Day 4 of the 31 Days of Devotion states, “Share a favorite myth or myths of this deity.” While Hekate is part of many myths, we sadly do not have a whole myth of Her, Her beginnings and story. There are a few stories I really like in Greek mythology that have Her in them, or are said to be related to her in some way. Most of them are stories of Her heroines – Medusa, Iphigenia, Ariadne, Circe/Kirke, and Medea. Her role in the Eleusinian Mysteries is probably my favorite, however, especially when characters such as Baubo are indicated as Hekate under a guise or title.
The myth of Persephone and Hades was always my favorite. I stayed up late into the night as a child reading it in one of my mom’s college literature books. I felt possessed in the silent house, my family sleeping in their beds while I remained engrossed in an ancient tale of love and mystery and occult. It wouldn’t be until years later that I would learn that this story was one used in initiation.
The Myth of Persephone and Hekate’s Roles
The story begins with Hades, in love, seeks the aid of His brother, Zeus, to obtain his bride. Zeus arranges from a flower to grow in a field where Persephone, daughter of Demeter, would be. When She goes to pick the enchanting bloom, Hades springs forth and kidnaps Her, dragging Her to the Underworld to be His Queen. Depending one who you ask – Persephone either mourns Her role as Demeter’s daughter in the realm of green and light OR She fully embraces this role. Either way, Persephone ends up eating some pomegranate seeds and, having eaten the fruit of the Underworld, seals Her fate.
Above ground, Demeter goes looking for Persephone. The myth says that She disguised herself as an aged lady and with lighted torched in Her hands roamed the Earth for nine long days and nine long nights. Finally, She met Hekate at the dawn of the 10th day who had pity at Her dismal condition and asked Her to seek help from the all seeing Helios. Helios told Demeter all about how Hades had dragged Persephone into the underworld. Some myths say that only Hekate and Helios knew what had happened because Hekate heard the kidnapping from Her nearby cave. In this arrangement, it suggests a stronger connection to Helios as well as a suggestion that Hekate had keener powers than other Gods who had not heard or seen a thing.
During this time of searching, or after (the myths vary), Demeter rests in Eleusis. In Her guise as an old woman, She undertakes the job of nurse maid to a young prince (supposedly to help Her through mourning the loss of Her own child). Even after Demeter is found out (by placing the prince in flames to make him immortal and, understandably, his mother freaking out) She is still grieving and doesn’t bother to continue Her divine work to keep crops strong, animals alive, etc. The world is in drought and famine but Demeter cannot bother.
Baubo – who may either be a Goddess unto Herself or another face of Hekate – tries Her best to entertain and lighten the heart of Demeter. She brews a potion – kykeon – containing barley and pennyroyal. This potion doesn’t sound like much unless you consider the chances of it being a sacred drink of fermented barley that may have been contaminated with the psychedelic, ergot. Baubo also tempts Demeter into a smile by telling lewd and bawdy jokes the end of which includes flashing Demeter the crone’s genitalia (some say She produces the God Bacchus in this act who reaches for Demeter and makes Her smile).
When Persephone is released (or resigned) to return to the world above for a short time, it is Hekate who guides Her. Hekate guards and shines the light to and from the realm of Hades even for the Queen of the Underworld. In this capacity, Hekate is the overseer of the initiate of the dark mysteries – a role She takes for me occassionally.
While we may not ever know the full role Hekate plays in this tale, we can see Her power in it.
She is one who hears and perceives what has happened even when other Gods and spirits do not.
She is the witch and potion maker, the alchemist.
She is one who is willing to play the fool.
She oversees initiation.
She is a guide – the Hermit, the torch bearer in the darkest of times as well as in times when we seek and know the way into the light.
She is the companion of Queens – a Queen of light and green and land as well as a Queen of the dark Underworld and the dead.
To Her I pray.