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Hecate in Greek mythology was a powerful goddess representing the three aspects of the great Goddess, or Triple Goddess: goddess of fertility and plenty; goddess of the moon; and goddess of the night, ghosts and sHades, which led to her evolving as the patroness of magic and Witchcraft. Her powerful position was derived from the Egyptian mid-wife goddess Heqit, Heket, or Hekat, who in turn evolved from the heq or tribal matriarch of pre-dynastic Egypt, who was a wise-woman in command of all hekau or "mother's Words of Power." In her moon-goddess aspect she is often part of the trinity with Selene, and Diana/Artemis.
The goddess possesses infernal powers, nocturnally roaming the earth with a pack of red-eyed hellhounds and a entourage of dead souls. She is only visible to dogs, and if the dogs are traveling at night, it means Hecate is about. She causes nightmAres and insanity, and was so threatening to the ancient people that she was called "the Nameless One."
The Hellenes emphasized her Crone aspects, but continued to worship her at places where three roads connected, especially in rites of magic, divination, and consulting with the dead. Her images guarded three-way crossroads for many centuries, thus she was Hecate Trevia, "Hecate of the Three Ways." Offerings, particularly on nights of the full moon, were left at roadside shrines built in her honor, especially by those wishing this goddess of prophecy and magic to assist them on journeys.
Throughout the ages incarnations have been chanted to her, sacrifices were offered to her. In ancient times people sought to appease her by leaving chicken hearts and honey cakes outside of their doors. On the last day of the month, offerings of honey, onions, fish, and eggs were left at the crossroads, along with sacrifices of puppies, infant girls, and she-lambs. Sorcerers gathered at crossroads to pay homage to her and such infernal servants as the Empusa, a hobgoblin; the Cercopsis, a poltergeist; and the Mormo, a ghoul. One petition for her patronage is recorded in the third century by Hippolytus in Philosphumena:
Come infernal, terrestrial, and heavenly Bombo (Hecate), goddess of the broad roadways, of the crossroad, thou who goest to and fro at night, torch in hand, enemy of the day. Friend and lover of darkness, thou who doest rejoice when the bitches are howling and warm blood is spilled, thou who art walking amid the phantom and the in place of the tombs, thou whose thirst is blood, thou who doest strike chill and fear in mortal hearts, Gorgo, Mormo, Moon of a thousand forms, cast a propitious eye on our sacrifice.
Also from the goddess Heqit Hecate derived her heavenly midwifery ability. Heqit amalgamated the Seven Hathos of the birth-chamber, since she delivered the sun god every morning. Heqit's totem was the frog, which symbolized the fetus. Hellenic writers described Hecate as being in the houses of women in childbirth. Therefore, since Hecate was at times represented by Artemis, it is no wonder that the latter was able to help in the delivery of her twin brother Apollo, and was petitioned for help by women having difficulty in child bearing.
In modern Witchcraft Hecate is thought to reign over the waning and dark moon, the two weeks considered best for magic dealing with banishing, releasing, planning, and introspection. A.G.H.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, The Encyclopedia of Witches
and Witchcraft, New York: Facts On File, 1989, pp. 155-156
Walker, Barbara G, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, New York, HarperCollins, 1983, pp,. 378-379