graeco egyptian

Graeco-Egyptian gold snake bracelet, dated to the 1st century BCE to the 3rd century CE during the Roman period. 


The Ancient faces of the Fayum mummy portraits


Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits (also Faiyum mummy portraits) is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to Egyptian mummies from the Coptic period. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world. In fact, the Fayum portraits are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.

 Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara in the Fayum Basin (hence the common name) and the Hadrianic Roman city Antinoopolis. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description. While painted cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period at the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.

 They date to the Roman period, from the late 1st century BC or the early 1st century AD onwards. It is not clear when their production ended, but recent research suggests the middle of the 3rd century. They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.

 The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones.

 Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality. About 900 mummy portraits are known at present. The majority were found in the necropoleis of Faiyum. Due to the hot dry Egyptian climate, the paintings are frequently very well preserved, often retaining their brilliant colours seemingly unfaded by time.

Personally I`ve seen some at the Museum and was stunned and hypnotized by the ancient 2000 year-old faces looking at me as if they were there with me.

Ἀκέφαλος - A Headless Rite Experience

Ok, take this with a grain of salt. Writing about a magical experience can seem like insanity. I have reread my magic diary notes, tried to gather my thoughts and form some type of thesis.

Over a year ago my life had become rather chaotic, frustrating and uncertain. Family and work life had drastically changed and no conventional ideas seemed to improve matters. At my wits end I began looking for “magical” solutions to break out of the rut. I don’t remember exactly how but I came across Gordon White’s Rune Soup blog. This discovery thrust me back into something I had spent the last decade trying to ignore and that was practical magic. Feeling very curious I purchased The Chaos Protocols by Gordon and was inspired to give the Headless Rite a go. However please note, my ritual is not as prescribed by Gordon, I’ll explain why later.

It was performed during the day on a Sunday on the planetary hour of the Sun in my backyard. The choice of day was not in my control, as it was the only day I could have my place to myself. But I did choose to perform it in the hour of the Sun to take advantage of the various Sun correspondences.

I began with a meditation to relax and enter a light trance state. I lit white candles located at the four directions as well as frankincense resin. Cast a circle by walking incense around a central altar (it’s just a small table). Read out barbarous names printed on paper, held to my left and right temples facing North. Then facing West towards Orion (who was below the horizon at the time) I read out the Headless Rite. I’m Greek Australian, so I read the rite in the Ancient Greek and not the translation. I don’t think the language used matters as long as the barbarous names are unchanged (that’s possibly where some of the magic is). I then activated some sigils using Gordon’s method of staring at sigils until they flash/fade and go back to normal. Then more meditation to cleared my mind. I ended the ritual and banished by clapping my hands and laughing. Tidied up the backyard.

Considerations and observations
Gordon suggests combining an invocation to the Demon Kings. I didn’t, mainly out of fear to be honest. Calling a demon back then felt sacrilegious and conflicted with my Greek Orthodox upbringing. It technically still does, but I’ve subsequently expanded my beliefs/views… not very Orthodox any more.

I don’t feel that the Demon Kings are demons anyway, well not in the biblical fallen angel style. I now view them as very significant spirits who represent/influence the cardinal directions, similarly to the Ancient Greek Anemoi (winds) and the Chinese Heavenly Kings. They are not a part of the Headless Rite, so their omission didn’t break anything.

The incense that was happily puffing smoke did flare up doing the ceremony, which did get the heart racing. The self lighting charcoals can do this which is normal. However I do find it amusing that it tends to happen as an accent or during the climax of a ritual.

I do remember feeling very invigorated once I completed the entire ritual. I didn’t think it was successful, but I felt good.

Then the fun started.

As crazy as it sounds I believe that performing the Rite opened me up to contact from the spirit world. The contact I received however was not what I expected, surprise surprise. My dreams three days later felt very, very real. I can lucid dream, but the feeling was far more intense. The first dream was a blend of nightmare and lesson. I won’t describe the entire dream, but basically I was given a lesson, I can either continue wasting life/vitality/energy by being sucked into base desires or I could channel my vitality/energy into meaningful magic. This choice was emphasised by two menacing black hounds with glowing green eyes giving me very threatening looks and growls. Oddly I felt a compulsion to give thanks for the dream after I woke up.

