Hekate at Lagina

When talking about ancient sites associated with Hekate one site in particular is referenced to, and discussed, over and above all the rest. Lagina, located not far from the modern day border of Greece and Turkey, hosted one of the most recognisable in literature about Hekate because it is was probably one of the most significant ancient cult associated with her. Usually when Lagina is mentioned it is in relation to the kleidous agoge, also kleidophoria, meaning “procession of the key” and authors typically describe a yearly procession involving a maiden carrying a key in celebration of the local Mysteries surrounding Hekate but this is rather one part of the cult of at Lagina which makes its stand out.  

Whilst the kleidos agoge was undoubtedly a seminal event in the religious calendar at Lagina it was one of a number of important rituals which were overseen by the temple at Lagina. Additionally, focusing on this singular event detracts from the overall importance of the cult centre to the local area, particularly the polis of Stratonikeia, and its connection to both Empire and the identity of the region. First of all I want to talk a little about the temple itself, its location and dimensions as it sits within the modern landscape, before I talk a little about the civic priesthood of Stratonikeia and Lagina and how city and temple interacted. Next I will give a slightly fuller account of the ritual itself and how it inter played with the nature of the priesthood before moving on to discuss important rituals, particularly the Hekateria-Romaia. Finally I will look at the role of Hekate as a civic goddess, a role which initially seems somewhat incongruous to her 

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Semi-circular Propylon. Original CreditOriginal Credit

The Temple at Lagina

Lagina was first excavated in 1891 by Osma Hamdi Bey, the so called father of Ottoman archaeology. The site then remained untouched until the Mugla Museum began excavations in 1993 and the site is now under investigation by an international team led by Konya Selcuk University. 

One reason the temple at Lagina stands out so clearly as a cult centre is it is the only temple dedicated to Hekate which remains upstanding. Although other temples are referenced to they are usually referred to in conjunction with temples dedicated to other deities, such as the Artemision at Ephesus and Selinus, or they simply have not been located in the modern landscape. Inscriptions and artefacts found within the area of the temple indicate that a Cult to Hekate  had been present at Lagina from the 14th century BC however the temple we see today, with its Doric stoa and Corithian order temenos, were not built until at least the end of the second century BC.

The site is made up of five areas including the Propylon, the Temple of Hekate itself, the Altar, the Byzantion Basilica and the Stoa 

1 Propylon – the Propylon is situated at the East of the temple complex and is oriented along a north-south axis. The building has a semi-circular shape, which consists of 5 columns, which can be reached by three large steps. There are a total of four doors within the Propylon, one large monumental doorway and three smaller ones, one of which leads to the main temple stoa (5).

2 Temple of Hekate – as a structure the main temple is made up of a cella surrounded by single row of columns, also known as a perisytle, and a stoa. The cella itself contains a structure of two rooms, one presumably being a public space and the second being available to members of the cult, which were accessible by a flight of stairs. The temple was constructed sometime between the end of the 2nd century BCE and the beginning of the 1st century BCE. The temple was highly decorated and the monumental friezes which graced its walls were removed to Istanbul, Turkey where they can still be viewed. The friezes depict four different subjects and are arranged according to the cardinal points

South East – Birth of Zeus

North West – Titanomachy (specifically depicting the battles between Zeus and Typhon and Apollo and Efialtes)

South West – Meeting between the (local) Karian Gods and Heroes

North East – Meeting between an Amazon and a Greek Warrior, with Hekate stood behind the Amazon

 

 

(3) Altar – the main altar stands almost opposite and separate from the main temple complex. Between the two structures sits a later Byzantine Basilica (4) however if the temple and altar were contemporary with each other it is likely that there would have been a processional pathway between the two. The altar is constructed on two levels and consists of a double set of columns of different styles, Corinthian and Ionic, and a large U shaped altar. It is important to note that the altar is similar in style and dimension to that of the one raised to Zeus in Pergamon, raised in the reign of Emperor Augustus, and it is likely that the two are contemporary. 

Temenos – The enclosed temenos area is large, 140x 130m following a northwest-southeast axis. Along the southwest wall a bank of seats, 11 rows in all, could have accommodated around 2000 people wishing to watch and/or participate in the sacred rites and rituals of the cult. In addition to the main temple structures there is also a sacred pools located within the temenos, located 300m to the south east, the waters drawn from a fountain located 50m to the south of the structure and the water brought in along a marble channel. The pool is nearly circular in shape and presumably featured in the processes of ritual purification.

Since preparing this archaeologists in Turkey have announced the excavation of the sacred way linking the temple with the nearby town of Stratonikeia, including the associated gate way and tombs. There are some beautiful mosaics that have been uncovered so check out the pictures in this article.

Priesthood and Polis

Now we’ve talked about the temple itself lets locate it in the local landscape. The temple itself is located within the Karian region of Greece, now near modern Turkey, amongst the northeastern foothills of the Akdaǧ. Further down the gentle slope lies the junction of the Hayırhdere river and the Çine (ancient Marsyas). This places the sanctuary within a series of well travelled trade routes, reflecting Hekate’s traditional domain of crossroads and wayside 

The closest settlement to the temple is Stratonikeia, located 8km away, and much of the priesthood for both Lagina and cult of Zeus Panamera, located some 8km further south of Stratonikeia, were drawn from the elite of this city. This may account for the notoriety of the celebrations at Lagina, as those elected to the role of priest of the cult felt that they were obliged to out do their predecessors in terms of expense and lavishness when it came to religious celebrations. 

