Hekate Phosphoros: A Neophyte’s Initiatic Insights

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This post was originally written around early 2014, so references to times periods will have changed. It has been edited to make it more readable and to clarify certain meanings. My attitude towards deities has also changed dramatically since then–clearly, the period during which these posts were written was a liminal time indeed, moving me from one perspective (struggling Theosophist) to where I now stand (as one who would be regarded as heretical by many Theosophists and would probably even piss off the Pagans he was hanging around at the time of these writings). I still revere Hekate very highly even though I no longer grovel to her.

As little as three months ago, I knew next to nothing about the goddess Hekate, despite an adolescence steeped in studies of a Wiccan and Druidic nature. A subsequent departure from Paganism saw me taking a headfirst leap into a more abstract, head-centered Neoplatonic worldview. For about 18 years have I been swimming in a sea of symbolism, dancing with deities and destroying demons, and yet concrete knowledge of Hekate always seemed to fly by under my radar–not that I was paying particular attention.The only two things I knew about her were:

1. She is pretty popular in Pagan circles, and

2. She was calling out for my attention all of a sudden.

Truth be told (and especially so once I had turned my back for a time on Pagan practices and steeped myself in Theosophy), I actively resisted Hekate. Her apparent popularity and the numerous pop culture references to her (I’m thinking of things like Buffy and Charmed) left a sour taste in my mouth, and I didn’t want anything to do with her. Is this shallow? Sue me.

Then one evening as I sat reading the phenomenal Generation Hex edited by Jason Louv, I was very pleased to be taking in tales of a sort of urban shamanic “walkabout” practice very similar to what I had done for years when the call came: The briefest passing reference to the name Hekate leapt off the page at me and for reasons unknown, I could not get the name out of my head. The next morning, as I sat video-hopping on YouTube, a song by Ananda Project just seemed to be the vehicle through which she spoke to me. The message was: “Patiently I wait for you to come to me…”

When I finally got around to studying Hekate, as the testaments of many seem to support, I was presented with the image of a primarily dark and scary goddess, leading legions of shades to execute workings of revenge and wounding performed in her name. In my personal, passing connections with her, I could certainly pick up this motif, but to me there seemed to be something else going on. When I dug deeper and found sources that attested to Hekate’s more numinous aspects, I was very pleased. One afternoon, not long ago at all, I found the aspect that I know fits best: Hekate Phosphoros, Lightbearer, Torchbearer. Shower of the Way. Yes, though her darker aspects had certainly been instrumental in a recent process of purging and transformation, it was all meant to clear the way for the glory of her fiery countenance to serve as a guiding light for me, so that I might in turn radiate just a small portion of that light to others. [This aspect also carries strong resonance with Lucifer and heralded the gestation of sovereignty that had begun within me. In short, there was much light to take for myself as well]. I know that my take on her will not likely be popular but I really don’t care. The major points I wanted to drive home with this short series of posts are two insights that came to me from her on the same afternoon, having to do with attributions to her that I have not seen anywhere else.

It should be stressed that these came to me directly through a sudden and unbidden communion with her and this viewpoint disregards dependence on an academic lens entirely. I do not understand the impulse of some people to cling to historic interpretations of deities even as they work with them. To be sure, the history is important and offers us valuable clues as to the nature of a given entity, but let me ask: Do you want to study the past or live in the present? And if you want to restrict the life of a deity to the confines of historical record, why work with them at all? To my way of thinking, the very act of bothering to connect with a deity is inextricably linked with the idea that these are living, dynamic entities. They will often surprise us.

Of greatest interest to me is the way these insights bridge Hekate’s more Western, Hellenic flavor with that wisdom which comes to us from Eastern religions. Many are those today who are hearing a call to Initiation, and in our increasingly integrated global society, this merging of East and West is well underway. It is only fitting that a deity whose role is that of guiding her devotees through the Gates of Initiation would embrace this sacred synthesis and impart its harmonizing wisdom. One does not need to find concrete historical links between related deities if ons truly believet that they abide in divine realms transcending the physical. No, I am certain that “Eastern” and “Western” are distinctions we ourselves make and that god and goddess symbolism far and wide will necessarily reflect the interconnectedness to which many of our deities point unceasingly. How could it be any other way?

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