Hekate: Goddess of the Sea

Hekate: Goddess of the Sea February 23, 2018

Hekate’s association with the sea stretches from the earliest known descriptions to contemporary understanding. As Einalia, she is the Goddess of the Seas, ruling over the oceans and providing bounty to those who make their living from it. As The World Soul, she is the stream providing essence to all of nature. There are many ways to incorporate Hekate’s watery aspects in contemporary devotion and witchcraft, ranging from honoring her though activism to making magick with oceanic treasures.

Historical Hekate and the Sea

In the ancient times when Hekate first came to be known, the sea played a dominant role in everyday life.  This map represents the lands featured in the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts based on Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica  (3rd C BCE). This tale is very much the story of Medea, as well. Through her role in this epic journey, we are provided with an image of Hekatean magic being very much associated with the sea.

Abraham Ortelius (1624)[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The map is a reminder that the ancient lands where Hekate was worshiped were mostly coastal. They were dependent of the sea for food and transportation. It makes sense that Hekate was seen as both a benefactor and destroyer of the sea’s bounty:

“And upon those who work the bright, storm-tossed sea and pray to Hecate and the loud sounding Earth-shaker, the illustrious goddess easily bestows a big haul of fish, and easily she takes it away once it has been seen, if she so wishes in her spirit.” (Hesiod, Theogeny, 8th C BCE)

Fish as Offerings

Fish was not only an important part of the ancient Mediterranean diet, it was also considered appropriate as a offering to Hekate. Red mullet, known by the ancient Greeks as trigele, was particularly suitable as it reflected Hekate’s three-part nature.

Mosiac. Hatay Archeology Museum, Turkey.

Dark Goddess of the Deep

Hekate’s aquatic association was not contrary to her role as an Under World goddess in the view of the ancient Greeks. In one version of the tale of the sea monster Scylla, Hekate is viewed as her mother, in another she is at the very least crucial for her creation.

Scylla (5th BCE). British Museum, London

Many of her chthonic cohorts also had watery aspects. Tartarus was buried deep under the ocean. Even Poseidon himself had a very dark side. You can read an excellent article chronicling the connections between Hekate and Poseidon on The Covenant of Hekate’s website.

Hekate as the Soul-Stream

Contrary to the very literal associations of Hekate with all things aquatic is the symbolism of The Chaldean Oracles.  These ancient fragments, dating from about the 2nd century CE, portray Hekate as the Soteira (Savior) and Source.  While the Chaldean Hekate is very different from both earlier and later depictions of her as a dark goddess of witches, magic and the underworld, this image of her as The World Soul encapsulates these roles. For more information, you can read my article from earlier this month.

Hekate as The World Soul is the font of all nature, with creation flowing from her right side and the virtues of faith, love and truth emanating from her left:

“Around the hollow of her right flank, a great stream of the primordially-generated soul gushes forth in abundance, totally ensouling light, fire, ether, worlds.” (Fragment 51)

Hekate’s Dominion Over Land, Sea and Sky

Hekate is not only associated with both literal and figurative water, but through her dominion over land, sea and sky she reigns over the entire world. This interpretation of her is first made in Hesiod’s Theogeny:

“Hecate, whom Zeus, Cronus’ son, honored above all others: he gave her splendid gifts-to have a share of the earth and of the barren sea, and from the starry sky as well she has a share in honor, and is honored most of all by the immortal gods.”

This early association with the three realms may have served as part of the foundation for Hekate as Triformis.

“Hekate’s triple form emphasized her power over the three realms, these being the heavens, sea and earth.” Sorita D’Este and David Rankine in Hekate: Liminal Rights

There are many other texts that speak of Hekate’s watery roles and as having governance over land, sea and sky. For example, The Orphic Hymn to Hekate summons Hekate with:

“I invoke you, beloved Hekate of the Crossroads and the Three Ways
Saffron-cloaked Goddess of the Heavens, the Underworld and the Sea.”

