BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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On Hekate

Hekate is a complicated Goddess. Crossroads, entryways, and liminal spaces; journeys and war; the moon and the night and the underworld; ghosts and cemeteries; magic and herbology; pregnancy and midwifery and nursing; sailing and fishing and shepherding and dogs; all fall under her aegis. Honored originally in Anatolia, her worship spread throughout the Greek-speaking world. Adopted by the Romans (who tended to call her Hecate or Trivia), her worship spread even further. She is a major figure in the Theogony, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the Greek Magical Papyri, and the Chaldean Oracles. She even survived -- sort of -- the purging of the ancient pantheons and the conversion to Christianity as a hag figure in many folk tales and fairy tales. Today, she is honored by Pagans of many different traditions, ranging from Hellenismos to Religio to Wicca to unaffiliated, nondenominational Goddess worshippers.

It is, perhaps, not surprising that there are quite a few texts devoted to Hekate, as well as long chapters within other works. Helene P Foley's The Homeric Hymn to Demeter: Translation, Commentary, and Interpretive Essays, for instance.

For those who are curious about this Goddess, I can recommend several texts from my bookshelves. If you are looking for dense, solid academic work, there are two titles that should be at the top of your list: Restless Dead: Encounters Between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece; and Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate's Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature; both by Sarah Iles Johnston. The former chronicles the evolution of Greek ideas about, and interactions with, the dead (with special attention paid to Hekate and the Erinyes), while the latter examines the evolution of ideas about Hekate herself, from Mother Goddess to mediating World Soul to Queen of Demons and Witches.

The highly accessible Hekate in Ancient Greek Religion by Robert von Rudloff is another great resource. Here, von Rudloff lists and discusses the many different literary references to Hekate; her primary places of worship; and her relationships to other Deities such as Persephone and Artemis. Several maps and lots of black-and-white artwork.   

In Savage Breast: One Man's Search for the Goddess, Tim Ward devotes the entire sixth chapter to "The Rotting Goddess." Puzzled by the transformation of Hekate from the lovely maiden of the Theogony to the Erinys "munching on the dead" in the Greek Magical Papyri, Ward travels from the ruins of ancient Catalhoyuk to the remains of Lagina, one of Hekate's major shrines. This is a powerful, personal narrative of the journey from fear to acceptance of death.

Other authors and publishing houses have also released books which deal with Hekate on a much more intimate -- rather than clinical, academic -- level. For instance, Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology for Hekate,* which is filled with poems, rituals and personal encounters with the Goddess. Additionally, Avalonia Press has released The Temple of Hekate: Exploring the Goddess Hekate Though Ritual, Meditation, and Divination by Tara Sanchez; Hekate -- Liminal Rites: A Study of the Rituals, Magic and Symbols of the Torch-Bearing Triple Goddess of the Crossroads by Sorita d'Este and David Rankine; and Hekate: Her Sacred Fires, edited by Sorita d'Este. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to read any of these, so I cannot offer any commentary (has anyone else? would you recommend them? or not?).

There you have them: a few of my recommendations to those curious about Hekate. Did I miss any great books? If so, let me know!  


* Though I currently serve as editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Bearing Torches was released when Sannion still served in that position. 

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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