Hekate Phosphoros: A Neophyte’s Initiatic Insights Part II

In this series, I am musing about aspects of the goddess Hekate (specifically that of Hekate Phosphoros) that do not seem to be the ones most emphasized when one studies her. In particular, I have received inspirations or impressions from her about two attributions that can be made to that aspect, both of which seem to turn some of the typical, darker symbolism of Hekate on its head.

Interestingly, not long after having written the first post in this series, I met a woman who spoke of her own experience of Hekate as being a warmer sort of mother figure. Would I think to suggest that this view of her invalidates or somehow opposes the more popular symbolism? Hardly. Like any good psychopomp, Hekate’s nature is confounding and difficult to grok. She will never fit into anyone’s neat little categories and that is why she is so eminently qualified to lead candidates through their Initiations.

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The first insight that came had to do with the historically ambiguous attribution of Hekate with the moon, since there is no solid evidence that she is, in fact, a moon goddess at all. Rather, it is generally held that this attribution came about as a result of Hekate’s conflation with other deities such as Selene. Nonetheless, she is very often depicted with the crescent moon upon her head. What follows is an attempt at explaining what came to me all at once in an intuitive flash. In short, it suggests the possibility that even this seemingly direct symbolic reference to the moon may have less to do with the moon than is commonly thought, and more to do with the process of synthesis symbolized by Hekate Phosphoros.

Is it not curious that this placement of the crescent Moon upon Hekate’s head is highly suggestive of the brow or Third Eye chakra, “ajna,” and with that, the symbolism of budding psychism and intuition? Taking this further, is it not the case that when it comes to Initiation in the truest sense, an awakening of oneself to one’s true nature, this center plays a crucial role? Is it not then quite fitting that a deity held to play the role of Psychopomp and Initiatrix should take on symbolism pointing the way to the opening of this center? Our psychic and intuitive natures are very often attributed to the moon in systems of correspondence–being linked with Yesod, for example, in qabalistic systems. However, the attribution is not likely that cut-and-dried, as to link the Third Eye with the moon is far too simplistic a correspondence. When the moon is linked to this center at all symbolically, it is typically accompanied by the sun, after all (and even this may be a hint to the deeper theme of synthesis).

I have more often seen this center attributed to the planet Mercury, which gets us very close to the role of Psychopomp–is that not one of Mercury/Hermes’ primary roles, after all?

My suggestion is that this Moon symbolism, being very often illustrated by an upturned crescent moon reminiscent of a set of horns, may be a cue for us to connect the moon with Mercury–to synergize their essences and bring their energies together in our endeavor to open ourselves to the hidden light, Lux Occulta, symbolized by the light that shines from Hekate’s twin torches. In order to explain why I think this is, I will need to digress and cover some ground involving planetary symbolism.

Regarding the traditional glyphs for the planets, in his Occult Fundamentals and Spiritual Unfoldment, Paul Foster Case had this to say:

The symbols are all composed of combinations of the circle, the cross and the crescent. The circle is a symbol of the superconscious plane because it has always been the sign of perfection, and also because it is the mathematical representation of that No-Thing which is apprehended or touched (remember that Vayu, the circle, corresponds to touch) in superconsciousness. The cross is the symbol of self-consciousness, which is, indeed, the cross that we must all “take up” if we would follow the Way of the Masters. It is the symbol of the never-ending conflict which characterizes all the activities of self-consciousness, the conflict which has its root in the apparent separateness between the “I” which is the Experiencer and the “Not-I” which is the thing experienced. The crescent is the symbol of subconsciousness, of the cup which receives all that life pours into it, of the reflecting principle, or Not-I, in which the “I AM” sees an image of itself.

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Further, regarding Mercury, Case noted:

Mercury alone, among the planetary symbols, combines all three elements. The crescent symbol of subconsciousness is uppermost, the circle representing superconsciousness is in the middle, and the cross of self-consciousness is at the bottom. Thus Mercury represents the equilibration of all three planes of consciousness. Do not understand that the placing of the crescent symbol at the top means that the subconsciousness has been made the superior term. What is meant is that the subconsciousness has been purified and raised so that it becomes the Grail to receive the wine of life, the inspiration of spiritual wisdom. The cross is below, to show that self-consciousness performs its work in its own sphere, which is that of adjusting the personal expression of life to environment.

I don’t know where these ideas regarding the planetary glyphs originate, but they do seem to ring true to me and Case’s comments regarding the meaning of the crescent symbol crowning the glyph of Mercury seem to point directly to the crescent that sits atop Hekate’s head. Furthermore, although I cannot point to any solid historical evidence to back up this connection, it offers a possible solution to the controversy surrounding Hekate’s disputed moon symbolism. As always, take this with a grain of salt. I make no claims as to the absolute truth value of what I am presenting here. If it works for you, by all means take these insights and employ them. Otherwise, pass over them.

However, if we do assume that these connections hold water (no pun intended), then there is a lot to be gleaned through reflection and meditation upon the connections between the moon and Mercury. What processes are represented by each planet, and in what ways do they relate and intersect? As a Goddess of the Crossroads, what can we learn from Hekate by standing at the intersection of these energies? In what ways do the processes of psychism, intuition, of ebb and flow, of reflection, help one along the path of Initiation? In what ways do the shadows and ephemeral visions cast upon us by the moon hinder the process? How can one balance these twin tendencies in order to proceed smoothly? Does Mercury offer us any clues as to how we can achieve this?

In closing, I would like to point out that both the moon and Mercury find their way into attribution with the God figure Ganesha, who, like Hekate, is held to preside over the removal of obstacles and also to teach us much regarding magic and sorcery. Does this shore up or affirm the inferences made above?

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