In Hekate Soteira, Johnston states that the key was a symbol for Hekate from at least Hellenistic times onwards. The keys she held were for opening Hades and the “bars of Cerberus” 64. Her epithet kleidouchos means “key-bearer.” The Orphic Hymn to Hekate names her “keyholding mistress of the whole world” for her role in opening the gates to the underworld and deciding who went to the Elysian Fields 65.
There was a ceremonial procession in Lagina the kleidos agoge “procession of the key” 80, which may also be related to her roles as guardian against evil and of boundaries, as many of her shrines were kept in doorways and entrances to cities and temples.
The PGM makes numerous references to Hekate as holder of the keys, and remarks of keys being magical objects 66. Keys are the only way to unlock a locked door thus whomever possesses the key has the power and ability to open that which is locked away and hidden. Hekate, as keeper and bearer of the keys, has the divine power to unlock the mysteries.
64 Johnston, S. I. 1990. Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate’s Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and
Related Literature. USA: Scholar Press, pg 41.
65 Sanchez, T. 2011. The Temple of Hekate. London: Avalonia, pg 173.
66 d’Este, S. and Rankine, D. 2009. Hekate: Liminal Rites. London: Avalonia, pg 20.
The Symbols of the Goddess Hekate