The details of the celebrations, and the rules that had to be followed, were recorded for all to see in the stones of the town and temple, which were likely constructed around the same time given their similarity in scale. This would have kept the  “keeping up with the Joneses” competition firmly in the minds eye of the next priest of the cult but also ensured that no extreme variations in the keeping of the ritual were permitted.

There is no indication that the post of priest and various attendants or ritual participants were intended to be hereditary, or even kept within the family, but nepotism was strong. Priest would hold positions of power within both within the cult of Hekate as well as the cult of Zeus Panamera and it was not unusual for a man to hold a post on more than one occasion, only to be followed by his son a few years down the line. Similarly their wives, daughters and even nieces, would act as priestesses for the duration of their tenure as Priest. This inadvertent familial holding of religious titles played no small part in the identity of the city elite, with religious office being held in high regard.

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Kleidous Agoge

The most significant ritual from the first century BC was the Kleidous Agoge, also Kleidos Pompe, known as the Procession of the Key. This was an annual festival and whilst  dates cited for this celebration vary however the most commonly referenced date appears to be the first new moon in spring. During this ritual a cult object, presumable a sacred key, was processed from the main temple sanctuary into the civic centre of Stratonikeia. 

It is not clear if this key was a symbolic cult object or one which also served a practical function in the temple itself, such as being the key to the main temple door or the temple treasury, Certainly we modern practitioners of western magical traditions associate keys with locks and doors, envisaging that such keys open the way to deep occult knowledge. Keys have also had a long standing association with womanhood and the ability to manage a household and the household “wealth”. It is likely that the key served both a physical and metaphysical purpose for the Cult, perhaps being the means by which initiates could access the cults hidden mysteries. 

The key was carried by the Kleidophoros or “Key Bearer”, one of Hekate’s own epithets applied to the young (usually unmarried) woman chosen from amongst the population to carry the key on behalf of Hekate. These young women were usually related to the Priest and it is likely that the role was considered some level of social accolades. Placed at the head of the procession the young woman would walk along the sacred road between the two which passes through the mountains to the north of the city, a distance of about 8km, accompanied by pageantry and torch light given that it is believed that procession took place at night during the new moon. 

The procession itself may have represented a reenactment of the population of the region or even the establishment of Stratonikeia itself from an older settlement around the area of Lagina. Once the key reached the city itself it was installed within the bouleuterion, central council or civic assembly house, for several days whilst celebratory feasts and games were held. As we have already mentioned above the priesthood for the temple seems to have been drawn from the wealthiest sections of Stratonikeian society, and ostentatious displays of wealth through feast and festivity would be consistent with a connection to social elevation placing the temple, and Hekate, at the centre of civic identity. 

Hekatesia-Romania

Another important ritual which was inaugurated at Lagina during the first century BC was the Hekatesia-Romania. During the Mithridatic Wars of the 80’s BC Stratonikeia displayed such loyalty to the Roman Empire that it was rewarded with a large area of Karia being placed under the control of the city. At the same time the sanctuary of Hekate being given the status of asylia, the practice of declaring a religious area a precinct of asylum ie they were immune to violence and civil authority. In response to these honours and accolades the city and sanctuary instigated an interweaving of the cult of Hekate with the cult of Thea Roma and the ritual of Hekatesia-Romania was established. 

This festival, unlike the annual Kleidous Agoge, occurs every four years though it similarly involve feasting and games. These games served a second purpose, not too dissimilar to the original Olympic games, as they were not limited to the local population of Stratonikeia but rather drew together other cities and city states which now lay under their protection. These cities were able to participate in the games under the protection of the asylia of the temple and it its high point drew around 57 cities in to participating, giving them a forum to display their loyalty to the Roman empire. With this Stratonikeia and the temple of Lagina became the central point of a regional crossroads through which loyalty to Rome was celebrated.

It is sometimes suggested that the north eastern frieze of the meeting between warriors, presided over by Hekate, is symbolic of the political alliance between Stratonikeia and Rome however stylistically the date of the 2nd century BC is more consistent. It is possible that, like the interpretation of the other three friezes, the north easter depiction was an attempt to solidify the local civic identity, blending narratives regarding Hekate with those of the preceding Karian culture to create a common heritage. 

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Great Altar of Zeus – Pergamon: Hekate with her Molossian Dogs and Artemis battle the Giants Klytios and Otos. Original Credit

Hekate as a Civic Goddess 

The role of Civic Goddess is an unusual one for Hekate. Whilst there are other instances of her being given a position of honour in other cities, be that because of a perceived favour granted or because she was held as being an attendant to another goddess, Lagina is the only place which built its civic identity upon its connection to Hekate. The extensive and lavish temple complex elevated what was effectively a local shrine to the level of a major civic space, blending local Karian influences with Green rhetoric, iconography and architecture to create a unifying social identity. From this the Kleidous Agoge was established as a way of building on that shared local identity whilst solidifying the social hierarchy which would allow it to function. 

