Standing at the Crossroads, Part III: The Why and How of Hekate’s Image

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In part I of this series, I discussed the make-up of the crossroads, and the connection of that cosmology to Hekate Trimorphis, the liminal nature of Hekate, and the liminal aspects of that cosmology. In part II, I began to explore the connection of Hermes to the crossroads and his role as a god of the roads as well as travel. I ultimately decided that, while he did not have a huge amount to say about the frameworks aspect of this ritual, he was nonetheless important, and that the construction of a Herm would be an integral part of our work. I also decided that I needed Hekate to have a counterpoint to the Herm construction.

In this article, I will explore how Hekate’s image will be worked into this ritual, what images will be used, and their meaning.

Inside and Outside, Near and Far

bridge_of_fabricius05A important aspect of Hermes, mythologically speaking, is that he is the archetypal traveller. Ovid describes him arriving in the guise of a guest to the house of Philemon and Baukis, alongside Zeus. Like a traveller, or a person seeking hospitality in days of old, he enters the pantheon with nothing but the shirt on his back. His narrative is all about showing up and, pardon the pun, winging it.

Hermes sees what’s available and makes the best plan possible based on what happens to be on hand. Hekate, by contrast, is the key-holder and gate-keeper. She doesn’t need to take advantage of anything. She already has her powers neatly arrayed and ready to use.

Hekate holds the chains of the barking dog, Hermes has the power to quiet their barking and dull their senses. She is the three-fold road, and he is the navigator.

Furthermore, something else strikes me.

The word Hekas and the name, Hekate, are related. If you were to render a translation of Hekate’s name, it might be, the “far-off one,” or as I like to poetically refer to her, “the far-worker.” Hermes, is a god of the common folk, and as near to us as both speech and money.

Ok. Here are all the double-entendres I was holding back:

She came first, and then he entered.

Her body is the crossroads and takes their form. His Herm is on the inside.

He is navigating her terrain.

Dear heavens. Shame on me.

That notwithstanding, it gives me an idea both of how to balance out the construction of the Herm, and also how to hekate1begin to structure this ritual.

The various lesser pentagram rituals of the Golden Dawn employ a sort of thoughtform-lite to bring manifest energies into the ritual. More than the chanting or drawing of pentagrams, visualizing the archangels at the perimeter of the circle, though it happens without much fanfare, is what puts the correct mental energies in the four directions.

You can, of course, conduct your own research. If you are an LBRP aficionado, compare the effects on the space after 30 minutes by having the same person conduct two variants of the ritual in two separate rooms, one being the standard LBRP, and the other, simply the Q-cross and Invocation of Archangels. Then, have a second person scan the two spaces without being told which is which. The reduced variant may be less powerful, but not by a whole lot, and largely because the drawn boundary and the chanting of names create a clean and empty space, which you can do in any number of ways.

That notwithstanding, it occurred to me that having three images of Hekate on the Outside, at the Earthly, Watery and Celestial Gates (or, where the three corresponding paths touch the edge of the circle). This works in the three-bodied image of Hekate, balances out the Herm that will be constructed on the inside.

Images of Hekate

“Take a lodestone and on it have carved a three- faced Hekate. And let the middle face be that of a maiden wearing horns, and the left face that of a dog, and the one on the right that of a goat. After the carving is done, I clean with natron and water, and dip in the blood of one who has died a violent death.” (PGM IV: 2880-2890)

“Hekate with three heads and six hands, holding torches in her hands, o n the right sides of her face having the head of a cow; and on the left sides the head of a dog; and in the middle the head of a maiden with sandals bound on her feet.”  (PGM IV: 2120)

I didn’t fancy having a young, beautiful and perfectly human-looking Hekate in all of my stations, and I knew that this is what more mainstream sources would throw at me. Therefore, I turned to the Greek Magical Papyri.

If you are wondering what ANY of these things have to do with Land, Sky or Sea, then you and I are on precisely the same page. Goats? Cows? Dogs? Wha…?

I accepted at the outset that there may not be ANY sensible way to make a correspondence. The face she brings to Olympos, however, is the human one. That, at least, could be corresponded with the Sky, and failing in anything else, we can look at the ritual layout from the vantage of the Eastern wall, and recon that the Earth and Sea have got to be our right and left, and make our peace with the apparent irrationality of the images.

The Dog


Hesiod, The Great Eoiae Frag 16 (from Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 23) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
“He [Hermes] cast upon the dogs which were guarding them [the guard dogs of the cattle of Apollon] a stupor and strangles, so that the dogs forgot the cows and lost the power of barking.”

Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 144 ff :
“The god [Hermes] went straight back again at dawn to the bright crests of Kyllene [after stealing the cattle of Apollon] . . . nor did any dog bark [in warning].”

Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 560 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
“Zeus himself . . . commanded that glorious Hermes should be lord . . . over dogs and all the herds and flocks.”

Well, then! Dogs guard things. Like the gates of the Underworld, for example. Or herds. Furthermore, dogs are in a conceptual group with livestock, such as cows and goats. This will be just one more way in which Hekate reflects Hermes.

I’m starting to get the idea that boundaries and keeping livestock are two conceptually related things. Dogs, and uber-dogs, like Kerberos, are a part of that boundary. The dog-faced woman is an emblem, in this case, of the boundary-guarding aspect of Hekate.


