Students in my mythology class had to research and write about a deity from the ancient world. I was pleased that one of them chose Hecate, a misunderstood goddess of obscure origins. Hecate overlaps with other deities in her spheres of influence and her many roles, a sign that she was an early goddess adopted into the Greek pantheon at a stage before Artemis, Selene, and Persephone took over her connections with the moon and underworld. She was a guardian of crossroads, a task later attributed to Hermes – a god who also became a psychopomp. Hecate was left to languish in Hades where she became associated with gloom and magic and baleful spells.It is likely the latter developments that have brought Hecate into the status of patron goddess of many Wiccans. She is chthonian – a right jolly old Goth – and she takes on a bad-girl image that would not have been recognized by the ancient Greeks. Even Shakespeare contributed to her witchy-woman image when he associated her with the weird sisters in Macbeth. Revitalized as a symbol of feminine power, Hecate enjoys such popularity today that it is difficult to find reliable information on the goddess.
I find it instructive that ancient goddesses are so embellished to make them tasteful to modern explorers. Perhaps because of the persistent patriarchality of ancient society, we have been deprived of deep knowledge of the goddesses. For those who originally worshiped them, however, the goddesses needed no blandishments. They were the personification of divine power manifested through the feminine. Ancients believed that all people were touched by supernatural forces, no matter what their gender. In a brash demonization of the powerful feminine, Hecate has become the goddess of witches and seekers after a female image that simply never existed. Why not accept goddesses for who they were – constant reminders that life is not possible without the divine feminine?