Using Hekate’s Many Epithets

Using Hekate’s Many Epithets January 12, 2018

Hekate’s many epithets are rich sources for devotion, witchery and personal development work. In this article, I discuss some of the origins of the epithets, select a few for a more detailed description, and then make suggestions for using them. Lists of epithets are provided. 

In my books and courses on Modern Hekatean Witchcraft, I teach many techniques for petitioning and invoking the power of Hekate’s many epithets. Below is a sample of different ways you, too, can experience their power and Hekate’s presence.

Note that the epithets themselves reflect specific energies on their own, they can be evoked as pure energies and spirits without petitioning for Hekate’s direct involvement. There’s a distinction between evoking Hekate as a goddess and using her currents. Hekate is the Anima Mundi, the primal source that runs throughout all creation. How we perceive her is a complex blend of how we understand this force and our own experience with it.

Seeking Hekate And The Deeper World

A Witch’s Understanding of Hekate

Some of Hekate's numerous epithets.

Some of Hekate’s numerous epithets arranged with correspondences attuned to their energy in this altar.

Overview of Epithets

Hekate, perhaps more so than most deities, has a rich list of various characteristics available for use in worship, witchery and for working on personal development. These epithets refer to physical characteristics (Kalliste/Fairest), personal attributes (All Nurturing/Pantrophos), locations (Enodia/Of The Way), behaviors (Kleidoukhos/Keeper of the Keys), or emotions (Brimo/Fierce). In addition an epithet can associate Hekate with a number (Triformis/Three), an animal (Pyridrakontozonos/Girt with Fiery Serpents) or even a color (Chrysopis/Golden-faced). Finally, epithets can be used to describe Hekate, such as Savior, Queen, Mother of All, and Cosmic World Soul.

Like I recently wrote one of the points of witchcraft is being able to apply knowledge in practical ways. Applying the epithets in devotion, witchery and personal development can be a powerful and transformative experience.

Experience the power of the epithets: download the Hekatean Fear and Love Ritual from Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft. 

A list of many of the epithets in The PGM with my modern interpretations.

What’s in a Name?

An epithet describes a characteristic of a deity, in this case Hekate. Common epithets associated with Hekate inlude Keeper of the Keys (Kleidoukhos), Guardian of the Crossroads (Enodia, of the way), and Savior (Soteria).  Hekate is often referred to as Queen of the Underworld, a title based on the many epithets given to Her that are associated with the realm (e.g., Chthonia).

Learn more about Hekate’s Fiery Epithets.

Chanting the epithets is an amazing method for attuning with and invoking their power.

One way to connect with the power of the Hekatean epithets is by attuning specific ones to each of The Sacred Seven Forces.

Queen of the Witches: Regina Maleficarum

The origins of her title as Queen of the Witches is tricky to pinpoint, but She was certainly viewed by some in the ancient world as The Goddess of Witchcraft, Darkness, and Ghosts. There is evidence of what could be labelled witch cults devoted to Hekate during antiquity, and She was definitely associated with magic in the ancient world. For example, Hekate was the source of Medea the Witches powers. During Roman times, Hekate was often seen as part of a triad of moon goddesses. However, our modern understanding is heavily influenced by the Diana/Hecate (latin spelling) cults that grew during the eighteenth-twentieth centuries.  Shakespeare in Macbeth solidifies Hekate as Goddess of the Witches:

“Witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings.” – MacBeth, Act 2, Scene 1

Art during the Middle Ages until the Twentieth Century reinforced dark interpretations of Hekate:

 

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hekate.jpg

The image of Hekate as a Dark Goddess persisted well into the 20th century until scholars such as Sarah Illes Johnson and Sorita D’Este started writing about Her broad assortment of ancient epithets, notably Hekate Soteira and as Guardian of the Crossroads. Another characterization of Hekate that emerged during the 20th century is as “Maiden, Mother, Crone.” This interpretation of Her as a three-formed goddess representing the three stages of womanhood arose as part of the the pagan movement and is largely separate from devotees who see Her as Soteira.

