Monday, September 3, 2012

Goddesses in the Dust: Hecate and the Crossroads

Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...
Triple Hecate
Persephone is actually part of a trinity of goddesses representing the three major phases of a woman's life. Maiden is the equivalent to Persephone, Mother is related to the goddess Demeter, and Crone - or Wisewoman - is represented by Hecate.

Hecate has been given a bad name, much in the way age has a negative connotation in our society. Every commercial you see on TV and every slick ad in fashion magazines screams at consumers to do everything one can to keep aging at bay - to look youthful forever.

But what does this do to our perception of growing older? Wrapped in such pessimistic marketing, our western culture's tendency to focus on youth and beauty sends the message that aging is to be avoided at all costs. But what about the wisdom that is gained from having lived many years? Why don't we value our elders as other cultures do? This is where Hecate comes in.

As D.J. Conway states in her book, Maiden, Mother and Crone, 

"The Crone aspect of the Great Goddess is the least understood and most feared of the three aspects. She has been called the Terrible Mother, the Hag, the Dark Mother, the Wise One. Because She deals with death and the end of cycles, most people tend to avoid this face of the Goddess. In life, we go out from the Crone's recycling cauldron into existence, then eventually return again to Her waiting vessel. Jung calls Her the dark side of the human psyche. Sometimes this is called the 'shadow self', the dark personal demons we each have buried in the subconscious mind. In order to heal these wounds and exorcise these demons, we need to follow the inner labyrinth to the place where the shadow self dwells. We must develop a relationship with this shadow self, the Dark Mother within, before we can empower ourselves again."
Hecate and Cerberus, Apulian red-figure krater ca. 4th century B.C.. Munich
Hecate is called the goddess of the crossroads because food offerings were often left at three-way intersections in her honor. Sometimes three masks would be hung from a pole erected at the intersection by those seeking guidance from the goddess in choosing the right direction. 

It was Hecate who "saw" Persephone's abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld, and informed her mother, Demeter. Yet as Conway states, "she does not interfere when the Maiden is dragged down into the underworld. Demeter is outraged and vengeful, but Hecate remains calm, knowing that certain things in life must come to pass and there is little point in becoming hysterical about them. If we do not know this aspect of the Goddess or acknowledge Her wisdom, we cannot have a truly integrated personality."


A few years ago I visited ground zero for the goddess trio of Persephone, Demeter and Hecate. This crossroads is now the intersection of the ancient and modern at its worst. Surrounding the modern village and ancient site of Eleusis are flaming towers of oil refineries. Tankers are anchored off the coast to offload crude oil from the Middle East and the smell of burning oil permeates the air. Scattered everywhere are remnants of magnificent temples dedicated to the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were celebrated annually at this site just outside Athens. If you close your eyes, you can imagine the ancient beauty of the landscape, in which elegant buildings stood among the pine groves, waiting for hundreds of pilgrims to walk the Sacred Way from the Parthenon to be initiated into the ancient secret cult. 

Somehow, Hecate is patient with humanity. She personifies the wisdom of age when we learn from the mistakes we've made in life. Hecate teaches us that, instead of fighting against them, we can move forward in understanding and cooperating with the natural rhythms and wider cycles of life.

25 comments:

  1. 'Demeter is outraged and vengeful, but Hecate remains calm, knowing that certain things in life must come to pass and there is little point in becoming hysterical about them.'

    Thank you, Amanda.

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  2. I never understood Hecate's attitude toward Persephone's abduction until I became a grandmother of a teenager. As my granddaughter strutted her stuff, instead of being worried and angry at her sensuality and sexuality, I was putting all of it in perspective, knowing that she had to go through this stage, even the point of being senselessly in love with the wrong guy, to understand herself, her needs, her own vision of the future. As a mother, I would just want her to forgo this stage, protect her, hide her from any danger. We really don't have the full story until the very end of life, even if the story is told to us time and time again.

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    1. this is so wise rosaria. i hope i develop the same understanding.

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  3. A wonderful, truthful and very insiteful post. I have always been intrigued with Hecate...and though my personality is often like Demeter's...I strive to become a blend of them both ...often, it IS the wise thing to remain calm and *accept* what the Fates do....though there are still times when one must react with passion and ACT. You, dear Amanda, bring us into the 21st Century - but validating the centuries-old wisdom of the Greek Legends. It grieves me to think of the oil refinieries and the burning smell...it's Hades come to life.... but,like Hecate, we must all learn patience....and hope that the rest of the world will finally see the wisdom to stop the destruction....

    Love the photo!!! Welcome home! You were missed!

    Love,

    ♥ Robin ♥

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    1. thanks dear robin♡ you make a great point about the fires of the oil refineries along the coast being a modern hades - sadly, so true. but hecate bestows wisdom and hopefully, patience to go along with it - we need that ;)

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  4. A very insightful piece of writing Amanda. I guess that these days we are more concerned about our fading youth than about the wisdom that comes with age. But, fight it as we may, we cannot alter our fate. It is almost a daily revelation to me how much more perceptive I am now that I am older. I cannot believe some of the things that looked me directly in the face when I was in my 20s and I never noticed, whereas now I see them coming from miles away. I guess I am slowly turning into a crone :)

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    1. you are right - we do focus more on preserving fading youth rather than celebrating the wisdom that comes with age. i think our culture would do well to give the word crone a makeover.

