The New Witch's Guide to Working With Hekate
Advice from four occultists on what to do during your first month working with this dark goddess.
It may seem ironic that, during times of great turmoil, there's a great deal of soothing succor to be found in images of and traditions surrounding the dark goddess Hekate.
Hekate, long venerated in Central Asian and Greek lore as the goddess of sorcery, has been name-dropped everywhere from Shakespeare's "Macbeth," to, most recently, Dua Lipa in her latest video "Levitating."
seeing Hekate's symbol in "Levitating" (called "the Hekatean wheel" or " strophalos") made your heart skip a beat, its sinuous lines both new and yet oddly familiar. Perhaps you watched "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" on Netflix, and the show's invocation of Hekate made your skin tingle as if dunked in the Arctic Ocean, your eyelashes blinking away inexplicable tears.
Even if you're not officially a witch, Hekate is a powerful and potentially accessible symbol of liminal power. Many try to gatekeep Hekate, but she sidesteps the human ego, a dancer who slides up close to any and all who are learning to face their shadows.
"'How do I know if it is truly Hekate calling me?' This is perhaps the most popular question that I'm asked," says Cyndi Brannen, who writes the popular Hekate blog Keeping Her Keys. "There was a series of synchronicities that led you to this particular moment… If speaking her name yields a soul stirring, that is more than enough to truly know."
I prioritize personal agency, so I don't need a "sign" from Hekate or any external force. But if you feel you need a sign, then consider that you are reading this article instead of doing a thousand other things.
My interest in Hekate started a little over two years ago, as an intellectual interest in this goddess with the large reputation. I'm actually an atheist who fell into witchcraft after a whimsical sigil netted me $500 within three hours; I didn't think Hekate would be a long-term thing. Even now, I don't concern myself with such boring questions like: is Hekate real? A movie isn't real, and yet it can completely shift your paradigm, change the course of your life.
Like all great spiritual truths, Hekate is a unique and personal experience. And yet, even when she dances at the fringes of my life, her fragrance still fills my room. Her hand, her touch, has steered my life with a deftness that I never anticipated.
In my previous article on Hekate on Popdust, I asked four teachers about the origins of this venerable goddess. Now I ask them: how does a newbie work with Hekate during their first month?
Learn Hekate's ancient roots in order to know how to approach her with respect
The following advice is from Jason Miller, one of my personal teachers. His 7-month e-course "Sorcery of Hekate" is a pioneer in the world of modern Hekatean transmissions. I'm pretty damn sure that my 5-months living in Bali was thanks to the magick I learned from the course. And after 5 years and over 900 students, his remains one of the most popular occult courses online.
"Until you have some clue about her history, I recommend you stay away from modern teachings on her (mine included). Hekate is an intensely complex figure that, even in the ancient world, meant different things to different people.
Start with the Theogony and Hymn to Demeter. Then start looking at her appearance in the Greek Magical Papyri and Curse Tablets. This will present the darker Hekate that is associated with witches. Keep reading anything related to her that dates between 700 BC all the way through the 2rd century AD, where she is transformed yet again from a Goddess of Sorcery to a Supreme Transcendent Cosmic force.
Once you have done this, you will be armed enough to wade into the growing crowd of people interested in her and her practices. You can easily swat away those who insist she is a Crone or only a goddess of Darkness. Armed with research, you will be able to evaluate modern revelations.
When I started my Sorcery of Hekate class, it was the only course dedicated to Hekate I could find. Now there are several, and most of them are quite good, but all have different expressions. This is as it should be. Invest your time and money wisely, and you will have a solid foundation upon which to build a lifetime of practice."
The Dark Moon Is When We Give Hekate Her Monthly Supper (also Called Deipnon)
The following is advice from Jeff Cullen, whose Hekatean book Liber Khthonia: A Contemporary Witchcraft and Devotional Tradition of Hekate was funded within 24-hours on Kickstarter. Even though the Kickstarter has ended, the book is still available for pre-order.
"The New Moon...is the time when the Moon reaches Her darkest, Her watchful luminescence, veiled in shadow. This is why rites of purification and protection are so important. We call to Hekate, Moon of the Underworld, to drive away the malicious entities that pour forth from the Darkness, and to ward off the restless and wandering dead.
These rituals are done every New Moon, or rather in the three days that lead up to and include the return of the Moon's visible horns. For the ritual itself you will need:
1. An image of Hekate (a statue, stone, or even a framed picture) that has been consecrated as a living idol with incense of frankincense, myrrh, benzoine, and a splash of sweet red wine or pomegranate juice [writer's note: consecrate means that you pass the item through the incense smoke and sprinkle it with a bit of the juice]
2. A black, red, or white candle, or all three. I always suggest all three because they are Her sacred colors. Black symbolizes Erebos (the Black Earth of the Underworld), white symbolizes Khaos (the White Air of the physical world), and red symbolizes Aether (the Fiery Ether of the celestial world).
3. Offerings such as sweet red wine or pomegranate juice, spring water, milk, honey, eggs (raw and still in their shell), and cheesecake topped with fruit and candles like a birthday cake.
