Dr. Cyndi Brannen, PhD is a witch and psychologist dedicated to Hekate, her two sons and living the coastal life in rural Nova Scotia. She is a trained energetic healer, psychic and herbalist who is also an internationally-recognized expert on women’s health and the development of self-help programs. In 2005, she founded Open Circle Wellness which offers courses and individual support, including the popular Shadow Taming Workshop and Tarot Readings. She created The Real Work: A Pagan Path for Personal Development and teaches that in-person and online, as well as providing training for those wishing to deliver the course. Dr. Brannen has taught meditation and mindfulness to a variety of groups and organizations. She started Keeping Her Keys to fulfill her mission and dream of writing and teaching about Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. She is the author of Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft which will be released early 2019. Learn more: Keepingherkeys.com
How did your relationship with Hekate begin? Why did you decide to devote yourself to Her?
I want this story to be more mysterious, but the truth is I was folding laundry. I heard a voice say, “it’s time.” It’s difficult to describe the experience, but others who have been called by Hekate know what I’m talking about. A profound inner knowing filled me that this was Hekate. At the time I was only vaguely aware of her as a goddess. I was a devotee of Isis and had close associations with Artemis, Persephone and Kirke. Isis still stands watch over me every night. I haven’t written about her, but I will soon. If your readers are interested, I’ve written articles about the other three as well as Medea who I work with as well.
I don’t recall consciously deciding to devote myself to her initially. We had an understanding right from the outset. I think it was about 10 months later that I did a formal commitment ceremony alone in my bedroom using my son’s play table as an altar. From that ceremony grew what has become An Evocation of Hekate Suitable for Any Rite.
Congratulations on your upcoming book! Can you share with us what we can look forward to?
Thanks! Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft explores the history and modern understanding of Hekate from an Applied Modern Witchcraft perspective. The focus is on exercises, rituals and spells that lead to “better living through witchcraft.” Given Hekate’s complex nature, I’ve organized her diverse roles within the structure of The Three Worlds and how these are reflected in our Three Selves. There are sections on correspondences, spell crafting and loads of self development practices. It’s the book that I wished I had when I first started on my Hekatean Journey. Your readers can learn more about my approach in this article: Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft: A Short Introduction.
Many, though not all, who work with Hekate see her as the Great Goddess herself after discovering how complex and multi-faceted she is. What are your views on Hekate in this regard? Are you more of a soft polytheist with Her, or do you see her as having specific roles within a pantheon?
How I understand Hekate is very personal. I am not even going to try to pigeonhole this into a category, such pantheism, hard polytheism, etc. One thing that is certain in relation to The Great Goddess model being applied to Hekate is that she is a force of creation and destruction. This is reinforced by other’s accounts of their understanding and my own experience. Hekate is unique among goddesses for many reasons. One area that I am current exploring through academic research is her role as a fertility goddess. In some myths, she has children and she can certainly be considered the Ultimate Witch Mother. Hekate of The Chaldean Oracles births the material world. I am fascinated that translators, writers and individual followers fail to see this in terms of fertility. I am equally intrigued about why Hekate was desexualized in many ways. I’ll be talking to fellow Hekateans about their thoughts on these topics in the coming months.
Do you work with other goddesses as well, or does Hekate and her broad spectrum of roles, powers, and epithets pretty much cover everything that you would need from a goddess? Or, do you see other goddesses that you work with as directly related to Hekate, if not different forms of Her?
I have close relationships with four of Hekate’s companions – Artemis, Medea, Kirke and Persephone. Mercury and Lucifer, who may be variations of the same male energy to me, are also never far from me.
Hekate, to me, is a force that is simultaneously intimate and distant. The other deities that I associate with seem much more knowable to me. I do see her as very distinct from the other deities and entities that I am involved with. In my private practice, Hekate is The Dark Mother who I see as a maternal figure to the deities I know well.
If one is looking to build a connection with Hekate, what main advice would you give them?
