(heh-cáh-tay, according to my Classics Major, Librarian sister, Pam)
“Merry Meet to all my fellow Witches out there. I am a Third Degree, Elevated High Priestess in the Gardnerian/Alexandrian tradition of Wicca. I have been practicing Paganism and Witchcraft for a number of years ...too many for me to acknowledge! Although I have earned the title of High Priestess in the highest level of the Wiccan tradition, and the years it took me to get there, I am more Pagan and Witch than anything else and no longer call myself Wiccan, as according to the Oxford Dictionary, Wicca is a male term.”
This paragraph greeted me, online, when I started digging a little deeper into Hecate. On the surface she’s all, savior to the outcast, all-seeing guide, protector of childbirth, the wise crone of the Feminine Trinity: Maiden, Mother & Sage. These excellent, strong, godly traits are worth pursuing. They’re also quite similar to the (Biblical) Third Person of the Trinity: The Holy Spirit.
But, apparently Hecate is also goddess of witchcraft.
So, what was my initial premise for doing this project? Glancing back through my intro to this process... oh yes, I was going to discover more about God’s feminine nature by studying the archetypes of ancient goddesses.
It’s been a delicate balance, a struggle actually, to hold God (the One I think I know) as God/Goddess. To try to see God’s fullness as not only male and female, but Other. God is not human but Other. The One who created us in God’s image, is more. Beyond. I wish there was another name so I didn’t have to choose between God or Goddess, Him or Her.
So here we have the story of another ancient, strong goddess, stripped of most of her powers and relegated to leadership of a most hated and misunderstood profession, witchcraft. A religion of outcasts, indeed.
Hecate’s origins are difficult to discern because they are pre-Greek. She shares traits with a Mother Goddess from Phrygian/Anatolian civilizations as far back as the 6th millennia BCE. The Hittites conquered these peoples and incorporated their gods and goddesses into their pantheon of deities, and Hecate may have evolved from their Divine Queen Mother goddess, “Hatkatta.”
Enter the great patriarchal persecution of women.
The Priests and those who worshipped the gods of the Sun had reason to fear the Hecate archetype (along with her counterpart, Artemis). Hecate (and Artemis) were independently feminine, having no need for the masculine. Hecate had power over of the sacred, secret feminine mystery of childbirth. She could hunt for food. She was asexual. Hecate became a threat as she might lead women to become independent from men. Even Artemis usurped some of Hecate’s traits and remained the more powerful and well-known of the Greek goddesses.
Hecate was relegated to Crone. Which is a good thing to be. A female Sage. Except now, crones are associated with old hags and witches.
Patriarchy marched through the centuries grabbing positions originally enjoyed by women: land owner, business owner, community leader, teacher, healer, mid-wife, spiritual guide, sage etc.
What was left of woman? Child-bearer. Mother. Even the Catholic church tried taking that away by stating a women had no soul. The soul of a child came through the father’s sperm, of course. Women became the scapegoat of any malady or catastrophe. Eventually, any women asserting her self was labeled a witch.
It’s sad when you think half the wisdom and intelligence on the planet at any given time was wasted.
It’s no wonder that women secretly held to their shared wisdom, learning what they could of the Earth and healing arts. Witchcraft was actually an honored profession for centuries, not so much a religion, but doctor, counselor, spiritual guide, midwife.
And shame on the Church for it’s part in the persecution. Torture and murder are on it’s hands. And isn’t it funny that the gender given the Church is female. The Bride of Christ. How God must have wept.
Women aren’t being burned at the stake these days, but still aren’t allowed into the priesthood of the Catholic church, nor in many Protestant denominations. Even my daughter, Jessica, was told by an Episcopal priest that he would not support her ordination into the priesthood because she was female, having a vagina and not a penis kept her from representing the male Jesus. Gaa!
All of this is no fault of God/Goddess, the Creator of women. Any intelligent reading of the Bible reveals God’s love for all creation, and a special love and care for women and children. God knows we’ve had a bad rap. With the patriarchal death-grip on the writing implements, it’s a wonder God’s true nature got revealed at all. But it’s there. In spite of men. Some day I’ll write a book about all the good things God has to say about his best creation. Adam was just the prototype. A rough draft. Eve was the crown of creation.
Today, as I write this blog, it is “International Women’s Day.” Ha. We got a “Day.” CBS morning news featured two new books: “All the Single Ladies,” by Rebecca Traister and “The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century,” by Jack Myers.
“All the Single Ladies” describes the substantial increase of women waiting to getting married, or staying single, and opting to remain childless, in order to have a career. “The Future of Men” raises concerns that the latest generation of males (under 30 years old) are "out-educated by women" and being "out-performed" by women, economically. Undergraduate degrees and Master’s degrees are going to 40 percent men versus 60 percent women. Women, under 30, are out-earning men of the same age. More boys than girls are failing at math and science.
So, good for you, Hecate. You may yet win.
*selah: word found in the book of Psalms. Generally thought to mean “pause, and think about this.”