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To: alt.pagan,alt.mythology,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.wicca,alt.magick,talk.religion.misc
Subject: re: Hekate
Date: 9 Apr 1996 20:24:43 GMT

I would like to address a few points recently made by Roel van Leeuwen
( and others concerning the Greek goddess Hekate (or 
Hecate, as the Romans knew Her).  Some of what he and others based their 
discussion upon has been an article that I wrote summarising my M.A. 
thesis on Hekate in early Greek religion (first published in "Hecate's 
Loom," issue 21, p. 22, and currently available in the Horned Owl 
Publishing library, which can be found at  

Mr. van Leeuwen put forth the general contention that:

>Hecate, like Kali Ma in India, was viewed
>as an evil, nasty, and generally unpleasant goddess by the ancient
>Greeks etc.  It is only in modern times that such deities have lost
>their unpleasentness- dare I say it, due in great part to the New Age
>crystal fondlers- their abysmal research skills and their habit of
>viewing everything in the nicest possible light.
>But then again belief lends substance, so maybe Hecate isn't such a
>bad chick after all (especially dressed in black leathers and thigh
>boots :-)

He later added, as a minor point:

>Aristophanes (c. 400BC) mentions her in her role as
>a crossroads lurker and general nasty.

Indeed, Hekate was "a crossroads lurker."  However, crossroads relate to 
only one of several Her roles:  She was many other things to the ancient 
Greeks, and there was no period in the 12 centuries of recorded evidence 
of Her worship when she was only a "general nasty."  On the contrary, the 
evidence that relates most to the everyday life of real people, as opposed 
to fictitious characters in plays and poetry, presents Hekate as a minor 
but integral part of Greek life.  People named their children after Her;  
spoke favourably of Her roles in the great Mysteries at Eleusis, 
Samothrace, and Aigina;  enjoyed Her sanctuaries and festivals in Roman 
times at Aigina, Argos, and especially in Karia (where She was the primary 
deity);  and publicly displayed statues of Her made by famous sculptors and 
altars proudly dedicated to Her by local aristocrats.  In the highly technical 
philosophical tradition surrounding the Chaldaean Oracles of the second and 
later centuries C.E., She was even "Saviour." 

The evidence for Hekate as "nasty" is actually quite limited, is found 
entirely in the realm of poetry and plays, and bears little relation to the 
greater body of archaeological evidence of her worship.  While these forms 
of literature can provide valuable evidence for ancient religious practices, 
one must bear in mind the entertainment and social values that they served 
and the fact that they were not composed for the benefit of future 
historians.  Incidentally, Aristophanes does not specifically describe Hekate 
as a unpleasant or monstrous, but rather Empousa (Eccl.1056, Ran.285ff), 
an obscure being sometimes (but not always) associated or identified with 
Hekate.  Otherwise, Aristophanes does not pass any judgment upon Her.  

He does, however, present Her as a common figure in Athenian women's lives, 
to the degree that it seriously contradicts the stereotype of Her as an 
"an evil, nasty, and generally unpleasant goddess."

In specific reference to my article, Mr. van Leeuwen mistakenly infers that 
Homer was a prime source in my thesis.  Indeed, as he thought, there is no 
direct mention at all of Hekate in Homer's major epics ("Iliad" and 
"Odyssey").  It is the inappropriately named "Homeric Hymn to Demeter" that 
I cited, which actually has nothing to do with Homer.  In it, the anonymous 
poet presents Hekate as the close and kindly companion and guide of Demeter's 
daughter, Persephone.  The Hymn likely relates specifically to the Eleusinian 
Mysteries, in which Hekate played a minor but noteworthy role for over 1000 

As for my use of Hesiod's "Theogony," he is correct in stating that Hesiod's 
"enthusiasm" is not reflected by other poets/playwrights of the same era.  The 
unusual nature of the extensive passage on Hekate has led to numerous 
interpretations, including that it reflects a local Boiotian tradition;  
lately, however, the trend has been to explain it in terms of its striking 
poetic function within the lengthy work.  For this and other reasons, there 
has been considerable debate as to the usefulness of the "Theogony" as a 
source of religious information. 
Fortunately, I did not have to rely heavily upon Hesiod, and instead 
concentrated on archaeological evidence.

