Hekate is a complex goddess with many abilities, attributes and powers. Epithets are words used to describe these things. Think of them as archetypes that evoke these aspects from the universal flow. Epithetical practice is a key for deepening our spiritual practice and ramping up our magick. However, it can be off-putting if you’re new to using them. They are potent evokers, connected to deep forces, and excellent for expanding my understanding. Epithets can be used to craft spells and expand consciousness.
Words are power to the witch. They evoke certain energies and spirits, carrying with them a trail of magic. Summoning characteristics that are associated with archetypal aspects of animals and other creatures are common practices in a variety of cultures and traditions. Sometimes, this is accomplished through taking on the physical appearance of the creature, like in the image. However, the words themselves – like “fierce” or “strong” – can also summon such powers.
Epithets are words used to describe aspects of a person, spirit of deity that can be used for personal, spiritual and magical practice. These descriptive terms are thought forms, containing great power through their connection to the energy associated with them. In Modern Hekatean Witchcraft, epithets are used to evoke and invoke specific aspects of Hekate, spirits and forces. For personal practice, epithets can be used to enhance existing abilities and characteristics through intentionally summoning the energy of the characteristics. Epithetical spiritual practices include chanting certain ones to connect to their energetic signatures and using them in ritual. In magical practice, these words are woven into spells and other witchery to cast their power into our intentions. Epithets are concise descriptors of attributes and powers associated with Hekate, such as when I determined that, in 21st century vocabulary, she is a Goddess of Relationships.
Historical writings about Hekate often used animal epithets to describe her attributes. For example, she is often described as bullish, from being Bull-Faced (Tauropos) to the Bull-Dragon (Taurodrakaina) in the Greek Magical Papyri. You can read more about her animal epithets here. When ancient writers and practitioners used these terms, they were both describing characteristics and evoking their power.
The use of epithets extended far beyond animals, including numerical associations, personality characteristics, and honorifics. You can find a lengthy list of Hekatean epithets here.
In fact, there are well over 200 known Hekatean epithets derived from ancient sources, from Angelos (Messenger) to Mormo (She-Monster). There are the more widely known ones, including Torchbearer and others associated with the Underworld.
While the power of these historical terms is undeniable, creating new appellations that hold meaning in the here and now empowers us as practitioners of Hekatean Witchcraft. I’ve written about Hekate as Goddess of the Marginalized, for example. Epithetical practice should be a living, current approach and not entirely based in the distant past.
Learn more about Hekate’s epithets in Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft.
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