Readings for reflection: Hekate

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 29
At Thebes Proitos had a daughter Galinthias. This maiden was playmate and companion of Alkmene, daughter of Elektryon. As the birth throes for Herakles were pressing on Alkmene, the Moirai and Eileithyia, as a favour to Hera, kept Alkmene in continuous birth pangs. They remained seated, each keeping their arms crossed. Galinthias, fearing that the pains of her labour would drive Alkmene mad, ran to the Moirai and Eleithyia and announced that by desire of Zeus a boy had been born to Alkmene and that their prerogatives had been abolished. At all this, consternation of course overcame the Moirai and they immediately let go their arms. Alkmene’s pangs ceased at once and Herakles was born. The Moirai were aggrieved at this and took away the womanly parts of Galinthias since, being but a mortal, she had deceived the gods. They turned her into a deceitful weasel (or polecat), making her live in crannies and gave her a grotesque way of mating. She is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through the throat. Hekate felt sorry for this transformation of her appearance and appointed her a sacred servant of herself.

Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 3.840
Propitiating the only-begotten maiden Hekate with a midnight offering, Brimo, nurse of youth, Brimo, night-wanderer of the underworld, Queen of the Dead.

Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 3.1194
Hekate Brimo, hearing his words from the abyss, came up. She was garlanded by fearsome snakes that coiled themselves round twigs of oak; the twinkle of a thousand torches lit the scene; and hounds of the underworld barked shrilly all around her.

Scholiast on Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 3.467
According to the hymns of Orpheus Hekate was a daughter of Deo; according to Bacchylides, a daughter of Nyx; according to Musaeus, a daughter of Zeus and Asteria; and according to Pherecydes, she was a daughter of Aristaios.

Aristophanes, Ploutos 410
Ask Hekate whether it is better to be rich or starving; she will tell you that the rich send her a meal every month and that the poor make it disappear before it is even served.

Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.45.2
And Perses had a daughter Hecatê, who surpassed her father in boldness and lawlessness; she was also fond of hunting, and when she had no luck she would turn her arrows upon human beings instead of the beasts. Being likewise ingenious in the mixing of deadly poisons she discovered the drug called aconite and tired out the strength of each poison by mixing it in the food given to the strangers. And since she possessed great experience in such matters she first of all poisoned her father and so succeeded to the throne, and then, founding a temple of Artemis and commanding that strangers who landed there should be sacrificed to the goddess, she became known far and wide for her cruelty.

Hesiod, Theogony 410-452
And she conceived and bare Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hekate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Kronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. Also, because she is an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her. Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hekate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less. So, then. albeit her mother’s only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Kronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young, and these are her honours.

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 19 ff
Then she cried out shrilly with her voice, calling upon her father, the Son of Kronos, who is most high and excellent. But no one, either of the deathless gods or mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tender-hearted Hekate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaios, heard the girl from her cave, and the lord Helios … Then for nine days queenly Deo wandered over the earth with flaming torches in her hands, so grieved that she never tasted ambrosia and the sweet draught of nectar, nor sprinkled her body with water. But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come, Hekate, with a torch in her hands, met her, and spoke to her and told her news: ‘Queenly Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of good gifts, what god of heaven or what mortal man has rapt away Persephone and pierced with sorrow your dear heart? For I heard her voice, yet saw not with my eyes who it was. But I tell you truly and shortly all I know.’ So, then, said Hekate. And the daughter of rich-haired Rheia answered her not, but sped swiftly with her, holding flaming torches in her hands.

Lycophron, Alexandra 1174 ff
The maiden daughter of Perseus, Brimo Trimorphos, shall make thee her attendant, terrifying with thy baying in the night all mortals who worship not with torches the images of Zerynthia queen of Strymon, appeasing the goddess of Pherai with sacrifice. And the island spur of Pachynos shall hold thine awful cenotaph, piled by the hands of thy master, prompted by dreams when thou hast gotten the rites of death in front of the streams of Heloros. He shall pour on the shore offerings for thee, unhappy one, fearing the anger of the three-necked goddess, for that he shall hurl the first stone at thy stoning and begin the dark sacrifice to Haides.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 44.198
Dionysos waited for darksome night, and appealed in these words to the circular moon in heaven: ‘O daughter of Helios, Mene of many turnings, nurse of all! O Selene, driver of the silver car! If thou art Hekate of many names, if in the night thou doest shake thy mystic torch in brandcarrying hand, come nightwanderer, nurse of puppies because the nightly sound of the hurrying dogs is thy delight with their mournful whimpering.