Participation in the priesthood a form of social recognition based on wealth and the ability to fund increasingly lavish events. For the position of Key Bearer to be bestowed the young woman needed to be related to one of these men of power. On the other hand even the very foundation of the Hekatesia-Romania was rooted in the civic connection to the wider Roman Empire, lynch pinned off the temple and it’s resident goddess. As a result Hekate is then trust front and centre into civic life and identity, an unusual position for a Goddess more often associated with the lonely crossroads and cave dark entrances of the Underworld. 

What this meant to the identity of Hekate as it developed is not entirely clear, perhaps we will never know, but I find this historical connection to civic identity important for a couple of reasons. Hekate has long been considered an outcast, a Goddess Alone more often found out in the darkness on the edge of the settlement be that hovering around the nighttime crossroads or silently haunting the graveyard. We tend to pain her in a very dim light, seeking to hide her in the deep shadows created by the light of her torches. Because we have this ingrained assumption that she can only be found in places which are silent and seldom travelled. Many who are beginning in their devotions to Her seem hesitant to use local crossroads, particularly when they live within the city, as they feel that Hekate is not present or to be found within such bright lights and bustle. 

When we start to look a little deeper however we see that she does not shun the city. We might not see Hekate as a Civic Goddess in the same way we think of Athena as being the Goddess of Athens (and Leeds) she is a Goddess who can be found within the bright lights of the city and who has thrived there. At Lagina we find Her cult being used as the basis of civic identity, with annual celebrations bring the most sacred objects into the heart of the temple, whilst at Ephesus  we find her located in the very centre of the city at one of its most liminal points. Even the ritual of Depinon, so central to modern ritual practice, took place in the heart of the city with her offerings being placed on the street corner or at a city shrine. The research I have done over these past few months has shows that, despite popular belief, Hekate often descended into the centre of civic life to be recognised and celebrated, confirming by personal praxis and UPG that offerings can be left anywhere representative of her sacred spaces so long as it is safe and discreet to do so, even if it is to add the offerings to the bin as you pass (Borborophorba – Eater of Filth). 

References

Hellenistic Architectural Sculpture By Pamela A. Web pg108-1118 

Civic Producers at Stratonikeia the Priestess of Hekate at Lagina and Zeus at Panamara by Christina G Williamson. Pg 2019 – 246 Cities and Priests edited by Marietta Horster, Anja Klöckner

Instituto Hermes for dimensions and detail and maps

Bike Classics

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Full Moon in Aquarius

Apologies for the spelling and formatting, I am still without the laptop but the moon hangs low and pregnant in the sky…

Sun Sign – Leo
Common Names – Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, Wort Moon, Hay Moon
Element- Air
Colour – bright blue
Insense – Eucalyptus, rosemary, fennel, pine, fenugreek, violet, valerian.

Spell /Ritual Themes
– Friendship
– Politics
– Social Justice
– Developing talents
– Problem-solving
– Breaking bad habits

Social Justice Warrior Spells
Although I’ve talked about social justice before I have avoided posting spells because there are a couple of powerful and effective group spells which people can tap into. The Trump Binding Spell and Hands Off Laws Off spell, both by Michael M Hughs, are widely available and brilliant for tackling those larger issues and can be adapted to represent other politicians (I suggest an inverted Fool card for Boris Johnson btw). These are, however, finely tuned into American politics and women rights issues and might not relate to your own interests or concerns well. This spell is more generalised but easily coordinated across a larger group for any issue or concern.

Social Justice Empowerment Spell

You will need

  • A Candle
  • Anointing Oil
  • Peppermint Out sigil, logo or other image representing your cause of choice
  • Anything necessary for raising energy (music, space etc)

Lay out your components and establish your sacred space to allow you to raise and contain energy during this spell.

Place the anointed candle in front of or on the sigil/logo/image and light it saying.

I honour the mistakes we have made as a society, and I give thanks for the people and organisations which show us that light still remains and stand for an improving world.

I honour my power as a witch, and as a human being, to make a difference. I give thanks for the opportunity to make this difference and ((to the God/Goddess/Gods/Spirits/ Universe)) for the chance to be a faithful channel for the gifts that are given me.

Now begin to raise energy. This might be through meditation, dance, swearing or even primal screaming if you feel it’s appropriate. Your connection with the issue/cause is a personal one and there are lots of ways to raise energy but ensure you visualise it as a tangible and gathering force and be sure to visualise the energy going forth and bringing about positive and needed change in the world. When the energy reaches its peak direct it into the sigil/logo/image in a rush as a seal in with a dab of peppermint oil and the affirmation;

It is an energetic priority for me to help our society move in a positive direction.

Allow the candle to burn down and place any wax remains and the sigil/logo into a manifesting box/location of your choice.