Contemporary Hekate: Goddess of Water

Hekate as a Goddess of the Sea can feel removed from our lives if we don’t live along the coast. Most of us have a fundamentally different relationship with water than the ancients did. As such our understanding of Hekate as a Goddess of the Sea changes to fit with our 21st century life. However, we can use the energy of the oceans – and land-locked bodies of water – in our devotion and witchery.

The symbolism of oceanic energy – and that of land-locked bodies of water – can provide a powerful resource for doing Hekatean witchcraft. Symbolically, we view the ocean as both soothing and frightening, which can also be said of Hekate. This dualistic view of the seas hasn’t changed much since the days that Hesiod wrote about Hekate. We can take his claim that Hekate blesses the fishermen’s catch and apply this to our own desires for a bountiful life.

Applying the ancient view of Hekate’s connection with the sea in the contemporary context requires an understanding of the importance of water. In our modern life, many of us don’t give much thought to the seas or to water in general. We get a shower, turn on the dishwasher and fill our water bottles without taking the time to think about the importance of water.

The oceans are necessary to life because of their role in creating the oxygen we breathe. Clean, potable water is a fundamental requirement for life. Most of us are blessed with an abundance of this. Another aspect of contemporary life is that we often treat locations that are on the water as holiday destinations. This is very different than in ancient times when the coast was part of everyday life, not a vacation spot.

Honoring Hekate’s Watery Side

I’ve mentioned that some devotees engage in activism to help protect the waters. I also wrote about how many of us view the coast and other watery destinations as highly desirable. We are fond of spending time in the water and along the shoreline. If possible, honoring Hekate’s watery side should be conducted in one of these locations. You can also consider getting involved in activism if you feel led. In addition, we can express our gratitude for the clean water that most of us take for granted.

Honoring Hekate as a Goddess of the Sea can include expressing gratitude for the actual water than sustains life. We can also acknowledge her for the symbolic meanings of water. I wrote about the “soul-stream” flowing from Hekate in The Chaldean Oracles. We can use this imagery to honor Hekate as The World Soul.

We can honor Hekate’s watery aspects on our altars by placing oceanic objects, like a chalice of sea water, within our shrine to her. It’s also appropriate to use a black candle to both honor Hekate as Goddess of the Sea and to evoke her watery aspects for magick.

Day of Hekate Einalia

While anytime is appropriate for both honoring Hekate and for doing watery witchcraft, there is one specific day that some devotees set aside as a special time. The idea for honoring Hekate as Einalia on the eighth day after the Deipnon (astrological new moon) is based on her connection with Poseidon. This day was one of his festivals. The Covenant of Hekate has a lovely “Day 8” ritual that you can read here.

Hekate Einalia by Sara Neheti Croft. Used with permission.

Watery Hekatean Witchcraft

Water can play a big role in our witchcraft, from the suit of Cups in the Tarot to using oceanic items in spells. If you are inclined to work with Hekate as a Goddess of the Sea, you can incorporate water, sea salt, sand, oceanic rocks and even seaweed in your workings.

Altar with sea water and many other oceanic treasures.

Hekate’s watery aspects are connected with the three energetic realms. The depths of the sea, with the darkness and monsters like Scylla, are very much in keeping with Hekate as a Dark Goddess. In the everyday world, water we use to sustain our lives can be associated with Hekate as Enodia, the way through the Middle World. Hekate as The World Soul represents her energy of the Upper World, with her soul-stream fueling all creation. This can be represented many ways, including using rain water or melted snow.

Evoking Hekate Einalia

Here’s a short petition to Hekate as Goddess of the Sea (Einalia) that can be used to evoke her:

 

Hekate as Goddess of the Sea provides another way to work with her in addition to her more widely known roles as a liminal goddess and as a an Under World deity. Just like the water we so often take from granted, we need to acknowledge that Hekate as a watery life force is vital to our practice and existence.

 

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