“Then the earth began to bellow, trees to dance, and howling dogs in glimmering light advance, ere Hecate came.” 22
In ancient hymns and writings, the goddess Hekate’s arrival is heralded by the baying of hounds. She is flanked by dogs on ancient Greek pottery, stone carvings, and statues. Even in modern symbolism, dogs attend Her.
The first symbolism of the “black bitch” was the legend of the Trojan Queen Hekabe who leapt into the sea after the fall of Troy. Hekate took pity on her and transformed her into a black female dog, which became Her familiar 23. In certain towns in Ancient Greece, black female dogs were sacrificed to “Enodia of the Wayside [Hecate]…at night”24.
The three-headed hound, Cerberus (Kerberos) who guarded the entrance way to the Underworld was also connected to Hekate. The fearsome Cerberus was on guard to keep the living from entering Hades and the souls of the dead from leaving. The poisonous herb aconite, also a symbol of Hekate, was thought to grow wherever the foam from Cerberus’s mouth landed on the ground 25. A series of paintings on Early Hellenistic vases show Hekate in Hades along with Cerberus 26.
Hekate presides over the three way crossroads, and is protector of entrance ways, households and thresholds. Humans in both ancient and modern times have kept dogs as protectors and companions. Modern day followers of Hekate feel an extra special bond with dogs and sacrifice is out of the question!
In American and European folklore, dogs have always been known to see things of a supernatural nature that humans can’t see. Legendary black dogs are thought to roam desolate roads, moors, cemeteries and the crossroads. Whether three or four -way, the crossroads are thought to be places of transformation, where offerings are left, spells are cast and pacts are made. Dogs accompany Hekate as she roams these liminal, desolate spaces, taking Her meals among the tombs of the Dead.
22 Fairclough, H. R. trans. 1916. Virgil, Aeneid Book 6. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press. Available from: http://www.theoi.com/Text/VirgilAeneid6.html.
23 Atsma, A. 2000-2011 Hecate’s Sacred Animals. Available from: http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/HekateGoddess.html#Animals
24 Luna, J. 2009. Hecate: Death, Transition, and Spiritual Mastery. Create Space Online, pg 185.
25 Atsma, A. 2000-2011 Hekate and Cerberus in the Underworld. Detail on a vase in a museum in Munich, Germany. Avalaible from: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/T16.2.html
26 Dempsey, L. 2002. The Ghost Hound. Available from: http://www.castleofspirits.com/blackdogs2.html
The Symbols of the Goddess Hekate
- Black Lamb
- Dark Moon
- Flower of Fire
- Garland (or Wreath)
- Golden Sceptre
- Herald’s Wand
- Lapis Lazuli
- Moon (New Moon)
- Mullet (Fish)
- Sandals (Bronze or Gold)
- Torch & Twin Torches