The glorious Season of The Witch is here. October is the month when the thinning veil, stockpiles of herbs and longer nights signal the return of Hekate as The Queen of Witches. Casting spells, working with poisons and summoning spirits are all very Hekatean ways to tap into the energy of October.
October, my favorite month, is here at last. Modern Halloween and Samhain celebrations are wonderful, but they often omit the Queen of Witchcraft herself, Hekate. While she may not be an overt part of the festivities, her energy runs throughout the month, especially for those of us living where it’s dark, damp and chilly.
The spirit of Samhain is very similar to the ancient intentions of Hekate’s Suppers. These rituals, performed on the night when the moon went dark, sought to keep evil spirits at bay. Depending on how you view Hekate, this could have been to seek her protection from them or to curry her favor because she was the leader of them. Regardless of interpretation, the idea sounds a lot like some aspects of what we know about how the Celts may have celebrated the end of their year. Hekate’s Suppers were placed at a three-way crossroads where the restless dead were believed to reside. Appeasing Hekate would assure protection against these spirits.
The suppers could also protect against Hekate’s Horde of frightening hounds and hobgoblins. As the Mistress of the Night, Hekate was both the evil and it’s averter. Maybe us Modern Hekateans love autumn so much because it’s as though our monthly practice (which some may regard as a tad peculiar) seems downright normal. Late night offerings of rotting food placed at a frightening crossroads by a solitary witch seems perfectly in keeping with October.
While the spirit of those ancient Hekate’s Suppers lives on in our monthly rituals on the Dark Moon, the emphasis on nasty spirits and restless dead protection is often replaced with more contemporary problems. October reminds us that evil entities exist and that spirits from across the veil can become our cohorts. This is a perfect time to perform a traditional Hekate’s Supper with the intention of protection from those entities that can cause us harm. It’s also a time when these sorts can become attached to us, so I suggest an energetic cleansing along with your other preparations for the Deipnon. Perhaps traditional cleansing with khernips is in order.
My black witch’s heart wishes I could write about an ancient festival held during October celebrating Hekate as The Queen of Witches, but it simply doesn’t exist. By the time her image had been crafted into a psychopomp wandering the night with her horde, she was so frightening that a monthly ritual was required. Today, Hekate is widely known as a Goddess of Witchcraft. Her association with magick, ghosts and spirits most likely accompanied her when she was adapted by the ancient Greeks.
Hekate came down into Greece as an earth goddess with the usual interest that such a divinity always had in vegetation and nutrition, in wild and human life, but possessing also certain attractions for the moon, and trailing with her a very pernicious cloud of superstition and sorcery. – from Farnell, L. R. (1902). Cults of the Greek States, Vol. 2 Chapter XVI
The story of how and why Hekate’s diverse roles were honored separately and in different places over time is fascinating, but I’m focusing just on her Goddess of Witchcraft aspects here. You can read more about my understanding of Hekate here.
There are many missing pieces regarding her transformation from an all-purpose goddess to one specializing in witchcraft by the time the Romans got hold of her, but what is known is that this splintering corresponded with the rise of patriarchy, a system in which women’s natural connection to the life and death cycle were subdued. Witchcraft, not surprisingly, since it had been the domain of women, became marginalized. Like all women, witches were seen as mysterious creatures that needed to be controlled. Just to be clear: I am talking about the practice of witchcraft – using botanicals to heal and hex, casting spells, drawing down the moon, etc.
Such witchery in ancient times, as today, was often done at night under the moon. Here lies the origins of the triad of Hekate, witchcraft and the moon. With October comes increasing darkness, offering more time to practice “your beloved witchcraft,” as Selene said to Medea. If you’ve never called upon Hekate or her witches, Medea and Kirke are the two most famous ones, for help with your witchery, October is the perfect time to start. This is the season for learning how to work with poisons, blood and bone. Animal spirit magick is also very potent this time of the year.
Learn a bit about Hekatean animal spirit witchery here.
