Hekate Liminal Rites: A study of the rituals, magic and symbols of the torch-bearing Triple-Goddess of the Crossroads,
– by Sorita d’Este & David Rankine.
Honoured by men, women and gods alike, traces of her ancient provenance reach back through the millennia providing clues about her nature and origins along the way. Depictions of her as three formed facing in three ways, sometimes with the heads of animals such as the horse, dog and snake hint at her liminal nature, as well as the powers she holds over the triple realms of earth, sea and sky. The sorcery of Medea and Circe, the witchcraft of the women of Thessaly, the writings of philosophers such as Hesiod and Porphyry all provide glimpses into the world of those who honoured her. Her magical powers were considered so great that even King Solomon became associated with her, she was incorporated into Jewish magic, and merged with other goddesses including Artemis, Selene, Bendis and the Egyptian Isis. Whilst for some she was the Witch Goddess, for others she was the ruler of angels and daimons, who made predictions about Jesus and Christianity. Wherever you look, be it in the texts of Ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantium or the Renaissance, the Greek Magical Papyri or the Chaldean Oracles, you will find Hekate.
This book is extremely well sourced. Sorita and David really did their research in this, reading even texts that, by their titles, don’t suggest they would hold information about Hekate, and yet they do. Personally, I wouldn’t want to try reading all of those texts, trying to find snippets and vague mentions and fuzzy connections. Kudos to them for having the patience to do so.
Liminal Rites is about what it says it’s about – the history of Hekates connections with magic, her symbols and rituals. There is a lot of information to take in – I will probably need to read it a few times to really get most of it to stick. What made it a little difficult to keep track of all the information, for me, is that the work is about a history that spans over a thousand years – and yet it doesn’t seek to be even remotely chronological.
It’s not really set up to be chronological, it’s set up to go by subject. But within those subjects, a little bit more attention to the order of the timeline would have been a little helpful. It would have helped with understanding how, or when, certain changes occurred in who and what Hekate is.One minute she has vegetarian devotees, next minute all the animals are sacrificed to her – even lizards are mushed up to make incense! When did this change occur? The book does talk about the change, but it doesn’t really discuss the how or when. But then again, perhaps it can’t. Not all information is available to us now, so it might be impossible to know. Still, a bit more chronology would have been helpful in such areas.
That’s really my only issue with the book. And even in that… Lizards are crushed up to make incense! Now there is some interesting knowledge for you. And that’s not all the book contains in interesting knowledge. Obviously a large amount of it is well known, especially to Hellenics and Hekate Devotees. But some of that information just isn’t something you find readily available.
Is the information in the book really all that helpful to actually being a Devotee of Hekate though? Yes and no. Some of it certainly is – symbols and why those symbols matter may make you reconsider your usage or non-usage of certain things. Information, more snippets really, of old rituals and spells and ingredients used therein are also of course helpful. Sometimes.
It’s impossible though in other areas. We don’t even know what that cake/bread like food was, so how can we use it now in our offerings? We can’t. We can know that breads and cakes may be acceptable, but we don’t know exactly which ones. Which is okay really, we can’t have all the information handed to us – some things we just need to figure out ourselves.
A good and useful book. About as fun to read as any reference book is, not very, but that’s expected and doesn’t detract from the usefulness of the book. It’s not perfect, but it’s rare to find something that is. Could be better in some ways, but honestly, they must have put a lot of work into this book – so I can’t really fault them on not catering to my own personal desires.
If you are a Devotee of Hekate, or work with Hekate at times, or just want to learn about her – then this book is a must read. Simple as that.