The winter solstice offers the opportunity to honor Hekate as Queen of the Underworld, Middle World and the Upper World. As Persephone’s guide, Hekate led her between the underworld and middle world, facilitating the creation of the seasons. As heavenly Hekate Soteira, She represents the brilliant light that will soon return. The winter solstice is the time to honor Hekate as we are delivered from darkness.
For more about Hekate and the Winter Solstice, you can read this new story.
For me, the winter solstice has been a difficult time for the past three years. Actually, it’s been a challenging time for a long while, but three years ago my attendance at a local sunrise ritual led to one of the most painful experiences of my life. That fateful day marked the beginning of the most daunting underworld journey that I’ve had. Looking back, I hardly recognize the person I was then. Although I wouldn’t ever say that it was a welcome part of this life, I do firmly believe that I am a much better person than I was three years ago.
My Personal Underworld
I was broken. My shadow self was completely in control of my life. I had been bouncing from one bad decision to another. Then I met the devil, danced with him, and emerged stronger, wiser and happier. My version of Hades arrived uninvited and it took everything I had to get rid of him. My Hades was the end of the line for the life I had been living. I hit rock bottom, spent time there, and got myself going again. Wasn’t easy.
The one thing that kept me going was this unconquerable spark deep inside of me – hope. There was a time when I found myself driving down the road home crying and screaming, “Fuck hope!” at the top of my lungs. That was before I met my devil, but after the breakdown of yet another relationship. I was done with being optimistic. I was exceptionally pissed off at that little light inside of me that refused to be extinguished. Nothing ever worked out for me the way I wanted. My life was in chaos. Then Hades came calling. I ate every one of his damn pomegranate seeds. Then I had to pay the price.
In the ancient Greek tale, Persephone (daughter of Demeter) ends up being promised to Hades by Zeus. A lot goes down. Eventually, there’s a deal made where she can escape. However, sneaky Hades slips some pomegranate seeds into her mouth. The cost of eating the seeds was that she had to spend part of her life in the underworld as his lover. Hekate was her guide between the middle world and the underworld. Persephone’s cyclical trips gave us the seasons. Here’s a depiction with Hermes the winged messenger that came to help our girl with Our Lady leading the way out. You can read more about the whole mess here.
Persephone & Me
I’ve been a huge fan of Persephone since I discovered her story in an old book in the back of my high school English classroom. As a teen who felt unloved and out of place, I really related to her. She had to do her time in the underworld, but she never gave up. Well, actually there is that part of the story where she was crying in a cave and only Hekate heard her. But, I like to think she held onto that same spark that I’ve always had. If she had truly given up, then she could have done herself in, right? But she didn’t. She had hope. She knew she would be delivered out of darkness. Some part of me always believed that, too. It kept me going.
Hekate and the Winter Solstice
While Hekate isn’t directly associated with the winter solstice, the tale of Persephone offers us a powerful connection between the seasons and Our Lady. The winter solstice was not a huge thing in the areas associated with historical worship of Hekate. However, we can use the Persephone story as a framework for building our Modern Hekatean Witchcraft seasonal rituals.
The Hekate that guided our girl was free to walk amongst the worlds, as Torchbearer and Queen of the Underworld. I recently discussed the idea that Hekate as Soteira can also be part of winter solstice celebrations. In this form she is Our Savior, much like she was to Persephone. Hekate Soteira reflects the energy of the upper world. In Her heavenly form, Hekate is the powerful Cosmic World Soul whose energy infuses all of creation. Part of that energy is the current of hope, that spark that fuels all things. The same spark that kept me going at my worst.
The Spark of Hope
After I hit the bottom of my own cave, I clung to that spark. Like Persephone, I cried out and Hekate came to my side. Not to rescue me, but to shine a light on the way out. I had to choose to make the journey. I had to have hope that I would be delivered from darkness. That there was a light somewhere.
Tonight, as I’m typing sitting in my newly purchased home, I am moved to tears by how blessed I am. I am happy and hopeful.
I’ve worked diligently to leave behind the pain of my underworld journey. I seized hold of my spark and let it fuel my drive to live I life I love. I went for therapy, I left my career, I gave up dating, I got my financial shit together, and I got serious about devotion to Hekate.