Set up an altar with the image and candles, continuing to burn the incense mentioned above. Gesture your right hand toward the idol with your palm up, your left hand gesturing toward the ground palm down, a signal you are evoking the powers of the Underworld, and recite a prayer such as Orphic Hymn 1 (Excerpt from the Hymn to Musaeus)—a personal adaptation based on The Hymns of Orpheus, translated by Thomas Taylor (1792):
Hear me, Hekate of the Crossroads where three roads meet! Lovely one, revered on earth, in the sea, and in the sky; sepulchral, dressed in saffron veil, pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade; Perseis, fond of deserted places, hail! Holder of the Keys of the Cosmos, in stags rejoicing, huntress, Night Wandering Goddess, Your chariot is drawn by bulls, Unconquerable Queen; Leader, Nymphe, Nurse, You Who haunt the mountains, attend our hallowed rituals; be forever favorable to your mystic herdsman and rejoice in our gift of incense.
Once you are done take the offerings off the altar and lead a procession to the nearest Y or T shaped crossroads where you will dispose of the offerings. The [liquids] should be poured directly onto the ground, and the food offerings can be left at the intersection or in a paper bag hidden in the wayside. As you leave the crossroads do not turn back.
When you return home, you can prepare a special dinner, have a party with friends and cast spells, perform egg cleansings, or do divination. For the three days research Hekate, attend Her shrine or altar, and tidy up your home and sacred spaces."
Utilize Art and Plants to Connect More Deeply and Viscerally to Hekate
The following is advice from Cyndi Brannen. As well as her popular Hekatean blog "Keeping Her Keys" where she gives advice to both experienced and newbie Hekatean devotees, Cyndi also offers several online classes on witchcraft, including "Awakening the Mystai," a course on Hekatean magick.
"I recommend studying how artists and musicians are portraying her. Hekate awakens the soul, and creativity is always the result of the soul speaking. For example, Chelsea Wolfe's song "The Mother Road" is deeply evocative of Hekate.
As you begin to listen to Hekate, who is truly the voice of your soul saying that you must listen to your own darkness, it is natural to feel confused, enthusiastic, and even overwhelmed. You may also feel angry, sad, or elated. All these emotions bubble up to the surface because they've been repressed for so long. Sit with all these feelings. Ask yourself why you are experiencing these things. Perhaps journal about them. Try to avoid being frenzied because that can lead to upset.
One of her lessons is to hold the tension of opposites. Be still, and she will be there in the quiet darkness, waiting to give you the keys of magick, medicine and mystery.
Go deeper into Hekate's Witchcraft through establishing a daily sacred practice of connection, perhaps simply talking to her and listening. Meditation will create the space in your busy, clever mind for her to come through.
Plant spirit witchcraft is absolutely the best route to connect with Hekate. Begin with one plant sacred to her, such as mugwort, lavender or rose. Place a dish of it in your sacred space and connect with its energy. You can also offer these to Hekate as a sign of your gratitude and affection."
Develop an Authentic Relationship with Hekate
The following advice is from Jack Grayle, who is also one of my personal teachers. His "Hail Hekate: Walking the Forked Path" online course is a stunning way to learn the Papyri Graecae Magicae (traditional Western occult magick as practiced by Greco-Egyptian sorcerers around the time of Christ). Learning this ancient technology has been pivotal in deepening my modern practice.
"Here are three simple steps:
1. Make an offering. Spirit relationships (like human ones) are reciprocal, which means: you have to give to get. So give something! Light a candle to Hekate. Burn incense to her. Set out seasonal fruits or flowers. Place them before an image or symbol that you associate with her. Keep it simple, but bonus points for making it nice. And make a habit of it so that it becomes a regular event, not just a one-time thing.
2. Talk to her. No one likes the silent treatment, right? Forget wishful thinking and channeling your "intent." Say her name three times (because triplicity = sacred), and then speak from the heart. Introduce yourself. Tell her that you want to come into relation with her, and what you hope to get out of it, and what you're willing to give. Be honest and open. There's no reason to pretend to be someone you're not.
3. Notice what happens next. Keep a sharp lookout for coincidences, synchronicities, and signs that Hekate is favoring you. These signs could be her traditional hallmarks – like the barking of a dog, or the image of the crescent moon – or it might be something entirely personal to you, like a phrase of conversation you overhear at a crowded bar, or a song that plays on the radio while you're driving home. Give it time...eventually, the very process of looking for sacred signs in every day life will enchant your everyday life, and fill it with sacredness and meaning."
Jack also recommends two additional books:
Some Additional Thoughts
If Hekate can infuse the life of a heretic (like me) with her elegant gravitas, then I am optimistic about the influence she can have on anyone. She doesn't require exclusivity like an Abrahamic God; she is too badass for any sort of emotion resembling jealousy or possessiveness.
She doesn't require fealty, or a bended knee like a Game of Thrones Kahleesi. There is nothing co-dependent about her—she is rooting for us to have healthy boundaries, to approach her as a peer instead of a supplicant.
The year 2020 is so cancellable. American cities choke on the smoke of wildfires and we mourn the death of strong feminine-energied icons like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As the world burns around us, Hekate may be a balm for those who may now be ready to reach towards the liminal and visceral.