Hekate & Lions

This is an extract from the chapter “From the Three-Ways” in the book Hekate Liminal Rites by the authors Sorita d’Este and David Rankine, published by Avalonia in 2009. Reproduced here with kind permission.

Hekate & Lions

Another clue to Hekate’s origins may be found in her connection to lions. Although the images of Hekate flanked by lions are not amongst the earliest of her, they do hint at Middle Eastern origins, where they were a common feature. Goddesses were often depicted flanked by lions in imagery from the Middle East, as can be seen from examining the iconography of goddesses such as Inanna, Astarte and Cybele. However we must bear in mind that Artemis was also depicted flanked by big cats, and based on their age the Hekate images may be the result of her syncretisation with Artemis. Of course Artemis may also have roots in the Middle East, so this does not invalidate the possibility of Hekate’s roots being further afield.

The lion references with Hekate include a frieze at the Lagina temple, coins showing her with lions, and also later references from the Chaldean Oracles and the Greek Magical Papyri, showing the persistence of the association. In the Chaldean Oracles Hekate is described as being “lion-possessing”,[1] and even more significantly we see, “If you call upon Me often you will perceive everything in lion-form.”[2]

In the ‘Prayer to Selene for any Spell’ in the Greek Magical Papyri, which by its content can be seen to be more of a Hekate spell, we find the phrase “you stand protected by two rampant lions”.[3]

[1] Chaldean Oracles, C2nd CE, trans. S. Ronan.

[2] Chaldean Oracles, C2nd CE, trans. S. Ronan.

[3] PGM IV.2811-12, trans. Krause.


Further reading:
Hekate Liminal Rites, Sorita d’Este & David Rankine (Avalonia, 2009)
Hekate Her Sacred Fires, various contributors, edited by Sorita d’Este (Avalonia, 2010)