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Hekate at Samhain

This is the next installment of extracts from the essay by Amelia Ounsted published in Hekate: Her Sacred Fires (Avalonia, 2010) as a "Goddess for all seasons". In this section Amelia, drawing on many years of work with Hekate with the Wheel of the Year cycle of festivals, makes suggestions for ways in which you can work with the Goddess Hekate at the festival of Samhain - or "Summer's End".


I am including it here with Amelia's permission, you are welcome to share it or quote from it providing that you credit the author and publication as noted above - it would also of course be lovely if you include a link back to this, or a tag so that I can share that with Amelia (who is not that active on socials!). Naturally, these are not necessarily my own opinions, but I think that Amelia's work is a fantastic starting place for further exploration!


If you have different ideas you would like to add, do so by adding a comment - it is ALWAYS useful to have different perspectives and opinions.


Samhain:
At Samhain we take stock of the year which has passed and draw our energies inwards as we prepare for the long winter months ahead. Samhain is the time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest and the world of the dead encroaches on the world of the living. The darker aspects of Hekate are highlighted and where we can find “blood bathed Hekate … From whom dogs cower as she wanders through the graves”. Therefore at Samhain we see Hekate Prytania – Invincible Queen of the Dead who can be honoured in the dark and wild places. This is also where the aspect of her as Apotropaios (averter of evil) comes into its own. She offers protection from dark spirits that roam the night, a role is probably directly related to the role of Queen of the Dead on the grounds that "she who sends the ghost can also ward against it".
You can also work with her as Hekate Enodia (Goddess of Crossroads). The Cross roads were thought to be supernatural places where magick can be worked and spirits encountered, for better or worse. In Greek literature they are the site for Kathartic (purification) and apotropaic (banishment) rituals. Hekate is associated with these liminal places, often residing at sacred three-way cross roads, so we are reminded of Her popular image as Trivia or three formed.
This might be a time to work with animal headed Hekate or with the energies of the animals that are associated with Her. Some of the animals associated with Hekate can also be connected to Her role as Queen of the Dead. The animal that is arguably the most associated with Hekate is the dog and it was thought that She could be summoned up from the darkness with long howls. There is an old belief that the souls of the unburied dead could appear as dogs and the dogs howl was believed to be a harbinger of death. Hekate is sometime identified with being the creator of the three headed dog Kerberos, who guards the entrance to Hades. The appearance of black, howling dogs at night was an ominous herald of her presence and their barking announced her approach. Virgil wrote "Then earth began to bellow, trees began to dance, and howling dogs in glimmering light advance, ere Hekate came". On a less fearsome note, dogs were also associated with deities like Hekate who watched over childbirth and the dog is also well known as a guardian of the house, standing watch at the front door, fearsome to those beyond but caring to those within.
The other animal commonly connected to Hekate is the snake. A common belief was that the dead could appear in the form of snakes. As Hekate Chthonia, she is described as "all entwined with fearsome serpents and leaves of oak" and "entwining herself in coils of serpents". We should also remember that the serpent with its shedding of its skin is a symbol of rebirth.
Now is the time to remember that She is the mistress of magick and a great aid to witches with spells and divination. The thinness between the worlds at Samhain makes it easier for us to see what is to come. At this time we can work with Hekate Hesperides, of the evening star. Hekate’s mother, Asteria, governed the stars and knew the secrets of reading them. When Asteria abandoned Earth Hekate was said to take on a lot of her mother’s attributes and therefore Hekate can be used for the divination of the stars or astrology.
Samhain or Halloween is the time most associated in modern times with witchcraft and there’s no denying that Hekate has always been special to Witches. Aristophanes states that a person could purchase the services of a "woman witch" from Thessaly to ‘draw down the moon,’ or create an eclipse. Two of the most famous witches in history, Medea and Circe invoked Hekate in their magic and indeed in some stories She is their mother. Her magick is mentioned in the Greek Magical Papyri and She was prevalent in curse tablets. Hekate can be invoked for any form of magick or witchcraft but thinking specifically about Samhain we can also consider the root of the word of the Thessalian witches, Pharmakis which suggests herbs. Hekate taught Medea herbs – in fact when Jason and Medea arrive at Thessaly it is the herbs she carries that are supposed to have taught the people of Thessaly witchcraft. Thus all herb magick is sacred to her (another reason why incense is an appropriate offering). Since a lot of the herbs sacred to Hekate are hallucinogenic any magic or work involving trance or other altered states of consciousness is also appropriate.
As I hope I have demonstrated there are more aspects to Hekate than can possibly be covered in one article or worked with in a single years’ round. I also feel that it’s important to be open to what Hekate has to teach you Herself. In the work that I have done with Her in connection with the Sabbats I have sometimes been surprised at the aspects of Hekate that She has revealed to me but it is this personal connection with Hekate and Her way of teaching that makes the work so enriching and rewarding.

The head of an ancient icon showing the Goddess of Crossroads in Triple form.
Triple Hekate


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I really like Amelias approach on the festivals. It's so beautiful how she connects (in this case) samhain with Hekate and her myths and epithets.

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