Mythology Monday | Hecate

Hecate is the Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft. She is known as either a Titan or a minor goddess, as well as a witch. Alternative spelling is “Hekate.” The word “heka” in ancient Egyptian myth translates to the word “magic” or “magical being.”

Hecate is pronounced “HECK-a-tee,” although I have also heard it pronounced “HECK-a-tay” or “heck-a-TAY.” I believe that the first pronunciation makes more sense when compared to other Greek goddess names such as Aphrodite or Persephone.

Hecate is known for existing in three’s. In some versions she stands as three separate women standing together, in some versions she is one woman with three heads, and in another she has the head of a dog, a snake, and a horse. This is perhaps where the thought of “death happens in three’s” comes from, or perhaps why three is considered such a magical number.

Along with witchcraft, Hecate is also connected to necromancy, ghosts, and the afterlife. She used plants and herbs to make potions. It is said that she discovered most poisonous plants; she may have even tested them on victims by sneaking them in their food and seeing how they’d react.

While she is one of the most commonly known Greek goddesses, there is little surviving myths of her. The greatest story that she is connected to is the myth of Persephone. When Hades kidnapped Persephone and brought her down into the Underworld, her mother Demeter was absolutely distraught, searching for where she had disappeared to. Hecate was the one who found her.

Some versions of the Persephone myth claim that her mother, Demeter, came to Hecate and asked her for help. In other versions, Hecate heard Persephone from the Underworld and came to Demeter to let her know.

Hecate may come off as frightening and intimidating — that’s because there is not much we truly know about her. Some myths claim that she used poisonous plants to harm others. But in the myth of Persephone, she is helping Demeter find her daughter. So there are two sides to her: wanting to harm and wanting to help.

Hecate can be seen as the personification of medicine: it can be highly dangerous and ruin lives (opioids for example) or it can serve as life-saving help. The same can be said for magic and witchcraft: it can bring harm (black magic and curses) or joy (wish fulfillment.)

Hecate is most popular among those who are interested in plant medicine, especially poisonous plant medicine, and magical practices and rituals. Be cautious of her spirit, but do not approach her with fear.

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