Hekate and the Moon

Hekate and the Moon February 28, 2018

Hekate has been strongly associated with the moon for millennia.  From her role as an Under World Goddess to her interpretation as a heavenly mediator, her lunar aspects have always been dominant. But it’s as the Goddess of Witchcraft where Hekate’s moon connections truly shine. Building upon all these connections, we can draw down Hekate’s Moon to enhance our rituals. 

“…and yonder pale-faced Hecate there, the moon Doth give consent to that is done in darkness.”

Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy Tragedy 16th CE

I’ve been in love with the moon for as long as I can remember. The night, to me, is a time of mystery and witchery. The moonlight comforts me in a very primal way. The lunar calendar is entrenched in my magick. My devotion to Hekate also centers around the lunar cycle.

Ancient Hekate and the Moon

There are so many ways that Hekate is associated with the moon throughout the almost three thousand years of records available that it was a daunting task to summarize what I feel are the key points into one article. I know I’ve left things out, but I’ve tried to give a decent overview.

Honoring Hekate on the Dark Moon

I’m only going to briefly talk about the contemporary celebration of Hekate that occurs each dark moon because I’ve written about this before. This was an ancient practice that has little to do with Hekate as a lunar deity but much to do with how her followers at the time viewed the monthly calendar. The night of the dark moon was viewed as the beginning of the month. Hekate was given offerings and petitions were made to seek her favor, especially to keep away the frightening things that roamed the night. Her role as a night-wandering goddess responsible for the restless dead and malevolent spirits was central to many in the ancient world, who viewed these entities as genuine threats to their existence. While we may have a very different understanding of the dangers of the night in our contemporary world, Hekate is still there shining her torches to light our way.

Shining Her Light in the Darkness

The image of Hekate as the torch bearing guardian is found in numerous ancient texts and images. Perhaps the most famous representation of her in this role is as Persephone’s guide to and from the Under World. But there is much more to learn about Hekate and the moon besides her role as a light in the darkness.

Demeter’s Search by Jeanie Tomanek. Used with permission.

Just Like the Moon, Historical Hekate has Phases

The Hekate of antiquity went through three phases herself, much like the popular view of the lunar cycle. I’m borrowing this framework from Stephan Ronan in The Goddess HekateThese three periods are marked by three different texts: Hesiod’s Theogony (8th BCE) , The Greek Magical Papyri (5th to 2nd BCE) and The Chaldean Oracles (2nd CE). The Homeric Hymn to Demeter that provides one description of the tale of Persephone is dated between Theogony and the Greek Magickal Papyri.

The earliest historical records available describe Hekate as an all-purpose goddess, who wasn’t connected to the moon in any specific way, such as in Theogony.  In The Chaldean Oracles, Hekate’s lunar connection is portrayed through her role as a divine mediator between humanity and the heavenly deities. In between these two periods, her cult in the ancient world seems to have viewed her primarily as a dark goddess.

The likely birth of this perspective was in The Homeric Hymn to Demeter wherein the tale of Persephone is told. This epic solidified Hekate’s role as a night-wandering Under World goddess, but still her connection to the moon was indirect. This is very different than being an actual moon goddess, like Selene. As Hekate’s chthonic roles became dominant, this indirect lunar association was strengthened.

Hekate and Other Moon Goddesses

Thus, for the ancient Greeks Hekate was not so much a goddess of the moon, but a goddess closely linked to the moon. She was often associated with Selene who was the goddess of the moon, and with Artemis who came to have a similar lunar connection to Hekate’s.  There are those that think the Roman goddess Diana was based upon Hekate. She is also linked to other lunar deities, including Cynthia (I have to give a shout-out to my namesake deity). In addition, there is evidence that Hekate, Demeter and Persephone were worshiped as a triple-lunar goddess in certain ancient cults. Like all things do with Hekate, there is a complex association between her, other deities and the moon.

