Hekate Goddess and Mistress of Witchcraft (Classical Antiquity)

The Ancient Geeks believe Hekate was a Goddess who taught witchcraft and sorcery to witches, known as pharmakeia in Ancient Greece. The first witches documented to be devoted disciples of Hekate’s were the witches Medea and Kirke, as quoted below by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus around 60-30BCE:

“She [Hekate, the daughter of Perses brother of Aeetes] married Aeetes and bore two daughters, Kirke and Medea, and a son Aigialeus.”(1)

“[Medea] said [to the Argonauts] that she had brought with her many drugs of marvellous potency which had been discovered by her mother Hekate and by her sister Kirke; and though before this time she had never used them to destroy human beings, on this occasion she would be means of them easily wreak vengeance upon men who were deserving of punishment.” (2)

Medea and Kirke were well versed in herbal lore and magick.  They took what Hekate taught them and multiplied this wisdom into an immense knowledge which held great powers over the natural world, men and their fates. In Apollonius (Ancient Greek 300BCE poet, philosopher and scholar) Argonautica* writings, it is Hekate who gave the gift of drawing down the moon to her devoted witches as quoted here:

“How many times … have you [the witch Medea] disturbed me with your incantations, making the night moonless so that you might practise your beloved witchcraft undisturbed.” (3)

Hekate was seen as the Goddess, classical witches prayed to and evoked through their hymns and magickal workings.  Even though Hekate’s worship originally started in Asia Minor it developed in Ancient Greece.  This is most likely due to her connection with death and magic, which were areas lacking in the pantheon of the Greek Gods.  Since Hekate was known to be a Goddess who punished the evil doer, classical witches were known to cast spells using “curse tablets” and asked Hekate for her assistance through prayer and incantations.

The Greek Magical Papyri and Curse Tablets mention Hekate the most in these texts (along with Hermies) which proves that she was in high demand for the witches who worked to harness Hekate’s magickal power through their sorcery.  Classical witches were skilled in herbal knowledge as well as being very well versed in various poisons.   I love how the Greek word for “sorcery /witch” also means “poison” especially since many sorcerers and witches work with baneful herbs and this is doubly true for Hekate’s witches.  Medea was able to sway the course of rivers or check the paths of the stars and the moon – as modern witches aren’t we known to bend our will to manipulate the elements around us as well as use astrology to assist us with our spell casting?

Hekate was merged with Diana, Queen of the Witches.  Evidence of this shows in the Hellenisation of the iconography of Diana as well as the spread of Hekate’s cult like devotion when the Ancient Greeks immigrated to Roman provinces. Nemi in Ancient Rome was founded by Orestes and Iphigenia – Iphigenia according to Roman myth was divinised under Hekate and the myth is supported by a triple statue of Artemis-Hecate from 600AD.  Cuma a Greek colony in Ancient Rome had a cult of the Chthonic Hekate and many of the images of Diana Trivia have characteristics of the Ancient Greeks gods which further shows the practitioners of the time synchronised Diana not only with the Greek Goddess Artemis but Hekate as well.  This also shows us that Hekate’s patronage of witches spread with her Goddess Cult.  As modern witches we can claim her patronage as far back as classical times when she was viewed as an ageless Goddess and therefore show how strong our relationship with Hekate has lasted over the centuries.

As her practising witch I have created a hymn to call to Hekate to aid you in your witchy workings.  This can be used in ritual, when spellcrafting in her name or simply when honouring her in her devotionals.

Hymn to Call Hekate as her Witch

“Come be present in my sorcery

Hekate your witch calls out to you

Watch over me and my working

Devoted as I am to you as this

Sacred priestess of pharmakeia

By the moon and its phases

Eternally grateful for you

Your guidance and blessings

Come be present in my sorcery”

(T. Georgitsis 2020)

 


Footnotes:

  • Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 45. 1
  • Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 50. 6
  • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.55

(C) T. Georgitsis 2015 – Updated 2020

Hekate’s Deipnon by Setjataset

Hekate’s Deipnon is Hekate’s main day of veneration and adoration which falls on the Dark of the Moon.  This works out to be at the end of the month in the Athenian Calender (aka Attic Calendar) and any time before the first sliver of the new moon appears in the sky.  The word Deipnon means supper/evening meal which *traditionally was the biggest meal in the day.

Hekate’s Deipnon is a time to:

  1. Venerate Hekate and keep the restless dead at bay;
  2. Clean and purify the home, shrines, altar and ourselves in preparation for the Noumenia (New Moon); and
  3. Make up for slights or offences caused to Hekate, as she won’t grant your boon or bless you unless you make amends.