Orphic Argonautika 122 ff
After I came to the enclosures and the sacred place, I dug a three-sided pit in some flat ground. I quickly brought some trunks of juniper, dry cedar, prickly boxthorn and weeping black poplars, and in the pit I made a pyre of them. Skilled Medeia brought to me many drugs, taking them from the innermost part of a chest smelling of incense. At once, I fashioned certain images from barley-meal [the text is corrupt here]. I threw them onto the pyre, and as a sacrifice to honor the dead, I killed three black puppies. I mixed with their blood copper sulfate, soapwort, a sprig of safflower, and in addition odorless fleawort, red alkanet, and bronze-plant. After this, I filled the bellies of the puppies with this mixture and placed them on the wood. Then I mixed the bowels with water and poured the mixture around the pit. Dressed in a black mantle, I sounded bronze cymbals and made my prayer to the Furies. They heard me quickly, and breaking forth from the caverns of the gloomy abyss, Tisiphone, Allecto, and divine Megaira arrived, brandishing the light of death in their dry pine torches. Suddenly the pit blazed up, and the deadly fire crackled, and the unclean flame sent high its smoke. At once, on the far side of the fire, the terrible, fearful, savage goddesses arose. One had a body of iron. The dead call her Pandora. With her came one who takes on various shapes, having three heads, a deadly monster you do not wish to know: Hekate of Tartarus. From her left shoulder leapt a horse with a long mane. On her right should there could be seen a dog with a maddened face. The middle head had the shape of a lion [or snake] of wild form. In her hand she held a well-hilted sword. Pandora and Hekate circled the pit, moving this way and that, and the Furies leapt with them. Suddenly the wooden guardian statue of Artemis dropped its torches from its hands and raised its eyes to heaven. Her canine companions fawned. The bolts of the silver bars were loosened, and the beautiful gates of the thick walls opened; and the sacred grove within came into view. I crossed the threshold.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.43.1
I know that Hesiod in the Catalogue of Women represented that Iphigeneia was not killed but, by the will of Artemis, became Hekate.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.11.8
In the portico of the temple of Askepios at Titane are dedicated images of Dionysos and Hekate, with Aphrodite, the Mother of the Gods, and Tyche. These are wooden.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.30.2
Of the gods, the Aiginetans worship most Hekate, in whose honour every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alkamenes of Athens, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hekate attached to one another.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.14.9-10
I know of no other Greeks who are accustomed to sacrifice puppies except the people of Kolophon; these too sacrifice a puppy, a black bitch, to Enodia at night.

PGM III.1-59
Take the cat, and make three lamellae, one for its anus, one for …, and one for its throat; and write the formula concerning the deed on a clean sheet of papyrus, with cinnabbar ink, and then the names of the chariots and charioteers, and the chariot boards and the racehorses. Wind this around the body of the cat and bury it. Light seven lamps upon unbaked bricks, and make an offering, fumigating storax gum to it, and be of good cheer. Take its body [and preserve] it by immuring it either in a tomb or in a burial place … with colors, … bury … looking toward the sunrise, pour out (?) …, saying:

“Angel, … SEMEA, chthonic … lord, grant safety, … O chthonic one, in the horse race, IAKTORE; hold … restrain …, PHOKENSEPSEUAREKTATHOUMISONKTAI, for me, the spirit … the daimon of the place … and may the deed come about for me immediately, immediately; quickly, quickly, because I conjure you, at this place and at this time, by the implacable god … THACHOCHA EIN CHOUCHEOCH, and by the great chthonic god, ARIOR EUOR, and by the names that apply to you; perform the NN deed.” Add the usual.

Then take up the water in which the drowning took place, and sprinkle it on the stadium or in the place where you are performing the rite.

The formula to be spoken, while you are sprinkling the drowning water, is as follows: I call upon you, Mother of all men, you who have brought together the limbs of Meliouchos, even Meliouchos himself, OROBASTRIA NEBOUTOSOUALETH, Entrapper, Mistress of corpses, Hermes, Hekate, Hermekate, LETH AMOUMAMOUTERMYOR; I conjure you, the daimon that has been aroused in this place, and you, the daimon of the cat that has been endowed with spirit; come to me on this very day and from this very moment, and perform for me the NN deed.” Add the usual, whatever you wish.

Plutarch, On Superstition 3.166A
But either thou art frightened of a spectre beheld in sleep and hast joined the revel-rout of nether Hekate.

Propertius, Elegies 2. 29c
Brimo, who as legend tells, by the waters of Boebeis laid her virgin body at Mercurius’ side.

Strabo, Geography 10.3.10
Now most of the Greeks assigned to Dionysos, Apollon, Hekate, the Mousai, and above all to Demeter, everything of an orgiastic or Bakchic or choral nature, as well as the mystic element in initiations. And branch-bearing, choral dancing, and initiations are common elements in the worship of these gods.

Suidas s.v. All’ ei tis humôn en Samothraikei memuemenos esti
In Samothrake there were certain initiation-rites, which they supposed efficacious as a charm against certain dangers. In that place were also the mysteries of the Korybantes and those of Hekate and the Zerinthian cave, where they sacrificed dogs. The initiates supposed that these things save [them] from terrors and from storms.

Virgil, Aeneid 4.609
Hecate whose name is howled by night at the city cross-roads.