Hekate, Ancient Witchcraft and the Moon

The association between Hekate and ancient witchcraft is much more straightforward than her connections to other deities and to the moon in general. When it comes to witchcraft, there are several citations evoking both Hekate and lunar energy, such as the tale of Jason and the Argonauts, when Medea the witch combines the powers of both in her spells. Here’s another example of the witch Simaetha’s spell from Theocritus’ Second Idyll (2nd BCE):

“But now I will bind him with offerings, Moon, shine clearly, I will sing softly to you Goddess, and to earthly Hecate…”

There are examples of Hekate being summoned either as a lunar goddess or in conjunction with moon energy in several ancient sources, ranging from defixiones (ancient curse tablets) to entire spells. The “Spell to the Waning Moon” in the Greek Magical Papyri is an example of the treasure trove that these fragments are for those of us working with Hekate and lunar energy. Here’s a brief selection:

“O Nethermost one, beam-embracer, savior, World-wide, dog-shaped,  spinner of Fate, all-giver, Long-lasting, glorious, helper, queen, bright, Wide-aimer, vigorous, holy, benign, Immortal, shrill-voiced, glossy-locked, in bloom, Divine, with golden face, delighting men, Minoan, goddess of childbirth, Theban, Long-suffering, astute, malevolent…”

In our contemporary Hekatean lunar magick, we can adapt these ancient spells for our workings.

The Moon as a Liminal Space

Another way that we can work with Hekate as a Goddess of the Moon involves the use of liminal spaces and times. Hekate has been associated with in-between places and times since antiquity. This partly stems from her being seen as guide to the Under World, being able to easily navigate between realms. This is also connected to her role as Goddess of Witchcraft, as witches in antiquity – as today – inhabit the spaces between when we practice magick. The night as a whole is not liminal – it is a distinct time of day – but parts of the night – twilight and dawn are liminal – the times between night and day.

However, the ancients – in The Chaldean Oracles, for example – viewed Hekate and the moon as a mediator between the heavens and the earth. Is the moon then itself a liminal space – between humans and the heavens? Could this possibly account for the way that I feel so drawn to it? If the moon is considered both liminal, representative of the night and Hekate’s torches, then a very powerful multi-faceted image of Hekate as Goddess of the Moon emerges.

Hekate as The Dark Goddess

Hekate as Goddess of Witchcraft further strengthens her lunar aspects. It was during the Middle Ages that her descent as a Dark Goddess of witches, ghosts and the Underworld reached its apex. During this period the connection between Hekate, witchcraft and the moon strengthened in the art and literary worlds. While Shakespeare’s later treatment of her in Macbeth is the most famous written portrayal of Hekate through this lens, the earlier play, The Spanish Tragedy hinted at Hekate as a dark goddess of the moon. There’s a paricularly un-goddess like portrayal of Hekate in Thomas Middleton’s The Witch (16th CE) where she is reduced to a cave-dwelling almost-cartoonish nasty witch:

“HECATE: Come, my sweet sisters, let the air strike our tune
Whilst we show reverence to yon peeping moon.”

Artwork of the time reflected the common belief that witches, like Hekate, were seen as evil creatures who did their horrific deeds in moonlight. One thing I plan on doing is spending more time studying the grimoires from this period that are available for research. Although I can paint a picture of how Hekate, witches and the moon were perceived during this time, I wish I knew more about what witches were actually doing.

Jan van de Velde. (1593–1641)RISDM 53-317

Return of the Triple Goddess

Hekate’s image began to change during the 18th and 19th centuries CE with different artists depicting Hekate as Triformis, a goddess with three distinct forms. In these drawings, a lunar symbol was often included, such as in this sketch of triple-bodied Hekate by the British artist, Richard Cosway.

I find it interesting that contemporary Hekate is seen as this sort of all-purpose goddess by many contemporary devotees. It seems like the moon, Hekate’s phases repeat themselves. She’s gone from a general powerful deity to being reduced to one role and now back to all her glory.

20th Century Hekate and the Moon

The modern occult movement and early Wiccan teachers, especially Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner, reinforced Hekate as a dark and dangerous goddess, and one that was strongly linked to the moon. As the 20th century progressed, the image of Hekate as part of the Triple Moon Goddess framework became quite common. Contemporary understanding of Hekate often sees this as part of her many characteristics, rather than her totality.

Contemporary Hekate and the Moon

Modern understanding of Hekate and the moon often incorporates the historical knowledge with current practices. One thing that’s important to note is that the moon played a fairly minor role in Ancient Greece which is contrary to the centrality of the lunar cycle for many modern witches.

The Moon as the Divine Feminine

Witches throughout history have been predominantly viewed as female and their workings done in conjunction with the moon and, in many examples, Hekate. In modern pagan interpretations, the moon is often viewed as representing the divine feminine with the sun representing the masculine. There is an ancient reference to this where Hekate is said to represent the moon and Hermes the sun (e.g., Praeparatio Evangelica). The night, under the moon, is the seat of female power, while masculine energy rules the day.

