While the Fall Equinox can be acknowledged with the sun’s fiery energy, I prefer to make the transition to fall under the bright light of the Harvest Moon. It’s the time when Hekate, like the natural cycle of the earth, transitions from lightness to dark. Hail the return of the Dark Mother while celebrating the harvest under the light of her Harvest Moon.
The Harvest Moon
As the transition to fall occurs, it is not the sun that is the most brilliant, but the full moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox, falling either before or after depending on the year. This full moon is typically brighter than most of the others because of the position of the moon in relation to the earth.
The Harvest Moon represented the true seasonal shift for people living in places where the land was turning fallow. For the Ancient Greeks, it was the time of the second sowing. How very different from the ancient societies where this moon indicated the beginning of frost. Such is what this moon represents in all the places that I have lived.
Searching for inspiration for an article about the commencement of autumn, I thought about the months of increasing darkness. The time when Hekate returns to her role as a Chthonic Goddess. To me, she is the Dark Mother, Queen of the Witches and the Torch Bearer wandering the night. My thoughts turned to Aleister Crowley’s vision of Hekate which led to me wandering around in old files on my computer. Alongside my file containing Crowley’s ode was my own that I had written to Hekate on the Harvest Moon when I had just begun my journey with Hekatean Witchcraft.
I knew that this was no accident, that I had been guided to find this long-forgotten ritual. A decade ago when I wrote it, I had almost no knowledge of the rich history of my favorite Goddess.
Hekate & The Harvest
However, I did know quite a bit about the Harvest Moon back then. Since ancient times and across cultures, the Harvest Moon has included a long day of bringing in the crops and celebrations. Pre-Hellenic Hekate was a Goddess of the Harvest, remnants of this are found in Hesiod’s rhapsodic description of her powers, such as in this excerpt:
“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.”
While Hesiod links Hekate to the harvest, he fails to mention her connection to the moon.
Hekate & The Moon
The ancient Greeks and the bordering lands where Hekate was venerated typically had a very different perspective about the moon. Notably, Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon, was a very minor deity with limited powers. Hekate became strongly associated with the moon in the centuries after Hesiod’s epic, particularly in her bestowing upon her witches’ the power to draw lunar energy into their spells. Poor Selene lamented to Medea about this situation:
“How many times . . . have you disorbed me with your incantations, making the night moonless so that you might practice your beloved witchcraft undisturbed.” – From Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica
While witches today often follow Medea’s approach to lunar witchery, there is a vast difference between the common modern pagan view of the moon and that found in ancient Greece.
I’ve written several articles about Hekate and the Moon. Here you can read an introduction about Hekate as a Moon Goddess, in this blog you can discover the importance of the Dark Moon in Modern Hekatean Witchcraft and this one is all about the New Moon. Yes, they are different to us Hekateans.
In Search Of An Ancient Connection
While the Greeks used a lunar calendar, they didn’t celebrate the moon itself. After I found the old ritual, I wanted to reconcile our contemporary view with how the ancients would or could have honored Hekate during the time around the Harvest Moon.
Although Hekate wasn’t celebrated during this season, many of her closest companions were. The seasonal shift into autumn was observed through festivals to Demeter and Persephone. The most famous being Eleusinia ta Megala. The Eleusinian Mysteries began on the third week of the month that’s usually our modern September. Since the ancient Greeks used a lunar calendar, this would have been on the day of/after the Full Moon. Another harvest fall festival was held the following month. This celebration, known as Thesmophoria, was a time of gender reversals in addition to a celebration of the mother and daughter goddess duo.
Hekate’s closeness with the mother-daughter duo is evidenced in many different ancient depictions. She is portrayed as Persephone’s guide and companion on her round-trips to and from the Underworld, but she is also linked with them in other stories. Perhaps only Artemis is more connected with Hekate. Artemis was celebrated at a festival in Agrae during the month of Boedromion that overlaps with our September for her favor that led to the victory in Marathon. There is one reference that Hekate was publicly honored during this festival.
Beyond this weak connection, I couldn’t find any direct ancient reference to a Hekatean festival during the full moon of September, although there are other modern sources connecting her to the Harvest Moon. However, Hekate is a goddess much older than the ancient Greeks, perhaps there were festivals prior to them or maybe the records no longer exist. Like the moon she governs, her true face is often hidden in shadows.
The Two Faces of Hekate & The Harvest MoonHekate of the Harvest Moon has two facets. She is a Goddess of the Moon shining over the last of the summer. In our contemporary understanding of Hekate and the Harvest Moon, she can be celebrated and petitioned as The Dark Mother of the Moon providing bounty through her light, the eternal torch bearer. Her early followers knew her as a goddess of the life cycle and viewed the moon’s phases as symbolic of the process of life, death and rebirth.
The Harvest Moon shines brightest, it is the last great light before the descent into the season of the Underworld, the decline towards the season of death. As we move into this time of darkness, our energies turn inward to our Lower Self and the power of emotions. Before sinking down into this energetic shift, celebrate the last of the summer’s bright light and the bounty of the Dark Mother, Hekate while honoring the profits of your actions.
Hekate Chthonia emerges as the Harvest Moon wanes, bringing back the energy of her deeply emotional side. The Season of the Witch begins with our Queen guiding us to our internal darkness as the natural world around us descends into the earth. The plants we use decay back into the ground, trusting that their fallen leaves while nourish the soil, eventually bringing about their rebirth. The animals prepare for their descent into their winter lairs. For me, I prepare for my retreat into warm clothes and fires, protected from the harsh climate. This is the Hekate who is both the nightmare and our protection from the terrors of the dark.
“The Hekate of Sophocles’ ‘root gatherers’ seems to have drawn her attributes and nature from the moon, the earth and the lower world; for the moonlight was her spear, and her brows were bound with oak leaves and serpents.” – from Cults Of The Greek States Vol.3 by Lewis Richard Farnell (1907)
The Harvest Moon hails the return of Hekate in this form. Signalling to me the beginning of The Season of the Witch, a sort of onset of the darker energies of mystery and magick, bringing me closer to them and to spirits. As my Harvest Moon guide, Hekate points me in the direction of these roads that lead to Persephone, Queen of the Dead, who may reveal some of her secrets.
The Harvest Moon is when autumn truly begins for this witch.
Hekate & The Harvest Moon Ritual Suggestions
I’ve provided the text I wrote all those years ago below, revised a bit. It may inspire you to create your own honoring Hekate on the Harvest Moon or you may wish to follow mine. Replace the plural with the singular if doing on your own. I say it as plural since Hekate is our household matron and I am blessing all of us. Adapt otherwise as you feel led.
Suitable offerings: representations of the harvest in your area, such as grain, corn, rice. Local wine can be offered in the cup and objects representing her chthonic aspects, like blood and bones.
Stand before an image of Hekate and/or prepare a special Harvest Moon altar.
Colors: Red for the Full Moon and blood. Signifies the energy of the Middle Self, realm of actions coming to an end. Black for welcoming the Under World, and the Lower Self, realm of emotions. White symbolizes the power of creation, use to symbolize all that you are harvesting. Land is red, sea is black, and sky is white. Offering bowl can be any of these colors as can the cup.
Season of The Witch Articles: Autumn and Samhain
Purchase my guide for Modern Hekatean Witchcraft from all major booksellers. Signed and sigiled copies available in the keepingherkeys.com store.