Making and leaving offerings during the Deipnon is a beautiful hands on approach to honour Hekate and is a very important aspect of ritualised practice in her name.  It’s also a way to placate the restless dead, as in Ancient Greece it was believed that Hekate was the Guide of Lost Souls, whom she guided into the underworld flanked by her hounds.  Traditionally perishable food and drink offerings were left inside or upon shrines, on the door step of homes or at a crossroads.  Offerings left outside were typically left in the middle of a crossroads – the person would present the offering, turn around and leave  without looking back, lest they go mad or anger the restless dead and be followed to their home. Those who were poor, hungry and/or homeless would often consume the offerings.  This wasn’t seen as anathema by the ancients but instead viewed as something which offered a dual purpose – one of honouring Hekate and one of feeding the needy.

Modern practitioners are divided in their practice with respects to the perishable Deipnon offerings – some dispose of the items, saying to partake is unfavourable, whilst others disagree and consume them in an act of appropriating her blessings. Modern devotees as well as placing offerings in traditional places, also use liminal locations such as: the base of trees, mouth openings of caves, edge of a streams, rivers or beaches. Tithing has also become quite popular among modern practitioners with goods, services or donations being given to various charities which predominately include nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and animal rescue homes.

Other non-perishable things to proffer Hekate during the Deipnon are things you want to remove from your life and sweepings from the home.  Taking stock and cleaning out your pantry or fridge is an ideal way to “clean house” and find items to present at the Deipnon .  Other suggestions to engage in during the Deipnon could be to “spring clean” your home and/or work, donate items not needed to charity and/or sell them with proceeds going to good causes.  Some other suggestions are helping out your local community and spiritual/religious/magickal groups you are connected to, cleaning up of natural public places (beaches, parks etc) and assisting family, friends, acquaintances or perfect strangers in need. Every little bit helps regardless how small the token, as giving of yourself without expectation of return is a very distinguished way to venerate Hekate.

The Deipnon is also an apt marker as it’s a timely way to set goals with respect to the things you want to rid yourself of emotionally, physically and spiritually.  Following every Deipnon you can check on your accomplishments and progress with regards to following through with removing the obstacles or things you wanted out of your life.

Traditionally Purification of the home was another important aspect of the Deipnon and included the following steps:

  1. Clean and sweep out all waste including the fireplace;
  2. Fumigate through censoring the home and persons with incense and sacred herbs; and/or
  3. The sacrifice of a black dog, especially when it related to bad deeds the householders wanted to expel.

These days the practices outlined above are continued with modern devotees, with the exception of the sacrificial dog, which is rightfully frowned upon.

I personally like to clean, purify, refresh my working shrine/altar with offerings and set goals of banishments/removals of toxic and unnecessary things in my life.  I also empty my **Kathiskos to Hekate and many other devotees find this useful.  I take a jar which has been consecrated and decorated in Hekate’s name and place items from my fridge and pantry in the jar.  These items, for me, symbolise prosperity and vitality and the Kathiskos is created during the Noumenia (New Moon) which I then empty and clean out during the Deipnon.

 

Some traditional offerings to leave out for Hekate’s Deipnon are:

Ampiphion (cheesecake with candles), milk, eggs, garlic, bread, bay leaves, honey, wine, olive oil, onion, fish, leeks and incense (myrrh, frankincense, copal and storax).

Some modern offerings to leave out for Hekate’s Deipnon are:

Craft projects for items used in Hekate’s name, pomegranates, honey cakes, lamb, herbs associated with Hekate (wormwood, poppy seeds, rue, maidenhair fern, bay laurel, lavender, juniper, mandrake, mint, mugwort and saffron ), raisins, apples, snakeskin, dog hair, oak leaves, roses, mushrooms, mead, keys, skulls, poppy flowers, crystals( amethyst, tourmaline, onyx and black obsidian), poppy and sesame seeds, candles and oil burners.

The way to dispose of perishable offerings from the home is to place in compost, bury or burn off in an incinerator/fire pit.

Whatever you decide to offer Hekate during the Deipnon ensure it is pure of heart and effort and that you do your best with what you have or can acquire.


* Traditionally as in the traditions of devotees, followers or the people in Ancient Greece.

**Kathiskos was traditionally made for Zeus and means “small bucket” in Greek.  It’s a small sealed jar which is used to contain a portion of your home’s food prosperity to Deity.

