Who was Hekate?
Hekate was the Roman goddess of Magic and one of the large number of gods and goddesses worshipped by the Ancient Romans. She was famous for her knowledge of herbs, poisonous plants and sorcery. She was also recognized in three aspects as part of a triad of goddesses consisting of Hekate, Luna the moon goddess and Diana the goddess of the hunt. She resided in the Underworld where she was the mistress of the Keres, who she directed in the brewing of magic potions. The Keres who were referred to as the 'Death Spirits' or the 'Death Fates' were the goddesses personified violent deaths and who revelled in the bloody slaughter of the battlefield. Hekate is portrayed as a terrifying goddess bearing holding a torch and a sword. Her feet and hair were formed of serpents, or snakes, she was accompanied by the voices of thunder, ghostly shrieks and yells and the deep baying and howling of dogs.
Facts about Hekate
The following information, facts and profile provides a fast overview of Hekate:
Roman Name: Hekate
Role & Function: The function of Hekate is described as being the the goddess of magic, witches, sorcery, herbs and the moon
Status: Lived in the Underworld
Symbols: Dogs, the moon, keys and paired torches
A triple divinity: Her realm extended over earth, the sky and hell (Hades & Tartarus (Hell)
Greek Counterpart: The Greek name for this goddess was Hecate
Name of Husband: Aeetes
Name of Father: Perses or Erebus
Name of Mother: Asteria or Nyx (Roman Nox) the primordial goddess of night
Names of Children: Aegialeus, Absyrtus, Medea, Circe and Chalciope
The Worship of Hekate, the Roman goddess of witchcraft and magic
The Romans were highly practical and believed that their gods and goddesses controlled everything in their lives and therefore every occupation and task had its presiding Roman goddess or god. Hekate the Roman goddess of witchcraft and magic was worshipped in the same way as any other Roman divinity with prayers and making vows, dedicating altars, sacrificing animals, birds and offerings of milk, honey, grain, fruit, cakes, flowers, perfumes and wine. White animals were sacrificed to the goddesses of the upper world whereas black victims to the deities of the Underworld. The sex of a sacrificial animal had to correspond to the sex of the goddess to whom it was offered. The blood sacrifices made to Hekate, the goddess of witchcraft and magic, would therefore have been a black ewe, cow or heifer, sow, hen or other female birds and conducted outside a temple.
The Symbols of Hekate
Each ancient Roman god and goddess were associated with special symbols, animals and attributes. The symbols of Hekate and their meanings were as follows:
- The keys represented the keys to the Underworld and her ability to unlock the secrets of the occult and the black arts: sorcery, magical spells and witchcraft
- The symbol of the moon relates to her role as the nocturnal goddess of the moon
- The torches were also symbols of Mars, the god of war whose priests carried burning torches as the sign of battle
- The symbol of the dogs relate to their ability to see ghosts. Hekate was said to roam battlefields and places of death to lead souls to the Underworld
Hekate (Greek Counterpart was Hecate)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Ancient Greeks. Many of the Roman gods and goddesses, such as Hekate, were therefore adopted by the Romans but were given Latin names. The Greek counterpart of Hekate was Hecate.