The Lunar Cycle

The association of Hekate with specific phases of the moon includes the previously mentioned Deipnon, but also Noumenia. This was celebrated the day after Deipnon. Noumenia was a time for seeking Hekate’s protection, especially over the home. Modern devotees often observe Noumenia. There are a variety of purposes, such as evoking Hekate’s blessing over the new month and setting intentions for this new phase. I typically reserve the Deipnon as a day for honoring Hekate. However, it is certainly appropriate to conduct workings on the day. I usually develop an intentional spell for the new lunar cycle and petition Hekate for her guidance on Noumenia.

Hekate can be evoked for magickal purposes during the rest of the lunar cycle using the standard approaches to lunar energy. The waning period can be viewed as a time for witchcraft that subtracts things, such as removal and destruction spellwork. The waxing time is ideal for spells focusing on adding things, such as manifestation, protection and creation spells. The full moon is a time of abundant balanced energy that’s suitable to any sort of working.

Hekate’s Moon Magick

Drawing down the moon is a core skill for many modern witches. Through energetic techniques, I tap into the moon’s energy to add power to my spells. Hekate can be petitioned as part of these moon spells. In particular, I use different epithets to call upon for help with a working based on their connection to the specific lunar phase that I am using.

The epithets associated with Chaldean Hekate, such as Ekdotis (Bestower), Soteira (Savior) and World Soul can be evoked for spells that call upon her as a divine mediator. Depending on the goal of the working, it could be appropriate to do this either in the waxing or waning moon. Ekdotis is a great epithet to call upon for manifestation.

There’s a plethora of epithets to choose from in The Greek Magical Papyri. For example, Aglaos (Brilliant) can be used in conjunction with full moon energy. If you are interested in learning more about the epithets, Sara Neheti Croft has constructed an excellent database. I wrote about different ways to use them in this article. In addition, I sometimes adapt the ancient spells to my working. I’ve found that the Greek Magical Papyri evocations are very powerful, so take that as a precaution.

Drawing Down Hekate’s Moon

Hekate becomes a powerful Moon Goddess when we combine all of her lunar connections. She can be seen as a Lunar Goddess who rules the moon as a mediator, Under World Goddess, torch bearer, champion of liminal places and times, and Queen of the Witches. Using all these ancient citations and my contemporary understanding of lunar energy, I can visualize the Moon as part of Hekate’s domain. While I don’t see Hekate as part of the Triple Moon Goddess paradigm, it’s entirely appropriate to call upon her as part of the trio if that’s how you perceive her. Hekate’s mighty lunar energy can be petitioned, or drawn down, for our workings.

Weavers by Jeanie Tomanek. Used with permission.

Evoking Hekate as Goddess of the Moon

Below is an example of one way to call upon Hekate as Goddess of the Moon that I’ve used during any part of the lunar cycle. This incantation can be adapted to just about any working. I typically add other epithets that support my intention. There’s a lot more that goes into developing any spell than this, but you already know that. In general, any lunar magick should be done outside and at night when the moon’s energy is more easily accessed. Purification of yourself and cleansing of the ritual space (especially when doing indoors or in a populated area) is required before doing the evocation. It’s helpful to have an image of Hekate and to use correspondences associated with her (especially lunar ones).

It’s important to acknowledge that she is much more than a moon goddess from the outset of the petition, for while she can be considered in this way her power’s extend far beyond the lunar realm.

Evoking Hekate as Goddess of the Moon

This petition begins with evoking Hekate as a Moon Goddess by calling upon several aspects that relate directly to the moon. Then the request is made for Hekate to release the moon’s energy for the use of the practitioner.

Hail Hekate! Goddess of the Moon!
Unconquerable ruler of land, sea and sky!
I call upon You to attend my rite!

Hail Hekate, Goddess of the Moon!
Night-wandering Chthonic Queen!
I call upon You to attend my rite!

Hail Hekate, Goddess of the Moon!
She who reigns over all liminal spaces and times!
I call upon You to attend my rite!

Hail Hekate, Goddess of the Moon!
Divine intervener and mediator!
I call upon You to attend my rite!

Hail Hekate! Goddess of the Moon!
Mighty Queen of the Witches,
I call upon You to attend my rite!

Hail Hekate! Three-Formed Goddess!
Reflected in the moon’s three faces.
Hail Hekate! Key Holder of the Mysteries,
The secrets of the dark moon are Yours.
Release unto me the energy of the moon!

I draw down the energy of Your glorious moon,
I seek Your favor for this working,
My intention is true,
And my will is strong.

To purchase prints of the contemporary paintings used in this article, visit https://www.jeanietomanek.com/

If you would like to have the complete list of sources used in writing this article, please feel free to contact me. 

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