Hekate: Goddess of Samhain

Samhain is here. The last of the harvest is gleaned from the fields and frost glistens on ripe pumpkins. It is the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Samhain is the Witches’ New Year and the time of the Crone.

Hekate is a crone goddess, one of the Triple Goddesses (Maiden, Mother and Crone.) She is the elder wise one who is relied on for her knowledge, wisdom and healing. Hekate is a guardian of the three-way crossroads and is portrayed as bearing the keys to the underworld, joined by a three-headed dog and surrounded by lit torches. She is associated with ghosts, the dark moon and magic. Animals that are sacred to her are black cats, ravens, owls, and wolves. Hekate can be invoked on November 30, the night of the crossroads, or on October 31.

This ritual is best performed on any of the three nights of Samhain: October 30-November 1.

Prepare yourself by physically cleaning and purifying your sacred space. Wash the dishes and sweep the floors, put the laundry away, and remove clutter and negative stale chi from your living space by smudging it with sage. Have a meditation bath to purify and prepare you by adding soothing essential oils such as lavender or frankincense and salts to your bath.

Assemble your altar ahead of time. (If you don’t have a standing altar, you can prepare one on any flat space.)  Decorate your altar area with seasonal items such as chrysanthemums, mugwort, pomegranates, and pumpkins. Your altar cloth can be black and orange. Place pictures of departed loved ones on your altar. You will need four candles (black or orange), one placed at each cardinal direction (east, south, west, and north) of your altar.

You will also need a central candle to represent the Crone, a cup of liquid (ale is traditional, but apple cider will do) a cake, cookie, or other suitable food offering in. If you like, carve a pumpkin and set it at a window to ward off the dark spirits, and to guide the spirits of the departed to your door. You may also want to burn spicy cinnamon, clove, rosemary, and/or allspice incense.

Prepare a meal, which you will eat (and share with your ancestors) during the ritual. If you will be honoring specific family members or friends that have passed over, it is appropriate to include a dish that that person particularly enjoyed in life in your meal.) Foods that are seasonal in October (root vegetables, apples, nuts) are also appropriate as is meat (if you are an omnivore) because Samhain marks the time when Celtic people traditionally slaughtered their excess livestock for food that could be preserved for the winter when plant life is dormant. Put a plate of food near (or on) your altar.

Now be sure you will not be disturbed during the ritual and focus on centering yourself and maintaining a meditative attitude. Light the four black and orange candles (starting with the candle on the east corner and moving clockwise). Say aloud: “Hekate, goddess of death and renewal, on this Samhain eve, I do honor you, goddess of cronehood, the moon and the underworld. I implore you to hear my call. I need your guidance as I reach for spiritual growth.”

Light the central candle and put it near the offering bowl. Say: “I offer this flame to light our ancestors’ paths.” Dip the cake into the ale and put it in the offering bowl. Say: “I offer this food and drink to our ancestors tonight. May this food sustain you. Blessed be.”

Now sit down and eat your meal, putting some of into the offering bowl for your ancestors. It is traditional to remain silent during this meal, listening in a meditative way so that Hekate or your ancestors can speak to you. Be open to the messages that you may receive.

Once you have finished, thank your ancestors and Hekate for her presence and blow out each of the candles one at a time, starting with the central candle and proceeding counter-clockwise (the last quarter candle should be the first one extinguished.) Leave the offering outdoors for the spirits and wildlife.

The crone goddess Hekate may appear to you during a meditation or in your dreams later that evening. Heed your dreams and insights when She shows herself to you. May her blessings grace you.

[Heddy Johannesen has seven articles published in Circle Magazine, maintains a blog at http://lady-spiderwitch.blogspot.com and has over a dozen other published magazine articles. Her poetry has appeared in Metamorphosis, her first book of poetry, and in the local poetry anthology Open Heart Forgery Year One Anthology.] 


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