Reflections on the Enigmatic Goddess: The Origins of Hekate and the Development of her Character to the End of the Fifth Century B.C.
Harvey, William James
This is a study aimed at reconsidering the origins, in the broadest sense of the word, of the ancient goddess Hekate. To the best of our knowledge, what is the geographical provenance of Hekate? What does the evidence for the goddess up to the end of the fifth century B.C. tell us about the development of her character in the Greek religious world? Why did Hekate acquire such frightening and evil connections to the supernatural and black magic by this point? Although several theories have been proposed about the origin of Hekate, a Karian provenance remains the most likely, notwithstanding the Hellenistic date of the evidence that is normally cited. Tenuous links and methodological flaws characterise the theories that she was Mycenaean or Mesopotamian, while the Thracian theory rests on a fallacious assumption that Hekate evolved from the Thracian Bendis. The Karian theory is propped up by a variety of data that allows us to draw back incrementally the date to which Hekate’s worship in the region may be assigned. Evidence until the end of the fifth century is chronologically dichotomous: the earliest evidence, Hesiod’s Theogony, depicts a great, benevolent goddess, while evidence from the second half of the fifth century characterizes Hekate as a malevolent deity connected to ghosts, witchcraft, and sorcery who could and would occasion grievous harm to people, especially parturient women or newborns. This aspect of Hekate’s divinity in relation to women’s transitions and the failure thereof seems to have become particularly pronounced following her introduction to the Panhellenic pantheon and her mythic subordination to Artemis. But did the goddess ever bear inherent connections to the dead, despite Hesiod’s glowing Hymn to her? Milesian archaeological evidence suggests she might have. However, it was the acquisition of magical properties that ultimately extinguished much of Hekate’s benevolence. It seems most likely that the Thessalian reputation for black magic, which was a direct result of medism in 485 and 480 B.C., was causative of this, given Hekate’s close association with the Thessalian Enodia.
Advisor: Garthwaite, John
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Classics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Hekate; Hecate; Ancient Greek Religion; Ancient Near Eastern Religion; Theogony; Homeric Hymn to Demeter; Fifth Century Athens; Women in Antiquity; Hesiod; Enodia; Miletos; Caria; Karia; Witchcraft in Antiquity; Sorcery in Antiquity; Ghosts in Antiquity; Bendis; Aōrai; Chthonic Deities; Pindar; Miletus; Extramural Burial in Antiquity; Artemis; Kybele; Cybele; Magic; Medism
Research Type: Thesis