As the Wheel of the Year spins us towards the season when Hekate’s Garden is bountiful, now is the time to connect to the Hieros Pyr, the Sacred Fire, that is Hekate and burns within her witches through incense and ritual. Through the flame, smoke and ash, we work our magick. It is what fuels our cauldron, what lights our way, and what burns away all that would cause harm. Hail Hekate, Hieros Pyr!
The Hieros Pyr
Hekate’s dual torches have been written about and illustrated for over two thousand years. In The Chaldean Oracles, she is called the Hieros Pyr, the Sacred Fire. Moreover, she is described as Anima Mundi, the very soul of the world, in these ancient fragments. It is through her sacred fire that all the material world is birthed and sustained. How very fitting for the Witch Mother to serve this role.
“Thou hallowed fire, weapon of Hecate the road-goddess, that she bears when ministering in Olympus on high and in her haunts by the sacred cross-ways on earth.” – Sophocles, Fragments, Vol. 2 (Pearson, 1917 translation)
Read more about Hekate’s Fires
Fire wields the power of creation and destruction. It can be a force beyond our comprehension or a quiet spark. Such is the experience of Hekate.
Hekate’s Fiery Epithets
In The Chaldean Oracles, Hekate is referred to as the Hieros Pyr of creation using different epithets, including the Flower of Fire (sometimes translated as the Rose of Fire) and the Lightning Striker. These are noetic epithets referring to her role as Cosmic World Soul. Less philosophical ancient writers also evoked her fiery nature, including those spellcasters whose words are what we call The Greek Magical Papyri.
Read about using Hekate’s Epithets in witchery.
Ash, Flame and Smoke: Using the Hieros Pyr in Witchery
As witches, we work with the Hieros Pyr in our spells, from candle magick to concocting potions in our cauldrons. That cauldron for me is often a stainless steel pot on top of my electric range, such as in the Hieros Pyr Water described in the ritual below. Fire is found in the botanicals used in witchery, and the spirits we evoke. Dragon energy has long been connected to Hekate and her eternal witches, such as Medea. The Phoenix is another spirit of the Sacred Fire.
Plant Spirits and the Hieros Pyr
The three parts of the Hieros Pyr are activated when we burn botanicals of all sorts and in candle magick. Fire, of course, is a spirit itself. However, it often contains others, some we invite and those who just show up on their own. The plant spirits we use in incense and fire can be evoked by calling forth the specific properties you wish to have as allies in your working. Oak for sovereignty, birch for binding, basil for initiation, mugwort for divination, skullcap for clarity, are a few examples. Other spirits can be evoked beyond plants. Animal parts can be burned, but that’s a complex process that I’ll save for another article.
Using Hieros Pyr to evoke Hekate is done through connecting to the fire and then using the power of the flames to reach out to her.
Observation of the smoke, flame and ash during workings often reveals messages. If using smoke, flame and ash for scrying alone ensure that you choose correspondences that help to open your Third Eye, such as mugwort or a black candle.
While fire itself has magickal properties and candles can have color magick evoked from them, I use the candle as a beacon for the spirits in a ritual or spell. Botanicals, animal spirits, entities (like Dragon and Phoenix) and even stone spirits become more powerful when fire is used to evoke them. Candles can be infused with spirits, from plant to the energy of deities. A type of vivification, dressing the candles with botanical spirits attunes them for specific purposes. Candles attuned to Hekatean forces are a signal to her that her presence at our rite is requested.
Burning objects infused with intention and spirit allies is one of my preferred methods for releasing spells. A torch spell is constructed by writing the intention on paper, then filling it with corresponding botanicals, summoning their spirits as you put them in the “torch.” I usually bind the spell well with an appropriate bark, like birch or leaves, such as oak. Burn the torch as you recite your incantation. Study the way it burns. A good, clean, slow burn is a great sign. Look for messages in the smoke pattern, color, directions, etc.
The Hidden Powers of Smoke
Smoke alters the chemical structure of the air in the material world, opening up the doors to the world of spirit. Inhaled smoke, of course, alters our state of consciousness. The plant spirits released in smoke indicate the type of smoke magick, so choose them wisely. Your individual energy signature and the plant’s will interact. This means that the smoke of some plant spirits will naturally attune to you and others will be repulsive. I never use palo santo, sandalwood or patchouli in any of my smoke witchery. Damiana, on the other hand, is plant spirit soul mate to me, always reliably opening the way and bringing healing to my weary soul.
A Black Smoke Jar contains things best hidden by capturing smoke, either from a black flame or a suitable incense that protects and binds the contents. Mugwort and skullcap, for example. Write what you wish to hide on black paper, insert it in the black jar, fill with smoke from the candle or incense. Quickly cap. Then seal with black fabric and wax. This is suitable for things you may wish to release at some point rather than banish.
