Standing at the Crossroads, Part V: The Names of Hermes and Hekate

Edit: These are my notes on what I think I want to use as Divine Names in the Crossroads ritual I am attempting to create for Hermes and Hekate. They are far from finished. Any input, ideas, sources or the like that you have to share are welcome and appreciated. 

So far, I have explored the mystical make-up of the crossroads through Hekate’s aspects and mythos, examined how Hermes fits into that cosmology and decided on the addition of a Herm to the ritual, thought about ways to balance the presence of Hermes with invisible images of Hekate, and drawn said images, using traditional source texts.

In this piece, I will return to our cosmology and identify what names and epithets of each of these two deities most properly correspond to the locations in the crossroads cosmology I cooked up.

I am making a lot of symbolic decisions, and basing them as much as I can on the mythos. However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is how it works. I will have to run it by the deities in question, point for point.

The Nature of Hermes and Hekate at the Places in Our Cosmology

“Let [their] nature be proclaimed, for by names and images are all powers awakened and re-awakened” — 0=0 Neophyte Initiation, Golden Dawn.

I have already decided, at the outset, that this is the framework that I would be using for this ritual.

cosmos

 

 

Moreover, I decided that while this Cosmology resonates to the mythology of Hekate, that Hermes really doesn’t have his own mythological cosmology with respect to the crossroads. As with many an ancient Greek household, the house belongs to Her, she keeps it, and He just lives there. This also has a resonance with the way the ancient Greeks thought about procreation. She is the place where it happens, He is the actor in that space, and the catalyst of life. Hers in the outside, His is the inside.

Moreover, moving from ancient Greek gender roles to Hermes and Hekate specifically, the role that I expect Hekate will play will be the inherent possessor of the powers in question, whereas Hermes will be agitating, largely, to get a foothold there.

An aside: No, I am not saying that binary gender roles are required for the practice of magic. I am not saying that Hermes and Hekate are married. I am saying that Hermes is male, Hekate is female, that they share a few domains, and that the ancient Greek understanding of ancient Greek cultural gender roles impact the natures of those deities, as they were traditionally understood. 

I will only draw from traditional titles and epithets, and will not be creating any new ones for this working. Therefore, while I will try to understand the roles of the two deities in each of the seven domains, the choice of names for each locale will be a simple matter of best fit. 

At the Crossing of Roads

Signpost of TimeIf we follow along with our Outside/Inside, Owner/Actor, Authority/Upstart dichotomies for these two deities, it makes sense that the roads themselves belong to Hekate, and Hermes travels on them.  It should, of course, be obvious that if we can’t find a good matched set that expresses this dichotomy, we can always fall back on the Trimorphis/Trikephalos epithets of Hekate and Hermes.

Some possibilities include:

Hermes: Πομπαιος, Pompaios (Guide), Διακτορος, Diaktoros (Guide, Minister, Messenger), Τρικεφαλος, Trikephalos (Three-headed… of intersections).

Hekate: Τριμορφις, Trimorphis (Three-Formed), Τριοδιτις, Triodotis (Of the Three Ways), Ενοδια, Enodia (Of the Wayside, of the Crossroads).

I could be totally all wet on this one, but the “dos” that happens to be in words like Diodos, Exodos, Odoiporos as well as Triodotis and the “dia” that occurs in both Enodia and Diaktoros seem related to me.

Einodia and Diaktoros?

I prefer this over Trimorphis and Trikephalos because it portrays a more active, moving facet of Hermes, and I think this makes more sense.

Hermes: That seems like as good a pick as any. Though, if you consider the way your ritual is looking, at the moment, the one fixed and stationary thing in the whole ritual is the Herm. I like that, by the by, that I get a Herm-ing ritual. Bad. Ass.

Hekate: I agree that Hermes should have Trikephalos as his epithet in this particular ritual. However, based on the fact that my images are at the ends of the paths, rather than the center, Einodia does indeed seem to make more sense to me than Trimorphis.

Pontus

1990PhasalistheGreekSea

Water, as I discussed earlier, is symbolically important as a boundary. Dogs and the Sea form a thematic unit because, as the Sea creates a boundary around an island, dogs surround and create a boundary around the cattle.

If we understand our Cow as Io, in particular, then the “dog” that Hermes most famously got past is Argos. Argos also happened to be the name of the shipwright who built, and named after himself, the ship of, “quest for the Golden Fleece,” fame.

While Hermes is busy crossing boundaries and stupefying dogs, Hekate, meantime, is commanding dogs.

Skulakagetes and Argeiphontes?

