Hekate’s animal horde is vast and diverse, from her beloved hounds to the witch’s cat. Here’s a list of many of her historical animal companions with several thoroughly modern ones, along with lots of ways of including the Queen of Witches’ animals in our magic.
How Hekate is Associated with Animals
I used two broad groups to categorize Hekate’s animals: those commonly associated with her in myth, stories, literature and art and modern practitioners favored creatures. I looked for themes and also the source to determine their position on the list.
Hekate is unique among most goddesses in that she has an extensive and diverse available historical, literary and artistic records. Some of these sources have greatly influenced modern practitioners’ chosen animals, while others are less commonly associated with her today.
Ancient Written Sources and Imagery
Regarding the ancient written sources, Hekate’s zoological connections are found through epithets, descriptions and in images/statuary. Through ancient epithets Hekate is associated with animals when Hekate is called either an animal, said to have animal characteristics or is otherwise associated with an animal. She is called “She-Toad” (Phroune), Lyco (She Wolf) and many other animals, particularly in The Greek Magical Papyri. Leaina (Lioness) comes to us from her cult in Caria (modern western Turkey) where she was seen quite differently compared to her mainstream Grecian image that often associated her with a horde of fierce hounds wandering the night.
A selection of Hekate’s animal epithets in The Greek Magical Papyri:
English (Anglicized Greek)
Beast Slayer (Theroktonos)
Black Dog (Kyon Melaina)
Bull Dragon/Serpent (Taurodrakaina)
Bull Formed (Tauromorphos)
Cow Eyed (Boopis)
Fawn Slayer (Ellophonos)
Horse Faced (Hippoprosopos)
Spinner of Fate (Klothaie)
In some documents, she is described as having a role in relation to animals, like leading her hounds, holding snakes or blessing horses. Indeed, Hesiod’s version of Hekate (her origin story) in his Theogeny illustrates that she “sits by kings and “stands by” horsemen.
“From the political assembly to the farmer’s stable, Hecate is seen as a vital factor in the success of human endeavor.” – from A Portrait of Hekate (1981) by Patricia Marquardt.
In ancient life, this required governance over a host of animals, domestic and wild.
Porphyry in “On abstinence from animal food” describes a four-headed Hekate (horse, bull, lioness and dog). This theme of Hekate having three or four animal heads is a rather common one throughout the ages.
“Hekate’s appearance is powerful and terrifying: she is viewed as fully armed and girded with serpents, and of triple-form and three headed and radiating fiery light. At a lower level she appears with four animal heads: horse, bull, hydra and dog” – from The Goddess Hekate by Stephan Ronan.
The Hekate he is describing comes from The Chaldean Oracles where she is the creatrix of the material world. Using this interpretation, Hekate can be associated with every animal.
Hekate’s Ancient Animals
However, Hekate was associated with specific members of her menagerie giving us a lengthy list: boar, bull, cow, dog, deer, donkey, fish (red mullet in particular), goat, horse, lamb (black), lizard, lion, polecat, owl, toad, and wolf. There are also indirect associations through her deity companions, especially Artemis: bee (from the Ephesian version of Artemis that is very different than the mainstream Greek one), bear (also associated with Bendis), gold finch, Kirke: hawk, large cats, pigs. Asteria: quail.
As a Chthonic goddess, she was considered an “earth” deity, but not in the same sense as Gaia (for example). Her role as an earth goddess is associated with the types of animals she was associated with, especially dogs and horses, but also goats, donkeys, bulls, cows and other domestic animals. Lions and other big cats were also connected to Hekate. Her association with wild animals, like bee, deer and bear, is often through her connection/conflation with other goddesses, particularly Artemis but also Bendis. Keep in mind that these goddesses were viewed in diverse ways as well. Vulture is in The Greek Magical Papyri, but not directly with her in a spell or hymn. And if we include mythical beasts, she is connected with dragons and hydra in multiple sources.
Hares and rabbits are not directly associated with Hekate in the ancient texts. There is a sideways connection through the Island of Delos which was also known as Lagia (Hare). This island is the birthplace of Artemis and is also associated with Hekate. Interestingly, the island was also known as Cynthia (latin for Cynthos). Both Artemis and Hekate were sometimes referred to as such. I am only referred to as such in the most formal situations, like at airports.
Hekate’s Witchy Animals
Some animals, like the bat, cat, crow and owl, come to her since she is the Queen of Witches. Owl has an ancient association with her in written sources and coins. Bats, cats, and crows have been strongly linked to witchcraft since ancient times. I’ve selected Blake’s painting from the many examples of the way Hecate, women and witches were commonly portrayed in art and literature as evil. The animals shown with such women and goddesses were thus also suspicious. I am a bit obsessed with this painting for a few reasons, most particularly because this is not actually Hecate. I hope your take-away message from this article is this so I am sharing it. Although it’s not Hekate, it does feature many animals linked to her as Queen of the Witches.
Hekate’s Modern Animals
Hekate’s portrayals in words and images today uses the animals associated with her directly and indirectly throughout history. More fascinating to me are practitioner’s reports of the non-traditional animals they associate with Hekate. I asked members of three different Hekatean groups about such creatures. The list was incredibly varied, ranging from beetles to dolphins. Insects were a common theme, with spiders being the most popular, but there were several reports of moths (luna), butterflies and fire flies as well. Her ancient epithet of Klothaie, Spinner of Fate, is definitely arachnid.
