A Look into the Symbolism within the Hecate Scarf

Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft, herbalism, and the night is a complex goddess who holds sway over many dominions and goes by many names — Hecate of the earth and underworld, she that turns away and protects, she that holds the keys and bears the light, she who serves and attends, and she who frequents crossroads and protects doorways. She’s often depicted in triple-form or with three heads, perhaps representing maiden/mother/crone, full/half/new moon, or past/present/future. She exists in the fringes of Greek mythology, with no clear parentage within the Pantheon — the most likely explanation for this is that she was a foreign deity who gained traction in Ancient Greece over time, which would explain why her many roles overlap with those already held by other Greek Gods, like Hestia, Hermes, Artemis, and others.

Whatever her origin, it’s clear that she eventually became a popular figure of worship within Athenian households, as one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family and protected the living from the restless dead. She’s primarily a goddess of liminal spaces, like doorways (hence her ability to protect the home), gates, crossroads, city walls and borders, the wilderness, and by extension: the liminal space in-between living and dying, and the road between our world and the underworld. Within mythology, she often guided and protected other gods and goddesses through these liminal spaces — she assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, and later served as protector and companion to Persephone on her seasonal journeys to and from Hades.

Within this scarf, you’ll find lots of hidden symbols associated with Hecate. Several are explained in this blog post, but sharp eyes might find even more!

THE KEY

The key represents Hecate's access to different spaces, and her dominion over doorways of all sorts. She holds the key to individual households, and protects its inhabitants and turns away those that mean harm. The key may also unlock the door to the underworld, and with it, Hecate holds control over the dead and dying.

THE TORCHES

Greek lore explains how, in the ancient city of Byzantium, Hecate once saved the city from an attack at night by warning its inhabitants with a divine light in the sky. The Byzantines dedicated a statue to her as lamp carrier, as an act of worship to she that protects and brings light to darkness. The torches also tie into her role as a psychopomp; with her torch, she guided Persephone and many other souls to and from the underworld. Additionally, the torches rest on two pillars, situating Hecate within a liminal doorway between two places.

THE FROG

The frog builds on the concept of liminality. The frog, an amphibian, exists between water and land — both are within his domain, yet neither is home to him completely. And so, like Hecate, he exists stuck in-between these two realms, free to move between the two with ease, but never able to stray too far from one realm or the other.

THE DOG

Hecate is usually shown with one or several dogs in attendance, and her approach is heralded with howling hounds. Like Hecate, the Dog is also a guardian of doorways and thresholds, and is similarly extended to the frontier between life and death. (For this same reason, the underworld is guarded by the watchdog Cerberus, who prevents both the living and the dead from crossing through the gates of Hades.) Hecate may have also been attended to by dogs for their usefulness in digging up the roots of herbs with magical or medicinal properties. It’s also worth noting that in ancient Greek worship of Hecate, black dogs (in particular, puppies) were sacrificed at crossroads and occasionally eaten in solemn sacrament.

THE SNAKES

Snakes have a strong connection to the underworld, which is why we often see spirits take the form of snakes in folklore and religious texts. The snakes here -- does Hecate control them? Do they deliver news to her?

THE HERBS

To many, Hecate is known as the “Goddess of Witchcraft,” due in part to her strong associations with plant lore and the concoction of medicine and poisons. Through her familiarity with herbs and medicine, she has vast knowledge of magic and spells. The herbs hanging on the branches above her here are lavender (for protection and clarity of thought), yew (a poisonous tree associated with death and the underworld), and mugwort (an herb closely related to wormwood, with a variety of magical and medicinal uses), all of which have close ties with Hecate.

THE DAGGER

The dagger is a tool with many uses, befitting Hecate’s complicated associations. By many practitioners of modern and ancient witchcraft, the dagger is an important symbol and ritual tool in spellwork. By Hecate, the dagger may have been used for cutting herbs and preparing spells, for sacrifice, or for defending doorways and controlling spirits.

Today, Hecate is most frequently viewed as a catch-all Goddess of Witchcraft in many forms of modern magical practices. If she began her existence as a humble household deity whose spreading popularity gave her a place in the pantheon in Ancient Greece, it feels fitting that she has returned to her former role and exists for many people as a powerful household goddess today. Whether your interest in the Hecate scarf is borne of interest in witchcraft, lingerie, or just aesthetics, my hope is that wearing this image of her on your body will arm you with feelings of power, protection, and the strength to move between realms as you please, like Hecate - whether those realms be career ladders, new places, new interests, or new relationships.


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