Hesiod said that Hekate “is good in the stable, with Hermes,” and that she is “standing by horsemen, those whom she favors…” 52. This suggests that there is some connection between Hekate and horses from early on. By the Common Era, the Chaldean and Orphic Mysteries both describe Hekate as horse-headed. The Orphic Argonautika from the 4th century describes her as having “a horse with a long mane leaped from her left shoulde” 53.
Her epiphanies for the Chaldeans included “a horse flashing more brightly than light, or a child mounted on the swift back of a horse… or even a child shooting arrows, standing upon a horse’s back” 54. They further describe Hekate as “horse-faced” 55. Porphyry likewise mentions that the four-headed Hekate includes a horse-head 56. Images of Hekate with horses do survive the ages. In particular there exists a 4th century relief of Her placing a wreath on a horse currently in the British Museum.
In the Chaldean tradition, the horse is a creature of fire, symbolic of Hekate’s fiery soul 57. Stephan Ronan posits that the horse is a symbol of Hekate’s “non-demonic” nature and positions the horse and bull symbolism in opposition of the demonic Hydra and dog symbols 58. Sarah Iles Johnston interpreted the horse (in relation to Hekate) as a daemon which serves Her in the sub lunar realms 59. Jacob Rabinowitz says that Theodore Kraus believes the horse to refer to “the nocturnal rout” but does not expand on the veracity or meaning thereof 60.
52 Evelyn White, H.G. trans. 1914. The Theogony of Hesiod. From: Hare, J.B. 1999. Internet Sacred Text Archive. Available from: http://www.sacred texts.com/cla/hesiod/theogony.htm Accessed: 2 July 2010
53 Ogden, D. 2009. Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds. UK: Oxford University Press, pg 92
54 Johnston, S. I. 1990. Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate’s Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature. USA: Scholar Press, pg 111
55 d’Este, S. and Rankine, D. 2009. Hekate: Liminal Rites. London: Avalonia, pg 140-141
56 Ronan, S. 1992. The Goddess Hekate. London: Chthonios Press, pg 129
57 d’Este, S. and Rankine, D. 2009. Hekate: Liminal Rites. London: Avalonia, pg 62
58 Ronan, S. 1992. The Goddess Hekate. London: Chthonios Press, pg 135
59 Johnston, S. I. 1990. Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate’s Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and
Related Literature. USA: Scholar Press, pg 123
60 Rabinowitz, J. 1998. The Rotting Goddess: The Origin of the Witch in Classical Antiquity, USA: Autonomedia, pg 123
The Symbols of the Goddess Hekate