Mr. van Leeuwen quotes from my article - 

"There is no doubt that by 400 B.C.E. the image existed of female followers of 
Hekate working magic, alone at night in remote places. While they were intended 
as evil figures, it is interesting to note that one can easily reinterpret 
them as positive role-models, heroic workers of magic in a society that 
dreaded powerful women." - 

to support his contention that 

>her role can be *reinterpreted* make her a more positive role model, 
>which is what I have said right at the beginning, [that] the New Age 
>community have reinterpreted folk like Hecate, Kali Ma, etc to bring 
>them more in line with a 'Peace, Love, and Mung Beans' approach to 
>the old gods, which in a very many cases is not deserved."

My statement, in its original context in my article, does not exactly 
support his view.  I was referring specifically to just one of her 
several documented roles in antiquity, that of Hekate Chthonia. It is 
from this function that the view of Hekate as an Underworld Goddess comes.  

It is my contention that the perseverance throughout antiquity of Her l
other roles, and the general lack of "nastiness" that they entailed, 
make the reputedly "nasty" edge of this one role of Hers quite suspect.  

Hekate as "Evil Queen of the Night" can be seen as a literary convention; 
 there is very no evidence for ANY real people ever having worshipped Her as
such, or worshipping Her by means of secret, evil necromancy in graveyards.  
When one looks at all of Hekate's historical functions together, one 
readily sees "a more positive role model."

My added observation was that this literary motif, for all its 
misrepresentation, can be reinterpreted in a positive manner.  The result 
is by no means a historically accurate form of worship, but the same can 
be said for the original literary tradition.  As I went on to state: 

"I would not say that it is wrong to honour Hekate as Soteira [Saviour] through 
highly sophisticated rituals, nor as Moon-Goddess, benefactor of solitary night 
rituals and protective Matron of women;  I doubt that She would be offended, 
nor lacking."

In antiquity, deities took on whatever role their followers needed.  As those 
needs changed, so did the roles and attributes of the deities.  Diversity 
within, and redundancy among deities was always an asset.  Thus if modern 
worshippers of Hekate feel it is appropriate to honour Her in an "overly" 
benign and modern fashion, with an emphasis on aspects such as the Moon or 
Cronehood that are not documented in ancient Greece, they are simply 
continuing the evolution of Her worship.  It may not be historically 
accurate Hekate worship, but is a viable religious practice.  My only quibble 
(and it is a quite noisy one at that) is when people falsely attribute 
the details of their modern worship to antiquity, or state that their way is 
the only way to worship Hekate.  

I feel that anyone intent on honouring Hekate should at least acknowledge 
Her older, more basic and less glamourous roles in Greek culture. 

One last point that Mr. van Leeuwen makes is that:

>... from classical Greek culture, through Rome and 1700-2000 years into 
>the Christian era magic has been equated with evil.  I am not at all 
>saying that it is justified, but in that tradition magicians are evil.

I think that this only applies to PRIVATE workers of magic.  The performance of 
magic in public, for the benefit of ones community, was nearly always deemed 
appropriate.  It was when people did things on their own, or in small and 
secretive groups, that concerns were raised.  This, for example, is what led 
to the persecution of the early Christians by the Romans:  they were accused 
of doing horrible magical practices during their secretive rituals and they 
refused to publicly partake in community religious practices.

For those who are interested, my thesis on Hekate in ancient Greek religion 
probably will be published by Horned Owl Publishing later this year in a 
slightly modified form.

Sincerely, by Hekate!

Rob Von Rudloff, M.Sc., M.A.

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