Sources of Epithets

As outlined above, there are three categories of epithet sources: 1. ancient texts and other records, 2. common era records (texts and art),  and 3. modern characteristics. Devotees of Hekate most often use the epithets found in ancient texts and other records from antiquity.

Reciting this petition as part of your daily practice will deepen connection to the epithets invoked.

Hekate’s Nine Keys Ritual

Ancient Texts and Other Records

There are over two hundred epithets from antiquity associated with Hekate. In these ancient citations, the epithets are used to describe an aspect of Hekate that the author wishes to invoke, such as Hekate Pammetor (Mother of All) or describe, Hekate Soteira (Savior) is one example.

There are lists compiled by scholars that detail all the various titles and their ancient meaning. This provides a rich source of information for use in Modern Hekatean Witchcraft or for anyone wishing to explore the mysteries of Hekate.

The ancient epithets, and their sources, should not be taken as dogma. You have to keep in mind that these are modern interpretations of ancient writings. There are lots of layers of personal gnosis involved.

Invoking the energies of the epithets during a Commitment Ritual as a Hekatean Witch is a powerful personal declaration.

The ancient epithets can seem to be contradictory – Hekate is benevolent in one instance, then She is the Flesh Eater in another. This is because the ancients would ascribe whatever characteristic of a deity was necessary to get the job done, whether a spell, prayer or story.

The major source of ancient knowledge of Hekate’s epithets are The Greek Magical Papyri  (PGM).  The Chaldean Oracles and The Orphic Hymn to Hekate are additional significant sources. Then there are The Eleusinian Mysteries, various other hymns, defixiones (curse tablets), fragments, and other objects (such as coins).

The Greek Magical Papyri

The Greek Magical Papyri  is a collection of ancient rituals, prayers and spells from Graeco-Roman Egypt, between the second century BC to the fifth century of the common era. There are multiple sources and authors.

Many of the spells in the PGM invoke Hekate in one of her underworld aspects, such as Drakaina (Of Dragons), Kardiodaitos (Eater of Men’s Hearts), and Nekyia (Mistress of Corpses). One of my favorites focuses on calling upon Hekate Nekyia, drowning a cat and then summoning it’s daimon (spirit) to do the caster’s dirty work:

Petitioning Hekate to direct a spirit to do our witchery is an ancient and mighty technique. Of course, we need not sacrifice an animal to evoke it’s spirit for our working. Read more about Hekate’s Animals.

Hekate’s Horde of Spirits can also be evoked through petitioning her. Using epithets that match the energy of our working will ensure the spirits sent to us will be appropriate.

Hekate’s Horde: Spirits, Restless Dead, and Witchcraft

The PGM also contain many epithets that reflect Hekate in more compassionate roles, including multiple names that invoke Her as Mother of All (e.g., Geneteira, Pammetor). Then there are less familiar aspects of Hekate, including Erototokos (Producing Love), Kalliste (Fairest), and Nyssa (Beginnings).

The Chaldean Oracles

In contrast, The Chaldean Oracles are a group of fragments from an ancient poem dating to the second century CE. The Hekate presented in these fragments is that of the Cosmic World Soul, Savior, and even the Fiery Rose of Creation:

“…from there, a lightning-bolt, sweeping along, obscures the rose (flower) of fire as it leaps into the hollows of the worlds. For from there, all things begin to extend wonderful rays down below.” (Fragment 34)

More on Chaldean Hekate. 

The Orphic Hymn to Hekate

The Orphic Hymn to Hekate is another important source of epithets (Thomas Taylor translation):

Other Ancient Sources

Another source of ancient knowledge about the many names of Hekate comes from The Eleusinian Mysteries, where the tale of Persephone is documented. Hekate as Persephone’s guide is a central part of devotion to Hekate for many devotees. Many epithets are drawn from The Eleusinian Mysteries, as well as from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter:

Background from an image of an ancient amphora. Text from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Infographic created by me.

When studying the ancient epithets, I always try to keep in mind that I am reading an interpretation of someone’s gnosis about Hekate. However, the epithets are very beneficial in helping me to connect to Hekate.