The Approaching Solstice
But there was this thing of the approaching winter solstice and my lack of excitement about it. Then yesterday we went into the city for our monthly trip to Costco, and I thought I saw him (you know, him). A wave of panic washed over me. I swear I could taste pomegranate seeds. My youngest son was excited when he saw the pomegranates because they are one of his favorite holiday treats. I can’t eat them because they give me terrible sores in my mouth and throat. I looked at the pomegranates in the cart while I was catching my breath. Immediately, I knew what I was going to do for my personal solstice ritual.Before I get into that, I just want to veer off into the past few weeks. It’s been like the long goodbye to my former self. That woman who didn’t really know who she was, who had so much pain, who was comfortable in the personal underworld. I bought this house, a huge step forward. I also had a powerful experience while meditating. My two beloved spirit guides, Uncle Lucky and Millie (someday I’ll write about them) appeared in my spiritual cave to say goodbye. Hekate as Soteira was standing outside the cave waiting for me to come forward. There was a long tunnel for me to walk through, but I turned away from my guides and the cave towards the light. This was a spontaneous and unintentional experience. I had been hoping for a nap.
I’ve been unsure about how to walk through this tunnel towards the light. When I glanced at those pomegranates in the cart, I knew how to mark this part of my journey. The seeds of pain that had bound me to the underworld could be released once and for all. A symbolic way to mark my deliverance from darkness.
Winter Solstice Ritual Preparations
This morning, I got the seeds ready. Then I rummaged through a bunch of things trying to find something to throw away as a symbol for fully ending that painful journey. I found a key for our old house. Perfect! Then I wanted something to represent the light up ahead, as well as Hekate Soteira. Is there anything as multipurpose in witchery than white tea lights? I added some dried branches from my beloved wild roses so I could have little fire.
I headed up the shore, as we say in Prospect. It’s actually the breathtakingly beautiful High Head Trail. It was a bit windier than usual, but I love the strong currents whipping me around. I set out along the cliffs towards my Hekate Rock. It’s the one place I always find Her, or at the very least Her energy.
A Pilgrimage out of Darkness
I love the isolation of the trail on a winter’s day. The ever increasing number of tourists have vanished to warmer and safer places. While I was making my way towards the rock, I recited things that I have done in the past three years that I am proud of in random order. Things like “I got my financial shit together,” “I’ve stopped starving myself in order to be thin,” “I’m learning self-compassion,” and “I’m more patient with the boys.” In between sets of doing this, I chanted various epithets of Hekate as they came to mind, including Chthonia (literally of the Earth or Underworld), Soteira (Savior), Phosphoros (Light Bringer), and Einalia (Queen of the Sea). I threw in several rounds of the Eleusinian letters and the Orphic Hymn for good measure. It became a pilgrimage out of darkness.
Once I arrived on the rock – it’s juts up about two hundred feet about sea level at its highest (hence the name High Head) – I let the wind blow me clean. Then I found a spot in the cliffs where I could set up. I did manage to get a tiny fire going. There was enough smoke to make me cough, so it was sufficient for a good cleansing! Let me tell you, that was an accomplishment because the sustained winds up there were at least 50 mph.
A Simple Winter Solstice Ritual
I chose the spot because it was dark but there was light all around it to symbolize the end of my time in the underworld. The pomegranate seeds were offered to Hekate and I asked that She take them back to the underworld where they can be reborn into something beautiful. Next, I took some time to say goodbye to the past, including Uncle Lucky and Millie.
Then I lit the little candle while making a commitment to choose hope and walk towards the light. Afterwards, I asked Hekate to be my guide forward. I unblocked the candle and it immediately went out, as did my little fire. Finally, I took the key out of the ritual space and said goodbye to the past. While I was doing the ritual, I kept feeling that someone was nearby. I knew there was no humans or animals anywhere near me.
As I was walking towards the cliffs preparing to release my key, I saw it again. The next thing I knew, my other spirit guide showed up in my mind’s eye, saying goodbye to me. I threw the key down into the cliffs. I was overcome with the weirdest sensation. It took me a bit to realize that the tiny spark of hope had grown into the emotions of love, joy, and peace.
My Wish for You
My wish for all of you is that you get to feel like I do. That you are delivered out of darkness. I hope you experience love, joy, and peace. May Hekate guide you towards the light.
Winter Solstice Prayer to Hekate
Hail Hekate Chthonia,
Queen of the Underworld,
Who heard Persephone when no one else did.
Hail Hekate Propolos,
Queen of the Middle World,
Who guided her back to the middle world
Creating the seasons.
Hail Hekate Soteira,
Queen of the Upper World,
Return to me as the wheel of the year turns.
I honor you on the winter solstice,
As you guided Persephone,
Deliver me from darkness.