This dichotomy also expresses a difference in how these two deities protect. Hekate holds space for us. Hermes removes dangers from our path and obstacles from our way. Another epithet I considered was Apotropaia, which acknowledges Hekate’s role in turning away evil, also related to creating and controlling boundaries, but also has a connection to the Sea. Khernips is often sprinkled while saying “O theoi genoisthe apotropoi kakon!” This not only resonates directly to Hekate’s boundary-keeping aspects, but also links her directly to water. On the downside, it less directly parallels the epithet chosen for Hermes. 

Hermes: I love that you are using this epithet. If I had my way, I’d be Argeiphontes at ALL the stations. Just kidding. Don’t do that. In seriousness, though, you are basically equating Argos to a dog. I dunno how I feel about that. Consider, instead, HOW I slayed Argos. I did it by putting him to sleep. Well, and also by cutting his head off. Details. I recommend Dolios, since this is my relation to boundaries. I basically just awesome my way through them.

Hekate: There are other options, here. As appealing as it may seem to directly reference the dog, I would prefer if you used the epithet, “Key-bearer.” That is MY relation to boundaries. I create them, open them, close them… mostly through having the right tool at the right time. My pick? Klêidouchos. 

At Styx

BAL11062

“Charon and Psyche,” John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, 1883

If we understand water or the sea as boundaries, generally, Styx is particularly the boundary which separates life from afterlife. I will be looking for epithets that show power over that boundary.

For Hermes, the epithet, “Psychopompos,” demonstrates his ability to help souls over that boundary. He leads them from the world of the living into the world of the dead.

For Hekate, the epithet, “Melinoe,” or, very roughly translated, “the one who oversees propitiatory rites for the dead,” actually helps connect us to the departed. Or, since it is actually the dead receiving something here, connects them to the world of the living. Hekate, in her aspect as Melinoe, helps the dead cross over into the land of the living.

Melinoe and Psychopompos?

Though, if you will indulge me, an equally good choice for Hekate is something like Psychopompaia. Though, I already said that no new epithets would be used in this ritual. 

Hermes: I’m good with this.

Hekate: I, too, am good with this.

Gaia

gaia1Oh, there are so many choices. Chthonios and Chthonia, for example, would initially seem like a slam-dunk. When I begin to think of the bovine as a symbol for this domain, both as an animal that works the Earth (Ox), and as the one who dies in place of a human (Io/Iphigenia), I begin to rethink that. Hermes played an important role in re-configuring the laws so that “sacred cows,” rather than humans, would be sacrificed to the gods.

“Next glad-hearted Hermes dragged the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot, making each portion wholly honorable.” Hymn to Hermes, #4, Homer, Lines 126-130

This is a Tauroctony Myth. Like many myths of it’s kind, it narrates the transition to a society which had, as its primary sacrificial animal, a formerly sacred cow. This is echoes by the Mithraic Mytsteries, the Bull-Slaying in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and even the Sacred Calf incident in the Bible. Hermes, rather than just killing the cattle, or eating them, offers them to the other gods of his pantheon.

“Then he went on from task to task: first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden spits, and roasted flesh and the honorable chine and the paunch full of dark blood all together. ” — Ibid, 120-124

Please note that long before Prometheus perpetrated his notorious fuckery at Mekone,  Hermes is making an offering to the gods which consists of fat, meat, bones and innards. If anyone else thinks it’s strange for a deity to be making offerings to other deities, please raise your hand.

It may well be that this myth hints at Hermes as having coaxed the gods into accepting (once taboo) cows in place of humans, hence his inclusion in this Hymn to Hestia, and his epithet, “Comrade of the Feast.” 

That is Hermes, keeping your kids safe from hungry deities, one festival at a time. Imagine what a slap in the face it must have been when Prometheus jeopardized that substitution by trying to stick the gods with nothing but fat and bones.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 144 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Men in early times sought fire from the gods, and did not know how to keep it alive. Later Prometheus brought it to earth in a fennel-stalk, and showed men how to keep it covered over with ashes. Because of this, Mercurius [Hermes], at Jove’s [Zeus’] command, bound him with iron spikes to a cliff on Mount Caucasus, and set an eagle to eat out his heart.”

I wonder if Hermes volunteered for that task.

I am actually inclined to pick an epithet like, Βουφονος (Bouphonos), which means, “Slayer of Oxen,” or Επιμηλιος (Epimelios) which means, “Keeper of Flocks.” Either alludes to this aspect of Hermes connected to the institution of sacrificing cattle, rather than people.

Epimelios is more general.

There are many epithets that would be suitable for Hekate, here.

Aidonaia (Lady of the Underworld), Anassa Eneroi (Queen of the Dead), Chthonia (Underworldly), or even Angelos (Messenger). Aidonaia refers specifically to the place.

Aidonaia and Epimelios?

