Following the release of the exciting new anthology Hekate: Her Sacred Fires I have now been given the opportunity to share with you all the practical dedication that I perform daily which formed the basis of my essay – ‘Swaying with the Serpent : A Study of the Serpent Girdled Hekate’.
The essay is a study of the serpent-girdled Hekate: an aspect of the Goddess Hekate which embraces both her chthonic aspects and her role as Mistress of Life. We find Hekate portrayed in ritual-trance prophesies as a ‘solar’ or ‘fire’ deity – the origin of the vital life force, which is often portrayed as a spiraling serpent-like energy. This type of symbolism is in many ways more in keeping with her original character, and Hekate’s roots can be found in such deities as Hekate of Lagina in south-west Turkey who was accompanied by serpents and worshipped as a deity of fertility and dance; the Syrian Goddess Atargatis who was originally revered as a serpent-girdled tutelary deity; and the chthonic aspects of the fertility Goddess Mater Magna of Anatolia. My essay also touches on the possible mysteries behind the cista mystica, Hekate’s role in trance prophesy, her association with Dionysos Sabazios and Bacchic frenzy, her role as feminine equivalent to the solar Gods Apollo and Helios, and her fitting role as the Wilful Goddess: ‘the one by whose will prayers are fulfilled and success granted’. The essay also looks at the serpent aspects of Hekate’s tool the Strophalos and its association with sacred sounds, and Hekate’s importance in the Eleusinian mysteries.
I hope you enjoy this practical task, and please do let me know about your experiences if you feel you would like to share them! Be aware however, this technique WORKS so do not be surprised if what you ask for, you get. Be careful with what you ask Hekate to grant.
Start by decorating your altar or sacred space with images of Hekate: if possible, in her serpent-entwined, serpent-flanked, or serpent-headed form. You will also need a red ‘serpent’ cord which is knotted nine times, three altar candles, a charcoal block, a pot of incense (such as frankincense or storax ) a single apple or pomegranate and a bone knife and a bronze or copper bowl (a singing bowl is ideal). The altar candles and the charcoal block should be lit, and a small amount of incense added to the charcoal to smoke. You might like to call Hekate into the working space, perhaps by using an evocation from a text such as The Greek Magical Papyri or perhaps by intuitively writing your own. In my own experience this aspect of Hekate seems to appreciate intuitive and impulsive acts, and so this is the method I tend to use. Sometimes a simple (but focused) repetition or chant of her name can be enough to attract her presence into the working space.
Sit in front of the altar in loose clothing with your back straight, and close your eyes. Hold the knotted cord in your hands, like a coiled snake; contemplate upon it, and consider it real and alive. You will move one hand along the knots of the cord with each breath you take, so that you do not need to consciously count. First, exhale as completely as possible, and then start to breathe deeply from the belly: gently fill the base of your lungs with air and incense as completely as is comfortable, allowing your stomach to expand rather than your chest. Do not force the breath; your breathing should be both slow and inaudible. Repeat the breath nine times and with each breath move your hand along one knot. Each time you breath in, visualise yourself filling fully and completely with the fires of Hekate. Visualise her fires becoming hotter and brighter with every breath you take; they revitalise you, they consume you. Feel her power pulse through you, like a heartbeat; see the Inyx spinning in your minds’ eye; feel your consciousness begin to ascend; feel yourself stepping closer to the threshold between the material world and the spirit world. As you do so, allow your eyes (whilst still closed) to drift up towards your forehead. Try not to rationalise; take your time with each breath, to fully experience Hekate’s fires; there is no rush.
When you have completed the nine breaths begin to visualise Hekate’s serpent, either rising within you or appearing in front of you, and starting to coil around your body. Continue to breathe slowly and purposefully. With each breath in the serpent rises up your body further, coiling around you entirely. Take your time with this process, there is no rush; this can be a truly euphoric feeling if done correctly. Some find that in this moment they feel the need to move with the serpent or even dance; and after practising this technique several times you might decide to take in some suitable music to sway to, as an offering to Hekate. Now the snake reaches the back of your neck, and comes up and over the top of your head, settling down upon your forehead. It is at this point that you may receive an oracle or prophesy. Should you be dancing, you might find this part is easier laid or sat back down, with the spine straight. Take your time to experience Helicoidal Hekate; you might also take this opportunity to ask for a dream or some other request.
When you are ready, request the serpent to leave and visualise it coiling back down your body and back into the ground. Place both palms upon the ground, and visualise the fires cooling, until just a spark burns within you. Leave that spark there, as it is your unique connection to Hekate. Now chime the bone knife slowly and purposefully upon the bronze or copper bowl nine times. Slice a whole apple or pomegranate in half upon the altar, and eat one half of the fruit. When the rite is ended, offer the other half to Hekate at a local crossroads.