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Sculptures from the Secret Museum: The Visual Anthropology of Phallic Worship – A Talk by Dr H Wickstead

Another lecture at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, this time Dr Helen Wickstead, Course Director of MA Museum and Gallery Studies at Kingston University, London. Helen has written widely on prehistoric archaeology, histories of archaeology, heritage and the relationships between archaeology and contemporary art amongst her many other achievements. She is currently working on a book entitled Phallus: A History of Archaeology and Sex which develops on her Welcome Trust funded research into prehistoric phalli in national and regional museum collections and the talk she gave on Wednesday revolved around one particular collection; the British Museum Secretum

Up front disclaimer – This was not a talk about phallic cult worship. Dr Wickstead was very clear that it isn’t possible to give a talk on this because, like the matriarchal cult of Margret Murray, it was entirely fabricated by the gentleman scholars of the early London Anthropological Society and the men behind the Secretum. As a pagan, I’m quite comfortable with this notion as I am long over the Margret Murray power of the matriarchal cult. 

That doesn’t mean to say that there is no connection between the world these men were doing and modern paganism. Beyond the obvious phallic connection, these men influenced perceptions of Stonehenge, people like Freud and Alistair Crowley and brought us the westernised version and concept of tantric sex which is still popular today.  

Origins of the British Museum Secretum

The exact date that the Secretum was established is unclear. The core items within the catalogue were gifted to the Museum by George Witt, Mayor of Bedford (1804–1869) and certain items were put on display in the 1830s. In particular, a collection of wax copies of votive offerings from a Catholic origin were displayed alongside an ancient Herme at Witts assistance. It is not clear exactly when the items were removed from public display and placed in the private cabinets but it was at some point in the 1860s, probably sometime between 1865 and 1866, the catalogue was formally recognised. The collection was opened up in 1991 and the best of the collection shared across the general catalogue and other museums across the country. Now all that remains is Cabinet 55, the repository of the unloved and unwanted items such as wax votive phallus’s, the out and out forgeries and a collection of scrapbooks, which have been the main focus of Dr Wickstead’s recent work. 

At first glance, the books look like a titillating collection of naughty images. Including both drawings and copies of objects both originally in the British Secretum and from others around Europe in addition to contemporary pornography photos which make little to no sense until you start to read the accompanying commentary and consider the men who were working with the collection and creating the scrapbooks.

Secrets Can Be a Good Thing

Dr Wickstead had three strong points that she made through out the presentation. 

Firstly, although the formalisation of the catalogue was a direct act of preservation with the passing of the Obscene Publications Act in 1847 it was not the only reason for the secret nature of the collection. Limiting knowledge of the collection to the select few gave a greater degree of control of how the artefacts were studied. The restricted nature meant that it could be made available to “men of taste and education” (in the words of the Museum of the time) and whilst this may be seen as gender restriction to a modern mindset it reflected not only the mentality of the men who were accessing the collection but to a degree the mindset of the society of the time.

Secondly, it was not just a store for the artefacts but represents a way of organising information and reproducing knowledge for peer review. The other side to the secret nature of the collection is that it creates a set of exclusive knowledge, to the extent that anyone wishing to publish and comment of the subjects relating to the collection who did not make reference to the collection could be called into question. 

Finally, whilst the anonymity of donors at the time obscured individuals and thus protected them but now it is a source of debate and discourse as modern scholars attempt to identify individuals who contributed to the collection and to the study of it. Like any good historical subject it will be possible to talk back and forth endlessly about who a particular set of initials or monogram belongs to and leads of course to other avenues of research. 

Men of Taste and Education

The British Museum on the 1800s felt that the collection should be available to those “men of taste and education”. Most of the men involved were founding members of the London Anthropological Society which hived off the Archaeological society after it voted to include women in their membership (because you can’t do this kind of science with women around), were pro-slavery, interested in sciences like Craniometry, were involved in some very shady stock market manipulation including dodgy deals involving South American railways and were all round dilettantes and homo-socialites (aka a rather touchy feely old boys club). 

These were men with a mission, to prove the existence of an ancient phallic cult, and the scrapbooks and collection were the way they were going to achieve it. 

The secret collection is undoubtedly contains very ancient examples of phallic imagery, including but not limited to the illustration of statues, herms etc but it also contained wax casts from Catholic phallic cults and the very best in 1800’s French pornography. The artists involved, in particular Edward Sellon also included art of their own.

The No So Ancient Phallic Cult

This ancient cult has as much historical reality as Margaret Murray’s prehistoric matriarchal society in truth and like Murray’s work had a great deal of influence on the evolution of the new age perception of phallic worship. 

Certainly in the case of the most ancient examples the emphasis behind the objects was an apoptotic impulse to avert evil, give the enemy a one eyed up yours and generally bring good luck into their lives. This is the masculine equivalent of the Sheela-na-gig, who’s graphics display is intended to do the same. 

This wasn’t the interpretation of the men of taste and education, and they put a lot of time and energy building up the evidence to support their own hypothesis. The result are the wonderfully illustrated and annotated scrapbooks, which were clearly never finished judging by the numbered but blank pages that remain. The art work represents incredible talent, and represents artefacts from around Europe both known and currently lost to the record. They also show the evolution of that early tantric movement and how sacred geometry influenced its development. 

Final Thoughts

All in all it was a very interesting discourse which was recorded for posterity. I found out at this event that the lectures at the Henry Moore Institute are usually recorded and the recordings are available via the research facilities at the Institute. I am not sure how one would access the catalogue, or indeed what exactly is included in the 20 or so years worth or recording, but it is good to know these interesting discourses have not been lost.

