11. Festivals, times, and days dedicated to Hekate:
Let’s be honest, there’s a pretty big gulf between the modern calendar and the ancient one. In olden days, at least in Greece, the months were dictated by the waxing and waning of the moon. Each month started with the first crescent and ended with the dark moon. The days were counted up until the moon reached fullness, and then counted again until the dark. That’s a far cry from our Gregorian system. A lot of confusion results though when people come across quotes from the ancients about how such and such was done on the third day, because the old world wasn’t talking about November 3rd, but about the third day after the first crescent appeared in the sky.
Days started, in several ancient societies, with sunset. So tonight, when the sun sets, to me, Yule begins. But Yule doesn’t really have anything to do with Hekate, so I won’t be talking about it here. There’s not a lot of Hekatean opportunities in the Wheel of the Year, honestly, but that’s okay! There’s plenty from both the ancient world, and the modern practitioners to play with.
Holy Days with Ancient Precedence:
Deipnon – Every Dark Moon – A time to clean house. Gather up all the dust, crud, and mess that has formed in the nooks and crannies of your home. Put together a small feast and offer it at a three-way Crossroads to Hekate and Her Restless Dead. In Hellas, this would include taking your dust and the like with the feast out to the Crossroads, but your neighbors or local authorities might not appreciate it. For a great account of a modern version of the rites, look here.
Noumenia – When the First Crescent appears in the sky – Honor the Gods of your Household (including Hekate) and ask for their blessing on this new month.
Festivals of Kourotrophos –
Three days before the Dark Moon of February.
Three days after the New Moon of June.
Three days after the Full Moon of August.
The Kourotrophoi are the Gentle Nurses. They’re Goddesses of Childbirth, and includes Hekate, Artemis, Eilytheia, and several others. I don’t have children, and it isn’t in the cards for me to do so. I confess I haven’t celebrated this festival or even thought about it much. I would think that it would be a good time to ask for a smooth pregnancy if one is pregnant, to pray for the good health of one’s children, or to honor the major transitions that one’s children are going through. But that’s all speculation.
Surviving depictions of the festival show women and children in procession with offerings.
It begins two days before the October Full Moon, and lasts three to five days (dates vary in ancient sources).
Dedicated to Demeter and the Kore, only women participated. It seems that women did rites of purification leading up to the festival. Then they processed to Eleusis, carrying a series of symbols of civilized life. They spent that night at Eleusis. The second day was dominated by fasting with only sesame cakes and honey. All business was suspended. The women processed to Athens barefooted, and carrying secret symbols in baskets. The third day was a time of celebration, and the festival ended with a sacrifice. That the celebration varied in other poleis, both in length of time and in specifics, seems likely.
As a festival from which men were excluded, it was often used as a trope by men to describe how wild and uncivilized women could be when set loose. For the women, who spent most of their time stuck and home, and only ventured out in the company of a male relative, it must have been exhilarating.
As near as we can tell, there’s some element of the story of the abduction of Persephone at work in this festival. The second day aligns with Demeter mourning Her daughter’s fate, and the third possibly with the moment when the old woman makes Demeter laugh by being raucous. Scholars differ in their perspective, of course.
I include this in the list of Hekatean festivals, because of Hekate’s role as a companion to these Goddesses as described in the Hymn to Demeter. I have no evidence that Hekate played a role, because there’s very little known about the festival itself. Because men weren’t allowed to participate, and men were the ones in Ancient Greece who wrote, we don’t have a lot to study from the culture itself. Not really.
The Eleusinian Mysteries –
Greater Mysteries – From the third day after the full moon of September and lasting seven days.
Scholars speculate that Hekate played some role in these rites, but we don’t know what. Perhaps Her representative led the torchlit procession? We just don’t know.
Bendideia – The 6th day after the New Moon of May –
Bendis is a Thracian Goddess who shares traits with Artemis, Selene, Persephone, and Hekate. She is a Huntress carrying two lights. By the Hellenistic era, the name was often used to refer to several Goddesses, including Hekate. Her Festival in Athens involved an all-night festival with a procession and races with torches on horseback. Little else is known about the festival.
August 13th – To propitiate Her protection against storms. Modern. You’ll find a lot of pages out on the net talking about this being an ancient festival to Hekate as Lady of the Storms. It’s not. The ancient Greeks never referred to Hekate as a storm Goddess. But some modern Hekateans have had experiences that lead them to connect stormy weather with the Torchbearing Queen.