Hermes: Ok, this one is just plain weird. I see where you are going with this, but I am pretty sure that you’ve overthought it.  I like your pick for Hekate, though. My recommendation for this domain, for me, is Χρυσορραπις, Khrusorrapis. Get this: It is my staff, right? The one that I use as a symbol of my shepherding and general cowboy-dom. It is also the thing I took with me down into the underworld when I went to retrieve Persephone. Think about that for a second.

Hekate: I really like this choice. You can keep it the way it is.

 

Prosgeios

thThis part of the cosmos is the part of the heavens that is closest to the Earth, or the part of the Earth that is closest to the sky. It includes mountain tops, and it also includes the Moon. The traditional epithet Phosphoros, also an epithet of Artemis, refers to Hekate in her aspect of Light-Bringer. She, the far-worker, a friend of Apollon, the Far-Worker, the Turner-Away of Evil, is, in many respects, the Moon to Apollo’s Sun, in a way not dissimilar to Artemis. The epithet, Nuktepolos, refers to the Moon as well.

Orphic Hymn 9 to Selene (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
“To Selene (Moon), Fumigation from Aromatics. Hear, goddess queen (thea basileia), diffusing silver light, bull-horned, and wandering through the gloom of night. With stars surrounded, and with circuit wide night’s torch extending, through the heavens you ride: female and male, with silvery rays you shine, and now full-orbed, now tending to decline. Mother of ages, fruit-producing Mene (Moon), whose amber orb makes night’s reflected noon: lover of horses, splendid queen of night, all-seeing power, bedecked with starry light, lover of vigilance, the foe of strife, in peace rejoicing, and a prudent life: fair lamp of night, its ornament and friend, who givest to nature’s works their destined end. Queen of the stars, all-wise Goddess, hail! Decked with a graceful robe and amble veil. Come, blessed Goddess, prudent, starry, bright, come, moony-lamp, with chaste and splendid light, shine on these sacred rites with prosperous rays, and pleased accept thy suppliants’ mystic praise.”

I wish, actually, to reserve the epithet Phosphoros for something else, so Nuktepolos it is.

Hermes is an Olympian. However, when I think about what Hermes might be doing on the tops of mountains, or with respect to the Moon, Mt Olympos is not the first mountain I think of.

Perhaps the most self-referential title in the history of titles, belongs to Hermes. He is called Μαιαδος Ὑιος (Maiados Huios). This means, “Of Mt. Son of Maia.” Now, as near as I know, in all of Greek Mythology, Maia has only one son. So, this mountain is indirectly named after Hermes, and Hermes, in turn, is called by the name of that mountain.

What I love about this as a choice for the space between Earth and Sky is that it not only covers mountains, but indirectly alludes to the force of the Moon, as it was understood by the Greeks and Romans.

“The name Apollo is Greek; they say that he is the Sun, and Diana [Artemis] they identify with the Moon . . . the name Luna is derived from lucere ‘to shine’; for it is the same word as Lucina, and therefore in our country Juno Lucina is invoked in childbirth, as is Diana in her manifestation as Lucifera (the light-bringer) among the Greeks [….] She is invoked to assist at the birth of children, because the period of gestation is either occasionally seven, or more usually nine, lunar revolutions.” (Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 27 (trans. Rackham)

So, giving birth would be a lunar activity. The whole prospect of motherhood is lunar in nature, and this epithet all but calls Hermes by his mother’s name. Nice.

Other mountains we could reference include Mt Kyllene and Mt Akakesion, both in Arkadia.

Nuktepolos and Maiados Huios?

Hermes: … … AHAHAHAHAHAAA!!! Ok, ok… ok. No, seriously, I can’t believe you did that. I can’t, in fact, believe that I have this epithet. I feel like that guy whose son finds his old disco suit. What on Earth– Talk to Hekate I’ll get back to you.

Hekate: Given the options available, this will do.

Hermes: Ok, I’m calm. Where was I? Oh right! No. Just no. Pull up some Ovid for me, would ya?

“Then straightaway he strikes the nodding head, where it joins the neck, with his curved sword, and sends it bloody down the rocks, staining the steep cliff. Argus, you are overthrown, the light of your many eyes is extinguished, and one dark sleeps under so many eyelids.” — Ovid, Metamorpheses, Bk I: 720-721

Note the down the steep cliff part. This shit happens at the top of a mountain. Messenger of Zeus goes to help out a cow, which you previously ascribed to Gaia. THIS is where the epithet Argeiphontes goes.

 

Ouranos

img_zeusWhen we speak of the “Sky,” in this case, we really mean, “The Kingdom of the Sky.” The question I am asking myself here is, “Who are these deities to the King of the Sky,” IE, to Zeus.