Birds included the very popular raptors (eagles and hawks), crows, doves (which apparently travel in groups of three, very Hekatean), ravens, vultures, chickens, finches, owls, vultures, and even cardinals among others. The mythical phoenix was also reported.
Non-traditional mammals included bears, cats -domestic and wild – especially lynx and panther, deer (antelope), elephant (one of mine), mustelids (ferret, mink, muskrat), rabbit, raccoons as well as individual reports of possum and skunk.
If you have a non-traditional animal you associated with Hekate, please let me know so I can add it to the list.
Including Hekate’s Animals in Magic
The ancients used animals in various ways in magic. Animals were often slain as sacrifices to Hekate, especially dogs and black lambs. You can read more about Hekate’s Hounds here. Animals were also involved in ancient spells. One of my favorite examples comes from The Greek Magical Papyri that involves drowning a cat and subsequently releasing it’s daimon (spirit) to do the practitioner’s bidding, all while evoking Hekate. There are so many delightful examples of this from the ancients that I had to include one here:
“I myself saw Canidia, with her sable garment tucked up, walk with bare feet and disheveled hair, yelling together with the elder Sagana. Paleness had rendered both of them horrible to behold. They began to claw up the earth with their nails, and to tear a black ewe-lamb to pieces with their teeth. The blood was poured into a ditch, that thence they might charm out the shades of the dead, ghosts that were to give them answers. There was a woolen effigy too, another of wax: the woolen one larger, which was to inflict punishment on the little one The waxen stood in a suppliant posture, as ready to perish in a servile manner. One of the hags invokes Hecate, and the other fell Tisiphone. Then might you see serpents and infernal bitches wander about; and the moon with blushes hiding behind the lofty monuments, that she might not be a witness to these doings. But if I lie, even a little, may my head be contaminated with the white filth of ravens..” – from Q. Horatius Flaccus (Horace), The Works of Horace, C. Smart, Theodore Alois Buckley, Ed.
While many of us modern practitioners view these techniques as barbaric, it’s still possible to include the “daimon” of animals in our own witchery. The bare feet and disheveled hair hasn’t changed, at least not for me. Without sacrificing animals, we can use their energies through bits and pieces of them, spirit connections, symbols and images. Use blood, bones, claws, feathers, fur, hair, nails, skin, tails and teeth to harness their spirits for your own magic. Blood should be as fresh as possible, while the rest can be dried or fresh. Roadkill is a Hekatean witch’s treasure. If you are new to collecting dead creatures, small birds are a good place to start. This is a good tutorial.
If you are new to animal spirit magic, you need to buy Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small.
Animal Spirit Witchery, Hekatean Style:
- Many modern Hekateans keep animal bits and pieces on their altars as a symbol both of Hekate and the animal.
- Offerings can include eggs, fish and meat from her animals. Blood in a cup may be a bit much for some, but it is a potent offering. Service at an animal shelter is an excellent offering.
- Animal messengers: Hekate often comes to us using her menagerie either in the world of force, like dreams and during journeys, or by actually sending a physical creature out of the ordinary into our day. Pay attention to these messengers. Research them and interpret her message. More on Hekate’s messages here.
- Animals as Hekatean go-betweens: Call on her animals to get Hekate’s attention. Mighty Hound, I seek your Mistress’s attention now…
- Animal spirit practice: Connect with the energy of the animal’s spirit to receive messages from it and Hekate. Envision a cord linking you to the creature and ones connecting you both to the Hekatean currents. Practice opening up this way often and with different animals to strengthen this ability. The more you do, the better you’ll be able to include them in your witchery. Doing this with the same live animals over time may render you able to control their actions. They can also mirror simple ones. My deer nod back at me.
- Spells: include their bits and pieces in your potions, talismans and charms. While adding focus on the nature of the animal spirit you’re including. If you are new to this, egg shell magic is a great place to start. Grind them up to use in protection spells and more.
- Totem: Elephant is the animal spirit that walks alongside of me. In some ways, I am Elephant as well. It was also a childhood nickname. There’s nothing therapy-inducing in that at all ;). Explore the animals that mean the most to you. Use trance and journeying to connect with them or find one.
- Spirit Companion: This can be your totem, but also a different animal, as a companion or even a guide to the mystical realms. Look for signs in everyday life for animal’s that are applying for this position.
- Shape shifting: Expand the connection so you actually take on the characteristics of the animal. This permits you to access or strengthen abilities and characteristics within yourself. This is best done with living animals, though skulls work quite nicely.
- Fetch: Like the ancient cat-daimon spell, we can train an animal spirit to do our magical bidding for us. This is a bit complex. It can be your totem, but I haven’t had this experience. More often, I’ve used living bunnies and deer spirit energy. If you have a strong connection to an animal spirit, petition Hekate to direct it to follow your magical instructions.
- Divination: casting bones and other parts with assigned meanings is an excellent way to strengthen your animal spirit abilities and peek into the future. In The Witches’ Realm, we have an ongoing class teaching this technique.
Those are just a few ways to include Hekate’s Animals in your witchery. Whatever animals from her menagerie share their energy with you, I hope you find these relationships as deeply satisfying as I do.
The Covenant of Hekate has information on some of her traditional animals, available here.
Here’s a great list of Hekate’s zoological epithets.