I might as well call this the Year of the Teeth, because I’m finding in the midst of thing with very big teeth. Darkness is one of those things that you only fear when it’s unknown.
Blah blah blah metaphysical blah. Anyway. I like the goddesses that run to the dark end of the spectrum. I’m not really sure why there’s so much emphasis on goddesses that can help you with happy things. I don’t really have a lot of trouble with the ‘happy things’, it’s the ‘how the hells am I going to pay rent’ and ‘how do I get this monkey off my back’ and ‘how do I learn how to grieve’ that I need help with.
If you’re going to start naming ‘dark’ goddesses, Hecate tends to be right up there near the top in her crone aspect. She is in fact a goddess of witchcraft-but sort of like Freya, you’re not getting the full picture if you only use her in that regard. Somewhere along the way, for reasons that I do actually have something of a grasp on, a lot of her job requirements were stripped away and she was left with something like the witch stereotype that’s so prevalent this time of year.
However, Hecate is actually sort of a heavy duty deity-as long as you’re not looking for the entirely bright and pleasant. Hecate is actually a triple-faced goddess-though it should be noted that she most likely did not start out that way, meaning that she can express in at least three main forms. Her signs, at least according to some sources, were the torch, the keys, and dogs. I do feel the need, however, as at least a quasi-social historian, to remind everyone that when dealing with deities from cultures that have been gone for millennium, what the Greeks associated with her may have been different. This is the best that we’ve come up with-and that’s without touching the whole ‘how I PERSONALLY perceive her’ nonsense that tends to go on in modern work.
The easiest way to think of Hecate is that she is the Lady of the in-between and the hidden. She was associated with hearthwork-in Athens she was a hearth deity who was used to bless the family and the home. She was used for magic and similar works, but she was also used to protect women and children (especially women in childbirth), travelers, the poor, and to a point, the underworld. She was associated with certain poisonous plants. Hecate was sometimes placed in the role of the psychopomp-she was appointed Persephone’s guide in her original descent into the underworld. Some of these associations are most likely modern. With at least some awareness of my own hypocrisy, it’s hard to find her associations that don’t come from a blog with a heavily Pagan title.
However, even with her associations with darkness, night, and some of the darker magics, she was and is very much seen as a protector entity. The emphasis on the witch mythos, with the further emphasis on malignant activity, is very much a modern association. While she was in fact associated with underworld and spirits-it is much more likely that she was used to actually ward off and protect a home from spirits and the unsettled dead. At the very least, the use of Hecate as a protective entity was probably as likely. Take a much later culture, an established history of doing odd things to women and representations of women, and a deity that has direct connections to death and the underworld, and you have an equation to start mutating Hecate’s representations much later in European history. The current emphasis on Hecate as crone is probably not helping-Baba Yaga has faced the same process, where whatever good she did was overshadowed by her less pleasant, more aggressive tendencies.