Hesiod, Theogony 404 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos 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 . . . For as many as were born of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven) [the Titanes] amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Kronos [Zeus] did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. Also, because she is an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her.”

Zeus remembers and honors Hekate, primarily because of her contributions in the wars against both the Gigantes and the Titans.

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 34 – 38 (trans. Aldrich)(Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.):
“[When the Gigantes made war on the gods of heaven] In the course of the battle . . . Hekate got [the Gigante] Klytios with fire-brands.”

Apparently, them’s fightin’ torches. Bearing light, or fire, is a part of who Hekate is as a warrior. It is for this, I infer, that she was awarded honors by Zeus. Therefore, my pick for Hekate in this domain is Phosphoros, or, “Light-Bearer.”

As for Hermes, being Herald and Messenger is at the top of my list when considering his relationship to the Sky gods. The epithet Angelos Athanaton, “Messenger of the Gods,” is probably used more often, but implies that it is for all the gods. Perhaps it is.  The term Angelos, simply, without any modifier, causes me to think of Zeus first, and so that is what I will use.

Phosphoros and Angelos?

Hermes: Definitely.

Hekate:  I assure you that, despite the your inability to find a source for it, Lampadephoros, Torch-bearer is an epithet of mine. If it isn’t, then there has been a grievous and very stupid oversight. Please use this instead. And yes, despite the translation here of, “fire-brand,” Klytios faced my very literally flaming wrath. 

 

Athanatoi

aphrodite1Who are Hermes and Hekate to the larger community of non-Chthonic deities? Those deities who have dual citizenship, such as Aphrodite who was drawn from the sea, or Dionysos, who fled to it, give us a clue to what this liminal space is like. Eternity and indestructible life are the hallmarks of this domain; drinking, feasting, loving and creating.

But moreover, how do such deities see Hermes and Hekate? What is the overlap, for example, in the way that Zeus sees Hekate and the way that Poseidon sees Hekate?

For Hekate, especially in the eyes of Zeus and Poseidon, she is Perseis, the daughter of Perses, the Titan. Her allegiance is remembered, and she retains her Titanic power. However, despite immense power and wisdom, she is not one of the twelve who sits on the council. She works from afar, and these two gods seem to honor her from a distance.

Coming back to Hermes, and a recurrent theme: He came into the world with no domains whatever. Had he not made the choice to begin taking things, he would be completely empty handed. He grabbed the tortoise, stole Apollon’s cattle, and thereby secured his place as a god of cattle, connected himself to dogs and boundaries, and ultimately, became responsible for the entire institution of sacrificing the meat of animals to the gods. Thereby, he fulfilled his words to his mother that he would become, Αρχοσ Φηλητεων (Arkhos Pheleteon), a Prince of Thieves.

Perseis and Arkhos Pheleteon?

Hermes: That was my promise to my mommy, and that promise made me an Olympian. So, yes.

Hekate: It’s nice to remember where you come from. I like how for this domain, you reminded us both of our place among all the gods, our parentage and origin. Nice going. 🙂

Corrected Table of Epithets

epithet_chart_crossroads

10 comments

    • magickfromscratch

      Yeah, it is a thing. The name is thought to reference propritiary rites for the dead.

      Hekate seems to have more than one of those — other goddesses who have names identical to her epithets, or perhaps veiled references to Hekate in her darker aspects.

      I think one could read it either way.

      As for me, I think about Apollon’s epithet, “Hekatoio,” and understand that it is there because it describes his nature, and because the etymology simply dictates that this is how the epithet has to be constructed to mean what it means.

      It does not seem unreasonable to me that Melinoe might be both a separate goddess and an epithet for Hekate when she serves in that role, for example, at the Deipnon.

      My sources for thinking this are mostly German scholars of the classics, who make this suggestion for understanding the texts.

      • Narkaios Alepou

        It wasn’t my intention to cause trouble … I am currently exploring Melinoe as an independant entity while simultaniously getting back into a devotional groove with Hekate

      • magickfromscratch

        No worries. Cause as much of that sort of trouble as you like. I think better when challenged, and questions like that ultimately improve the caliber of my work, in the long run.

        It might be interesting if, while you are doing your reading, you made notes on where Melinoe and Hekate overlap in both function and description. I would be delighted to share such an article on my MFS Facebook page.

  1. hekatetempel

    The Epithet for Hekate and the sea is Einalia (source is the orphic hymn to Musaios- which is often addressed as the orphic hymn to Hekate)… And i think there are ancient sources for Lampadephoros but i can’t remember the sources…

  2. Pingback: Standing at the Crossroads: Mechanics of Ritual | Magick From Scratch

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