Iconography: Hecate


Wiccans and witches everywhere will recognise the name of Hecate, a Goddess of Greek Religion and a daughter of the Titan Perses. Hecate is known as the chief goddess presiding over magic and spells, making her one of the sole icons revered for servitude and worship for witches. She is also closely associated with the crossroads, night, light, magic, witchcraft, herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy and sorcery.

First appearing in Hesiod's Theogony in 8th Century BC, Hecate's origins are debated by scholars but deemed one of the main deities worshipped by ancient Athenians alongside Zeus, Hera, Hermes and Apollo. Sometimes also referred to as Hekate, she is an important deity among Carians of Asia Minor in Lagina, and even the witches of Thessaly.


Hecate is often depicted as a triple-bodied woman, which is closely related to witchcraft's symbolism of three: the maiden, the mother and the crone, though other depictions have seen her as individual and a singular goddess. A 6th century fragment of pottery has depicted her as being crowned with leafy branches as an offering of a "maternal blessing" to two maidens who embrace her, which could also make up the scene of Hecate being the goddess of three.


In the classic world, dogs were representative of Hecate and while she was often depicted with them they were also sacrificed to her in many ancient traditions and rituals. Although in later times Hecate's dog came to be thought of as a manifestation of restless souls or demons who accompanied her. Hecate is also closely associated with plant lore and known as being sacredly entwined with yew and would favor offerings of garlic, furthering enhancing her connection to witches. In fact, by the 1st century, Hecate was being worshipped by witches due to her strong connection to sorcery and the underworld, with many combining her depictions with the Queen of the Underworld Persephone.


Moving forward, the worship of Hecate became cult like and she became a household deity around 430 BC, where Hecate has temples and shrines built in her name - especially in Lagina and Sicily. In 1929 an expert on religious cults name Lewis Brown connected a 1920's cult called The Cult of the Great Eleven to Hecate worship rituals, where they sacrificed dogs and secretly buried one of its queens with seven dogs like the Ancient Egyptians.


In more modern days Hecate is more referenced within pop culture to do with witches, such as a witch being burnt at the stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, being referenced in many William Shakespeare plays, and being called upon in movies and TV Shows like Practical Magic, Charmed, and even Penny Dreadful.

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