You are probably wondering about the title of this article already, or at least I hope so! If you already know what it is about you are in a minority!
In my book Circle for Hekate (V.1) I wrote a little about the cult of the black stones associated with Hekate - we find references to them in Thera (Santorini, Greece) and Didyma (Didim, Turkey), and it is possible that they were also linked to the cult of the empty thrones such as those dedicated to Zeus and Hekate on Chalki (Greece). While we don't know exactly what these black stones were, it is almost certain that they were meteoric stones - which were also linked to Artemis, especially at Ephesus. These are also known as baetyls.
When it comes to our favourite gods and goddesses we tend to talk about the same things over and over again, often overlooking very interesting practices and places. One of these, in the history of the Goddess Hekate is the ancient city of Miletus and the sacred road which ran from there to Didyma (modern Didim, Turkey) ending at the Temple of Apollo - which was likely the most famous temple he had after Delphi!
Visitors to the Temple of Apollo in Didyma travelled via a Sacred Way from Miletos, the road was 18km long and the Milesian priests had to walk the route in full, praying and singing as they progressed. Priests known as the Molpoi carried two mysterious cubic stones or gulloi in a procession, treating the stones as altars or icons. They garlanded and sprinkled it with wine in honour of Hekate. One of the stones was placed at the image of Hekate by the gates, and the other by the threshold of the temple, marking the beginning and end of the Sacred Way. They offered the first song of this famous procession at Hekate’s shrine.(*1)
I have been very privileged to spend time at both Miletus and Didim, and to walk a little of the sacred road and glimpse some of it over a locked fence from different perspectives. Seeing some of the distinctive Branchids statues in the British Museum on a recent visit reminded me of those I saw in the museum at Miletus and just how much there is still for us to learn and discover - and just how little we actually know.
Before we continue, here are some photos for you including a Branchid statue (one of many, these were a priestly caste who were the descendants of Branchus, a favourite of the God Apollo); the Temple of Apollo at Didim, information on the Sacred Way, Sphinxes that lined the way in the museum at Miletus, a sneeky photo of the sacred way from Didim seen through a fence, and a view of the ruins of Miletus. All photos (c) Sorita d'Este, 2022. Please don't use them without asking and giving credit where credit is due :-)
Here on the road a priesthood dedicated to Hekate would process with a black cubic stone honouring Her at stops along the way. Most of the sacred road is closed to tourists, but I managed to visit both the ruins of Miletus, part of the sacred road on that side and the Temple of Apollo at Didim, where part of the sacred road is visible but fenced off (properly fenced off!) and spent a few days exploring the area. The museum at Didyma had some of the Branchids statues are (there are also a few in the British Museum, London if you visit look for them!) which lined the road along with many sphinxes and other monuments. It is unknown why the authorities have fenced off so much of the sacred road - many conflicting stories - but hopefully they will open it in the future!
I have a lifelong fascination with the stars and meteors - and as we enter the Perseids here in the Northern Hemisphere, I always celebrate the Goddess Asteria, the mother of Hekate (according to Hesiod). Asteria was the goddess of shooting stars and divination by stars (astrology), and it is only natural that these things would also be linked to her daughter.
I hope you enjoyed this little article - and that you get to visit Miletus and Didim one day! There are also some finds, including Branchids, in the British Museum London from this site, which are worth looking for if you visit!
Lots of love,
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1. See Hekate Soteira, Johnston, 1990 and Circle for Hekate (Volume I), d'Este, 2017