The hounds returned on two more nights. But on the last night within the dream, after I crossed a large canyon the angry black hound split into two dogs. One old, calm and friendly, the other young and active. I had worked through a few personal things so I felt the hounds were happy with me.

“So what, you dreamt of dogs?”, I hear you say. Well yes, but I’m trying to change my life and rediscover magic by performing an “exorcism” possibly written in the 2nd century BC, calling upon Egyptian Gods. No point in rejecting experiences because they sound trivial now.

To me the Rite when spoken in Greek has the same mouthfeel as prayers to God I could say in church. I kinda think it is, as it even mentions an “Angel of God”. Please note that I’m definitely not suggesting that the Headless Rite is a Christian prayer, far from it. Calling upon a Headless daemon (Akephalos), Osiris, Set, Bes and others would make a Church Father have apoplexy. I’m talking about the feeling.

I do think this Angel made contact with me and the hounds represent… her. Yep, I think the angel was female. Why do I think this? Well I’ve researched the words in the Headless Rite and symbolism in my dreams. The Headless Rite is included in the Greek Magical Papyri, other “spells/rituals” in the PGM include many of the same deities and barbarous names. A certain female deity is featured quite extensively in the PGM. One of the epithets she has is “Angelos” or Angel of God, so there’s the connection. This Angelos is also more typically known as the Goddess of Magic Hekate. Her heralds are “black hounds”.

That’s when the penny dropped. I got the result I needed but not what I expected. I had not considered Hekate in any way prior to these dreams. It also explains a series of events I experienced as a young child and many other bizarre correspondences throughout my life.

What’s interesting is that it has unlocked the PGM and how I perceive magic. Whether it’s Greco-Egyptian, Solomonic, Cyprianic ( another rabbit hole right there), Chaos or Eastern magic I know that it’s actually real. The spirit world is real, divinity is real and the universe is not just a mistake of randomness explained only in materialist ways.

So call the loony bin, we’ve got a real nutter here. Life will never be the same again.

Here is a recording of the Headless Rite spoken in Ancient Greek.


If you’re interested in the Headless Rite and other magical ritual then check out the book below.

The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells: Texts (Volume 1)

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Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic Hardcover – 2014

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The Chaos Protocols by @gordonwhite

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On the left, Isis holds a sistrum, Serapis is wearing the modius, and their son Harpocrates-Horus holds a cornucopia. Dionysus is recognizable by his thyrsus.

The right part of the relief is not preserved, it is not known to what event the four divinities were attending. The plaque was reused in the 4th-5th century AD as a Christian funeral slab: its back is carved with a monogrammatic cross and an epitaph.

c. 2nd century B.C.

Found at Henchir el-Attermine, Tunisia

[Collection of The Louvre Museum]

Hellenistic gold bracelets of intertwining snakes with end terminals of Isis and Serapis, knots of Herakles formed in the middle. The bracelets date to the 1st century BCE and are currently located in the Benaki Museum in Athens.


The Fayum mummy portraits is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to mummies from the Coptic (Roman) period of Egyptian history, their production dating between the 1st and 3rd Centuries. Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara and the Hadrianic Roman city Antinoopolis. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description.

They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.

The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones. Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality.

The works have come to be valuable in providing evidence of Roman fashion, including the evolution of popular hairstyles and clothing, but their primary significance is art-historical, holding an importance of immense value to the understanding of the evolution of western art. Ancient sources indicate that panel painting (rather than wall painting), i.e. painting on wood or other mobile surfaces was held in high regard, but very few ancient panel paintings survive. The reason for the survival of so many of the mummy portraits is in a large part due to Egypt’s extremely dry climate.

Some aspects of the mummy portraits, especially their frontal perspective and their concentration on key facial features, strongly resemble later icon painting. Their discovery in the 20th Century altered much of what was known about the history of early western art, and the maturity of the depictions, ranging from realistic to deliberately stylised quickly led art scholars to recognise the aesthetic value of the paintings to be extremely high. The immediacy of the gazes, forming a direct and sometimes challengingly life-like connection with the viewer, has been compared to early modernist art of the 20th Century. “The illusion, when standing in front of them, is that of coming face to face with someone one has to answer to—someone real.”

anonymous asked:

ive been a Hellenic polytheist for a while now and recently ive started to feel connected to Egyptian gods as well. is it okay / respectful to worship both? thank you!

