Hekate in My Home

After moving to the house I’m living in now, the *very first* shrine I set up after unpacking was actually not Eros — it was Hekate.  Hekate protects the boundaries of the home, She guards entrances and exits.  She’s one of the liminal deities, existing in the in-between spaces; Her domain is that few inches of wood or earth that is both and neither inside nor outside a door or a gate, the intersection of the crossroads where the possibilities of where to go are endless for only the moment before you decide, and She exists within that moment.  She’s the box that contains Schrodinger’s cat, and the period of time when the creature can be considered both alive and dead, before you open the lid to discover which it is.

Logically, I had to put up Her shrine first.

That said, while She’s a Household Goddess, Her role in this aspect is clearly more the “anti-Hestia” than as Hestia’s partner.  Hestia is the inviting Goddess, the one who warms the hearth and the people before it.  She’s the baker of the bread while Demetre is the provider of the grains and Kore the miller of flour.  Tradition, Prosperity, Continuance:  These Goddesses are the inviters, the personable ones, They make the home.

Hekate, on the other hand, the “worker from afar”, “She who drives off” — She is the lion at the gate, the dog who circles the perimeter, the horse in the stable who’s ready to take the household off at a moment’s notice.  She’s the household Goddess whose function is to keep watch of those outside the home, not to bring abundance to those within it.  She wards off ill-intent and gives pass to those with good, for they in the know will know that they have done nothing to offend Her.  She is the porchlight and the horseshoe over the threshold; she is the deterrant of theives, and the trapper of spirits of ill-intent; She is not the bountiful Goddess, breathing increase and prosperity — indeed, there is nothing in Her mythos that suggest this is at all Her concern for mortals.  It is Tykhe who blesses the house, who grants us and ours with plenty.

Hekate is very focused in Her purpose in human affairs; it’s tempting, at this point, to liken Her to a Mafia Dame running a protection racket, except that She won’t break your legs when you forget to leave a penny, She just won’t stop those who are inclined to do so.

As such, the Deipnon is the time of purging the bad energy and odd malevolent spirit who managed to enter the house during the month, offer Hekate a meal in hopes that She will take them back to the hole they came in from, so a Deipnon ritual is best performed at the gate of the household or a crossroads, and never at the household shrine.  At the old apartment, I’d take the Deipnon ritual to the door of the apartment, and take the meal to a hidden place outside the building; if this was not an option, I would’ve either created a separate shrine for Deipnon purposes only, or (if space was at that much of a premium), spent a significant portion of time before the Noumenia rit to perform purification.  The Deipnon isn’t “whatever you want it to be”, it’s a cleansing, a supplication for a spiritual sweep-up after a physical sweep-up, it is, in a nutshell, asking “Hekate, this household has accumulated negative spirits both seen and unseen; we offer you this meal in hopes that you take these entities far away from this home.” This is not supplication for bounty, this is a supplication for loss. I absolutely agree with those who say that to mix Hekate’s Deipnon and a suppliance for prosperity, to blur the lines of the Deipnon ritual with the Noumenia, is to create a spiritual pollutant

It can be good to lose things like disease and incontinence and enemies and just plain bad luck. Hekate is the one who can properly banish these negative spirits and others. This may make room for good fortune and prosperity, but it is not Hekate Who brings that us those gifts; the room for prosperity is a side-effect of Her actions, not Hekate’s work itself.

While I can understand why modern Hellenists may want to re-envision Hekate as a household Goddess of increase and prosperity, one who cares for the less fortunate, that’s really not Her domain. The passage from Aristophanes often cited, commenting on the poor in ancient times who would eat the meals left for Hekate, is frankly not a suggestion that this was a rationalisation for charity in that time — Aristophanes was, first and foremost, a comedy writer, a satirist, and this was a comment on the assumed impiety of the poor, no matter how necessary it may have seemed for basic survival, who would rather take from a goddess than to ask for charity when needed. To take the work of a comedian lampooning the social climate of his day and use it to paint a “sweetness and light” image of a rather frightful and spooky goddess is, in my opinion, rather fluffy. In maths, we learn that to remove negative numbers, we must first bring it up to zero, neutrality. That’s what Hekate does: By asking Her to remove the spiritually vile and to prevent its influx from recurring, Her goal is to merely maintain Zero, not to increase beyond that. As a household goddess, Hers is apotropaic magic; she’s the guard-dog snarling at invaders, the polecat killing mice and other vermin that would take our storage of grains and cheese (which doesn’t seem an apt metaphor for “tending to the less fortunate”). These are among her sacred animals for a reason, for She is the one who removes that which might harm us.

Inside the door, I have a wall sconce with electric candle and my painting for Hekate, and also a large decorative key with a hook for household keys — my housemate doesn’t use it, but I doubt the Klêidouchos maiden is offended. I also keep a garden wall sconce with a lion at the edge of the porch; it has a crack, and was dumpster-dived, but most people don’t notice the broken spot, and in my defense, I’ve been brainstorming what to do about repairing it in a way that looks nice.

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3 thoughts on “Hekate in My Home

  1. Pingback: Hekate & Witchcraft | Of Thespiae

  2. Pingback: Boiotian Theoi: Demetre & Persephone | Of Thespiae

  3. Pingback: [PBP2013] A: Apotropaic Magic | Of Thespiae

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