Tonight Hecate Walks

The goddess Hecate was worshiped by both the Greeks and the Romans who had their own festivals dedicated to her.

The Romans’ closest match to Hecate is probably the goddess Trivia *. They observed the 29th of every month as her sacred Moon day.

The Greeks were the main worshippers of her and observed two days sacred to Hecate. One celebration is on the 13th of August when she is honored and prayed to in order to not send fierce thunderstorms and ruin crops. They celebrate her again on the 30th of November in thanks for the harvest.

Some pagan and neo-pagan groups observe November 16 as the Night of Hecate which begins at sunset. Hecate worship, especially on her night, was performed at a three-way crossroads. Food left there is known as “the Supper of Hecate.”  The food varies but eggs, fish, roe, goat cheese, and bread are all mentioned online.

Hecate was the Greek goddess of the three paths, guardian of the household, protector of everything newly born, and the goddess of witchcraft. The number 3 is associated with her in many ways.

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's Wheel
Hecate’s Wheel – symbol used to represent her three aspects.

Hecate is part of the most ancient form of the triple Moon goddess in mythology. The triple aspect of the goddess is Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

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.

In other posts about Hecate, I have written about her three-headed dogs that can look to the past, present, and future. When she walks on Earth at night, it is said that only dogs can see her and would bark at her. If you have a dog, see if it barks tonight outside at something that doesn’t seem to be there. Then, you can call hello to Hecate.

Hecate was a widely revered and influential goddess, but 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. Some scholars believe that Hecate’s inclusion 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. She wandered 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 “the place where three roads meet.” The trivium in Medieval English was an introductory curriculum at a university which involved the meeting of the three studies of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.

If You See A Will-o-the-Wisp Tonight

One of many Hecate items on
This one by Pearl Whitecrow

November 16 is the Night of Hecate which begins at sunset. Hecate is the Greek goddess of the three paths, guardian of the household, protector of everything newly born, and the goddess of witchcraft.

She was once a widely revered and influential goddess, but through popular culture, her reputation and story have been twisted. She is now commonly shown as a “hag” or old witch stirring a cauldron.

This night was a celebration of the Three-formed Goddess. Hecate is part of the most ancient form of the triple Moon goddess as Crone or Dark Moon and it occurs near or on a Full Moon.

She was said to walk the roads at night, visiting cemeteries during the dark phase of the moon. She was described as shining, luminous and sometimes as invisible, seen only as a light or “will-o-the-wisp.”

A will-o’-the-wisp (ignis fatuus in Medieval Latin for  “foolish fire”) are atmospheric “ghost lights” seen by travelers at night. Often seen over bogs, swamps or marshes, they resemble a flickering lamp. Legend has it that they recede if approached and thereby lure the traveler  from the safe path.

This phenomenon is known by a variety of names, including jack-o’-lantern, hinkypunk, and hobby lantern in English folk belief.

The term “will-o’-the-wisp” comes from “wisp”, a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch, and the name “Will.” Attaching a man’s name to these folk beliefs was fairly common – such as jack-o’-lantern for “Jack of [the] lantern.”

In the United States, they are often called “spook-lights”, “ghost-lights”, or “orbs” and are written about by both folklorists and paranormal enthusiasts.

It was said that this night was when Hecate’s supper at the Crossroads took place. People who worshiped Hecate honored her by performing sympathetic Magick and they would hold a supper at what they believed to be the Crossroads. It was much later that American blues songs began to use the Crossroads as a meeting place with the Devil.

Hecate’s original mythology portrayed her not as an old hag, but as a beautiful and powerful goddess. She 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 power of giving humanity anything she wished, or withholding it if she pleased.

A lover of solitude, Hecate was a “virgin” goddess, unwilling to give up her freedom for marriage.

Hecate was usually depicted with her sacred dogs which were said to have three heads to see in all directions – including the past, present, and future. In the myth of the abduction of Persephone, Hecate saw and told Demeter what had become of her daughter.

Sometimes nicknamed the “Queen of the Night,” and walking with “ghosts” and other social outcasts, she was often accompanied on her travels by an owl, a symbol of wisdom. Though not a goddess of traditional wisdom, she was thought to have a special type of knowledge. In modern times, she has been made the goddess of trivia – something I fear has made her angry.