This can certainly be done. In fact, the ancient Hellenes did it. In 7th century BC, after the Hellenic ‘dark ages’ (1100-750 BC), the city of Naucratis was founded in Ancient Egypt. It was located on the Canopic branch of the Nile river, 45 mi (72 km) from the open sea. It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Hellenic colony in Egypt; acting as a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Greek and Egyptian art and culture. Under Greco-Roman rule, Egypt hosted several Hellenic settlements, mostly concentrated in Alexandria, but also in a few other cities, where Hellenic settlers lived alongside some seven to ten million native Egyptians.

Alexander the Great conquered Egypt at an early stage of his conquests. He respected the pharaonic religions and customs and he was proclaimed Pharaoh of Egypt. He established the city of Alexandria. After his death, in 323 BC, his empire was divided among his generals. Egypt was given to Ptolemy I Soter, whose descendants would give Egypt her final royal dynasty. Ptolemy and his descendants showed respect to Egypt’s most cherished traditions–those of religion–and turned them to their own advantage. Alexandria became the centre of the Hellenistic world and the centre of international commerce, art and science. The last Pharaoh was an Hellenic princess, Cleopatra VII, who took her own life in 30 BC.

Contacts between both cultures created a sycratic mix of Gods that were influenced by both cultures. Similarly, some Gods were imported one-on-one into either Egypt or Hellas from a very early time on. There might be a depiction of the Egyptian Goddess Taweret in the vault of Minoic Krete, for example, transformed into an aquatic Hellenic deity.

The most important syncratic Gods are the ‘Alexandian Triad’, worshipped–predicatbly–in Alexandria. The triad consisted forstly of the Egyptian God Amon, who was represented by Zeus’ statue with two ram horns. Serapis is the Graeco-egyptian God par excellence: Osiris risen and become the bull Apis. He is identified with Hellenic Gods such as Hades, Zeus and Dionysos. For the Hellenes He was the God of fertility and medicine, represented the male productive forces of nature, and was regarded as sovereign of the kingdom of the dead. He was represented by the Greeks with long hair and beard, and a large cloak covering his entire body except the arms, seated on a throne with Kerberos at his feet. He was represented as a mummy, with the crescent moon and two flails in the Egyptian iconography. Isis, the wife of Osiris and Goddess of motherhood and fertility, was identified firsly with Demeter, but later was associated with other Goddesses such as Aphrodite, Athena or Artemis. She was represented at the Egyptian manner, sometimes with a double crown holding the feather of Maat, or a pair of lyre-shaped horns, and in the half the solar disk. She was also frequently represented sitting with her son Horus in her arms, breastfeeding him. The last god of the 'Alexandrian triad’ was Horus, son of Isis and Osiris. Osiris, after being murdered by his brother Seth, resurrected and had, with Isis, Horus. To the Alexandrians and the Greeks, Horus was equated with Apollon.

Another Alexandrian God was Hermanubis, a combination of Hermes and Anubis. The jackal God was here identified with Hermes Psychopompos, but also was identified with Thoth, the ibis-headed scribe. There were many another assimilations between both pantheons: Hathor and Aphrodite, Min and Pan, Mut and Hera, Nefertum and Prometheus, Ra and also Sobek with Helios, Neith and Athena, Bastet and Artemis, Onuris and Ares, Nekhbet and Eileithyia, and Heryshef and Heracles, amongst others.

But Dionysos was undoubtedly the most accepted Hellenic God by the Alexandrians. Unlike most Hellenic gods, Dionysos was worshiped By His Hellenic name, without being equated with any Egyptian deity. He was the favorite God of Alexander the Great, who, like his mother Olympias, was involved in the Dionysian Mysteries. The kings of the Ptolemaic dynasty, considering themselves the successors of Alexander, encouraged the continuation of the cult throughout their entire reign.

