Porphyry: Prophecy from the Oracles:
“I come a Virgin of varied forms, wandering through the heavens, bull-faced, three-headed, ruthless, bearing golden arrows…..”
From the earliest references to Hekate in antiquity she is described as a maiden Goddess: “It was the first of the month when this befell, and the gracious Hekate, the maid of the ruddy feet, was thereby sending us a message that was longing for fulfilment” (Hymn by Pindar, 5th c. BC)
Apollonius Rhodius describes her as “The only-begotten Maiden” and Lycophron, in his poem Alexandra, describes her as “the maiden daughter of Perseus, Brimo Trimorphos.”
In Ancient Greece, Hekate was often depicted in art wearing knee length hunting boots similar to Artemis. The depiction of the running maiden with twin torches found at the site of the Temple of Eleusis is also believed to be an early depiction of Hekate.
It is in recent times that Hekate has been mistakenly described as a crone goddess, the source of which appears to be from Aleister Crowley’s Moon Child, which had an influence on later neopagans. Often deities could take on whatever form they wished to, often to test mortals. The Irish Goddess Morrigan sometimes appears as an old hag and transforms into a beautiful young woman when choices are correctly made, and the Goddess Hera in the Golden Fleece is carried across a river by Jason who thinks she is just an old woman. Hellenistic artists and poets of Antiquity, however, depicted and described Hekate as young, beautiful and perfect. In Alkamenes statue of her, she is most definitely a young woman. Her dark, scarier aspects, connected to the dead, the underworld and her association with witchcraft and wisdom became easier to associate with old age.
It could also be argued her maiden aspects could have been confused and equated more to Artemis, particularly as like Artemis, she wanders during the night and is accompanied by hounds. In the Greek myths she makes fleeting appearances: In The Golden Fleece, with her connection to Kolkhis, in the myth of The Rape of Persephone and in the Titan Wars, where she defeats the giant Clytius. These potent but brief glimpses of the Goddess Hekate could also account for some of the misunderstandings about her.
Being a maiden Goddess she has no official consort but some ancient writers do attribute lovers and children to her and even a mortal husband. The nearest association to her having a consort is where Hekate is worshipped as the consort of chthonian (underworld) Hermes in the cults of Thessalian Pherai and Eleusis. Both deities were leaders of the ghosts of the dead and were associated with the spring time return of Persephone. Roman writer Propertius in The Elegies further asserts this connection “Brimo (Hekate), who as legend tells, by the waters of Boebeis laid her virgin body at Mercurius’s side.” Pausanias also writes “the hero Eleusis, after whom the city is named, some assert to be a son of Hermes and of Daeira (Hekate) daughter of Okeanos”. Mercury (the Roman name for Mercury) was also cited as an alternative parent to the enchantress Circe.
In Diodorus Siculus’ The Library of History, describes Hekate as the wife of Aeetes, King of Kolkhis. “We are told that Helios (the Sun) had two sons, Aeetes and Perses, Aeetes being the King of Kolkhis and the other, King of the Tauric Khersonese, . . . Perses had a daughter Hekate . . . she married Aeetes and bore two daughters, Circe and Medea, and a son Aigialeus.” Circe and Medea both were enchantresses who famously called on Hekate in their magick and Helios was also sometimes invoked together with Hekate. In fact the marriage could represent the very close ties and patronage of Kolkhis by the Goddess and the source of its great wealth. Plus Aeetes although mortal, was also the son of the God Helios.
In Apollonius Rhodius’ The Argonautica, Hekate was also identified with the sea Goddess Krataeis, the mother of the sea-monster Skylla and titled Skylakagetis (Leader of the Dogs), connecting her with the name of the monster. Apart from this she was amongst others associated with the Goddess Terra and was the mother of Saturn, Ops and Janus. In her older Thracian incarnation as Bendis, she was the mother of the Persian God Sabazius who was an earlier form of Dionysus/Bacchus.
Even as the wife of Aeetes he is not her consort but merely her husband, being a divine Goddess she is the more powerful partner. As the consort of Hermes/Mercury, he is her companion and (possible) lover but it is not clear if they are married. In the Greek myths as married women could be described as chaste, such as the Goddess Asteria and Penelope, wife of Odysseus (who weaved a shroud which she unpicked at night to delay choosing a suitor), so an unmarried woman or a virgin could conversely just be an independent woman with no consort. Hekate despite her associations and attributed children still seems to retain her independent and solitary nature, a virgin of varied forms.
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica (trans. Rieu)
Lycophron, Alexandra (trans. Mair)
Pausanias, Description of Greece (trans. Jones)
Propertius, Elegies (trans. Goold)
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History (trans. Oldfather)
The Roman Arnobius
Porphyry – The Oracles
Hekate Keys to the Crossroads – Edited by Sorita D’Este
Hekate Liminal Rites – Sorita D’Este & David Rankine