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A new book about the witches' goddess, Hecate, by Gary R. Varner. Just who was this goddess? Goddess of sorcery, goddess of fertility, protectress of women and children.
Hecate, goddess of witches, magic and the underworld. Feared and worshipped for thousands of years by many cultures around the world, known by several names and credited with many powers. Like most ancient gods and goddesses, Hecate’s story has changed over time. Originally, a goddess of wilderness and childbirth, she eventually became known as “Queen of Ghosts.” Her origins may be in Asia Minor among the Carians or in North Africa in the Nubian kingdom. For the most part Hecate is seen today as the Goddess of Witches and Sorcery—but this wasn’t always so. Hecate was at one time both protectress of women and children and Goddess of Death. She was, in her trinity aspect, goddess of fertility and prosperity, Goddess of the Moon, and Queen of Ghosts, shades and the night. It is interesting that she was seen both as the goddess of fertility and life as well as death. “Hekate can poison as well as intoxicate,” wrote Nor Hall, “turn ecstasy into madness, and cause death where incubation—or a short journey—was intended.” This book will examine her many facets and bring about a truer sense of the primal goddess known as “The Distant One” and “The Nameless One.” One of her titles places these in a softer light, for she was also called “most lovely one.”
Book Central Review 7/16/2008
A new review from POD Book Central of Gary R. Varner's book on the ancient goddess,Hecate.
Hecate: The Witches' Goddess
by Gary R Varner, spirituality (2008)
OakChylde Books, $9.95, ISBN N/A
Hecate was the Greek goddess of, among many things, magic, witches, crossroads, prophecy, the moon, and the underworld. She was rarely featured in the ever-ongoing soap opera of the Greek gods, maybe because, as the author Gary R Varner suggests, she was actually a foreign deity eventually adopted by the Greeks long after they had already worshiped Zeus and gang, which would explain why so many of her roles overlap with those of established Greek deities such as Hermes and especially Artemis.
Hecate's most well-known of her few dalliances was with Hermes, a fellow deity with similarly strong pastoral links to the earth, from which Circe, everyone's favorite randy sorceress, was conceived. On the whole she was a mysterious and aloof figure in mythology. Nonetheless, she was also easily the most interesting of the gods and goddesses worshiped by the Greeks and Romans of yore, chiefly because of her trinity aspect that allowed her to play simultaneously the roles of the goddesses of life, fertility, and death.
Today, she features heavily in contemporary neo-Pagan literature as the goddess of withcraft and death. I once read a fantasy anthology with a Greek god theme and was amused to realize that Hecate was the most popular deity featured in the anthology compared to more popular deities such as Zeus, Hera, and Apollo. Clearly, despite having little exposure in popular media compared to other Greek gods, Hecate holds great appeal to many people. The black dogs, which are associated with Hecate as she roams the crossroads, live on long after the time of the Greeks has passed as symbols of death.
Gary R Varner, a long-time member of the American Folklore Society and the Foundation of Mythological Studies, attempts to shed some light on this goddess in Hecate: The Witches' Goddess. He believes that Hecate is more than a Greek goddess - she is the prototype of the earth/femininity goddess that is continuously evolving as various cultures throughout the ages adopt her as one of their own deities. Her origin goes all the way to North Africa way before the rise of the Greek civilization, where she was worshiped as "Heqat". She might very well also be the goddess that was known as Isis in ancient Egypt. In Scotland, Hecate was portrayed as a faerie queen while in New South Wales she was depicted as the mother and patron of a bunch of "wild women" that ruled territories from which men are forbidden to step foot in.
Most interesting is how the author points out that Hecate's initial portrayal was that of an earth mother type and that it is only during the time known as the Dark Ages when witches and midwives (those whom Hecate was a patron of) became persecuted that Hecate began to be viewed as a hideous goddess preoccupied with wandering the crossroads with a pack of rabid dogs to tear apart innocent helpless males. Yet, Mr Varner contends that the Church ended up absorbing some of the very tenets represented by Hecate that it condemned and burned thousands of women over.
This short but most informative book is a very interesting read. Of course, it helps that I am always interested in mythology and folklore. I've always been intrigued by Hecate ever since I learned of her existence because she was a complex and multifaceted deity that was nonetheless obscure when compared to her fellow Greek deities. Mr Varner explores the various aspects of the mythology that is Hecate that sees her being worshiped as the goddess of fertility and protector of children as well as the goddess of death and ghosts. Hecate is a contradiction of sorts as she is both a protector as well as destroyer. Unlike her fellow Greek deities, she - or at least, the concept of her - is still worshiped even today due to her intrinsic link to femininity, wilderness, and sorcery.
If there is any flaw to Hecate: The Witches' Goddess, it is a technical one. While it makes sense to discuss the various animals and plants associated to Hecate, for example, Mr Varner often jumps into such discussions abruptly to the point that sometimes it is easy to forget that the subject of this book is Hecate. Some readers may rightfully argue that Mr Varner could have done better to provide an united conceptual representation of Hecate instead of going on and on about her various roles in various civilizations as if there are about a hundred of so different deities with the same name being discussed here. However, I personally feel that it is very hard to do so because Hecate has evolved so much throughout time that there should be more than one "correct" interpretation of what she is.
Hecate: The Witches' Goddess is an easy to read and informative short book on the subject matter. If you have an interest in the subject matter, you may like this one as much as I do. Print and electronic versions can be purchased at the author's storefront at http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=667526 - you will also find details on the author's other non-fiction books on various spiritual and mythological matters there.
Reviews for "Hecate: The Witches' Goddess"
|Reviewed by Ian Irvine (Hobson)
|My understanding is that Hecate functioned a little like the Hindu goddess Kali - on the one hand symbolising the destructive principle in mortal existence (and in cosmological existence), on the other she was routinely appraoched for all kinds of 'favours'. I recall standing beside a gigantic 'Kali' in the streets of Kathmandu some years back, despite the skulls that adorned the icon etc. no one in the street seemed to phased at her presence. Early on, as Varner documents, Hecate was seen in a more positive light, as a form of the Earth Mother - the patriarchal march to Greek culture may have distorted her more primordial attributes causing her to become 'demonic female other' to the increasingly masculinist pantheon (which also happened to Lilith in ancient Israel. The wicca folk might ponder, however, whether they are worshipping the later Hecate or the earlier Hecate ... Varner's looks to be a fascinating excursion into aspects of European polytheism that still hold relevance for us today - Jung understood that figures like Hecate, and her sometimes husband of the lonely crossroad, Hermes, remain potent in the psyches of modern humans. Varner's book allows us to acknowledge the presence of an ambivalent figure who reminds us that life is not all peaches and cream - sometimes we learn most from archetypes overseeing 'transformation' - and the spirits of transformation/change are always ambivalent figures.|
|Reviewed by Amber Moonstone
|I have always been intrigued with Hecate. It started when I first read MacBeth. I write Goddess poetry (among other subjects) and am compiling a book entitled, The Goddess, A Journey of Fantasy ". I don't think I have written a poem about Hecate, so you have inspired me to do so. Thank you for that.
I wish you success with your book.
Much peace, love, and light,
Amber "V" Moonstone
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