Reconstructing a Graeco-Egyptian pantheon and practice is possible, and I have seen it done. It’ll take a lot of research and a deep understanding of both religious practices to do it respectfully, but I believe a very rewarding practice await those who feel drawn to this pantheon.

anonymous asked:

I know Set has positive and negative aspects, but I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Is he like Yin and Yang? Bad with some good, good with some bad. Or is he like a storm? Nourishing but potentially destructive?

Seth’s a lot of things. He’s a wild storm that can blow back invaders or can cause destruction for inhabitants who wrong him.
He’s a great lover but he’s also an avenger. (many wives / smites a/phofis and attacks enemies of egypt)

It’s more like…accepting a complex figure. I don’t think he’s evil. Obviously. I know from academics and historical primary sources that in the old ages – before middle kingdom, new kingdom and especially the graeco-egyptian era, he was highly benevolent. 

He protected Egypt against invaders coming from the sea, had healing qualities, ect.

Many other egyptologists here and there agree- he’s not as evil as he’s painted out to be.

“…there is no real Devil in Egyptian theology. Set, the murdere of Osiris, was only evil in specific contexts. He represented the barren desert and the storm, forces of disorder, but he could sometimes be personable and agreeable, holding the ladder for the dead king to mount to heaven and helping Re repel the threatening Serpent. ”
Red Land Black Land

So I guess for your answer, he’s not just evil and good. He’s a complex character, but then again these gods are anthromorpic – meaning they are like humans in some ways. This case being his complex personality. 

But what I can tell you is this, despite killing Osiris, in most myths before greek intervention or periods where he fell out of favor (with invaders associating theirselves with Set, pissing the native egyptians off) he was beloved. He protects Ma’at, rides with Re as he is the only one strong enough to smite a/phofis daily. 

We have art of men who desired to be close to him, he was their patron and they felt honored to be named after him. (Stele of Aapathey)

Kings honored him (early ones and then the seti family). He was – and still is a friend to the dead. 

I know this is probably not the answer you wanted, but it’s not black and white. It’s a little more complicated than that. The way I see it is that, for example, the killing of Osiris was both bad and good – it was murder, but Osiris was known to torture Seth and struggled to deal with Re’s power in the form of the crown. When he’s killed, it’s mentioned he’s purified. (BOTD texts)
Seth, in some cases with Thoth, is mentioned weeping for Osiris. Also, as some scholars note (I believe I posted something with this, you might have to dig through my archive) that seth started the cycle for kings. Life, death, succession, repeat. 



Purity; peace; resurrection; royalty.

Sacred to all Virgin Goddesses, the Mother and Maid, the One and the Many.

The lily also represents the fertility of the Earth Goddess and later of the sky gods.

The lily in the West shares the symbolism of the lotus in the East.

A branch of lilies depicts virginity, also regeneration and immortality.

Alchemic: The white lily is the feminine principle

Christian: Purity; innocence; the Virgin Mary; its straight stalk is her godly mind, its pendant leaves her humility, its fragrance is divinity, its whiteness is purity; it is also a symbol of the Annunciation and of virgin saints, as chastity; it is the flower of Easter. Dante calls it the ‘lily of faith’. The lily among thorns depicts the Immaculate Conception as purity in the midst of sins of the world. In art a lily on one side and a sword on the other depict innocence and guilt.

Egyptian: Fruitfulness, but the lotus is more frequently used in Egyptian symbolism.

Graeco-Roman: Purity; it sprang from the milk of Hera and is an emblem of Hera/Juno and of Diana as chastity.

Hebrew: Trust in God; emblem of the tribe of Judah.

Islamic: Its symbolism can be taken by the hyacinth.

Minoan: Chief attribute of the goddess Britomartis.

Sumero-Semitic: Fruitfulness; fecundity.

[Source: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols by J.C. Cooper]

theghostonthestairs  asked:

Hello! A friend recommended you, is there anything you can tell me about Hecate? I'm kind of at ground zero.