Unlike the ancient Greeks, the Celts (whose practices greatly informed our modern Wheel of the Year) viewed October as the end of the year. For the Greeks, this occurred during what we call the summer. Living where I do, this certainly feels like the end of the natural year. Like my ancestors, I feel the call of death all around me. I rarely work with the dead outside of October and November. They feel close as my beloved herbs these days. Hekate as the Mistress of the Dead can be petitioned for assistance in contacting spirits. This is an ideal time to connect with a new spirit guide, whether it’s a long-dead ancestor or a plant spirit.
O Nyx, Mother of Mysteries, and all ye golden Astra . . . and thou, divine three-formed Hecate, who . . . dost fortify the arts of magic, and thou, kindly Tellus, who dost for magic potent herbs provide; ye Venti and Aurae, ye Montes, Lacus, and Amnes, and all ye Forest-Gods and Gods of Night, be with me now! By your enabling power, at my behest . . . I bid the mountains quake, the deep earth groan and ghosts rise from their tombs. – from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (7. 192), translation by Melville
There are so many ways to work with spirits, you can read some simple techniques to work with them using corn here.
Working with spirits can be intimidating, as can facing our own fears. The deeply emotional energy of October calls upon us to do just that, with Hekate patiently holding her torch, ready to be our guide. Like her guidance of Persephone, she will see us through our own personal Underworlds. Hekate’s deep connection with Demeter and Persephone illustrates her ability to mediate between darkness and light. It’s her enduring contribution to the life cycle, strongly symbolic of her role as a Goddess of Witchcraft. I’ll be leading a New Moon Circle focusing on conquering our fears in The Witches’ Realmduring October.
To learn more about the frightening side of Hekate, including a list of applicable epithets, read “Should We Fear Hekate?”
Witches, like Hekate, reside in liminal spaces. We walk between the world of form and force, life and death, dark and light. No wonder that October speaks to us so strongly. I can’t think of a better time to perform a self-initiation into the magick and mysteries of Hekate. The primal energy of the witch lives within some of us, lying dormant until we unleash it. Hekate holds the keys for us, but they truly are ours to take. Turning to Hekate and her five closest companions, Demeter, Persephone, Artemis, Medea and Kirke, to activate our hidden witch powers on the Full Moon in October is, to me, the best way to honor these Great Goddesses during this month. Learn more, including a ritual, in the Fall Edition of Open Circle Magazine.
I’ve talked about very serious ways to practice Hekatean Witchcraft during October, but there’s also fun to be had. Every year I get asked whether it’s respectful to dress up as Hekate for Halloween. Personally, I wouldn’t, but if it feels right to you, go for it. I’m more of a Medusa sort of gal. Perhaps dress up like one of her ancient witches or those lovelies from Macbeth.
Hekate sometimes appears in horror shows and movies, so check out the pop culture versions of her this month. Penny Dreadful is my favorite show featuring a character named Hekate. Put on your witchiest outfit, light 13 black candles and trance out to Wendy Rule’s or Faun’s songs about our favorite goddess of witches.
Embrace the fun to be had in decorating with skulls and creepy things, letting your Inner Hekatean Witch (hello Medea!) take over. Maybe even have a seance to celebrate the Season of the Witch or joining us in The Realm for ours.
Interested in participating in events like New Moon: Conquer Your Fears or the Samhain Seance Special? Apply to join The Witches’ Realm.
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In my October altar, I have pumpkins, corn, rosehips, poppy seeds, witherod, blackberry banishing potion, and alder “cones.” Roses, poppies, witherod (it’s part of the honeysuckle family) and alder are proud members of Hekate’s Ancient Garden. Witherod, also known as wild raisin, had an ancient ancestor, known as viburna to the Romans, that was used in witchery. Poppy has been a favorite of Hekate’s witches for millennia. To learn more about the botanicals I use in the altars, just ask.
It’s still not too late to celebrate the bright moonlight many of us are blessed with this time of the year. Read more: Hekate and The Harvest Moon.
Other Season of The Witch Articles To Date: