Hekate’s Symbols: Wheel – History, Meaning and Uses

Hekate’s Symbols: Wheel – History, Meaning and Uses January 18, 2018

The strophalos, or Hekate’s Wheel, is one of the most powerful symbols available for honoring Hekate and practicing witchcraft.  In this article, I describe the uses of the strophalos, how to make different kinds, and give suggestions for creating ritual space by casting the strophalos.

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The strophalos, also known as Hekate’s Wheel, is a central symbol of Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. The uses of the strophalos in devotion to Hekate and witchcraft are numerous. For example, this new Modern Hekatean Witchcraft Wheel of the Year was created based on this iconic symbol:

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There are other ways to incorporate the strophalos into witchcraft. My two favorite ways are by making stropholoi as an energetic focal point (like an altar) or by using the strophalos to create sacred space for witchcraft and devotion because of it’s intense symbolic energy. We can look to the origins of the strophalos for an explanation of why it is so powerful.

The Origin of the Strophalos

The connection of the strophalos to Hekate is often viewed as stemming from a passage in The Chaldean Oracles. Briefly, the strophalos is seen as containing the serpent of life. I discussed Hekate’s serpentine aspects in this article. In antiquity, strophaloi were spinning tools used in rituals or spells. A bit like an ancient magickal fidget spinner.  There are many different theories as to its origin story and how it was used in ancient times. If you’re interested in learning more about the ancient strophalos origins and applications, you can read this.

The Meaning of the Strophalos

Today, the strophalos is seen as symbolic of Hekate Triformis, Hekate of Three Forms. This view is at least partically historic. For example, in some cults she was viewed as part of a group of three goddesses of the moon. Then there’s the contemporary interpretation of Hekate as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. By examining the parts of the strophalos, we can go deeper into it’s meaning.

Parts of the Strophalos

The complex meaning of the strophalos is revealed by looking at its components. The strophalos consists of an outer circle. I like to think of this great circle as Hekate as The Cosmic World Soul, the very heart of the universe. Immediately inside this circle is the labyrinthine design of the serpent that is the life force of all things. It also can signify birth and rebirth. After the snake, there is another circle. This circle represents our sovereignty. We are connected to the life force and to Hekate, but are also individuals.

Encapsulated within this circle is a six-pointed figure with another circle at its center. To me, this represents the divine within us. This six-pointed figure can be interpreted in at least three different ways: a star, a sun, or even a flower. The flower interpretation comes from The Chaldean Oracles reference to Hekate as the fiery rose (flower) of creation. The star can be seen as symbolic of Hekate of the Underworld with the starlight representing Her torches and the night sky as dark energy. The sun is the opposite energy current, with Hekate as Soteira, Queen of the Heavens being represented.

The Power of Three

Thus, the six-pointed figure is also a tripartite representation of Hekate. The strophalos contains three circles. The snake is in three coils. Given that this yields three groups of three, it’s no wonder the strophalos is viewed as such a powerful symbol of witchcraft.

Use of the Strophalos

The strophalos today is often seen as an image of devotion to Hekate and a symbol of witchcraft. Many devotees have a strophalos displayed as part of altars and shrines. Images are often seen as personal declarations of devotion and witchery. Some people have strophaloi tattoos, for example. I have a specially commissioned strophalos mug for my Heka-tea (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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Using the Strophalos as a Sacred Symbol

With it’s three circles, three coils, and threefold meaning of the central figure, the strophalos provides endless possibilities for expressing devotion and practicing witchery. You could use it as a tribute to Hekate Triformis or you could pick three epithets of Hekate that are relevant for your current devotional focus or witchcraft approach. I’ve used each of the different coils to represent things I am grateful for, and to represent different aspects of my life for which I am seeking Hekate’s help, petitioning Hekate using the threefold meaning of the central figure. You can assign components of a spell onto the different parts of the strophalos, infusing them as you do with your intention and petitioning Hekate to bless each bit.

Example of Using the Strophalos in a Spell

For example, if you wanted to get a new job, you could start by pinpointing three specific things that you need to do to get a new position, then you could indicate the three core requirements you need in a new job, and finally you could add the three forces that have to come together in order for this job to be manifested. You could use the circles for the latter, the central figure for the requirements, and the coils for your necessary actions. I like using the coils for actions because, to me, they are not only symbolic of serpentine energy and rebirth, but of movement – like a tightly wound coil ready to spring into action.

The Strophalos as a Source of Energy

In addition to the powerful symbolic energy of the strophalos that I’ve already written about, there is also the motion of the wheel to consider. As a spinning object, it can be used to send out energy (clockwise) or to attract energy (counterclockwise). Envisioning this spinning energy as creating waves that not only go out horizontally but also in every other possible direction led me to the idea that the strophalos would be a fantastic way to create a sacred space. Before I discuss how to cast the strophalos, let’s go over the process of making one.

Making a Strophalos

Knowing how to make a physical strophalos is a good way to understand how to cast the strophalos using energy.  In addition, I often make a strophalos as part of creating sacred space prior to casting it. I also make them as symbols for altars. Making one prior to casting, helps me to focus my attention, plus having a strophalos to look at it is very helpful when creating one using energy. It’s not necessary to make your own strophalos for casting one, though. Having an image of a strophalos nearby is most helpful. I highly recommend making your own, but you can use an existing image. Feel free to use one of mine if you like.

You can make a stropholos to use as a symbolic representation of Hekate and Her energies, as a magickal coin on its own or in a talisman, or even create a giant one as a sacred space. I’m going to go over the process for making a good size one as a representation, but if you want to make a small one to wear or for use as a magickal coin, you can follow the same steps. If you’re doing this, there are lots of great different types of hardening compounds out there to use, like Sculpy. If you’re not sure not to use these products, check out the multitude of YouTube videos. You can also paint one on a rock, shell or other small surface.

Strophalos Making: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are so many ways to create a strophalos. I’m going to focus on using a template to create one and doing one freestyle using an appropriate substance, in this case I use salt.

Using a Template

I have a template that I created using circular objects, a ruler, and a protractor. Using graph paper would make it even easier. Once I made this original, I then traced over it using parchment paper. With the strophalos on parchment, I can trace it again onto just about any surface. I have used a very sharp craft knife (my version of a magickal blade) to cut out of the shape of the strophalos after I’ve traced it onto the parchment. Another way to transfer the image onto another surface is by using a semi-blunt pointy thing to copy over the parchment template. This will leave an impression on the surface the strophalos is being transferred onto. Since the Wheel of the Year is on glass, the strophalos template was just taped on one side and then traced right onto the glass.

You don’t even have to go to the trouble of making a template – simply print one that’s black and then trace around it using parchment paper or other really thin paper. Once you’ve got that template, you can transfer it onto lots of things like making your own Wheel of the Year or as a focal point for casting the strophalos. Don’t be timid of marking it up with words or symbols representative of the way that you’ll be using your strophalos. Magick always works best when it’s highly personal. Also, I like to think that Hekate is particularly pleased by offerings of devotion that we make ourselves.

Using a plain strophalos template to create the beginnings of the Wheel of the Year.
Using a plain strophalos template to create the beginnings of the Wheel of the Year.

Freestyle Strophalos Instructions

Making a “freestyle” strophalos is quite easy once you wrap your head around the design. I’m going to use pictures to go over the steps. I made this strophalos, measuring about 18 x 18 inches, using about three pounds of coarse salt. Do I need to say that these things should be consecrated? You know that. You can adapt these instructions to drawing one free hand or even making one out of string or stones. If you’re going to be using this strophalos as part of your cast strophalos, it’s a good idea to put it on some sort of material that makes it easier to clean up after.

If you make a salt strophalos like I did, make sure you put a cloth underneath it if you want to re-use the salt or carry a bit of it with you. Hopefully, I’ll do so in a way that makes sense!

Step 1: Create the Space

Spread out your cloth and arrange the salt in a circle. Have an image of a strophalos nearby for consulting.

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Step 2: Make the Three Circles

I did this freehand, but you can use a ruler to be more precise. Your inner circle should be about 1/3 the diameter of the outer, and then the circle of the central figure should be very small. If you don’t have existing circles to use, well, I guess you’ll have to use a ruler, protractor, and compass and do some math!

Outer circle

middle circle

inner circle

Step 3: Make the Central Figure

I used the end of a slender paintbrush to do this, if your stropholas is smaller, you can use a toothpick. Radiating out from the center circle, draw three straight lines so that six “rays” are formed:

central figure

Making the Serpent

Think of the serpent as six lines, arcs really, that are drawn – three each – around the middle circle and inside the outer circle. Try to think of it this way when you’re drawing it rather than thinking about each coil. It’s much easier to conceptualize this way. Three arcs go around the central circle and three just inside the outer circle. There is a gap between each arc that’s about 1/3 of the length of each arc. You can measure this all out if you want. Start by drawing three arcs just inside the outer circle:

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Next, find the midpoint of one of the first series of arcs. Extend this down to just outside the central circle. Eyeball it and you won’t have to erase lines! Use this as your starting point for the first arc outside of the central circle. Extend this arc to the midpoint of the next outer arc. Leave a gap and repeat this process for two more arcs:

Almost done

You can see the three arcs around the central circle in the above image. You end up with three arcs just inside the outer circle and three arcs just outside the central circle. The gap between each arc in each set is about the midpoint of an arc in the other set. I hope this makes sense! I’ve also started to complete the coils in the picture above by joining the inner arcs to the outer arcs at their ends (on the left).

Completing the Strophalos

Finish connecting the inner arcs to the outer ones by linking the end points of the lines to the adjacent ones (shown in the above image). The serpent is made up of two sets of three arcs and six connectors. More sets of threes! Here is the completed strophalos:

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Casting the Strophalos

Now that we’ve worked through making a strophalos, it should be a great deal easier to visualize one as an energetic creation, whether you actually created one or just read through my steps.  If you are so inclined, you can draw an actual strophalos for you to stand within. You can do this with salt, sand, or even pebbles using the steps outlined above in combination with the ritual instructions below. An alternative is to do it outside in the sand, dirt, or snow:

 

This is one under construction.
This is one under construction.

Casting Preparations

The next step, if you haven’t done so already, is to determine how you will use the strophalos you made in your ritual or spell. If you aren’t using a made strophalos, or even if you are, you can label the energetic strophalos you’ll be creating with epithets, intentions, or specific words once it is established. That’s up to you. I provide a suggested text for casting the strophalos below. Write your devotional, ritual or spell using the suggestions I wrote above or make up your own ways to use it.

You should do your usual ritual preparations to purify yourself. Prepare offerings, tools, and magikal ingredients. If you like, you can have images of Hekate on hand, too. You can also use colors to represent each coil of the strophalos, especially black, red, and white. Gold is another great color to include as Hekate has several epithets associated with this color. I like to put candles in each of the six rays of the central figure around me whether or not I am actually making a physical giant strophalos:

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Casting the Strophalos

If you are making a big strophalos like the one I made in the snow, it’s probably best to do that in advance of casting it. I can get confused with those arcs that make the coils into the serpent!

The Central Figure

When you are ready, begin by visualizing yourself standing (or actually stand on it) on the central figure of the strophalos. This is the center of the universe and the center of yourself. You are the sun/star/fiery flower. This represents the divine (Hekatean if you like) energy inside of each of us. Standing in this spot takes you to a liminal place where human meets divine and the three worlds connect.

Breathe in and out slowly until you feel relaxed. Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground, your crown reaching up to the heavens and your body merging the two, full of energy and intention. I typically say The Prayer of Devotion and Petition to Hekate before I go any further. You are the very center of this figure. The six rays emanating from this circle are extensions of your emotions, intellect and actions.
Once you are feeling ready, begin by saying something like:
Hail Hekate,
I call upon the energy of your great wheel
To sanctify this space.
Hekate Sotiera, Savior.
Hail Hekate, Pammetor,
Mother of All.
Hail Hekate Chthonia,
Queen of the Underworld.
I cast this strophalos to honor You,
Bless this sacred space
With your mighty presence.
Make available to me
Your energy for this rite. (Only say this bit if you are doing a spell.)

The Inner Circle

As you stand on the central figure, draw a circle around your this space. This circle represents your sovereignty within the energy of all things. Now you are connected to Hekate and all things, but still your own person. Say something like:

Hail Hekate,
I am your sovereign child,
Free to do as I will,
But seeking your presence
And guidance.

Creating the Serpent

Next, it’s time to create the serpent. This serpent is the symbol of all life. It is a representation of Hekate as The Cosmic World Soul. As such, you are going to call upon each of Her major energy currents – underworld, upper world, and middle world. You can also think of these currents as sea (black), sky (white), and land (red).

Each coil is going to represent one of these realms. When unified, the snake will hold energy of all things. The black coil is for the underworld, land of emotions. The white coil is for the upper world, realm of the intellect. The red coil unites them both in the middle world, the land of actions. You will remain sovereign because of the circle around you.

You’re going to make each of the three coils just outside of your sovereign circle. The “tops” of each segment of the coils will remain open until you close them. We’ll get to that part. First, let’s go over creating each coil.

Casting the Black Coil

Through your feet, pull up the energy of the underworld to cast the black coil of the serpent. Taking three fingers of your left hand scoop up that energy and draw a black coil starting at the middle of your back towards the center of your torso, saying something like:

I call Hekate Chthonia,
And upon the energy of the Underworld,
The depths of the seas,
The world of emotion,
May mine be virtuous,
And this space holy.

Casting the White Coil

Use three fingers from your right hand to create a coil on your right side, extending from the middle of your back towards the middle of your torso. Say something like:

I call upon Hekate Soteira,
And the energy of the Upper world,
The skies above,
The world of intellect,
May I be wise.
And this space holy.

Casting the Red Coil

Take three fingers from each hand and touch them to your heart centre. Extend the third coil (red) out from your heart, directly in front of you.

I call upon Hekate Pammetor
And the energy of the Middle world,
And the land of everyday existence,
The world of actions,
May mine be true
And this space holy.

Unifying the Serpent

Hold your hands high and close the tops of the coils together, so that the energy from each coil merges into the other two. Spin as you do this, creating an active energy force. Feel the energy of the snake going through you, connecting you to Hekate. Say something like:

Hail Hekate Draikana,
The Great Serpent that is all of life,
Welcome to this holy place.

Casting the Outer Circle

Now cast the outer circle, that which represents Hekate as The Cosmic World Soul:

Blessed Hekate, She Above All,
Close this sacred strophalos,
Be here with me.
Hear my words.

The Strophalos is Cast

Now, the strophalos is fully cast. Envision it spinning if it doesn’t make you dizzy! Take some time to acknowledge Hekate by saying something like:

Hail Hekate,
Accept my gratitude
For Your presence.

Now get into your specific ritual.

Opening the Stropholos

When you finish with the ritual, open your space.

Opening the Outer Circle

start by asking Hekate to open the outer circle:

Blessed Hekate,
Thank you for your presence,
Open this circle.

Opening the Serpent

Next release each of the coils of the serpent, starting with the middle world:

Hekate Pammetor,
Thank Your for Your presence,
I release the red coil of the middle world.

Take the three fingers of each hand and sweep the coil away.

Hekate Soteira,
Thank You for Your presence,

I release the white coil of the heavens.

Take the three fingers of your right hand and sweep the coil away.

Hekate Chthonia,
Thank You for Your presence,
I release the black coil of the underworld.

Take the three fingers of your left hand and sweep the coil away.

Releasing Yourself

Envision the circle around you being absorbed back into your body. Now bring your hands together and point down with three fingers on each hand extended:

I release myself from this sacred space,
My emotions are virtuous.

Now bring your hands in the same position to pointing up above your head:

I release myself from this sacred space,
My intellect is wise.

Now bring your hands in the same position to your heart center:

I release myself from this sacred space,
My actions are true.

Envision your bodily energy that you connected to each ray of the central figure returning into you,

The strophalos is open. You can finish up by saying whatever you feel led to.

Final Thoughts

In Modern Hekatean Witchcraft, the emphasis is on doing what makes sense to you. I’ve offered up my interpretation of the strophalos and how to cast one to create sacred space to use as you feel led to. You can use it as is or change it to suit your needs. I’ll close by saying that the strophalos is a powerful symbol, creating your own and casting one as sacred space are incredible tools for manifestation and transformation.


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