I have kept the post  safe for work in terms of image content so I’m not including actual pictures to illustrate the post. Here are some useful searches which will yield images.

Tintinnabulum
Priapus statues

You should also consider downloading Dr Wicksteads publication on academia.edu as it also contains images from the scrapbooks themselves and those are as rare as hen’s teeth on the internet.

Dr Wickstead was evasive as to when Phallus: A History of Archaeology and Sex will be ready for publication but if the article above is any indication it will be interesting to any pagan wishing to understanding where the phallic undertones of the modern pagan movement evolved from. 

 

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Hekate – Goddess of Witchcraft

Hekate moves in her own way.

After posting my opinion on Hekate as a Goddess of Witchcraft and that as such may be invoked for political reasons, thinking that I should write about Hekate as the Goddess of Witchcraft I found I was invited to give a talk to the members of Morley Moon in West Yorkshire on Hekate as the Goddess of Witchcraft.

I am not the worlds greatest speaker, but what I lack in presentation skills I make up for in passion and research so I always make my notes and materials available after a talk in the form of a post. So without further ado I will skip the usually introductory preamble about Her origin, parentage and other interesting information and get right into the heart of the matter. 

Goddess of Witchcraft

The association of Hekate, Witches and the practice of Witchcraft does not begin with the capering of Shakespeare’s Witches but her appearance in the Renaissance classic has certainly gone a long way to filter the modern imagination about this role. In the sources she has always had an association with Crossroads, graveyards and caves as passageways to the underworld. Her association with witchcraft really began with the Roman Empire but even in the older Greek myths she was associated with herbs, both creative and baneful, and the women that practiced these arts. Some of these women were healers and midwives, others were witches and sorceresses, but their stories all add to the tapestry which is shows Hekate as the Goddess of Witchcraft. 

Circe

“ She [the witch Kirke] sprinkled round about her evil drugs and poisonous essences, and out of Erebos and Chaos called Nox (Night) and the Di Nocti (Gods of Night) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate. The woods (wonder of wonders!) leapt away, a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs began to bark, black snakes swarmed on the soil and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air.”

Ovid in his Metamorphose book 10 

Circe (or Kirke) is described by Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BCE as the daughter of Hekate and King Aeetes and was a sorceress renowned for her familiarity with powerful spells and magic. As indicated by the opening text she was said to have employed baleful plants in her spells, as well as conjurations and invocations to Hekate and as the aunt of Medea, who we will cover next, it is often implied that she learned them from Hekate herself. 

The most famous portrayal of Circe is as the ruler of a magical island encountered by the hero Odysseus in his long journey home. Circe, ruler of her own house and island, was distrustful of men and would transform any that strayed onto her island home into pigs. Odysseus was able to avoid that fate by threatening Circe, causing her to drop her potions and return all the remaining pigs back in to men. Circe’s other role in the Odyssey, and the reason for his visit to the island beyond the interesting diversion in of taking Circe as his lover, is to instruct Odysseus on using a particular Oracle of the Dead, a necessity should the Hero wish to discover the cause of his misfortunes. Again, the knowledge of how to use this Oracle has been given to Circe by Hekate, touching I the necromancy that is often associated with Her. 

Medea

Following the Diodorus Siculus genealogy Medea is Hekate’s second daughter by Aeetes, though others which place Circe and Aeetes as brother and sisters with Helios as the divine parent of Circe make Medea her niece. In either case Medea is described as having received her knowledge of herbs, magic and necromancy directly from Hekate. Reading from Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica; 

“[Argos, nephew of Medea, to the Argonauts:] ’There is a girl [Medea] living in Aeetes’ palace whom the goddess Hekate has taught to handle with extraordinary skill all the magic herbs that grow on dry land or in running water. With these she can put out a raging fire, she can stop rivers as they roar in spate, arrest a star, and check the movement of the sacred moon.”

Like Circe, Medea has an encounter with a Hero of Greece but whereas Circe has a sweet encounter with Odysseus which ended peacefully Medea’s tale is much longer and ends in tragedy and betrayal. Medea is often presented as the villain of the piece, a foreigner woman with knowledge of sorcery and baneful herbs, though all she does is through love of Jason. First she aids him in his search for the Golden Fleece by giving him magical instruction and potions to overcome the guardians of the Fleece. 

“[Medea prays to Hekate]: And yet I wish he [Jason] had been spared. Yes Sovran Lady Hekate, this is my prayer. Let him live to reach his home.” “[Medea to Jason:]There, kill a ewe and after heaping up a pure over the pit, sacrifice it whole, with a libation of honey from the hive and prayers to Hekate, Perses’ only daughter (mounogenes). Then, when you have invoked the goddess duly, withdraw from the pyre.”

Then she joins the Argonauts in the reminder of their quest on the condition that he marry her. The journey starts in misfortune, with death of Medea’s brothers leading to the voyage home being cursed with a similar his fortune to that experienced by Odysseus in the Odyssey. Like Odysseus the couple and their companions visit Circe and her island as they attempt to release a miasma associated with their escape. 

