Posts Tagged ‘Hecate’

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Porphyry – On Images – fragment 8

November 25, 2009

‘The whole power productive of water they called Oceanus, and named its symbolic figure Tethys. But of the whole, the drinking-water produced is called Achelous; and the sea-water Poseidon; while again that which makes the sea, inasmuch as it is productive, is Amphitrite. Of the sweet waters the particular powers are called Nymphs, and those of the sea-waters Nereids.

Again, the power of fire they called Hephaestus, and have made his image in the form of a man, but put on it a blue cap as a symbol of the revolution of the heavens, because the archetypal and purest form of fire is there. But the fire brought down from heaven to earth is less intense, and wants the strengthening and support which is found in matter: wherefore he is lame, as needing matter to support him.

Also they supposed a power of this kind to belong to the sun and called it Apollo, from the pulsation of his beams. There are also nine Muses singing to his lyre, which are the sublunar sphere, and seven spheres of the planets, and one of the fixed stars. And they crowned him with laurel, partly because the plant is full of fire, and therefore hated by daemons; and partly because it crackles in burning, to represent the god’s prophetic art.

But inasmuch as the sun wards off the evils of the earth, they called him Heracles (from his clashing against the air) in passing from east to west. And they invented fables of his performing twelve labours, as the symbol of the division of the signs of the zodiac in heaven; and they arrayed him with a club and a lion’s skin, the one as an indication of his uneven motion, and the other representative of his strength in “Leo” the sign of the zodiac.

Of the sun’s healing power Asclepius is the symbol, and to him they have given the staff as a sign of the support and rest of the sick, and the serpent is wound round it, as significant of his preservation of body and soul: for the animal is most full of spirit, and shuffles off the weakness of the body. It seems also to have a great faculty for healing: for it found the remedy for giving clear sight, and is said in a legend to know a certain plant which restores life.

But the fiery power of his revolving and circling motion, whereby he ripens the crops, is called Dionysus, not in the same sense as the power which produces the juicy fruits, but either from the sun’s rotation, or from his completing his orbit in the heaven. And whereas he revolves round the cosmical seasons and is the maker of “times and tides,” the sun is on this account called Horus.

Of his power over agriculture, whereon depend the gifts of wealth, the symbol is Pluto. He has, however, equally the power of destroying, on which account they make Sarapis share the temple of Pluto: and the purple tunic they make the symbol of the light that has sunk beneath the earth, and the sceptre broken at the top that of his power below, and the posture of the hand the symbol of his departure into the unseen world.

Cerberus is represented with three heads, because the positions of the sun above the earth are three-rising, midday, and setting.

The moon, conceived according to her brightness, they called Artemis, as it were, “cutting the air.” And Artemis, though herself a virgin, presides over childbirth, because the power of the new moon is helpful to parturition.

What Apollo is to the sun, that Athena is to the moon: for the moon is a symbol of wisdom, and so a kind of Athena.

But, again, the moon is Hecate, the symbol of her varying phases and of her power dependent on the phases. Wherefore her power appears in three forms, having as symbol of the new moon the figure in the white robe and golden sandals, and torches lighted: the basket, which she bears when she has mounted high, is the symbol of the cultivation of the crops, which she makes to grow up according to the increase of her light: and again the symbol of the full moon is the goddess of the brazen sandals.

Or even from the branch of olive one might infer her fiery nature, and from the poppy her productiveness, and the multitude of the souls who find an abode in her as in a city, for the poppy is an emblem of a city. She bears a bow, like Artemis, because of the sharpness of the pangs of labour.

And, again, the Fates are referred to her powers, Clotho to the generative, and Lachesis to the nutritive, and Atropos to the inexorable will of the deity.

Also, the power productive of corn-crops, which is Demeter, they associate with her, as producing power in her. The moon is also a supporter of Kore. They set Dionysus also beside her, both on account of their growth of horns, and because of the region of clouds lying beneath the lower world.

The power of Kronos they perceived to be sluggish and slow and cold, and therefore attributed to him the power of time: and they figure him standing, and grey-headed, to indicate that time is growing old.

The Curetes, attending on Chronos, are symbols of the seasons, because time journeys on through seasons.

Of the Hours, some are the Olympian, belonging to the sun, which also open the gates in the air: and others are earthly, belonging to Demeter, and hold a basket, one symbolic of the flowers of spring, and the other of the wheat-ears of summer.

