Having read two titles by Sorita d’Este – Hekate Liminal Rites and Visions of the Cailleach – written in collaboration with David Rankine, I was rather excited to venture into Glastonbury town centre a few weeks before Yule in search of her new title Circle for Hekate Volume I: History and Mythology.
Courtyard Books on the High Street obliged and yet I spent a few days nearer Christmas eying the book up like I would a good bottle of wine, waiting for the right moment and once I’d started I knew this book would be special. In both the previous titles I had been impressed with the depth of research but this newer book is further achievement, striving higher again. The work boasts around 250 sources, from the primary literary sources of both Greek (and later Roman) poets and tragedians to referencing very recent works where areas of relevant interest converge. To say it is thorough would be an understatement.
Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos (Cronus) honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods . . .
(lines from Theogeny by Hesiod 700BC)
The work has considerable attention paid to theogenic myths underlining Hekate’s titanic lineage within the three spheres of heaven, Earth and sea essentially quantifying Hesiod’s lines from his 8th century BCE work – Theogeny – with an excellent first chapter on parents, grandparents, great- grandparents and cousins. A consort is also explored with possible names being Zeus himself, through to Hermes, Dionysos and Helios (Apollo). I absolutely loved the section on Hekate’s cousins on her father, Perses’ side, including the four-winds and the dawn-star, Eosphoros (of great interest to me). And did I mention Aunty Leto – mother of Artemis and Apollo, Hekate’s cousins?
The syncretisation of Hekate with Artemis and Diana among others is also very thorough and yet the evidence – that which exists – is there for the reader to make up their own minds, a lot of which is very tantalizing, perusing the subject from a position of evidence. The epithets, as you would expect, are thoroughly covered and it was also helpful to place Hekate geographically with a comprehensive chapter on locations associated with Her and to those with less knowledge of ancient Greek civilization that historical Greece was also Macedonia, Bulgaria, France, Southern Italy, parts of Turkey as well as Syria, Egypt and other parts of North Africa.
Her form is also covered from the triple form to singular, quadrupled and with some interesting pieces suggesting two-forms also. There is also a dismissal of the oft repeated notions of Hekate as a Crone and explains the position put forward by both Crowley and Graves with authority, explaining the misconception but equally explaining that the MMC is workable when arranged with three Goddesses as opposed to just Hekate, alone. The three Goddesses in this case being Hekate, Persephone and Demeter.
The symbols of Her mysteries are also covered in huge detail with everything from animal associations to whips, keys, spears and offering vessels and for those interested in magical work, these correspondences are borne of some very detailed research and are thus as authentic as can be. I found lots of food for thought in the section regarding rays, shedding further conjecture on the possibility of Hekate being a Sun-Goddess alongside Helios (Apollo).
There are some other wonderful little snippets. How many of you knew that the philosopher – Empedocles (490 – 430 BCE) – whom the author believes, although much unsubstantiated by her own admission, had a lot to do with Hekate during his lifetime, likened the poppy to a city given the huge number of seeds found in each head? As explained, this helped to emphasize that not only could Goddesses conflated with Hekate be regarded as rural, alongside the likes of Demeter, but also as city-dwelling protectresses.
I particularly enjoyed the references to the Furies being linked with Hekate too and having just finished reading The Oresteia and a review, found below…the work seemed to back up the idea that Hekate has more than a passing resemblance to these Goddesses who underlie a natural order that if corrupted is avenged, price for price. In fact, The Oresteia itself is not only three-formed itself but charts the birth of a civilization, including liminal times where man and civilization could very easily have been degenerated back into chaos and savagery. Hekate, might seem far-fetched as she is not mentioned in the trilogy but there are, I think similarities with her role and that of the Furies which are hinted on in this must-have book for all those interested in her cult(s).
To summarise, I love books about the practical side of magic but my own bias has always erred toward the academic side of things, allowing any would-be practitioner to make up his or her own mind on how best to proceed with the benefit wrought from works such as this. And that only, if you choose to read this volume as a standalone. These informed decisions are perhaps less tainted with a modern worldview because they have been extensively researched and laid out just as they were unearthed. At the very start the author asserts that the volume ‘…is intended as background reading providing contextual foundations for the practices, including devotional rites, meditations, contemplations and charms, in the subsequent volumes in this series.’ Watch this space.
I have also bought another book from Avalonia, Vikki Bramshaw’s Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy published in 2013, so impressed I am with this one and look forward to their future publications. There is a link to them below…
© Sam R Geraghty
Review of The Oresteia :