Although Hekate is frequently described in contemporary Pagan texts as a “Dark Goddess” literature and iconography has linked her, for nearly 3000 years, with light. Curiously however, claiming that Hekate is a Goddess of Light can sometimes awaken an almost irrational reaction from individuals who describe her as a Dark Mother, Goddess of the Underworld, Queen of Hell or even as a Goddess of Darkness. However, her most iconic images, even today, depict her with two torches aloft, illuminating the darkness!
Hekate is one of the most unique and interesting Goddesses of the ancient world, her worship reaches backwards into pre-history and continues to thrive in the modern world. Even at times when the shrines and temples of the old Gods were forgotten old ruins, her myths continued to thrive, remaining alive in the hearts, minds and dreams of poets, artists and mystics who promulgated her mysteries..
Those of us who know Iphigenia only from Euripides’ tragedies (Iphigenia in Tauris, Iphigenia at Aulis) may be surprised to know that she also had a presence in Greek religion, with temples or shrines at various sites where she received prayers and offerings.
The Erinyes, to give them their Greek name, were avengers, who punished murders and other serious crimes, especially crimes against the family. Blood, both in the sense of blood spilled and kinship, was their concern.
When I was writing about the Irish goddess Flidais, I said that I would be covering hunting goddesses and horned goddesses in another post. The post on hunting goddesses was duly written, but the horned goddesses slipped away.
This may be due in part to the fact that I thought of horned goddesses as a mainly modern phenomenon. The first inkling I ever had of them came from Chesca Potter’s artwork. Her image of the folkloric figure Elen (heroine of “The Dream of Macsen Wledig“, in the Mabinogion) as a horned goddess caught my attention. However, I had no context for it, and it remained an interesting picture, and nothing more.
This post covers the darker side of Helios‘ family. These include Circe, Pasiphaë, and his granddaughters Medea and Hecate. Unlike his brighter descendants, who were mostly the children of Klymene, these were the children of Perseis, an Oceanid nymph. (Her name comes from the word persô, meaning to destroy, slay, ravish, or sack with fire, so perhaps her dangerous offspring shouldn’t be a surprise.)
We are used to the idea that the Celts took up Roman gods and equated them with their own. (Or that the invading Romans renamed them.) However, the process could just as easily go the other way.
The best-known instance of this is the Gaulish horse-goddess Epona, who became very popular first with the cavalry units of the Roman army, then with the Roman populace, who took her into their homes and stables. She was the only Celtic deity with a holiday in the Roman calendar: December 18th. The Romans don’t seem to have had an indigenous horse-deity (except perhaps Neptune, who had other things to attend to), but the Celts were horse-mad.
Asteria is another Greek star-goddess, but of a rather different type. She was associated with oracles of darkness, such as prophetic dreams, astrology, falling stars, and necromancy. (Her daughter Hecate, the witch’s goddess, would follow in her footsteps.) She was sometimes blended with the night-goddess Nyx, an alternate mother for Hecate.
Bricta is a complex goddess, whose name comes either from the same root as Brigit: “Highest”, or else from a Gaulish word for a spell or curse. Her cult centers on Luxeuil in France, which is rich in thermal and other springs. Several dedications to her, as well as many offerings, were found at the site of the Gallo-Roman thermal baths.