arm to your side, palm facing downwards and invoke the Goddess.



I invoke thee, Great Mistress of the Heaven, Earth and Sea,
By your mysteries of Night and Day,
By the Light of the Moon and the Shadow of the Sun
I invoke thee, Mistress of life, death and rebirth
Emerge now from the shadow realm to feed my soul and enlighten my mind,
Triple-formed Mistress of the three ways
I entreat thee, Key-bearing Mistress of the Nightwandering Souls
To bring forth your wisdom from amongst the stars
To bring down your starfire from the darkness between,
Creatrix of Light!
Goddess of the Shadow Realms! Light-bearing queen!
Whisper now your secrets!

Pour wine into the vessel.


Offerings to Mighty Hekate in Her Many Forms

Fire-bringer! Earthly-one! Queen of Heaven!
Many are your holy names.
I give you glory tonight in your many forms.

Trioditis & Chthonia – Oak (Quercus alba)

Khaire Hekate Trioditis, Lady of Crossroads! Khaire Hekate Chthonia, Lady of Earth!

It is Sophocles, long dead, who whispered of your power in liminal places where three roads meet. By his word, we know that you stand crowned in oak leaves at the crossroad – dread home of wandering spirits cloaked by night. By his word we know that you stand draped in coils of earth-loving serpents.

Hekate Trioditis, Hekate Chthonia, to you I offer oak, the holy tree whose leaves are your crown and whose bark has sympathy with the scales of serpents.

Accept my offering. Be well disposed.

Toss the oak into the vessel.


Propylaia & Kleidouchos – Wild Rue (Peganum harmala)

Khaire Hekate Propylaia, the One Before The Gate! Khaire Hekate Kleidouchos, Keeper of the Key!

With famed Deo and lovely Kore-Persephone, yours is Eleusis, the entrance to the initiatory Mysteries of life, death, and rebirth. Yours too are the gateways to the underworld and to the celestial abode. You keep and ward the gates between the worlds. So too do you hold the keys.

Hekate Propylaia, Hekate Kleidouchos, standing before the gates of my becoming holding the keys, to you I sacrifice wild rue, a potent herb that is both gate and key, known to those who pursue your mysteries.

Accept my offering. Be well disposed.

Toss the wild rue into the vessel!


Phosphorus & Soteira – Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Khaire Hekate Phosphoros, Light Bearer! Khaire Hekate Soteira, Saving One!

Light Bearer, I honor you as the blessed lady illuminating my path betwixt and between with twin torches in hand. Saving Goddess, crowned and enthroned, I celebrate you as the World Soul, holy aid in the mortal quest to know the faces of the gods and spirits.

To Hekate Phosphorus, to Hekate Soteira, I sacrifice mullein, a blessed plant whose dry leaves are torch bright when touched by flame.

Accept my offering. Be well disposed.

Toss the mullein into the vessel!



Ascertain whether the current offerings are acceptable to Hekate. Determine if more must be given and if so what it must be. Do as she asks immediately, making arrangements with her for additional offerings at another time if necessary.


Devotional Candle Lighting

Bright-coiffed Hekate, offerings of incense, wine, and sacred herbs have been gladly given. Bless me, Great Lady that I may thrive as an initiate of your mysteries.

Raise both hands with palms facing upwards to the heavens (three heartbeats) and then touch the altar palms downwards.

Focus. Stand before the red devotional candle for Hekate.

Hekate, companion and guide to the mysteries,
I light this sacred fire in your honor.

Light the fire.

May its light unite the stars and stones, the heavens and the earth!
With this fire I express my desire for a greater understanding of your mysteries.
Askei Kataskei Erōn Oreōn Iōr Mega Samnyēr Baui (3 times) Phobantia Semnē,
Great Hekate, who spins the web of the stars and governs the spiral of life
Guide me through towards pathways of understanding.
From Crossroad to Crossroad,
The Torchbearers and the Keybearers of your mysteries,
Will always find one another.


Lifting the Cup

Fill the chalice with wine. Hold the filled cup aloft.

Hekate I feel you with me tonight, and I celebrate my connection to your other devotees through you. Bless this cup Great Titan and Queen. Infuse the contents with knowledge of you, understanding of the Mysteries, and no small measure of your grace.

Drink from the cup.

I have lit the sacred fires of devotion.
I have drank the cup of your might.
Hail Hekate! Hail Hekate! Hail Hekate!
I banish now the shadows of doubt from my mind,
Infused by the silence and warmth of our union
I feel your golden radiance within my heart,
And the glory of knowledge on my brow,
I am a devotee of your mysteries.


Farewell and Closing

Pick up the bottle of wine and hold it aloft.

Trioditis, Lady at the Crossroads!
Chthonia, Lady of Earth!
I thank you!

Pour a libation of wine.

Propylaia, the One Before The Gate!
Kleidouchos, the Keeper of the Keys!
I thank you!

Pour a libation of wine.

Phosphorus, Light Bearer!
Soteira, Saving One!
I thank you!

Pour a libation of wine.

Mighty Hekate, I thank you for hearing my call.
I thank you for drawing me closer to you on this holy night.

Pause, then raise the bottle of wine again.

To Hestia, I pour the final libation, for you own the first and last portion of every offering to the Deathless Gods.

Pour the wine, then set the bottle of wine down. Pause for a moment.


Temple Closing

Place both hands on your heart (three heartbeats), your forefinger and middle finger of your dominant hand to your lips (three heartbeats), and then to your brow (three heartbeats).

Open your palms reaching towards the heaven, then reach down and touch the altar saying:

This rite is ended and the temple is closed, but her sacred fires endure. Long may Hekate’s fires burn!

 Let the devotional flame to Hekate burn until it expires.

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