The power of Ares they perceived to be fiery, and represented it as causing war and bloodshed, and capable both of harm and benefit.

The star of Aphrodite they observed as tending to fecundity, being the cause of desire and offspring, and represented it as a woman because of generation, and as beautiful, because it is also the evening star-

“Hesper, the fairest star that shines in heaven.” [Homer, Iliad 22:318]

And Eros they set by her because of desire. She veils her breasts and other parts, because their power is the source of generation and nourishment. She comes from the sea, a watery element, and warm, and in constant movement, and foaming because of its commotion, whereby they intimate the seminal power.

Hermes is the representative of reason and speech, which both accomplish and interpret all things. The phallic Hermes represents vigour, but also indicates the generative law that pervades all things.

Further, reason is composite: in the sun it is called Hermes; in the moon Hecate; and that which is in the All Hermopan, for the generative and creative reason extends over all things. Hermanubis also is composite, and as it were half Greek, being found among the Egyptians also. Since speech is also connected with the power of love, Eros represents this power: wherefore Eros is represented as the son of Hermes, but as an infant, because of his sudden impulses of desire.

They made Pan the symbol of the universe, and gave him his horns as symbols of sun and moon, and the fawn skin as emblem of the stars in heaven, or of the variety of the universe.’

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Fiction: Hekate and Hermes: Crossroads and boundaries

August 22, 2009

He, she thinks, licking her lips, is everything that she loves about herself. No, no, he is not just that. He is everything that she loves and everything that she hates. He is the shadows to cool and comfort her when the light—the bright light that she has grown unaccustomed to in the gloominess of Hades—burns hot-fast-sharp enough to hurt. She bleeds for that light; smoke pours from her mouth and eyes, her own power streaming away from her – from her own imbalance.

And thus, when the light stings and her smoke flees, she turns back to the darkness, back to him. He is always there – not pushing, not demanding, just there. He opens his arms to accept her; she pushes the low rim of his hat aside and kisses the warm skin of his brow. It shouldn’t be possible, not for a god whose very lips are dark with shadow, but he’s always warm, as though fire burns under his skin. She loves that; and maybe she hates it a little, too. Maybe she hates him a little.

But in that moment, with her body nestled against his and stealing the warmth from his skin, she does not think of love and hate. No: she thinks, instead, of another lover – her only other. She is of the night, of gloomy death and prophecies of thus; and so perhaps it was natural that she would fall into Hades’ bed, one Summer night when they were drunk on their own despair. Summer is Aphrodite’s season, after all—her domain does stretch to the Underworld, of course: for she is a goddess of life and, thus, of death—and she had not seen Hermes for almost a month. Time travels differently between the worlds; and although she knew that it had been only a month, it had felt like endless, lonely years. Hades, hungry, kissed her first. She remembers that clearly, despite the fogginess of her mind and of their encounter. Passion fueled them, then, but it did not hide how much Hades repelled her, when their chitons were strewn beneath them and all she could feel was his cold, hard body against hers.

But she does not like to think of such times. She kisses Hermes again—lips to lips, this time—and thinks instead of her seduction at this lovely-awful god’s hands. He was not cold and indifferent like Hades; instead, he brought her cool skin to quivering life with his hands and tongue. She only has to press her fingers to her tongue to feel the echo of her taste and his combined in her mouth – light and shadow, summer and winter, ice and fire. He has never bored her: she is inexperienced and he is not. She chooses to spend her days in Hades with only shades and barely-there nymphai; and he flies through the air, over the earth and through the seas. She envies him that: he is a messenger, bound to them all, and yet he has more freedom than she—lady of the Underworld, minister to Persephone and one-time lover of Hades—will ever have.

Now, though, Hermes pushes the darkness out of her mind with kisses that set her nerves on fire. He does not ask questions, nor comment, nor laugh at her cold, fevered hands that glide over him, awkward and fumbling as ever. He just kisses her, breathing heat into her body, and she responds as she never did for Hades.

Later, she lifts her head from the ground and looks at him. Her skin is flushed, now; and his is cold and pale. The balance has been restored – and when he leaves, he will be warmed by the sun and the kisses of nymphai and his wife, and she will lose her heat to the creeping cold of the Underworld. But such thoughts are not for now: and so when she looks at him she casts all of her thoughts aside. She—Hekate, queen of ghosts and necromancy, lady of blood and life and death—becomes almost mortal with her open expression and too-moist eyes.