Ohhhh boy, do I ever! Most of what a Google search will find on this magnificent Goddess is based upon later sources, or are moderately recent inventions. Note that I have no problem with that: I believe the Theoi can change—especially in the eyes of the people who worship Them—and one of the ways They do so is by the practice of epithets. So, in my personal practice, this modern version of Hekate is an epithet of Her that I respect, but do not offer sacrifice to. Yet, even in the time of the ancient Hellenes, Hekate’s domains were entirely re-invented, so to say She would not have changed after the fall of the Hellenic empire seems not only futile to me, but disrespectful to a very adaptable Titan Goddess.

Hekate’s (Ἑκατη) worship was most likely imported from Thrace or Anatolia, where—especially at the latter—records were found of children being named after Her. This version of Her is single-faced, rules in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, is a Theia of childbirth—to both animals and humans—and it is She who bestows wealth on mortals, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle. Yet, if mortals do not deserve Her gifts, she can withhold them from them just as easily. After the Titanomachy, Zeus bestowed upon Her the highest of honors. This is the Hekate found in Hesiod’s Theogony, written around 700 BC:

“Again, Phoebe came to the desired embrace of Coeus. […] And she conceived and bare Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Cronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. 
Also, because she is an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her. Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. 

And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less. So, then. albeit her mother’s only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Cronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young, and these are her honours.” (ll. 404-452)

Epithets associated with this version of Her are:

  • Krataeis (the Mighty One)
  • Kourotrophos (nurse of children)
  • Soteira (“Saviour”)

It is speculated that Hesiod hailed from a region where Hekate was heavily worshipped, and as such, his views upon Her power and stature were not reflected in the rest of Hellas, where other—Olympian—divinities took up her role—Artemis as the protector of animals, Nemesis as the administrator of justice, Selene as Theia of the moon, etc. As such, it was only logical that her power was dwindled down some—or, more accurately, focussed—into darker territories like the night, the (new) moon, spirits, the underworld, and sorcery when her cult spread throughout Hellas.

The Homeric Hymn to Demeter—composed somewhere in the late seventh century BC or the sixth century BC—sets this in motion, making Her an Underworld Goddess, and giving Her a Khthonius character. She becomes linked to caves, to torches, to night, and the Underworld itself. This transitional Hekate—still a protector of youth, and a bringer of plenty, but a more mysterious Goddess, linked to both the upper- and lower world—aids Persephone by being a torchbearer to Her mother, and by watching over Persephone when She is in the Underworld. When it is time for Persephone to leave, it is Hekate who guides Her out. It is this Hekate that is linked to the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Epithets associated with these events are:

  • Propolos (the attendant who leads)
  • Phosphoros (the light-bringer)

Hellenic tragedians felt drawn to the Khthonic side of Hekate, and slowly Hekate transformed into a Titan Goddess of the night, the moon, and (protection against) witchcraft, ghosts and necromancy. In this period, roughly around the fifth century BC, She also became the Goddess associated with crossroads, and Her triple form was born. Pausanias’ ‘Description of Greece’ wrote of this form:

"Of the gods, the Aeginetans worship most Hecate, in whose honor every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alcamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hecate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipurgidia (on the Tower); it stands beside the temple of the Wingless Victory.” [2.30.2] 

There are two versions of this depiction. Both forms—when made into a statue—are called ‘Hekataia’. The first are three women, beautiful and young—a maiden, as Hekate was always depicted—usually around a pillar, holding various attributes. A version of Her in this depiction can be found on the right. Statues like these used to stand at crossroads in ancient Hellas, as well as near the gates to a home, which was just as much a crossroads. Hekate, in this form, became a Goddess of purification, expiation, and protection, associated with thresholds and gates, both reaching back to the Underworld association. Very rarely, She was represented with a single body, and three heads, all looking different ways.

In another, scarier, and more bestial version, Hekate is depicted similarly as above, but with the heads of various animals. The Greek Magical Papyri, or Papyri Graecae Magicae, name the three as such, but variations exist:

“Take a Lodestone and on it have carved a Three-faced Hekate. And let the Middle Face be that of a Maiden wearing Horns, and the Left Face that of a Dog, and the One on the Right that of a Goat.”

It is this Hekate that is appeased with the Deipnon, at the new moon: the last day of the month. These days, when the nights kept getting darker and darker, were some of the scariest days of the month, and were considered impure. The night when the moon completely disappeared was sacred to Hekate, as Hekate was able to placate the souls in Her wake, and could purify the household of miasma accumulated during the month. Removing this miasma allowed the members of the household to call on Hekate during the following month in times of need—as we have seen was common practice—and be more likely to have Her look favorably upon the supplicant.

Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
  • Apotropaia (that turns away/protects)
  • Enodia (Goddess of the paths)
  • Klêidouchos (Keeper of the Keys)
  • Propylaia (the one before the gate)
  • Tricephalus or Triceps (The Three-Headed)
  • Triodia/Trioditis (who frequents crossroads)
  • Trimorphe (three-formed)

The spell above—taken from the Papyri—is used to make a protective amulet, and offer protection much in the same way as her three-formed appearance at crossroads and entrances does. Then again, the Hekate in the Papyri is not a gentile being. The materials in the Papyri—which are Graeco-Roman Egyptian in origin—stem from anywhere between the second century BC to the fifth century AD, and show a much darker—although highly honored—part of Her, still linked to many other Goddesses:

“To You, wherefore they call You Hekate, Many-named, Mene, cleaving Air just like Dart-shooter Artemis, Persephone, Shooter of Deer, night shining, triple-sounding, Triple-headed, triple-voiced Selene, Triple-pointed, triple-faced, triple-necked, And Goddess of the Triple Ways, who hold untiring Flaming Fire in Triple Baskets, And You who oft frequent the Triple Way and rule the Triple Decades, unto me Who’m calling You be gracious and with Kindness give Heed, You who protect the Spacious World At night, before whom Daimons quake in Fear and Gods Immortal tremble, Goddess who Exalt Men, You of Many Names, who bear Fair Offspring, Bull-eyed, Horned, Mother of Gods And Men, and Nature, Mother of All Things, for You frequent Olympos, and the broad And boundless Chasm You traverse. Beginning and End are You, and You Alone rule All. For All Things are from You, and in You do all Things, Eternal One, come to their End. As Everlasting Band around Your Temples you wear Great Kronos’ Chains, unbreakable And unremovable, and You hold in Your Hands a Golden Scepter. Letters ‘round Your Scepter Kronos wrote Himself and gave to You to wear that All Things stay steadfast: Subduer and subdued, Mankind’s Subduer, and Force-subduer; Chaos, too, You rule. Hail, Goddess, and attend Your Epithets, I burn for You this Spice, O Child of Zeus, Dart-shooter, Heav’nly One, Goddess of Harbors, who roam the Mountains, Goddess of Crossroads, O Nether and Nocturnal, and Infernal, Goddess of Dark, Quiet and Frightful One, O You who have Your Meal amid the Graves, Night, Darkness, Broad Chaos: Necessity Hard to escape are You; You’re Moira and Erinys, Torment, Justice and Destroyer, And You keep Kerberos in Chains, with Scales of Serpents are You dark, O You with Hair Of Serpents, Serpent-girded, who drink Blood, who bring Death and Destruction, and who feast On Hearts, Flesh Eater, who devour Those Dead untimely, and You who make Grief resound And spread Madness, come to my Sacrifices, and now for me do You fulfill this Matter.”

Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
  • Antania (Enemy of mankind)
  • Khthonian (Earth/Underworld goddess)
  • Prytania (invincible Queen of the Dead)

Throughout the following centuries—especially with the rise of Christianity—Hekate lost many of Her domains, and a greater focus was placed upon her darker features. Slowly, she became a sorceress, a witch, out to destroy the common man. By this time, she also became a crone. Around 1600 AD, William Shakesear describes the common opinion of Her best in his Macbeth:

"Have I not reason, beldams as you are? Saucy and overbold, how did you dare to trade and traffic with Macbeth in riddles and affairs of death, and I, the mistress of your charms, the close contriver of all harms, was never called to bear my part, or show the glory of our art?”