(C) T. Georgitsis 2014 – Updated 2020

Magical Herb Craft: Pharmakia for Hekate


The Tarot of Delphi by J.D. Hildegard Hinkel

One of my most favorite things to do whilst crafting my magick is to go out into my garden and harvest fresh herbs, plants, bark, fruit, flowers, resins and leaves.  I love the ceremony of picking and culling the perfect flowers, leaves and stems or pulling out the plant in its entirety. I love speaking to the trees and asking to partake of the gifts they provide through their bark, resins, flowers, leaves, fruit, nuts and seeds. Its something that all my family does as a regular practice as in the “old country” the only way to get access to herbs, plants and trees was to grow them or wild-craft (harvest them from nature).

An aspect of my practice, which I took on-board early, due to it being one of the first things my mother taught me with respects to magick.  One of the first memories I have, is of my mother showing me how to gather Greek Basil from our backyard to make into a steeped tea to drink, after having complained of a headache.  I also have fond memories of my mother taking me out into nature with nothing more than a kitchen knife to show me which greens and herbs were safe to collect and eat and which herbs and plants to carefully avoid.  She taught me about the aspects of nature’s pharmacy which could harm and those which could heal because she believed you couldn’t heal without knowing how to harm and vica versa.

I never realized how this early education with trees, herbs and plants shaped my craft in not only preparing food and drink in healing (and on occasion harming) but also in magickal use.  This is why when starting out in one’s practice I would suggest everyone grow at least one herb on their kitchen windowsill or if feeling adventurous create a simple herb garden either in pots or in a garden bed, to be able to have these sacred plants at hand.  This is not only for convenience, but it’s a way to deeply connect the energies of the plant – to you, which comes from time spent sowing the seeds, planting the seedlings and tending to them by fertilizing them, watering them and on occasion trimming them back.

I would suggest starting off with these easy yet wonderfully effective and safe perennial herbs to plant in your garden, which can be used for various magickal purposes:

Chives = aphrodisiac, protection and weight loss.
Tie a chive into a knot whilst thinking of the protection needed and then bury it deep into the ground.

Fennel = strength, protection and weight loss.
Chew the seeds for confidence and courage.

Garlic = protection.
Hang a garland of garlic in the home to protect against malevolent energies.

Mint = purification and healing.
Mint placed around the wrist in a chain protects from illness.

Oregano = peace.
Steep some of the dried herb in water and use to wash the doors and windowsills of the house, which prevents negativity entering the home.

Rosemary = protection, love and stimulates the mind.
Tying up a few dried springs and then burn in the home for purification and to clear the mind.

Sage = longevity and increases magick.
By using the dried herb make a divination tea and scry for future events.

Thyme = purification, love and psychic ability.
Carry a spring of thyme in your pocket to boost your psychic abilities.

As a devotee of Hekate I consider myself a practicing Pharmakia.  Pharmakia is a Greek word meaning sorcerer who works with baneful herbs.  Some translations of Pharmakia also include the word witchcraft and I strongly resonate with this as a magick worker whose Patron is Hekate.  I actually wrote a poem about being Hekate’s Herbalist due to working with Hekate’s herbs so frequently.  I find my witchcraft being so intriguingly infused with nature within my practice I work with what I call Hekate’s Pharmacy – the herbs, plants and trees used in her name and with her guidance.  I do this whilst maintaining a connection to the land I live on as well as respecting the plants and trees I use in my magickal life.  Like the Ancient Hekate Priestesses – Medea and Circe, I too, like to have access to Hekate’s herbs, plants and trees for me to use in her offerings, devotionals and crafts.  Therefore, I have personally created this list from academic resources with respects to her ancient practice, modern practitioners findings, devotees of Hekate personal musings and my own UPG.

Hekate’s Pharmacy by Setjataset

*Aconite (aka monkshood or wolfsbane)

Angelica

Alcea ‘O Hara’

All-heal

Almond

Apple

*Asphodel

Cardamon

Chives

*Cypress

Cassidony

Chamomile

Barley

Bay Laurel

*Belladona

*Black Hellebore

*Black Poplar

Basil

Garlic

*Galangal

Greenbrier

*Datura

Dandelion

Dittany of Crete

Fennel

*Hedge Mustard

Hulwort

Honeysuckle

Ironwort

Jasmine

Juniper

Lavender

*Lesser Celandine

Lion’s Foot

Maidenhair Fern

*Mandrake

Mint

Mugwort

Mullein

Myrrrh

Oak Tree

*Oakmoss

Olive Tree

Onion

Oregano

Pepper

Pine

Pomegranite

*Poppy

Rose

Rosemary

*Rushes

Saffron

Sage

Thyme

Verbena

Vetiver

Willow

*Wormwood

*Yew

(*Please note these can be harmful or toxic if ingested, inhaled or placed on skin.)