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  5. This is a great post, Amanda, and I enjoyed reading it so much. Let's all give praise and honour to Hecate, the Wisewoman. The older I get myself, the more I've discovered she's my favourite of the trio.

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  6. amanda, i have to return to read and comment but for now i want to say welcome back. you were at the vineyard? gorgeous weather, yes, like mine in provincetown? xoxo

    kj

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    1. not the vineyard, but an island off the coast of south carolina, dodging hurricanes!

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  8. it's interesting what you are saying about aging in our culture - I think our society must change it asap - just think that less and less children is born, who will be youth soon? nobody...

    Blog about life and travelling
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  9. I have come to love the crone (if only she didn't come with shadowy pain) and Hecate's aspect of calm and understanding the darker side. Thank you for this post. I love Rosaria's story too.

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  10. Yes, Rosaria has also understood, I like your blog and your commenters so much, Amanda! I used to be like Robin and Demeter, with much fire and the will to CHANGE bad things. But gradually my whole attitude has become different, and actually I am so much more at ease with not only myself but also the world around me. I can listen and nod, and say I understand, and sometimes hug, and I can FEEL how this is all they want. No more advice or fire breathing, just being a mother. sort of, who gives peace. I love my older age.

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    1. it seems possible that a certain relief comes with age, a relief borne of realizing you can drop some stuff off the back of the boat you thought you needed, but have come to understand you really don't (i.e. ways of being, things you thought you had to accomplish but now see differently and perhaps a tad bit less ambitiously?) you are a wayshower, dear geli, and i always learn from you.

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  11. Being "a Bear of a certain age," I must admit that I feel much more free to observe and reflect. And to take action when that is necessary.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!

    Hope your summer's writing has gone well!

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  12. heck, i like to think i observe and reflect, and i try to follow 'never cut what can be untied."

    but i'm not above (or below) feeling righteous when the cause is right.

    count me among the good company who enjoys your blog.

    love love
    kj

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  13. one way or the other at the basis of our fragmented and degrading society (sorry) is our rejection of our mortality. i can only imagine if we structured ourselves otherwise. i wonder. i wonder.

    i practice through my days through this life and toward my death. i practice. it is not easy but the rewards are sweeter then they otherwise might be. but always there is pain. always. pain, as is mortality, is undeniable.

    the other night on the phone with my mother we talked about her estate. she is not well these last months and it is inevitable that she will die. it has always been inevitable. she had been afraid of living and dying since i was a child and she lost my father by drowning, but in the face of her own death she has risen up and i am so very proud of her. death is every bit a part of this life, she told me on the phone. yes, mom, i said. yes.

    i am 42. my body begins to wear. my children grow and begin to replace me. death is every bit a part of this life.

    much love to you)))
    should we be lucky enough to be crones together

    xo
    erin

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    1. oh erin......i am so sorry to hear about your mother. yet you speak of her and her strength and courage now in the face of illness and how she has risen up in the face of fear. goddess bless her and you in this difficult time. always, there is pain, as you say, with our mortality. it is inevitable. but what i find, as in your ever wise words, is that our response to that does not have to be. it would seem your dear mother is living that reality from her words.

      "lucky enough to be crones together" — goddess willing, let that luck be with us all♡

      with love,

      amanda

      xoxo

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  14. An excellent piece Amanda!

    It is no surprise that one of Hecate's many other names was Ενοδία, protector of pathways and cross roads; all the 'big' decisions in life and also initiator to the mystical 'way'; our search for meaning.

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    1. i love that, maria - thank you for sharing this information. it makes sense that a goddess of age and wisdom would make her presence at the crossroads of life.

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  15. Don't I love that Jung. And this piece, Amanda, is sumptuous. The last bit about ground zero saddened me. And I immediately thought: I must let my mind be more like Hecate's! Yet, it can be sad what must happen in the face of exploration and development. In the face of fueling the world! I wonder what will become of the oil fields when we finally find another, viable, means of energy. (We shall, we shall!) Perhaps they will be restored to forests and gardens, and the world will regenerate. One can only hope. ;)

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    1. as you jayne, i am saddened by the horrific pollution of our earth, particularly ancient sacred sites such as eleusis. at times like this i remember the words of joseph campbell who was quoted as saying: "participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world."

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  17. Such a powerful post..and always wonderfully written..shine on! I have always had an affinity with crone magic..and the power and wisdom in it all..while many fear aging..i embrace that magic! I am 41 now..and loving my 40's and have always dreamed about being a long white haired crone woman ..i think that is magical and i am so excited for that time the more and more grow with the crone !
    Beautiful post!!
    Victoria

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