The Cows and The Goats… What the bleepity-bleep?

faceCallimachus, Hymn 1 to Zeus 42 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
“When the Nymphe [Neda], carrying thee, O Father Zeus [from Arkadia where he was born to hand over to his protectors and nurses in Krete], toward Knosos . . . But thee, O Zeus, the companions of Kyrbantes took to their arms, even the Diktaian Meliai (Melian Nymphs of Dictys), and Adrasteia [Nemesis] laid thee to rest in a cradle of gold, and thou didst suck the rich teat of the she-goat Amaltheia, and thereto eat the sweet honey-comb.”

So, honestly, when I start to think of the role that goats have in Greek mythology, this is the very first thing which springs to mind. Ok, the second. The first thing is Pan, obviously. A goat nursing in place of a woman (goddess), and a half-man half-goat god.

Do cows have a similar sort of role in Greek mythology, where the line between them and humans is somehow blurred? For starters, there is the Minotaur, and Pasiphae mating with that bull. And, oh, I almost forgot, did you hear the one about the lady who got turned into a cow? 

Oh, this is more than just a myth, my friend. Io is an institutionWe find her written about in Aeschylus, Apollodorus, Callimachus, Parthenius, Strabo, Pausanias, Herodotus, Diodorus, Aelian, Hyginus, Ovid, Virgil, Propertius, Valerius Flaccus, Statius, Nonnus, Suidas and Philostratus.


The story was so deeply resonant with people in both Greece and Rome that she is mentioned more than certain minor deities. Hermes, who freed her from Argos Panoptes, is so famous on account of this deed that the epithet Argeiphontes follows him everywhere he goes, even into the Hymn to Hestia, where he is mentioned in passing as a comrade of the feast, and in many stories that have nothing to do with killing Argos.

Maybe this is just one more cow theft, and that’s why, but I think there is something more to it.

The story of Iphegenia is a thematically similar story which might help to shed some light.


Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 27 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Theseus and Helene, daughter of Zeus, had a daughter Iphigeneia. Helene’s sister Klytaimnestra brought her up . . . When the army of the Akhaians was held up at Aulis for lack of winds, the seers foretold that it would be possible to sail only if they sacrificed Iphigeneia to Artemis. At the insistence of the Akhaians, Agamemnon handed her over to be put to the knife and she was dragged to the altar. But the leaders could not bear to look on and, to a man, they turned their eyes elsewhere.

Artemis made a bull calf appear by the altar instead of Iphigeneia whom she carried off far away from Greece, to the Sea of Pontos with its welcoming name of Euxinos, to Thoas son of Borysthenes [the Dnieper River]. She called the tribe of nomads there Taurians because a bull (tauros) had appeared instead of Iphigeneia on the altar. She also named her Tauropolios.

Some suggest that this myth points to a past wherein the Greek gods accepted, on a very regular basis, human sacrifice. They switched, at some point, to sacrificing livestock or cows instead. This would go a long way to explaining this theme of livestock-human interchangeability. Then there is this interesting tidbit:

Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 71 (from Pausanias 1. 43. 1) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
“Hesiod in the Catalogue of Women represented that Iphigeneia was not killed but, by the will of Artemis, became Hekate.”

The girl who is offered in place of a cow has Hekate offered in place of her?

The Greek semi-conscious mind is processing this idea: we used to sacrifice humans, but now we sacrifice cows. The purpose of that cow is to die so that we don’t have to. That cow has taken our place on the sacrificial altar.

Livestock animals like goats and cows are linked to the Earth in two ways. Firstly, they help humans to work the Earth, and secondly, their blood goes down into the Earth, even as their fat and bones rise as smoke before the gods upstairs.


Conclusion: The Dog is the Boundary, the Cow/Goat is the sacrificial victim. The blood which runs into the ground with the death of that victim is a portion for Those Below. 

As the sea makes a boundary around an island, the dog surrounds the livestock. Curiously, what is that image of Hekate washed with? Water with natron (a kind of salt), and blood from a man who has died a violent death, who was, shall we say, slaughtered. I might go so far as to guess that the left side of the image, which is a dog, is washed with the natron and water, and that the right side of the image, which is a goat or cow, is bathed in blood.

The Colors

One last thing must be decided before I go ahead and draw the images of Hekate for this ritual: what colors should I use?

For the Cow-headed Hekate: The blood of the sacrifice and the darkness of Erebos suggest a combination of red and black. Perhaps the face is black, and the gown red.

For the Dog-headed Hekate: I am inspired by the colors of the Greek coastline, sea green, turquoise and midnight blue.

For the Maiden Hekate: Blue and white for the sky and clouds.


The Gaps

That covers the three forms of Hekate, corresponding to Land, Sky and Sea, but what of those other locales I discussed? Nowhere is there a precedent for depicting Hekate with six forms, to my knowledge. Yet, the whole point of liminal places is that they exist between the places we arbitrarily define as our general categories, or between the landmarks we set to help us understand a thing. That is actually what makes them so magical.

If we put forms in those liminal places, they would stop being liminal. The liminal things would be what existed between those newly defined categories or places. It would never stop.

Rather, each of the forms will hold two torches out to the sides. Those liminal places will be the gaps, where insubstantial torchlight touches insubstantial torchlight. 

All of these places still need to be called to with names and epithets, liminal or not. The Herm must in some way be linked to the paths, perhaps even to the images of Hekate. In my next article, I will delve into the names of these two deities, and how they might be called upon a place during this ritual so as to consecrate it with the energies of the crossroads. 


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