Ash is the pure essence of the plant spirit. High temperatures are required to reduce the botanical down to fine ash, using a special container directly in a fire or even a blow torch. Burning botanicals on a charcoal disk until they are ash works very well without all the fuss, although I do love spagyrics. The ash can be used for anointing to open us up to Hekatean currents and to induce trance. I did this recently and my magickal companion remarked that I looked like a football player, so maybe don’t put it right under your eyes. Another use is to activate sigils, tracing the ash along the shape while reciting your incantation.
The Hieros Pyr of Initiation
Initiation is about honoring our internal witch-fire and Hekate as the Hieros Pyr. For me, initiation is intensely private, between Hekate and the witch. Initiation can’t be bestowed upon us. It is earned through commitment and practice. True initiation isn’t connected to a ceremony, although a commitment ritual certainly helps to make our desire for initiation real. It is accepting the Hieros Pyr.
Many of us are burned along our Witches’ Journey in harmful ways. The voice of others, with their words and actions, attempts to extinguish our witch-fire since their own internal flame is toxic. The ash that remains can be toxic or we can claim our power over it, transforming and transmuting it into our commitment to truth.
The Hieros Pyr of the Dark Moon
Each Dark Moon ritual honoring Hekate is an initiation, a sign of commitment. Initiation is not a “one and done” thing. It is the active pursuit of the Heiros Pyr within each of us and Hekate. At times, this fire changes. Our practice shifts, perhaps from stone spirit magick to alchemy. Hekate may present a different current or epithet for us to explore. These are signs of deepening initiation into her mysteries.
The monthly Dark Moon ritual many practitioners experience is about so much more than making a lone offering at the crossroads on the darkest night. The burn, the marking with ash, the inhaling of smoke. The fire in the spirit. The fiery madness of creation. The scars we bear from the fires that formed us. To me, this is the essence of the Hieros Pyr. These are the offerings I give to Hekate and myself. I give you the Hieros Pyr Water and Ritual below as part of my dedication to the Hekate’s Sacred Fire. Suitable for any Dark Moon, but especially during the winter when Hekate’s Sacred Fire guides us through the frozen darkness. It’s also an ideal time to rekindle our internal witch-fire, leading to new revelations and deepening our initiation.
Hieros Pyr Incense and Holy Fire Water
Basil, skullcap and mugwort comprises the Hieros Pyr incense. Brewed then decocted with pomegranate seeds to make the Hieros Pyr water. Basil is traditionally an herb consumed by initiates as they learn the mysteries, so chosen because it calms the mind while releasing our fire. Mugwort is evoked for protection, psychic awareness, and wisdom. Make sure you direct the energies this way while you make the potion. Skullcap is a supreme binder. A skullcap spell is almost impossible to break. Call forth the characteristics of learning, clarity, and success in addition to binding the Holy Fire Water together. Pomegranate bears the energy of the price of initiation. A plant of Saturn, pomegranate is added for enhanced stability and increased focus. Making recommendations for amounts is tricky since it varies based on quality, your experience, and many other factors. I suggest ½ tsp of each with ½ c pomegranate seeds boiled in 2 cups pure water.
By Smoke, Flame and Ash: Ritual of the Hieros Pyr
The usual cleansing of mind, body and space should be conducted prior to doing this ritual. The Hieros Pyr incense can be burned and the ensuing ash used for sigil activation. The Holy Fire Water can be used to anoint the three major energy centers of the body (root, heart and crown) during the ritual. I suggest a black candle as part of the ritual, although you can go all out and have black, red and white to represent the three forms of fire and the self. Use the incense and the water as your offering to Hekate. This is a ritual of the Dark Moon. Anoint the focal points as you petition each of the forms. Arrange your altar in a chthonic style, down low to connect to the energy of Hekate as Witch-Mother. As always, use as is or adapt as you feel led.
This ritual is one of my favorites. The incense is a stable trance inducer and the Holy Fire Water is actually not poisonous, so I consume a cup along with pomegranate seeds soaked in it. Then I open up to the visions of the smoke and flame.
Start by making your offering to Hekate, through the botanical gifts and a prayer or hymn.
Hail Hekate, Hieros Pyr!
She who is the holy witch-fire.
Hail to the Hieros Pyr,
The sacred witch-fire!
Hail to the ash, smoke and flame,
And to the plants which render same!
Through your sacred smoke, I am cleansed.
Through your bright flame, I banish all that harms.
Through your alchemical ash, I am transformed.
Hail Hekate, Hieros Pyr!
Hail to the plant spirits who render your fire!
Hail to smoke, ash and flame,
Whose powers I now claim!
After: Release excess power, thank Hekate, open your space if you closed it. Cast your bones, asking for guidance for your ash, flame and smoke aspects or do a three-card Tarot draw for the same.
For an alternative approach to connecting to Hekate as the Fire of Creation, read this.
Looking ahead: Hekate and the Spring Equinox
Botanical information is provided for educational use only. Individual experience will vary. Test for sensitivities if you have any to ragweed or other plants, and even if you don’t by smelling a small amount and rubbing a pinch on the inside of your wrist.