Hecate’s Wheel is a beautiful and ornate symbol, often worn as an amulet or simply drawn as decorations on various objects.
The question is, though, what exactly does Hecate’s Wheel represent?
Hecate’s Wheel is a symbol commonly used in modern paganism and witchcraft to invoke the magical powers of the goddess Hecate or to ask for her protection and guidance. The symbol itself was created in modern times but is based on ancient descriptions of Hecate.
Who was Hecate?
Hecate was an ancient Greek goddess whose roles and powers were usually associated with crossroads, entryways, night, magic, the Moon, death, and the Underworld.
Generally speaking, Hecate was a goddess that ruled over transition points, when one state transformed into another.
Thus, Hecate held domain over the moments when life passed into death, the day into night, when crossing from one land to another, or when the physical world met the realm of the gods.
Hecate was almost always depicted in triple form, either as a single woman with three heads or as three women standing back-to-back to one another. Each of these heads represented an aspect of the world, such as the sky, Underworld or the Crone.
Hecate’s symbols were torches, dogs, serpents, keys, and knives, with torches being the most common.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Hecate was strongly associated with crossroads, where numerous small shrines and statues of hers were placed as divine protection for travelers.
Hecate was a popular goddess among the Greeks and later among the Romans, who adopted the Greek pantheon.
Because of her ambiguous powers, she was often associated or combined with other goddesses such as Artemis, Diana, Isis, Selene, Trivia (meaning “three way” in Latin), Demeter, Luna etc.
Since ancient times, Hecate has always been the goddess of witchcraft and sorcery. This is because magic was thought to happen when the supernatural forces of the divine realm interacted with the mortal plane.
Thus, witches and priestesses would often pray to Hecate so that the goddess might grant them supernatural powers, even if for a single moment.
Because of her rich mythology and symbolism, as well as her association with magic, Hecate has become a central deity among modern Wiccans and pagan religions.
Hecate’s Wheel explained
At first glance, Hecate’s Wheel seems very abstract, but its lines and shapes offer a subtle explanation of the Wheel’s symbolism and also of Hecate’s role and powers.
Thus, the easiest way to understand Hecate’s Wheel is to analyze it piece by piece, starting from the center:
Many statues of Hecate depict her holding one or more torches in her hands.
This is because statues of Hecate were often placed at crossroads so that Hecate’s torch lit up the path of travelers so they could orient themselves and find the right way.
But Hecate was also the goddess of doorways, and in this case, her torch illuminates the face of the visitor and allows the person inside to know if the visitor is friend or foe.
The torch thus symbolizes Hecate’s role as a vigilant protector deity that helps a person avoid danger.
This function of Hecate as a guardian deity also explains why she was so often associated with watchdogs and keys, both of which exist to protect the known from the unknown.
Because of this, Hecate’s Wheel can function as a protection amulet, where the user can avoid danger through the use of their own senses.
The Three Heads of Hecate
Outside the torch is the winding, road-like pattern that forms three crescents.
Hecate is most commonly depicted as three women who stand back-to-back, with each head representing one particular aspect of the trinity.
Thus, the three crescents inside Hecate’s Wheel represent the three heads of the goddess.
Likewise, depending on which ancient Greek or Roman author you read, Hecate’s three heads could represent any of the following trinities:
- Birth, life and death (Servius).
- Past, present and future.
- Earth, Sea and Sky (Hesiod).
Another important aspect is that the pattern itself is drawn in a single line, without breaks.
This symbolizes that every aspect of the trinity is different but also interconnected with everything else because there is no life without birth, death without life, or a present without a past.
And so, the inner pattern of Hecate’s Wheel can be interpreted to represent the cycle of life and the interconnectedness of all things.
Hecate as a Moon deity
In most designs, the torch and winding patterns of Hecate’s Wheel are enveloped in an outer ring.
This outer ring represents Hecate’s mythological role as a Moon deity, which in most mythologies and religions is associated with femininity but also the mysterious.
According to some interpretations of Greek mythology, Hecate, Artemis, and Selene formed a divine triad of moon goddesses, each representing a particular aspect of the moon.
Selene was the personification of the Moon, Artemis was the Moon goddess of hunting and nature; while Hecate represented the Underworld and was the one who opened the gates of death.
Hecate thus functioned as a psychopomp, meaning a divine figure that guides the souls of the deceased into the afterlife.
This role of Hecate as a guide of souls can be found in many ancient Greek and Roman texts, where it is said Hecate would dwell near the blood of a deceased person or within tombs.
Because of her association with the Underworld and participation in the Greek moon deity triad, some modern Wiccan traditions and pagan cults consider Hecate to represent the “crone” aspect of the Triple Goddess, alongside the “maiden” and “mother” aspects.
Symbolism of Hecate’s Wheel in Wicca and paganism
Modern pagan traditions such as Wicca have adopted Hecate’s Wheel as an emblem of witchcraft, but also of protection and vigilance.
In this sense, Hecate’s Wheel has similar functions and origins to the Witch’s Knot, another emblem of female witchcraft and power.
It’s important to note, though, that the Hecate worshipped among modern pagans is not the same as the Hecate worshipped by the ancient Greeks.
For example, the Greek Hecate mostly fulfilled the role of a protector deity. Her main role was to protect the living by guiding the souls of the departed to the Underworld, so that the dead might not trouble the realm of the living.
By comparison, modern pagan traditions almost exclusively view Hecate as a goddess of witchcraft, worshipped by those who wish to practice magic.
Another difference is that some pagan traditions view Hecate as the “Crone” aspect of the Triple Goddess.
However, the ancient Greeks did not have the concept of a Triple Goddess, nor of the “maid-mother-crone” division. In fact, both the Greeks and Romans generally depicted Hecate as a young or middle-aged woman and not as an old woman, as is typical of the crone.
There are many more differences besides these, but the point remains that the ancient Greek Hecate and the modern pagan Hecate are different from one another, even if their histories are intertwined.
- Mythology of All Races by Louis Herbert Gray and John Arnott MacCulloch
- The History Of Witchcraft And Demonology by Montague Summers
- Man, Myth & Magic The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Mythology by Richard Cavendish
- Demons and elementals by John Gatehouse
- The Lesser Key of Solom
- The Key of Solomon
- The Kybalion by Three Initiates
- The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall
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