The August night air was thick enough to cut with a dagger. The clouds were low. Not one star shone through. The High Priestess summoned Hekate with all her considerable might. Suddenly, the cauldron fire exploded upward, frightening the many gathered in the circle. Without interrupting her evocation, she signaled for an attendant to control the flames. Hekate’s presence deepened the darkness, filling the space with a primal energy unfamiliar to most of the gathered. When the ritual was completed, the participants quietly went to their tents. Such is the presence of The Dark Mother: fierce, frightening and primal.
For the record, that was the first time I evoked Hekate in a public ritual. This was also the first time I called Hekate using what has become known as An Evocation of Hekate Suitable For Any Rite. And, yes, I was scared, too. But it didn’t stop me. That night happened almost nine years ago. I was only a couple of years into devotion to Hekate. One of the pagan festival organizers asked me to lead a midnight Dark Moon ritual to Hekate. How could I resist?
Read more about that night here.
Hekate The Frightening
Hekate is an intimidating force, but her roles associated with her chthonic aspects are indeed the stuff of nightmares. She is an Under World goddess known in some ancient stories as the leader of a horde of ravenous hobgoblins and/or dogs. If you failed to curry her favor with the proper rituals, you’d better look out. She is the night wandering pale faced psychopompe queen. Then she is Brimo, the primal ferocity of the storm and hell rolled into one.
Several of her ancient epithets add to her horrible goddess mystique. Here is a selection of ones that can be seen as frightening from the collection of spell fragments known as The Greek Magical Papyri:
- Aidonaea – Of The Under World
- Anassa Eneroi – Queen of the Dead
- Aoroboros – Devourer of the Untimely Dead
- Borborophorba – Eater of Filth
- Bythios – Of the Deep
- Damasandra – Subduer of Men
- Drakaina – Dragon/Serpent
- Kapetoktypos – Tomb Disturber
- Kardiodaitos – Eater of Men’s Hearts
- Keratopis – Horned Faced
- Lampadios – Torch Bearer
- Melaneimon – Wearing Black
- Nekyia – Mistress of Corpses
- Skotia – Of the Dark
- Tartaroukhos – Queen of Tartarus
- Thanategos – Death Bringer
For suggestions on using these epithets, read this.
The PGM is a wealth of epithets – dark, light and otherwise. There are other sources of epithets, too, like ancient curse tablets and other texts. In many instances Hekate is depicted as a very terrifying goddess. But, wait…she is equally (if not more) shown as tender, healing, beautiful and other positive (or neutral) traits. Hekate to different ancient individuals and groups meant diverse things. She wasn’t only that black wearing, night wandering eater of men’s hearts.
Hekate as a Fearsome Symbol of Female & Witch Power
However, her role as Goddess of the Witches rose to dominance during the early days of Christianity and she remained as a terrifying goddess during much of history. This is an example of early Christian anti-pagan propaganda that is now a great resource on ancient views and practices:
Depictions in art and literature increased Hekate’s status as a goddess to be feared. While MacBeth and William Blake’s painting may be the most famous examples of this view of Hekate, there are dozens more.
Of course, this can all be taken within the context of the times: the Christian patriarchal drive to subjugate all women, but especially those with power. Witch hunts. Fear of female power. Hekate. All part of the same drive to control the female.
Along came modern paganism who’s early leaders carried on with this view of Hekate. This remains a popular view to this day. However, we have recent academic reports illustrating that in ancient times Hekate was not relegated to such a singular energetic current. We now know at least some ancients saw her as The World Soul, Savior and Creatrix. Powerful. Fierce. Not nearly as frightening.
Individual Experience May Vary
I started this article with my first powerful encounter with Hekate of the Under World. I’ve learned to better control my zest for this side of her. Or maybe I’ve grown accustomed to it. Who knows? I do know that I am a lover of all things that go bump in the night. Graveyards. Fog. Ghosts. Guillermo del Toro. Neil Gaiman. As a practitioner, I have grown in my abilities at controlling all energetic forces. This takes practice, learning and loads of confidence. Personally, I view her as The Dark Mother with many diverse abilities. There is this weird thing in society that says a mother is this sunny character without pain or personal ambitions. Is this changing? The ways witches are perceived may also be transforming. What will this do to Hekate’s frightening sides? I sometimes worry that the boom in the numbers drawn to Hekate will diminish her darkness. I hope not.
Should You Fear Hekate?
I get asked this question quite often. I’ve also heard from many of your that you were intimated when she first came to you. I know I was.
The answer to this question truly lies within you. You have to ask yourself what it is you are afraid of. Hekate reveals truth within us. Is that what scares you?
Is it the stories you’ve heard from others, perhaps claiming that she is a terrifying goddess who exacts retribution on her less ardent followers? The common stories of her terrifying aspects?
The only thing that matters is how she presents to you. As a truth-bringer, you may be projecting your fears about standing in your power (what you are being called to do) onto her. This will attach onto her similar energy currents. This is like a shadow Hekate. You need to detach from your own shadow energy if this is happening. Always keep in mind how she comes to you.
She also rejects insincerity. If you are in this for reasons other than your truth, don’t be surprised to find yourself rejected and your workings disastrous.
Be Wary of the Fear Mongers
If someone is telling you that she is to be feared, ask yourself why they are saying this. What good is fear mongering? What are they getting out of making these claims? Are they projecting their own shadow’s onto Hekate? There is the world of difference between understanding the power of The Dark Mother and being afraid of her. Intimidated, yes. Perhaps even timid. Hekate calls to those willing to stand in their own power. This idea scares many even if they aren’t aware of it. Then there are those that feel powerless in their own lives who attach to her frightening aspects as a way of gaining control. A full understanding of all that Hekate was, is and ever will be develops over time through experience and study.
Approach With Respect
Hekate calls us to stand in our own power. Live true. If we are up to no good – hurting ourselves or others, lying, stealing, gossiping, being malicious – then you will get back from her what you are putting out. If you are earnestly attempting to correct such habits, then she will give you much grace and support.
She is Queen of the Under World, Night Walker, Mistress of the Horde. Those who reject truth should fear her. She is also Hegemonen, Torch Bearer, Liberator, Creatrix. Equal parts Anassa Eneroi and Anima Mundi. Those who seek truth should approach with respect.