I love you, she thinks, as she always does.

And his lips twitch, as they always do; for he is language, he is thought verbalised – and yet he will not answer her unless she speaks the words aloud. He would not do her such an injustice as to act as though she is beneath him, that her body and mind is his alone to read.

But she will not speak the words herself. To do so would be to become truly mortal, to lose her divinity and yield to the pleasures and pains that Aphrodite and her Erotes bring in their laughing, golden wake. She is not ready for that—not yet—but perhaps, one day, she will be.

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Hermes Khthonios and Hekate Khthonia

August 19, 2009

Hermes is, perhaps, one of the more underappreciated gods. He is an Olympian, and thus respected for that: but that is not all he is. He has another duty, far more grand than his role in the myths as a simple messenger, and that is the role of guiding the dead to their final resting place. He lead the dead from their bodies to the Underworld, to be taken in Kharon’s boat into the realm of gloomy Hades. In this role, he becomes a god not just of the earth and skies, but of beneath the earth: he becomes a Khthonic god. He becomes Hermes Diaktoros or Pompaios—the guide—and Hermes Kataibatês, the descender.

When Persephone was abducted by Hades, it was Hermes who, at Zeus’ eventual request, flew down to the Underworld to retrieve her. It was not Zeus himself, nor, indeed, any of the other gods, Olympian or not. It was him: the messenger of the gods both above and below the world. Although Persephone did not accompany him back, it would later become Hermes who would descend to take and return her when her six months in the gloomy Underworld had ended.

Perhaps it was in this role, guide rather than messenger, that Hermes Khthonios became so intricately involved with Hekate. She, Persephone’s minister; he, Persephone’s guide. Pausanias and Propertius allude to Hermes Khthonios lying with, and producing children with, Underworld goddesses or nymphai: Daeira and Brimo. Daeira, mother of Eleusis by Hermes, was identified with Hekate through their joint connections to the Eleusinian Mysteries; and Brimo, a goddess of the Underworld, was identified with both Daeira and Hekate. The name ‘Brimo’—the angry, the terrifying—is frequently considered an epithet of Hekate’s—therefore making Hekate the consort of Hermes Khthonios, and, if the connections between Hekate-Daeira and Daeira-Brimo hold, the mother of Eleusis by Hermes.

Further to this, Hermes Khthonios and Hekate did not have just Persephone in common. Both were also guides of the dead: Hermes Khthonios directed souls down to the mouth of the Underworld, and Hekate lead them back up as ghosts. Perhaps, then, they could be said to have a dualistic relationship; for they are both antagonistic and companionable towards one-another, for Hermes Khthonios restricted the shades of the dead, and Hekate Khthonia freed them.

Both Hermes and Hekate have yet another shared aspect. One of Hekate’s two sacred animals is the dog, particularly the hounds of the Underworld (the kunes khthonioi), due to Queen Hekabe’s metamorphosis into a black bitch. According to Apollonius Rhodius, Lycophron, Ovid and Virgil, to name but a few, Hekate’s arrival from gloomy Hades to the mortal world was heralded by the ‘baying in the night’ of dogs. Hermes, too, has a connection with dogs, as the god of animal husbandry and the god of guard dogs. Thus, Hermes and Hekate are bound further: her arrival incites dogs to bay, creatures of which he has dominion, perhaps as a warning to those who would venture into the goddess’ path (and thus be beyond Hermes’ protection of the home and of travellers).

Although one’s personal experiences and alternative sources may contradict a sexual relationship between Hermes Khthonios and Hekate, it is undeniable that there is a relationship. They are the opposite of one-another, the perfect companions and the perfect balance: Olympian-Khthonian and Khthonian-Titanide; light-shadow and shadow-light; sky-earth and earth-sky; and feminine male and masculine female.

Hermes Khthonios could not exist without Hekate Khthonia, and vice-versa. They need each other: the Underworld, the mortal world and Mount Olympus all need balance to exist and flourish, and Hermes and Hekate provide the joined worlds with some of that balance. They are Divinities with a foot in each world, tethering one to the next and yet keeping them separate. They are Underworld gods, earth gods, sea gods, sky gods: and they could not truly exist in any other form.