Using Hekate’s Epithets

I wrote above about some of the commonly used epithets for Hekate, such as Hekate Kleidoukhos (Keeper of the Keys), Enodia (Of the Crossroads), Chthonia (Of The Underworld) and Lampadios (one of Her Torch Bearer epithets). If you are new to Modern Hekatean Witchcraft, it might be a good idea to start by learning about these aspects of Our Lady. If you feel strongly pulled to one specific epithet, then you should probably learn about that and develop a practice surrounding it. Perhaps you don’t feel called to any specific characteristic of Hekate. That’s fine, too. Perhaps you’ve been given your own personal epithet. Very cool.

Cleromantica is the practice of divination by casting of lots, whether they are leaves, sticks or a collection of objects. This is my working guide for using the epithets in conjunction with The Sacred Seven Forces for interpreting the meaning of the “lots” on the board position. The Star of Seven is drawn in chalk on black fabric and the lots cast. Learn the system in The Mystai.

The Energy of the Epithets

Regardless of the source of the epithet, it is important to understand how to work with their energy. In my view, Hekate is the energy of all creation, with every possible type of current emanating from Her. I use Her epithets to connect with a specific corresponding energy current.  For example, if I wish to connect with Hekate as Soteira, I am connecting to energy that represents my vision of Her as Savior. To me, Hekate Soteira is the all-knowing Cosmic World Soul. That is the energy I am either worshiping, utilizing for witchcraft or using as a tool for personal development. Modern Hekatean Witchcraft emphasizes individual interpretation of all things including the epithets, so someone else may have a different view of Hekate Soteira than mine. It’s all acceptable.

It’s All Greek to Me

One of the most fascinating features of the ancient epithets is that I am interpreting them. In turn,  they are translations of the ancient texts. I don’t read the ancient languages that they were written in, so I have to rely on other people’s opinion of what the original script says. Individual translators interpret these texts in at least slightly (sometimes really different) ways. To explore this idea further, I recommend reading different translations of The Orphic Hymn.

Correspond epithets to the energy of the astrological signs.

Representing the Epithets in Writing

Practitioners of Modern Hekatean Witchcraft can represent the word associated with a given epithet in a variety of ways:

  1. As they exist, using:
    • The available English translations
    • The anglicized modern Greek translation
    • The actual modern Greek interpretations
    • By reproducing the ancient characters
  2. Adapt them to a more contemporary interpretation, such as I did with my take on Hekate as Guardian of the Marginalized,
  3. Develop their own. I’ve heard many stories of devotees being “given” epithets for Hekate that aren’t previously reported. These epithets are just as valid as the ones from antiquity. After all, those ones started as personal gnosis, too.

I usually use the anglicized modern Greek translation and then my own personal take on the epithet. For example, Hekate Einalian, Queen of the Seas. “Einalian” doesn’t literally translate to “Queen of the Seas,” but that’s my interpretation.

Hekate’s association with the moon is powerful.

Hekate and the Moon

Epithets can be worked with in a variety of ways

  1. We can choose one or more epithets to be the core aspect of Hekate that we worship and work with,
  2. We can select specific epithets for a specific devotional act, ritual or spell,
  3. We can use the cycles of nature to explore the epithets.

In addition, we may change the epithets that we work with over time, or we can stay committed to one core epithet.  There’s no one correct way to work with the epithets.

I recently developed a Modern Hekatean Witchcraft Wheel of the Year  where I placed different epithets at different times based on the dominant energy of the epithet as it corresponded to the natural cycles of the seasons and other observances.

Using the Epithets in Devotion

Regarding worship, we can honor certain aspects of Hekate as a means of expressing gratitude. For example, when we successfully obtain a new key in life, we can give offerings to Hekate as the Keeper of the Keys (Kleidoukhos). We can also make offerings to a characteristic of Hekate that we want to pull forward into our lives. An example of this would be if we wanted to transition to a new phase in life, we could make offerings to Hekate of the Crossroads. Continuing with this example, we could draw upon this aspect of Our Lady to cast a spell as a means of conjuring the change we seek. These are just a few ways that practitioners of Modern Hekatean Witchcraft use Hekate’s many epithets in devotion.

