Monday, October 27, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Hecate and Halloween

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

One of the things that fascinates me about ancient Greek mythology is that it embraces all aspects of life, and it does not shy away from the more "Plutonian" sensibilities that get shoved under and buried in our culture. Concepts of death and renewal are difficult to embrace and understandably bring fear. Because we have trouble understanding these deeper, regenerative aspects in our cyclical lives, the fear they produce often gets pushed down, becoming the shadow side of both people and culture. Mass shootings, war and all types of violence are examples of Pluto manifesting in our world. Pluto is the Roman counterpart of Hades, known as the god of the underworld. 

So it is with interest that I share with you the story of Hecate. Part of the goddess group of Persephone and Demeter, she completes the trio of maiden, mother and crone. We are mostly familiar with Persephone and Demeter; the daughter who is abducted into the underworld by Hades and her mother Demeter, who lets nothing grow until her daughter is released. But we hear very little about the third part of this threesome, the goddess Hecate, the wise-woman, or the crone. 


Old women are sometimes referred to as hags. According to Wallis Budge, the root of the word is from the Egyptian 'heq', which refers to a matriarchal ruler who understood deeper powers and was thought to have access to magical realms; the Greeks called her Hecate. This awareness of consciousness that lies under the surface was an integral part of life during the early agrarian chthonic cultures. These were people who lived close to the earth, and understood that cycles of nature, including aging, death and regeneration, were a necessary and vital part of life. With the dawn of the early Christian period, the church fathers began to see all these cycles of life as falling under its dominion, and an unfortunate result was the demonizing of the wise old crone and her powers. Her cauldron was originally a container in which life itself was constantly churned and renewed, but she was turned into the witch archetype and her cauldron a device in which evil spells are cast upon others. 

Halloween itself is rooted in pre Christian, agrarian culture. October 31 falls at the solstice period in which crops were gathered and stored and people readied for the long winter ahead. These intervals between key points in the seasons are crossroads and periods when the veil between the worlds of the living and those who have passed is thinner. The ancient Celts believed communication was more possible during these periods and honored their ancestors as such. 

Hecate is the goddess of the crossroads and rules all intersections. Perhaps this Halloween you can look a little differently at the archetype of the witch and her cauldron. And take a moment to stand at the crossroads of this season to ponder your ancestors and light a candle in their memory. 

24 comments:

  1. A beautiful reminder of how life wAs understood and each cycle celebrated.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love the backstories. It makes me realize how little I know of mythology. Love the candle too. And Crones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Crones get such bad press and even the word itself is misunderstood. Makes you wonder why our culture doesn't value aging and wisdom the way it was done in times past since the dawn of history - or herstory :))

      Delete
  3. Fascinating, Amanda — I did enjoy reading this tremendously interesting post. I agree with you about how the Christian church demonised the 'wise old woman' part of the trio, and how important it is to reevaluate this.

    I was reminded of the Celtic mother goddess, Danu — who is referenced in WH Auden's 'Bucolics' poem sequence which I read recently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed this post, Robert. And now I am off to research Danu - always appreciative to learn of new 'old' goddess archetypes.

      Delete
  4. I like the regeneration bit. ;)

    I think about you more at the end of October, Sis. Knowing we are knit in spirit as the veil thins ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't have one without the other... ;))

      I love this time of year....so happy to know my kindred spirit shares same. xoxo

      Delete
  5. HI Amanda..as always....Wonderful post and beautifully written..love the pictures too! For me it is a most sacred and special time of year and yes a very meaningful time to honor the ancestors and the ancients, I have a deep love/connection to Celts/Celtic energy. For me it s like new years eve!
    Wishing you many blessings during this sacred time!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can easily see how this story would resonate with you Victoria. Your love of Celtic tradition and the nature rhythms of life come through in your lovely blog. Many blessings wished for you as well in crossing this sacred threshold between the seasons. xoxo

      Delete
  6. I like your implications here Amanda. It's like as we moved from being grounded by the earth and gained more material wealth our focus became predominantly material and even more paternalistic. Sometimes I don't know why women give such credence to the dictates of men. I've been watching this happen a lot with the more conservative groups lately. I didn't realize that the cauldron symbolized the churning of life rather the spells. Interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That movement from being grounded has been a shift long in the making. Prehistoric cultures were largely matrilineal, focused on hunting, gathering and eventually agriculture and lived their lives in keeping with the cyclical rhythms of the seasons. With the shift towards a more industrial era (and largely patrilineal) we now live in high rises, drive our cars everywhere and eat out of boxes and cartons. Is it any wonder we are out of touch with politics, let alone everything else? Balance is sorely needed.

      Delete
  7. as always, you give unexpected explentaions thanks to the knwoledge of the myths, etc.!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I needed this today. I've read some about the ways pre-Christian culture was demonized, but I did not know the story of Hecate. I also need to return to awareness of the thin places, to pay attention to the seasons and cycles that churn nature. Thank you, thank you.

    It is so easy to lose track ... !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ruth, It is easy to lose track. We are surrounded by the constant buzz and noise of our electronic devices and the messages coming through them. Messages that tend to make us move away from our connections to the earth and its cycles. This is a time of year when we can put that buzz aside and listen to the deeper thrum of the earth and the Goddess.

      Delete
  9. The older I get, the more in tune I seem to be with the seasons. With their ebb and flow. Maiden, mother, crone - there is a little bit of each of them in all of us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tend to see maiden/mother/crone as a superposition of the same energy, just manifested in different ways for the different seasons of a woman's life.

      I'll bet it's lovely to witness the changing of the season in the beautiful place you live.

      Delete
  10. Interesting to learn that Halloween and hags have origins in Greek antiquity. I like the concept of a goddess of the crossroads.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Goddess of the intersections of life. A wise woman from the Egyptians and Greeks. Fascinating story, Amanda. Thanks.

    Blessings and Bear hugs (from the soon-hibernating Bear)!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree with loree that i am more drawn to the seasons; more willing to connect with each.

    thank you yet again for giving me the right image. and for this:

    "the veil between the worlds of the living and those who have passed is thinner." this makes me want to listen for my father, for my friend willa.

    it is such a beautiful time of year now, where i am. the afternoon sun is gold.

    happy halloween, amanda. xo
    love
    kj

    ReplyDelete
  13. As the changing of the seasons prove, death, is just as important as life. Without it, there is no cycle.
    Happy Halloween Amanda x

    ReplyDelete
  14. As an archeologist you should know that Hekate is way older than the new Maiden, Mother, Crone ... thing... I could't get past that part of the post. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Hecate is an ancient goddess, the elder of the Persephone/Demeter/Hecate goddess trio, and has roots in ancient Egyptian and Greek culture, as I explain in this post. The new Maiden Mother Crone thing as you call it, is another way of describing this ancient mythical relationship.

      Delete
  15. She has many more facets than goddess of the crossroads but thankyou for this article!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Viki,

      She surely does. Maybe in another post I will explore her character and significance more fully. Thanks for your visit and comment!

      Delete

Thank you for visiting♡