Hecate the Virtuous and the Sinful

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You may have started to hear the name of Hecate when things such as spells and witchcraft are mentioned from time to time in today’s popular culture. In mythology, Hecate helped Zeus in the battle of him against the titans, even though Hecate herself was descended from the titans. Therefore, when Zeus won the war and took the throne of Olympos, he did not take away Hecate’s powers. While Zeus ruled the sky, Poseidon the seas, Hades the underground; Hecate has made her will prevail over these three worlds. Hecate’s father was Perses and her mother is Asteria.

”Hecate the Virtuous and the Sinful” Relief in Istanbul Archeology Museum
HEKATE by Maxmilián Pirner (1854 – 1924
Hecate of Lagina, Turkey

Apart from the moon and night, Hecate is also associated with the dead, the underworld, and witchcraft. There are many symbols associated with Hecate. One of the symbols of Hecate, in which she is depicted in human representation, is a pair of torches she uses to illuminate the darkness. These torches are one of the most recognizable symbols of Hecate. According to Greek mythology, Hecate used her torches when she went underground to search for Persephone while she was kidnapped by Hades. The other Hecate symbol is a key chain. Because; Hecate is the goddess of roads, gates, and walls. Another famous Hecate symbol is the moon. Among the animals, Hecate’s symbol was the black dog. Today this animal is still associated with witchcraft. Since Hecate lives in two worlds and can switch between them at will, another symbol associated with her is the frog. The frog lives in both water and on land.

If we are going to talk about Hecate, first of all, we need to talk about the concept of the trinity she possesses. Hecate is mostly depicted as three statues standing back to back on the same pedestal in triple female form. The concept of trinity takes place not only in Greek myths but also in many different mythologies. Trinity is about three entities that complement each other and are therefore often depicted together. The triple form of Hecate is associated with all three stages of womanhood as a young girl, mother, and old wise woman.

In mythology, the growing moon is depicted as a young girl, the full moon as a mother, and the waning moon as an old woman. The old woman, who represents the wisdom and transfer of life experience learned in ancient times, was unfairly transformed into a witch in the Middle Ages. The church, which wanted to destroy pagan beliefs and especially the cult of the Mother Goddess, declared war on the wise woman by declaring her a witch. Because of its connection with the underworld, Hecate was vilified as the goddess of witchcraft and dark forces in the Middle Ages, and its meaning was corrupted.

In common Anatolian beliefs, Hecate is the goddess of the underworld and sorcery, sending ghosts to the earth and also appearing to people herself in ghost form. Awe-inspiring, Hecate is often depicted with the ghost Empusa, the vampire girl Lamias, and howling dogs. Famous witches of the mythology such as Aietes, Circe, and Media were all related to Hecate.

The fact that Hecate’s name is not known much today and that those who know her are wronged by associating her with evil is the result of the corruption that took place in the Middle Ages. Whereas, Hecate’s original attributes include Protector, One on the Way, Holder of the Keys, Bringer of Light, One at the Crossroads, and Savior.

Hecate, 1795 Painting by the English artist and poet William Blake

Hasan Gülday

Hasan Gülday. Professional licensed tour guide working in Turkey.

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