The goddess Hecate was worshiped by both the Greeks and the Romans who had their own festivals dedicated to her.
The Greeks observed two days sacred to Hecate, one on the 13th of August when is honored and prayed to in order to not send fierce thunderstorms and ruin crops, and then again on the 30th of November in thanks for the harvest.
The Romans’ closest match to Hecate is probably the goddess Trivia*. They observed the 29th of every month as her sacred Moon day.
Some pagan and neo-pagan groups observe November 16 this week, as the Night of Hecate which begins at sunset.
Hecate was the Greek goddess of the three paths, guardian of the household, protector of everything newly born, and the goddess of witchcraft.
A beautiful and powerful goddess, Hecate was the only one of the ancient Titans who Zeus allowed to retain their authority once the Olympians seized control. Zeus shared with Hecate, and only her, the awesome power of giving humanity anything she wished – or withholding it if she pleased.
Though she is thought of as a “Moon goddess”, her kingdoms were actually three-fold – earth, sea, and sky. Her power to create or withhold storms made her the goddess who was the protector of shepherds and sailors.
She has been associated with childbirth, nurturing the young, gates and walls, doorways, crossroads, magic, lunar lore, torches and dogs.
Hecate is part of the most ancient form of the triple Moon goddess in mythology. The triple aspect of the goddess is as Maiden, Mother and Crone.
Hecate worship, especially on her night, was performed at a three-way crossroad. Food left there is known as “the Supper of Hecate.” The food varies with eggs, fish, roe, goat cheese and bread all getting mentions.
She was known to rule the passages of life and transformation, birth and death. Her animals were the toad, the owl, the dog and the bat.
Hecate was a widely revered and influential goddess, bet her reputation has been tarnished over the centuries. In current times, she is usually depicted as a “hag” or old witch stirring the cauldron.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth had something to do with that. In the play, she is seen as the ruler of the Three Witches. In Act 3, Scene 5, Hecate appears before the Witches and tells them Macbeth will be back to know his destiny and she proclaims that he will see apparitions that will, “by the strength of their illusion” lead him to conclude that he is safe. At the end of the scene, she says “And you all know, security/Is mortals’ chiefest enemy.” Macbeth’s belief that he is untouchable will ultimately result in his downfall. Personally, I side with the theory that Hecate wasn’t even Shakespeare’s creation and that the scenes were added after his death.
* Word Wise – Trivia in Roman mythology was the goddess who haunted crossroads, graveyards, and was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, wandered about at night, and was seen only by the barking of dogs who told of her approach. The word trivia came from Latin. It is the plural of trivium which is “place where three roads meet.” The trivium in Medieval English was an introductory curriculum at a university involving the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.