I get asked about this at least a few times a week. The answer to this question is so personal, but I think there are a few general guidelines. The first thing I recommend is to develop observation skills. Study the world around you. Look for signs from her in the natural world, like keys, dogs and unexpected interactions with strangers. Then I suggest a practice that encourages spiritual openness. This includes techniques like meditation and being present in the physical body. Next I say to work on what I call the Hekatean Cord, by developing a personal understanding, engaging in daily devotional activities, studying her history, learning her correspondences and deep diving into her energy through creative and mystical activities. Hekate often reveals herself to us spontaneously initially, but after it’s often up to us to develop the Hekatean Cord so we can become attuned to her energies and messages. This is where we begin in my intense program in Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. There is nothing easy about being a Hekatean Witch, but it is so worth it. I’ve written four articles on connecting to Hekate:
Hekate has become a very popular goddess among witches, and I would argue moreso now than ever. Why do you think this is?
I had a very powerful vision of Hekate being freed from the restrictions imposed on her by those in power over the past two thousand years. I think this is why she speaks to so many at this moment in time. Our liberation to live as our true selves, whether as witches, queers or something else, is her ultimate triumph. She comes to us as the revealer of truth, the light in our personal hell and guides us forward. Her time, and ours, has come.
Why do you think a lot of witches tend to focus on Hekate’s darker sides and ignore her other attributes?
My experience is that serious witches seek out the mysteries of the in-between and the shadows. We pursue the emotional depths of the Under World. The dark, wet womb is where we find healing. This is where Hekate as The Dark Mother can be found. All her roles and characteristics in recorded history and in personal experience grew out of her primacy. Witchcraft is concerned with birth and death. Hekate as the Creatrix and Death Walker reflects who we are. I also think witches are insatiably curious, always growing and inherently complex. We are drawn to her darkness because we can relate. I would say that many of us begin with the Torch Bearing Night Wanderer, or Dark Mother, aspect of Hekate and then proceed from there. Some are frightened away at this point, so they never get to know the complexity of Hekate. This mirrors our own development. Some of us resist shadow work while the rest of us delve into it.
Hekate is associated with Keys, and your blog post is entitled “Keeping Her Keys.” What is Hekate’s association with Keys and what does this mean for you as a witch devoted to Her?
In The Orphic Hymn, Hekate is called the Keeper of the Keys of the Universe. In her cult at Lagina, rituals included a practice known as kleidos pompe where a priestess carried a key. Hekate in ancient times was often the matron of households, and there is, of course, her association with crossroads, gates and thresholds. All of which often involve either a literal or figurative key.
I see Hekate as the Keeper of the Keys. It is entirely our choice whether we take up these keys.. I think this scares a lot of people away from her. They either want a deity to do the work for them or are terrified of their own power.
The name has a personal meaning as well. When I decided to accept Hekate’s mission of writing and teaching about her full-time, I chose to take the keys she offered me. It’s also about keeping my own keys, being a sovereign witch living her truth. Taking charge of the keys of our life requires risk and grit. I encourage every witch reading this to become the keeper of their own keys.
A lot of witches who work with Hekate work with her alone. Some witches pair her with a male deity for some workings. Do you ever do this? If so, which male deities do you feel pair well with her and why?
I get asked this question a lot. I think there is too much individual variability to recommend one “right” male deity. I know many practitioners who include Lucifer and/or Hermes/Mercury, including myself. Hekate has several male known associates, especially Hermes. She is also connected to Zeus, Hades, Serapis, Apollo and even Poseidon. Outside of the pantheon, I would say that strong male energy that’s more about impulsiveness, mirth and is extroverted would pair very well with Hekate.
Lastly, anything we can look forward to from you in the near future? Any new books, projects, tours, events?
I’m currently finishing the manuscript for The Sacred Seven: A Course in Applied Modern Witchcraft that will make some of the key concepts of this course accessible to a wider audience. Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft: The First Key is an intensive program beginning November 1. I am excited about going on a tour during the summer of 2019 to connect with the amazing Keeping Her Keys community in person.
Patreon Exclusive Bonus
Cyndi Brannen shares a brief ritual for activating our internal keys. It’s a brand new and exclusive ritual that she’s been working on for the forthcoming Keeping Her Keys: Deeper Into Hekate’s Mysteries that will explore Under World Hekatean Witchcraft and is a follow-up to Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekatean Witchcraft. This is available for Patreon supporters with the tier “In The Know Jackalope” and higher.