The Witches of Thessaly 

Thessaly is a land long associated with Sorcery and Witchcraft with the association beginning with Medea herself. On returning to Jason’s home she is said to have rejuvenated the life of Jason’s aged father through her knowledge of planets and magic and from here the image of Thessaly being associated with pharmaka and witchcraft grew and grew. 

The Greek word Pharmakis and Latin word Venefica both mean witchcraft or witch. The names are applied to both men and women who, according to the sources, are approached by  men of power to predict or influence the outcome of mundane affairs of war and politics. Here are many references to seers and witches throughout Latin classical writings but the most well known appear in the works of Horace and Apuleius. The seeress Erictho was said to both skilled and fearsome in her abilities, and though she aids the great men that approach her aid is not pleasant in nature, involving necromancy and corpses. More often than not these writers describe acts of magic taking place in the graveyard or upon a recent battlefield where death is fresh and strong. 

Whilst they are treated with respect they are also treated with fear, though the physical descriptions used are not always the most flattering possible. It is from the Roman authors that the a-typical image of the crone and hag emerge in association with Witchcraft. The fear of the power of the Witches of Thessaly was extended into a fear of their appearance. 

The Witches of Thessaly are associated with Hekate through a number of different links, none more recognisable that the ritual of Drawing Down the Moon. As a lunar Goddess and part of the Trivia-Diana, and her own role as a Goddess of Witchcraft Hekate is said to have taught the ritual to Her Priestess Medea when then passed it on to the Witches of Thessaly, and indeed this ability was seen as a trademark of a Which from Thessaly, or of someone who had trained under one. The author of the Argonautica suggests that by drawing the moon from the sky was an attempt by the Witch to work her craft hidden from mortal sight whereas Sarah Iles Johnston suggests in her book Restless Dead that the act of drawing the moon closer to the earth was to aid their search for herbs and plants during the full moon.

As Selene cries to the Hekate’s priestess Medea in the Argonautica

`How many times … have you [the witch Medea ] disturbed me with your incantations, making the night moonless so that you might practise your beloved witchcraft undisturbed.”

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.55

Gale and Galinthias

Gale the Witch is referred to by Aelian in his book On Animals as “a dealer in spells and a sorceress (Pharmakis)” describing her as being “incontinent” in nature (that is….) and holding if abnormal sexual desires. For her transgressions against her Goddess and her sex, she was transformed into a land-marten or polecat, an animal Aelian describes as evil.

Antoninus Liberalis refers to another Polecat in his book, Metamorphoses. Galinthias the Nurse was punished by Hera and the Moiria after she distracted their efforts to withhold childbirth from Alkmene, mother of Herakles. As in this transformation Galinthias is described as being forced to live in dark crannies, mating in “grotesque” ways as “she is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through the throat” though this is probably better taken as misunderstandings of how polecat carry their young from one place to another. After her transformation, according to Antoninus Liberalis, Galinthias is taken by Hekate as a sacred animal. 

Both of these women are Pharmakis, concerned with magic spells and childbirth and are linked to Hekate in their punishment for transgressions against the Gods. Both writers portray the creature, and by extension the transformed women, in a very negative light, making much of the pungent musk of the animal, its preference for small dark places and its polygamous nature. This is consistent with other cultural interpretations of an animal sometimes known as the fowlcat. 

PGM and Curse Tables

In addition to the characters of the myths and legends there is the archaeological and literary evidence of Hekate being invoked as part of magical practices. 

The Green Magical Papyri or PGM are a collection of magical spells representing a blending of Greek, Egyptian and Chaldean magical practices and beliefs compiled between the 1st cen BCE and 2nd cen CE. They are best described as the magical manual of a jobbing sorcerer and represent both his interests and the interests of his customers. Operations for increasing magical power, love curses, binding spells etc fill the papyrus fragments but relevant to today’s discussion are the 14 spells which invoke Hekate either directly, by epithet or in conflation with another Goddess including Selene, Persephone and Demeter. 

The operations are largely referred to as being ‘necromancy” because they involve the death of an offering, in one case a cat in order to create an idol/talisma dedicated to a conflated deity known as Hermekate, or binding the spirits of the dead to enact spells such as love bindings, curses of sickness and slander. There are also spells that are intended to avert evil and death as well as to ensure victory. one interesting instructs the magician on how to coerce a goddess bearing two torches, implied to be either Hekate or Persephone but only named through epithet, to fulfil a petition by extinguishing her torches and promising to re-light them on delivering the desired outcome. Operations are either to be conducted at the graveside, and often the remains of spells, including lead tablets, are discovered in the graves of people who died violently or very young, presumably before they could fulfil socially accepted norms such as marriage and child bearing. These spirits are particularly associated with Hekate and are referred to as the Restless Dead.

Come, Hekate, of the three ways, you who with your fire-breathing phantoms oversee the dreaded paths and harsh enchantments. Come Hekate, I invoke you with those who have untimely perished and those heroes who have died wifeless and childless, whose souls hiss wildly with yearning hearts.”

Excerpt PGM IV 2708-2784  (2714-2734)

The anger and force behind those unfulfilled souls are part of the power behind these spells. 

