The role of the warrior is not one which is commonly associated with Hekate but given this weeks topic I took the moment to muse upon it.
Hekate is not an explicity a martial deity however there is one example in mythology of Hekate engaged in battle. Just as Hekate sided with the Olympians in their war with the Titans she participates on their side in the The Gigantomachia or War of the Giants.
Gaia, the Primordial Mother of All, raised Her giant children against the Olympians in retribution for the treatment of the Titans. Each Giant was created to be the antithesis of one of the Olympians and ultimately defeated by that God working with the demigod Herekles. For example Polybotes opposed Poseidon whilst Porphyrion was born opposite Zeus.
Hekate’s opposite was Klytios (Clytius). Although I couldn’t find direct reference to what exactly it meant for Klytios to be in opposition to Hekate Rick Riordan makes several suggestions in his book House of Hades, in which the confrontation is dramatised (more on this another time).
We can imagine that if Hekate is a Goddess of Magic and choice (as represented by the Crossroads) then her opposite is intent on stripping away both things from the world. Certainly Riordan states that Clytius intends to bring ‘truth’ to the world in the sense that he will strip away all illusion and give us truth in all things regardless of how unpalatable it may be.
The Greek mythographer Pseudo-Apollodorus, when describing the Gigantomachia, said of Hekate-
“[When the Gigantes made war on the gods of heaven] In the course of the battle . . . Hekate got [the Gigante] Klytios with fire-brands.”
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 34 – 38 2nd century AD (trans. Aldrich)
Hekate appears in a number of ancient vase paintings battling the giant Klytios with her twin torches. In one example from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, France the goddess is depicted wearing the Thracian sleeved shirt and maiden’s skirt. It is here that we see her as a huntress as she is depicted wearing hunting boots and carrying a small bow.
The confrontation between the two is not described in any greater detail than on the two vases and by Pseudo-Apollodorus. Riordan uses this gap in knowledge to place Hekate in a passive role, supporting the demigods indirectly with strength and protective illusion. However we should be careful not to diminish Her role for all the Gods required the help of Herekles to finally over come their Giant opponents.
Her Torches as Weapons
Fire has long been a weapon on war. Fire arrows, flame throwers, fire as a wrapon have the potential for mass destruction in the right (or is that wrong) hands and setting. But in the hands of Hekate fire is not as indiscriminately destructive as it can be in the hands of men. Hekate’s torches represent light, the light of knowledge, wisdom and mystery and these things can be as powerful as any weapon.
Whilst Klytios claims to bring the ‘one’ truth Hekate leads us to our own personal truth through individual choice and responsibility. Her Torches remind us (well me) that we each walk our own path. My path is no greater than that of anyone elses, regardless of whether they are Heketean, Pagan or of any other faith, but conversely it is not less by that same comparison.
Klytios’ offer is a false one. There is no illusion in choice, only personal responsibility. The illusion is in one being believing that He possesses the One Truth. History, even current events, shows us the danger of holding one truth higher than any other. The concept of the One Truth can, and has, lead many into a dark and violent place and it is one which can only be driven back by the light of wisdom and reason, Hekate’s light.
Hekate is not a warrior in the traditional sense. She does not carry a spear or a shield, she wears neither armour nor sword. She holds Her Torches aloft and strengthens our spirit by their sight, She helps us overcome the darkness of ignorance and fear. She supports us in our darkest hour and at the last she is there by our side to overcome the mightiest of foes.
The world is a dark place at the moment. Fear, mistrust and hatred are threatening to drown this fragile blue/green planet and drag us in to madness and conflict. Around the world candles have been lit in grief, in rememberance, is hope and in defiance. The flames of these candles are as powerful as any weapon our warriors wield and through them Hekate speaks.