Hekate as the Queen of Witches, teacher of magic(k), ready to deal with desperate souls. This version of Hekate, especially combined with the Papyri Graecae Magicae, inspired occultist Aleister Crowley to write his Hymn for Her, and describe Her as a maiden-mother-crone trinity with Persephone and Demeter—the Goddesses with whom she was identified at Eleusis—in his 1917 novel ‘Moonchild’:

“…and thirdly, she is Hecate, a thing altogether of Hell, barren, hideous and malicious, the queen of death and evil witchcraft. […] Hecate is the crone, the woman past all hope of motherhood, her soul black with envy and hatred of happier mortals; the woman in the fullness of life is the sublime Persephone, for whose sake Demeter cursed the fields that they brought forth no more corn, until Hades consented to restore her to earth for half the year.”

Gerald Gardner—as all whom have been around the Neo-Pagan circles for a while undoubtedly know—was a great fan of Crowley, and used much of his teachings to create Wicca. This is how the modern image of Hekate entered modern Neo-Paganism, and how Hekate changed from a benign and helpful Goddess of animals, childbirth and victory into a Goddess associated with the dead, with magick, and sorcery. For those of you reading this who are not Hellenistic, perhaps this post will help you understand why Hellenists are usually not so happy with Hekate’s current image—if you weren’t already aware of those reasons. For Hellenists reading this, perhaps this post sheds some light on the modern incarnation of Hekate, and helps you figure out in what incarnation you want to worship Her at your home. Whatever the case, to my knowledge there isn’t a single other Hellenic Goddess who managed to reinvent Herself as much as Hekate did. In a changing time, Hekate found a way to stay current, and be revered by many around the globe: a divine skill, indeed, and one worthy of honors and respect.

A peculiar feature of Egyptian magic was that threats might be directed not only at the forces causing the problem, but at the deities who were asked to intervene. One spell warns that no offerings will be made on the divine altars if the gods do not make the magic work. A  love charm ends with a threat that Busiris, one of the sites where Osiris was buried, will be burned if the client does not get what he wants.

In myth, Osiris was the most vulnerable of the gods and this is exploited in magic. In the Book /or Banishing an Enemy, Osiris is  threatened with not being allowed to journey to his two sacred cities, Busiris in the north and Abydos in the south. The magician even threatens to take on the role of Seth and destroy the body of Osiris. In one spell in the Graeco-Egyptian papyri, the magician threatens to prevent the burial of the mummy of Osiris unless he gets his desire.

The most direct way to influence a god was to interfere with their cult.
Deities are sometimes threatened with the pollution and desecration of their temples and the slaughter of their sacred animals. A headache spell promises to kill a sacred cow in the forecourt of the cow goddess Hathor and slaughter a hippopotamus in the forecourt of Seth. The magician even threatens to wrap the sacred image of Anubis in a flayed dog skin and that of the crocodile god Sobek in a crocodile skin. These sacrilegious acts would have been grossly offensive to any pious Egyptian.

Some threats involve cosmic disaster on a grand scale. The Nile will not rise, the sky will fall to earth, the whole cycle of the sun will falter, if the spell fails. The magician usually protects himself by saying ‘It is not me that is saying this but X’ — X being the god whose role he is playing in the rite. This suggests that even though it was only role playing, the Egyptians themselves had doubts about this procedure. Words were powerful, so such formulae might actually damage maat.

Possibly these formulae are not so much threats as predictions. The magician is speaking on behalf of humanity; reminding heaven that if people are not regularly cured and protected they will lose faith in the gods and cease to make offerings, maintain the temples, and respect sacred animals. The magician is only demanding the enforcement of a kind of divine contract. If the gods do not help mankind, the whole divine order will collapse.

It is probably wrong to give too much weight to this particular feature of magical texts. Threats are just one of a number of standard manoeuvres. A personified disease, or the supernatural beings invoked to contend with it, may be pleaded with, cajoled, lied to, flattered and threatened, all within the same spell. Even then, the written script was only a part of the magician’s armoury.

—  Magic in AE, Pinch pgs73-75

Graeco-Egyptian relief from the “Tomb of Persephone” at Alexandria, Egypt: lower register, left to right, Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, and Haides abducting Persephone; upper register,
left, Nekhbet and Nephthys (winged),
right, Wadjet and Isis (winged); Isis and Nephthys spread Their wings in protection; center, Anubis performing the sacred rites for Osiris (lying upon His lion couch, below it the four canopic jars); next to Anubis is represented Horus in His form of sacred falcon, spreading His wings in protection.