While I debunk many lies about Hekate, there’s one truth you probably don’t know: She is definitely a sea goddess. Hail Einalia! Use this chant to connect with the depths of the emotional self, the womb and the element of water.

Hekate: Goddess of the Sea

Using the Epithets in Witchery

Earlier on, I wrote that the epithets are representations of specific energy currents associated with Hekate.  See each epithet as a current emanating from Hekate that extends to all of creation (including you, of course). Using this framework you can develop highly effective spells. See the energy as a key that Hekate will (at least temporarily) give you access to.

It’s important to keep in mind that Hekate’s energy can’t easily be cajoled or manipulated into doing your bidding. I’m not saying that you have to kill a cat to connect with Hekate, but you do need to be careful in how you go about seeking to use one of Her energy currents, or to petition Her in general for help with magick.

The way I use epithets in witchery is by carefully developing my intention and then exploring which epithet best suits the nature of my planned working. I often work with multiple epithets, starting with an overarching one, like Mother of All (Pammetor). Then I select subsequent epithets that more are more closely related to my intention. I typically layer in other ideas and my own contemporary interpretations for the epithets within the text of a spell. That way the spell has a great deal of meaning. And meaningful spells are successful ones.

Here’s an example:

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.

The goal of this spell was to release painful memories. I used the story of Persephone and the idea of the three worlds as ways to increase the meaning of the spell to me, then I used specific epithets that reflected certain energy currents that I was seeking Hekate’s “permission” to access.

The healing that comes from Hekate’s cauldron is paid for by relinquishing lies and toxic relationships

Using the Epithets in Personal Development Work

This spell is an example of witchery focused on personal development work, in this case releasing traumatic memories. Epithets can also be used to reflect a characteristic of ourselves that we wish to develop using our own skills and Hekatean energy. The epithets aren’t to be used in a passive manner, just like any sort of devotion or witchery, saying a few words and then doing nothing will get you nowhere. Always remember that Hekate can’t do for us what She can’t do through us.

Sometimes, we wish to petition Hekate as a specific epithet that we don’t want anything to do with personally. For example, if I hanging onto painful memories, I may offer this up to Hekate as Chthonia and ask Her to relieve me of my hurt by taking it straight to the Underworld.

To empower yourself for conquering a challenging situation, use this chant from The PGM featuring “barbarous” words (i.e. ones with no known meaning, sort of voces magicae.)

Example of Using an Epithet

The example of petitioning Hekate, Queen of the Underworld, to relieve us of a burden is just one idea for using her many epithets. Another example I’ve written about previously concerns connecting with Hekate Brimo. I’ve used this example of Hekate as Brimo just to provide something other than the more common ones of Key Holder, Torch Bearer, Queen of the Underworld and Guardian of the Crossroads. For example, if I need to be fierce in a situation I may call upon Hekate as Brimo based upon this ancient text:

“Hekate Brimo…hearing his words from the abyss, came up…She was garlanded by fearsome snakes that coiled themselves round twigs of oak; the twinkle of a thousand torches lit the scene; and hounds of the underworld barked shrilly all around her…”

   – Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.1194*

I then wrote a prayer to Hekate as Brimo asking Her to give me the gift of Brimo energy. Of course, in doing so, I am also actively working to see myself as Brimo and act accordingly.

Hail Hekate Brimo,
Hail Hekate The Fierce,
Hail Hekate The Terrifying.
May I be fierce,
May I honor You through my actions,
May I learn from your gifts.
Bestow upon me your terrifying energy,
Remind me that I am strong beyond measure,
As I grow wise and fierce.
Hail Hekate Brimo, Storm Bringer
Hail Hekate The Fierce,
Hail Hekate The Terrifying.

Given that I am evoking my inner ferocity, I may also carry with me a talisman or symbol that I associate with Hekate Brimo. Hekate as Brimo is powerful energy and working with this aspect of Her should be reserved for dire situations.

Deconstruct epithets into sigils.

The Last Word

Hekate’s many epithets provide a rich resource for worshiping Hekate, practicing witchery, and for personal development work. I’ve offered some basic information on their sources and how I use them in practicing Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. How you use them is entirely your decision.

Hail Hekate!

Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft offers 13 self-directed lessons in sovereign witchcraft including a chapter on using the Hekatean Epithets.

Join The Mystai: Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. 

Read/download the complete index of my articles on Modern Hekatean Witchcraft.

List of Epithets in The Greek Magical Papyri

English Greek
Beast Slayer Theroktonos
Black Dog Kyon Melaina
Bull Dragon/Serpent Taurodrakaina
Bull Faced Tauropos
Bull Formed Tauromorphos
Bull Headed Taurokarenos
Cow Eyed Boopis
Fawn Slayer Ellophonos
Horned Keratopis
Horse  Faced Hippoprosopos
Howling Kynolygmate
Mare Bitch Hippokyon
Serpent Drakaina
Serpent Wearer Pyridrakontozonos
Shooter of deer Elaphebolos
Snaky Curls Ophioplokamos
Spinner of Fate Klothaie
Wolf Lyko
All Nurturing Pantrophos
All Powerful Pandamateira
Ancient Presbeia
Archer Iokheaira
Astute Doloeis
Bearer of Love Erototokos
Bearing Beautiful Children Kalligeneia
Beautiful Aglaos
Beautiful Aktinochiatis
Beautiful Indalimos
Beginning Nyssa
Black Clad Melaneimon
Blessed Makairapos
Brilliant Phaenno
Bringer of light Phaesimbrotos
Cunning Daidalos
Daughter of the Morning Erigeneia
Death Bringer Thanategos
Devourer of the Untimely Dead Aoroboros
Divine Zatheos
Earth Splitter Rexichthon
Eater of Filth Borborophorba
Entrapper Arkyia
Eternal Aenaos
Fairest Kalliste
Fearful Phoberos
Fire Breather Pyripnoa
Fire Walker Pyriphoitos
Fleet Footed Podarke
Flesh Eater Sarkophagos
Forward Thinking Promethikos
Four Named Tetraonymos
Frightful Daspleti
Gate Crasher Rixipyle
Ghostly Eidolios
Glorious Kydimos
Golden Crowned Chrysostephanos
Golden Faced Chrysopis
Guardian Episkopos
Guide Hegemonen
Heart Eater Kardiodaitos
Heart Warming Terpsimbrotos
Helper Aregos
Holy Moon Light Phos
Immortal Athanatos
Inducer of Madness Oistroplaneia
Infernal Nerterios
Leader Stratelatis
Light Striker Photoplex
Many Named Polyonumos
Mistress of Corpses Nekyia
Mistress of the Four Ways Tetraoditis
Moon Mene
Mother Geneteira
Mother of All Pammetor
Night Shining Nyktophaneia
Noble Born Eupatereia
Nocturnal Nykhia
Nocturnal Nyktairodyteira
Of Fiery Counsel Pyriboulos
Of the Deep Bythios
Of the Harbor Limenitikos
Pastoral Nomaios
Patient Tletos
Persian Persia
Protector Medusa
Reckless Atasthalos
Renowned Polykleitos
Ruler Tartaroukhos
Sacred Agia
Self Begotten Autopheus
Strong Alkimos
Subduer of Men Damasandra
Sufferer Polyodynos
Three Headed Trikaranos
Three Named Trionymos
Tomb Disturber Kapetoktypos
Torch Bearer Lampadios
Triple Thrinakia
Triple Voiced Triktypos
Unconquered Admetos
Under World Aidonaea
Vigorous Aizeos
World Wide Pangaios

Join the Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft Book Study Group.

About Cyndi Brannen
Cyndi Brannen, PhD, is a teacher and writer focusing on personal development, spirituality and witchcraft. She is an energetic healer, psychic, herbalist, spiritual coach and mentor. Founder of the Keeping Her Keys Mystery School, she teaches and writes about progressive witchcraft of healing and personal power. She teaches Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft and The Sacred Seven in the Keeping Her Keys School of Witchcraft. The bestselling Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft explores Hekate from her ancient origins to our modern understanding through magic and personal development. True Magic: Unleashing Your Inner Witch, based on the sacred seven principles of witchcraft, will be available this October. You can read more about the author here.
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