Whatever the origin, August 13th has become a time to honor Hekate’s more volatile aspects.
ETA: (10/30/2015) August 13th is derived from the festival of the Nemoralia, which honors Diana, not Hekate. That said, pretty much throughout history, Hekate and Artemis and Diana are often conflated. I suspect that’s what happened here. The Nemoralia lasts for three days, and is a festival of Torches, involving a procession of torchbearers. Hunting was forbidden during this time, and participants asked for healing.
Modern: (UPG and SPG)
Full Moon – A totally modern affectation. In my own practice, the Full Moon is when I really try to get devotional work done, above and beyond my mostly-daily rites. I start planning paintings, writing hymns, doing guided meditations. I also use this time to see if I’m holding up my responsibilities.
September 21st – “Feast of Divine Life" – I dunno. It’s new to me. The brief mention I read on it said somewhat about the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Seeing as that’s a fairly new concept, there’s even less chance that this has anything to do with the ancient practices.
That said, with the acknowledgement that it’s a new thing, more power to those who want to practice it. Who knows? I might even come up with something to do. I mean, I consider Hekate a Goddess that governs Life, Death, and Rebirth, so why not?
October 31st – Samhain –
Based on the Celtic festival, this date has evolved to become a ritual to honor ancestors and Gods associated with the Dead. For many, the holiday has been utterly divorced from its’ Celtic roots, and become a pan-Pagan celebration. There’s no real ancient connection between the festival and many of the Gods that you’ll find mentioned in various Pagan celebrations.
I admit, when working with my ancestors as part of Samhain, I ask for Hekate’s assistance, and I give Her my gratitude for a lot of things in my life. I just acknowledge that there’s no historical precedence for doing so, and go on with it. After all, Hekate is certainly associated with the Dead, and as one of the Gods who can cross between the worlds of Hades, Here, and Olympos, She’s a good candidate for this sort of festival. It works.
November 16th – Hekate’s Night –
Some practitioners seem to associate this night with Hekate in a Wild Hunt like atmosphere. Others simply emphasize that it’s a good night to connect with Her.
November 30th – Crossroads Festival –
Most of the references to this holiday suggest only that it is a good night to connect with Hekate of the Crossroads. I personally spent this year’s contemplating the choices I’ve made and what I want to do with my spiritual life next, envisioning myself at a Crossroads.
January 8th – Midwife’s Day –
If this were an ancient holiday, I’d assume that it works something like the Festivals of the Kourotrophos. See above.
January 31st – Feast Day –
Another Modern festival to just celebrate Hekate. There’s no known explanation for where it came from that I’ve found, but hooray for another excuse to have a feast for Her!
Her Sacred Fires – Full Moon in May
In 2010, Sorita d’Este edited an anthology of experiences, rituals, and art by a world-wide sampling of Hekateans (disclaimer: I’m biased. I contributed some art.) To coincide with its release, Sorita wrote the Rite of Her Sacred Fires. Since then the ritual has grown, and been translated into several languages. To learn more, join the Facebook group.
Times of Transition –
Hekate is, above all else, a Goddess of transitions. Moments of uncertainty, of instability, of change, all belong to Her. If you’re about to graduate from school, transition between jobs or homes, shifting roles (becoming a parent? a grandparent?), particularly if the change intimidates you, it’s a good time to come and talk to Hekate. One of Her epithets translates as “Guide.” Ask Her for guidance. You don’t have to take Her up on it.
Events dedicated to Her –
Hekate’s Sickle Festival – North America – http://www.aquariantabernaclechurch.org/hekates-sickle-festival
Covenant of Hekate’s Symposium – UK – This year’s Symposium has yet to be announced. http://sacredfires.co.uk/events/
If you know of other festivals, events, or the like that I don’t have listed here, please tell me! I’m always looking for good excuses to celebrate my Goddess.
Hellenion’s Calendar: http://www.hellenion.org/calendar/2013/index.htm
5th c. Red-Figure Krater, attributed to the Persephone Painter, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.
In order, left to right: Persephone, Hermes, Hekate, Demeter.
added new info on the August 13th festival, and moved it to Historical.