As always please research and check all the plants and trees you will be handling before working with them to ensure you do so in a safe manner.

I would also suggest that before collecting any items from Hekate’s Pharmacy for use in your practice, that you evoke Hekate to bestow her blessings and give her thanks.

One I use, is one I wrote for my devotionals when I was first initiated to her practice: Devotional Hymn to Hekate

 

 

C) T. Georgitsis 2020

Starlit Path: Volume 2, Issue 4, Winter 2019: Walking with the Goddess, “Ritual”


 

In this issue, for my column Walking With the Goddess, I share my article on “Ritual“.  This article contains various ritual techniques and I finish off the article with a self-initiation ritual with the aid of Hekate.

The Starlit Path is a free magazine which can be downloaded here: Starlit Path Winter 2019

Starlit Path: Volume 2, Issue 3 Fall 2019: Walking with the Goddess, “How to Protect Yourself”

 

In this issue, for my column Walking With the Goddess, I share my article on “How to Protect Yourself“.  This article contains various protection techniques utilising the elements of earth/air/fire/water with respects to the Body/Mind/Spirit/Emotion and I finish off the article with simple protection magick with the aid of Hekate.

The Starlit Path is a free magazine which can be downloaded here: The Starlit Path Fall 2019

Image

A Poem: Hekate’s Herbalist

HH

Starlit Path: Volume 2, Issue 2 Summer 2019: Walking with the Goddess, “How to Cleanse and Purify Using the Elements”

In this issue, for my column Walking With the Goddess, I share my article on “How to Cleanse and Purify Using the Elements“.  This article contains various purification techniques utilising the elements individually, and brings them all together in a ritual I have specifically written, encompassing them all.

The Starlit Path is a free magazine which can be downloaded here: Starlitpath Summer 2019

Athenian Calendar 2018/19 (Southern Hemisphere)

The best time to honor Hekate is the Deipnon and Noumenia.  With that said, every year I create an Athenian Calendar to calculate the Deipnon and Noumenia using the Southern Hemisphere New Moons, to ensure my devotions are on the right evenings from my location.  This is calculated by the start off point of the Summer Solstice in Greece of that particular year.

The Athenian Calendar also known as the Attic Calendar was a lunisolar calendar used during the classical period of Ancient Greece during the 4th and 5th Centuries BC.  It was exclusively used in Athens at the time and each month starts at the first sighting of the new moon, with the year beginning just after mid-summer.  It’s become a modern go to for practicing Hellenics and as such, what we use and have today is a reconstruction of what they used around 300-500 BC.  I have superimposed this Athenian Calendar over our modern Gregorian one, to loosely create a festival calendar of 12 months based on the cycle of the moon which starts at the beginning of the Athenian year – on the summer solstice in Athens. The names of the months reflect the gods and festivals honoured at that time and have agricultural links to the planting or harvesting of food in the northern hemisphere.

Here is what the yearly Athenian Calendar basically looks like:

Summer (Θέρος)

1          Hekatombaion (Ἑκατομβαιών)           July/August

2          Metageitnion (Μεταγειτνιών)             August/September (named after Apollo)

3          Boedromion (Βοηδρομιών)                September/October

Autumn (Φθινόπωρον)

4          Pyanepsion (Πυανεψιών)                    October/November

5          Maimakterion (Μαιμακτηριών)          November/December (named after Zeus)

6          Poseideon (Ποσειδεών)                      December/January

Winter (Χεῖμα)

7          Gamelion (Γαμηλιών)                         January/February

8          Anthesterion (Ἀνθεστηριών)              February/March (named after the festival of Anthesteria)

9          Elaphebolion (Ἑλαφηβολιών)             March/April

Spring (Ἔαρ)

10        Mounichion (Μουνιχιών)                    April/May

11        Thargelion (Θαργηλιών)                     May/June

12        Skirophorion (Σκιροφοριών)              June/July

 

Every month lasts for approximately 29-30 days in total.  Each month is broken up into 10 days of three which reflect the moon phases in the following order: Waxing, Full and Waning Moons.

Days 1 to 8 were all sacred to gods or spirit entities and the last day of the month, known as “hene kai nea” translated as “the old and the new”, is dedicate to Hekate as it’s her Deipnon along with the first day of the month, Noumenia which is also dedicated to Hekate.