Another example of Hekate appearing in magical operations are in relation to curse tablets or defixio’s. These spells are usually incised on a sheet of lead, which was rolled up and usually hammer through with at least one nail, presumably the same one used to inscribe the spell. The spell was then placed in a sacred or liminal space such as a well or hot spring, as is the case in Bath, in graves or in the walls of a temple in much the same way petitioners to the Western Wall in Jerusalem are known to do.

 

A Greek example of a curse tablet can be found in a curse excavated from the burial of a young woman from Piraeus in Greece which calls forth curses upon Demetrios and Phanagora “…in blood and in ashes, with all the dead, Nor will the next four-year cycle release you.” The pair appear to have been tavenkeepers and were possibly business rivals of the people casting the curse, which calls uping Hekate Chthonia and Hermes Chthonios and in addition to a binding calls down bad luck in gambling games, a mainstay of alehouses throughout the ages. 

The Bologna Defixio invokes the Mother of Witches, depicted as a snake haired figure, to bind a man called Porcellus who is portrayed as being bound and mummified beneath her feet. Part of the curse reads “Destroy, crush, kill, strangle Porcello and wife Maurilla. Their soul, heart, buttocks, liver …” and it indicates that Porcellus was a veterinarian of some kind so it may be possible that he was responsible for the death of an important animal, this causing the hatred of the creator of the Defixio. 

“Hekate Brimo . . . hearing his words from the abyss, came up . . . She was garlanded by fearsome snakes that coiled themselves round twigs of oak; the twinkle of a thousand torches lit the scene; and hounds of the underworld barked shrilly all around her.”

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 1194 ff :

Curse tablets represent the magical will of everyday people within the Roman Empire, more so than the PGM in some ways. Lead was a cheap and readily available material which could be easily worked by anyone who was literate and the spells don’t appear to have involved costly offerings of incense or other forms of sacrifice. The lead also offered an apparently imperishable surface. Even if the petition could afford papyrus and parchment it would fade and degrade over time, weakening the efficiency of the spell. Even if the person for whom the tablet was created wasn’t literate and it could be written by a magician or priest with the words and imagery of the client will have been incorporated in to standard magical forms. 

Final Musings

In addition to talking about the women and practice of ancient times I also covered subjects like Deipion, the various forms of Hekate’s Might (one of which is referenced to in my post “The Rite of Heakte” and others which I will pick a part in another post), and my own personal practices such as the Ephesian Compass and I talked about the various modern groups which constitute the modern Heketean Community. We also talked about Hekate’s relationship with the Moon, Spirits and Daemon’s of the air and sublunar realm and using scrying with bones and building relationships with spirits. All of these elements build, layer upon layer, with other things unmentioned in any depth to confirm the Hekate as a Goddess of Witchcraft; to the discomfort of many, particularly those who feel uncomfortable with the idea that both Hekate and Witchcraft are political in nature.

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Summer Solstice 2019

June has been a funny month both in terms of my posting schedule and the weather. Weeks of rain has finally let up and we’ve managed to get a good weekend of sunshine and warm weather just in time for Solstice.

To celebrate the season and the improved weather we took a trip out to The Forbidden Corner, a magical labyrinth located in the wilds of Yorkshire, which started life as a modern, privately owned folly, belonging to Mr C.R. Armstrong CMG, OBE. The park and garden is a 4 acre spread of tunnels, chamber, turrets and torments to delight the old and young alike. From the lofty towers of the folly to the deepest pits of the underworld the garden is lovingly scupltured to boggle the mind and have you going round and round in circles. The attraction is always growing, and since I last visited a whole new folly and mausoleum / haunted house have been added to possible finds.

© Victoria Newton

© Victoria Newton

© Victoria Newton

© Victoria Newton

© Victoria Newton

© Victoria Newton

© Victoria Newton

© Victoria Newton

Seasons blessing to you this Solstice, regardless of the hemisphere in which you reside. May the wheel ever turn in your favour.

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Full Moon in Capricorn

I am a little out of order with my postings after my midweek post on Hekate and being uber keen on posting my basic spell pouch crochet pattern and somehow managed to forget all about my full moon post. I suppose its better late than never.

Full Moon in Capricorn

Sun Sign – Cancer
Common Names – Strawberry Moon, Hot Moon, Mead Moon Rose Moon.
Element– Earth
Colour – dark green, dark blue, indigo
Insense – Myrrh, rosemary, chamomile, mullein, patchouli, marjoram.

Spell /Ritual Themes

  • Career
  • Promotion
  • Planning
  • Restructuring
  • Success

Road Unblocking Spell for Most Purposes

  • Citrus fruit *
  • White Candle (or colour to match your purpose)
  • Incense to your purpose
  • Petition on paper
  • Fire proof bowl and incense (frankincense or appropriate to purpose)

* minimum of four fruits, to be juiced and added to water as a wash. If you are having a bath you will conversely need more fruit. You can use any citrus fruit but try to weight the fruit toward the lemon and lime side as the sharper scents and tastes will ‘wake up’ your energies.

Citrus Fruit

Gather your spell items and set them out, already having written out your petition as a statement or as a sigil. It should represent either a situation which has become blocked or a particular block that needs removing.

