Ahimsa Grove

Ahimsa Grove is a resource for vegan pagan living. It will include personal experiences and musings, recipes, shopping tips, vegan ethical and dietary considerations, and ideas for pagan practice including spells, rituals, and herbcraft.

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Ahimsa Grove Samhain Special: Hecate’s Veg History


          Few Neo-pagan goddesses are as strongly associated with Samhain as is Hecate (also often spelled Hekate). Therefore, I thought it might be a good time of year to point out the perhaps unexpected ways that Hecate has always had a place at the vegetarian table.


            Several ancient Pagans that I talked about in my blogs about the Transmigration of Souls were followers of Hecate, in one way or another. I do not think this is a coincidence. As the goddess of the cross roads, who could decide the fate of a soul when it was in transition between the realms, Hecate was a powerful player in the process of the aforementioned transmigration. To be in her good graces may have been thought to ensure a good reincarnation, and ultimately the release from that cycle.


The whole Transmigration of Souls thing is very connected to ancient vegetarianism. Folks who believed that they had been or would be incarnated as multiple species of animals were much more likely to embrace vegetarianism. You can see the direct link of those beliefs in my previous posts.


            In Hekate: Liminal Rites (Avalonia Press, 2009), authors Sorita d’Este and David Rankine point out the goddess’ connection to vegetarianism. Several of our veg Pagan ancestors seem to have worshipped her in their own practices.


            In the first chapter of the aforementioned book, there is a sub-heading called “Hekate’s Vegetarian Followers.” In this, the authors discuss the historical links between vegetarians like Hesiod, Empedocles, Porphyry, Plotinus, and Ovid to at least some worship of Hecate. They also link this to the common beliefs about the transmigration of souls.


For instance, they say that, “Empedocles, who believed in the transmigration of souls, argued that to eat a living creature was a grievous sin, as you were eating another soul on the journey to divinity. He maintained the Golden Age of the past had been one without animal sacrifice or the consumption of meat. Rather the offerings to the gods were substances such as the sweet resins of frankincense and myrrh, and honey (Chapter 1).”


            Another relevant quote from this same section of the book pertains to Porphyry. It reads, “Porphyry was vehement in his vegetarianism, and wrote two works supporting this viewpoint, On Abstinence, and On the Impropriety of Killing Living Beings for Food. It is also interesting to observe that Porphyry’s teachers, the noted philosophers Plotinus and Plutarch, were both vegetarian…. Porphyry…emphasized a move away from animal sacrifice and towards using incense, vegetables and first fruits, perhaps in an effort to try and restore practices to the way they were perceived in the golden age (Chapter 1).”


            I bring this information because I personally used to think that objections to animal sacrifice had only happened in relatively modern times. I had this same idea about vegetarianism being a pretty new-fangled idea. Bear in mind that I use the term “vegetarian” as a simple way to describe abstinence from some or all animal products. That term was only coined in the 1850s, and veganism didn’t come until the 1940s. But both practices were alive and well under different names in very ancient times.


            If you are interested in Hecate, perhaps you would like to try doing Hecate’s Supper. In the ancient world, it was very common for her devotees to put out offerings to her, often near a triple crossroad, on the dark moon. Some have also said that the thirtieth of the month was a time to leave these meals. I think in modern practices, we should do whatever feels right to us, as individuals. I certainly think Samhain would be a very appropriate time.


“Hekate: Liminal Rites” also includes a chapter on this practice. As they explain it, “It may be that these offerings were made to appease ghosts and keep them at the crossroads, avoiding trouble from them whilst travelling, etc. Alternatively these offerings were described as being made to placate the goddess and ensure that she would look favorable upon those who made regular offerings (Chapter 19).”


            The Hecate’s supper was also a form of charity. Once the food was left out, it was fine for people or other animals to consume it. Whoever came for the food was seen as the emissary of the goddess. In this sense, the very wide-spread practice contained an element of social justice.


            The blending of witchcraft, social justice, and food in the practice of Hecate’s Supper makes it seem like a particularly tasty practice for vegan pagans. Although many of her devotees were not vegetarian and nor were their suppers, there are plenty of veg foods that were traditional offerings for her. These include garlic, bread, apples, and onions. Special cakes called amphiphontes were left for her that were lit with candles, to symbolize her torches. This may be the precursor to the modern birthday cake. These can easily be made vegan.


            Whatever night you choose to lay out a Hecate’s Supper, tradition suggests that you never go back to retrieve any part of it. You will therefore want to set it on a stationary altar, or leave it without any dishes. In her aspect as a Chthonic (Earth and Underworld) deity, Hecate’s offerings might also be buried. I would suggest that it would be a responsible choice of a “green” Neo-pagan to leave only biodegradable offerings that are not harmful to any creature that might get hold of them. And of course, if you offer amphiphontes, you would not leave candles unattended.


            So if you are a veg pagan, perhaps you will want to explore these aspects of Hecate during the Samhain season. I wish you blessings, and a magical Sabbat.


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Leslie earned her Master of Divinity Degree at Vanderbilt University and is a Wiccan Priestess, Ordained Interfaith and seeking ordination through the Temple of the Feminine Divine in Bangor. Her column in SageWoman, “Child of Artemis,” deals with women and our relationship with animals. Leslie considers herself a cultural worker, dealing with issues of violence and oppression as they impact humans and other species. She has worked at a rural domestic violence prevention program since 2001 and is a board member on VegME, Maine’s vegan advocacy group.  


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