Here are the details of those 8 sacred days in the Athenian Calendar month:

Day 1: Noumenia (New Moon)

Day 2: Agathos Daimon

Day 3: Athena’s Birthday

Day 4: Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite and Eros

Day 6: Artemis’ Birthday

Day 7: Apollo’s Birthday

Day 8: Poseidon and Theseus (Mikalson 1975: 24)

Day 29-30: Deipnon

To get you all started with adapting the Athenian Calendar to the Gregorian one, here is the Athenian Calendar I created for 2019, calculated for Southern Hemisphere practitioners:

21 June 2019, = Summer Solstice in Greece (Winter Solstice in Australia 22nd June 1.54am EST)

 

Summer (Θέρος)

1 Hekatombaion (Ἑκατομβαιών)

3 July              Day 1: Noumenia (New Moon) 5.16am Athenian New Year

4 July              Day 2: Agathos Daimon

5 July              Day 3: Athena’s Birthday

6 July              Day 4: Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite and Eros

7 July              Day 6: Artemis’ Birthday

8 July              Day 7: Apollo’s Birthday

9 July              Day 8: Poseidon and Theseus (Mikalson 1975: 24)

31 July            Day 29-30: Deipnon

 

2 Metageitnion (Μεταγειτνιών) (named after Apollo)

1 August         Day 1: Noumenia (New Moon) 1.11pm

2 August         Day 2: Agathos Daimon

3 August         Day 3: Athena’s Birthday

4 August         Day 4: Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite and Eros

5 August         Day 6: Artemis’ Birthday

6 August         Day 7: Apollo’s Birthday

7 August         Day 8: Poseidon and Theseus (Mikalson 1975: 24)

29 August       Day 29-30: Deipnon

 

3 Boedromion (Βοηδρομιών)

30 August       Day 1: Noumenia (New Moon) 8.37pm

31 August       Day 2: Agathos Daimon

1 September   Day 3: Athena’s Birthday

2 September   Day 4: Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite and Eros

3 September   Day 6: Artemis’ Birthday

4 September   Day 7: Apollo’s Birthday

5 September   Day 8: Poseidon and Theseus (Mikalson 1975: 24)

28 September Day 29-30: Deipnon

 

Autumn (Φθινόπωρον)

4 Pyanepsion (Πυανεψιών)

29 September Day 1: Noumenia (New Moon) 4.26am

30 September Day 2: Agathos Daimon

1 October        Day 3: Athena’s Birthday

2 October        Day 4: Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite and Eros

3 October        Day 6: Artemis’ Birthday

4 October        Day 7: Apollo’s Birthday

5 October        Day 8: Poseidon and Theseus (Mikalson 1975: 24)

27 October      Day 29-30: Deipnon

 

5 Maimakterion (Μαιμακτηριών) (named after Zeus)

28 October      Day 1: Noumenia (New Moon) 2.38pm

29 October      Day 2: Agathos Daimon

30 October      Day 3: Athena’s Birthday

31 October      Day 4: Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite and Eros

1 November    Day 6: Artemis’ Birthday

2 November    Day 7: Apollo’s Birthday

2 November    Day 8: Poseidon and Theseus (Mikalson 1975: 24)

26 November  Day 29-30: Deipnon

 

6 Poseideon (Ποσειδεών)

27 November  Day 1: Noumenia (New Moon) 2.05am

28 November  Day 2: Agathos Daimon

29 November  Day 3: Athena’s Birthday

30 November  Day 4: Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite and Eros

1 December    Day 6: Artemis’ Birthday

2 December    Day 7: Apollo’s Birthday

3 December    Day 8: Poseidon and Theseus (Mikalson 1975: 24)

25 December  Day 29-30: Deipnon

 

(C) T. Georgitsis 2019

Starlit Path: Volume 2, Issue 1 Spring 2019: Walking with the Goddess, “Hekate’s Herbalist”

In this issue, for my column Walking With the Goddess, I share a poem I wrote to my patron Hekate as her devotee and avid herbalist called, “Hekate’s Herbalist”.

There are also some wonderful articles in this issue, including a Cord Spell, The Spell Cord and Meditation: Purification by Flame, which is very Hekate-centric in my opinion and a great addition to one’s practice to the Goddess.

The Starlit Path is a free magazine which can be downloaded here: Starlitpath Spring 2019

Starlit Path: Issue 4 Winter 2018: Walking with the Goddess, “How to Set up a Personal Practice”

My new column Walking With the Goddess is series of regular articles building on devotional practice from the ground up.

My third column in this series is “How to Set up a Personal Practice”

The Starlit Path is a free magazine which can be downloaded here: Starlit Path Winter 2018