She could help the elderly make the transition into the next life in the way that a hospice nurse might today.

If you are out and about tonight, let us know if you see any ghost lights, will-o-the-wisps, three-headed dogs, or any strange doings at a place where three roads converged (what we often call a “Y-intersection” these days). Hecate will do you no harm.

a scientific explanation of the will-o-the-wisp
more on the Night of Hecate and her mythology

The Night of Hecate

Hecate Sculpture


The goddess Hecate had many celebrations throughout the year, but November 16 was known as the Night of Hecate.

Hecate is part of the most ancient form of the triple Moon goddesses as the Crone of the Dark (New) Moon. Artemis was the Crescent Moon, and Selene was the Full Moon.

Most of Hecate’s worship, and especially on this night, was performed at a three-way crossroad at night. Food was left there as an offering to her.

She ruled the passages of life and transformation, birth and death. She was associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, fire, light, the Moon, magic, witchcraft, a knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, necromancy, and sorcery.

November was the ninth month in the oldest Roman calendar. Hecate closely parallels the Roman goddess Trivia, with whom she was identified in Rome.

Today Hecate is one of the ‘patron’ goddesses of many witches, who in some traditions refer to her in the Goddess’s aspect of the “Crone”. But other traditional witches associate her with the Maiden and/or with the Mother as well, for Hecate has three faces, or phases.

Modern worshipers honor this tripartite goddess as the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. A modern writer, Robert Graves, wrote about her in The White Goddess.

Historical depictions and descriptions show her facing in three different directions and later Greek references say she had the heads of animals and refer to her as the “Mistress of Animals.” Her chosen animals were the toad, the owl, the dog and the bat.


Full Sap Moon

The March Full Moon for 2011 is today, the 19th.

There are plenty of names for this month’s Full Moon to choose from including the Full Worm Moon, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon and Maple Moon.

Warming temperature and ground means that earthworm casts appear – and also those winged harbingers of spring, robins.

Native Americans called it both the Full Crow Moon for the cawing of crows that signaled the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon for the noisy, crusted snow cover from the daily thawing and freezing.

In medieval England it was called the Chaste Moon. To the colonists, this was sometimes known as the Lenten Moon, and the last full Moon of winter.

The Oak moon was named for the Celtic tree god or king and at one time oak was considered to be the wood from which people were first created.

I like the name Full Sap Moon which refers to the maple syrup made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees. In the cold climate areas, these trees store starch in their stems and roots before the winter in the way that animals and humans store for the long winter. The sap’s starch is then converted to sugar and rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees are tapped and sap collected is concentrated by heating to the syrup we use.

Americans usually associate maple syrup with Vermont, but Quebec, Canada, produces most of the world’s supply.

What makes the name Full Sap Moon very American is that maple syrup was first collected and used by Native Americans and First Nations, and was later adopted by the European settlers. Production of maple syrup is one of only a few agricultural processes in North America that is not a European colonial import.

According to archaeological evidence, aboriginal peoples used “sweet water” or “sinzibuckwud” (meaning “drawn from trees”) as an energy source. It was being processed for its sugar content long before Europeans arrived in the Northeastern part of North America. Many aboriginal dishes replaced the salt Europeans used with maple sugar or syrup.

We know that Algonquins would use stone tools to make V-shaped incisions in tree trunks at the early spring thaw. Reeds or concave pieces of bark directed the sap into birch bark containers. The sap was concentrated by dropping hot cooking stones into the buckets, or by leaving them exposed to the cold temperatures overnight and disposing of the layer of ice which formed on top.

We commonly use it at breakfast on waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, and French toast, but it is also used as a baking ingredient, sweetener and flavoring agent. It may have the illusion of being healthier than sugar or corn syrup but sucrose is the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup.

Poet Emily Dickinson said that March is the month of anticipation. Most of us in the Northern Hemisphere probably view this month as the anticipation of spring and the end of winter. The ancients believed that equinoxes like the spring one this month were sacred days of the year and a time to perform rituals and connect with the divine.

March in often described as a blustery month and it is time when the crocuses and early flowering bulbs are often covered with some snow.  The old weather saying is  “In like a lion, out like a lamb” in describing March weather.