Mix the citrus juice and water, stirring in a clockwise direction to activate and open the situation. Include a visualiation of your situation easig and/or the blockage being removed. Now either bathe filly or wash in the water making sure to wash your hands, feet and face. Allow your skin to airdry whilst you perform the rest of the spell – if you are very sticky wash off at the end otherwise try and leave it for as long as possible.

Annoint your candle with an oil appropriate to your purpose. Road Opening or Command and Conquer oil are the most commonly used but you may want to be specific to your situation. You can make a basic Road Opening oil by infusing a base oil with allspice, liquorice root and peppermint essential oil.

Light your incense and candle, invoking either deity or personal power, for example

I call on Hekate of the Crossroads, Mistress of Keys and Guardian of Gateways. Hear my petition and grant me guidance and aid in my time of need.

State petition as written on paper or explain the situation in simple terms.

Here I stand, at the crossroads of life, and all ways are closed to me but it will open at my command. All that hinders and harms my cause, before. All that serves me not, depart. By my word and deed the way is clear. Come to me o Keeper of Mysteries and reveal to me the way.

Alternativly

Here I stand, at the crossroads of life, and all the ways are closed to me.

State petition as written on paper or explain it in simple terms.

The road is closed, but it will open at my command. All that hinders and harms my cause, before. All that serves me not, depart. By my word and deed the way is clear.

Regardless of the invocation fold the petition paper three times away from you and visualise your way clear. Light the paper from the candle and allow to burn down safely.

Dispose in running water of if it is safe to do so, take the ashes and a coin down to a local crossroads and leave it in an out of the way place.

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Crochet Pattern – Basic Spell Pouch

The school holidays have been and gone and it was my turn to herd the children for the (very long) week they were out in the wild. The weather was not great, and I don’t drive, so we spent quite a bit of time at home so I employed them in tidying up their own messes around the house. This included taking apart our sofa storage to clean out all the illicit food rappers and the like and in the process of which I assessed my yarn stash. It turned out that it included a bushel of double-knit cottons in rainbow colour from when I made spell pouches for a friend a few years back and was inspired.

Although I could remember the pattern I’d previously used I wanted to try something a little different but despite looking for patterns on Ravelry (the first rule of crochet) but nothing inspired and I didn’t find anything which I wanted to adapt (the second rule of crochet) so I started scrolling through Google images for ideas for inspiration in the hope I could come up with something myself. This is always my final resort because I don’t particularly consider myself an inspire freestyle hooker but the search made me realise that a pouch made of two flat circles stitches together with a drawstring for closing and neck wear was a simple pattern that even I could come up with. Having worked a couple up I decided the finished item looked swish enough to write up and share the pattern.

Basic Spell Pouch Pattern

This pattern is worked in a spiral until large enough but I have written the instructions for 7 rounds using double knit cotton and a 3mm hook. This makes a nice sized pouch for wearing around neck or hanging around home or altar and is big enough to accept a medium size tumbled stone, paper sigil, herbs and other assorted small curios. You could, in theory, use any size yarn and continue increasing to create a pouch of any size but regardless of the yarn you use I recommend using a hook at least one size smaller than recommended to ensure a tight tension to ensure integrity of content.

Stitches Used

MC – magic circle (aka magic ring)

Ss- slip stitch

Sc – single crochet

Increase – 2sc in the same stitch

Fsc – foundationless single crochet

Make 2

Basic Spell Pouch.png

Copyright Vicky Newton

Round 1 MC and sc 6 times do not join. (6)

R2 increase x6 (12)

R3 Sc, increase (18)

R4 2sc, increase (24)

R5 3sc, increase (30)

R6 4sc, increase (36)

R7 5sc, increase (42) ss in the next stitch.

Fasten off and sew in ends.

Put the two sides wrong sides together and using contrasting colour sc around the outer edge leaving at least 10 un-worked stitches but do not tie off. Work each side separately sc around evenly and ss to join. I tend to put a sc into the top of the first stitch of the joining round to close everything off neatly. If you want a heavier chain for the pouch to fasten off here, sew in the ends and skip the drawstring instructions.

To create a drawstring continue a second round – Ch1 and sc into the same stitch. (Ch1, skip a stitch, sc) evenly around and ch1 and ss into the top of the first sc to end. Fasten off

Crochet a chain long enough to go around the neck and tie off, leaving enough length to allow for sewing through the drawstring and the ends together if desired. You can thread it all the way around or just the front, which is my preference as it is sufficiently sealed but lies flat.

**

For a heavier chain with right side facing attach the contrasting thread (leaving enough free for sewing) to one corner of the pouch neck to allow you to fsc chain to the appropriate length. When done fasten with enough length for sewing and attach to the opposite side of the pouch neck securely.  You can either leave the pouch open or add a button or ties to give it some even of security.

You can download a pdf copy of the pattern using the link below

Basic Spell Pouch

You can also add the pattern to your Ravelry queue and find some of my other patterns.

All my patterns are free for use and you are welcome to sell finished items but you may not sell the pattern itself. If you would like to share the pattern please make sure you you link back to this original post in addition to keeping the pdf’s copyright notice intact.

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