Friday, 24 June 2016
HEKATE IN HALIFAX
Hekate, Ancient Goddess, Modern Devotion. Origins, Myth and Worship in the present day a talk given by Vicky Newton.
Early in July 2015 I travelled to one of my favourite cities, the vibrant and ever welcoming city of Leeds. This visit was to attend a talk by a friend of mine at the Halifax Moot, in the town outside of Leeds and on the other side of Bradford.
The train journey was uneventful and my arrival in Leeds was as always welcoming. Stopping only for a moment to check my bearings and my map once outside of the Railway Station, a local woman paused on her own journey to give me directions voluntarily and without prompting. That is how Yorkshire folk roll.
Once my orientation was satisfied I took a leisurely walk across the centre of the metropolis to reach the Travelodge on Vicar Lane, set just off the main shopping areas. Dropping my light overnight bag with a most helpful concierge, I set off to find a suitable eatery.
I finally decided on Nash’s Fish and Chip Restaurant on Harrogate Road, close to the Opera House. After climbing what I found to be an excessive number of stairs due to recent illness, I settled down in the very comfortable surroundings of this delightful restaurant.
Here I enjoyed the experience of a truly exceptional table service and thoroughly enjoyed the vegetarian special of the day. Now of course it may seem odd that a self-professed vegetarian, no matter how hypocritical in his personal life with regard the wearing of leather shoes, would choose to dine at a fish and chip restaurant. However, from the outside the restaurant had a rather appealing look and on entering, I found the stylish décor equally appealing to my pretentious and perhaps rather snobbish nature.
The restaurant was reasonably busy, catering for the matinee audience eating before the show started in the nearby Opera House. Much to my amusement I was asked if I also was attending by the staff, this gave me the pleasure of explaining no but I had already seen Glen Carter in Jesus Christ Superstar precisely one week previous. I was able add with equally honest pleasure, that it was a truly great show.
Returning to the hotel after lunch via the side street running alongside the Opera House and thereby making a mental note of the queuing crowds, I settled myself into my room for a period of rest, before it was time to meet my friend once more.
So it was that late that afternoon in the hotel foyer, I met my friend Vicky Newton, the presenter of the evening talk that I had journeyed to hear. Although we are in regular communication, it had been some months since our last meeting, so it was a great pleasure to meet once more. We repeated my slow walk of earlier in the day in reverse, to catch our train to Halifax.
Halifax is an attractive town nestled in a wooded valley, the land around looked good walking country. Vicky Newton was booked to present her talk on the Goddess Hekate in a pub, just a short uphill walk from the station itself.
The Railway Pub is situated on a street corner at 29 Horton Street, Halifax, (HX1 1QE West Yorkshire), it is a pleasant Victorian public house. The bar staff were friendly and helpful, although the pub did not serve mead, it did a good quality Irish whiskey. Bushmill’s is the next best thing as far as I am concerned, so I was quite happy with my tipple for the evening.
The gathering was small, intimate and friendly, hosted by Jon Hoyle the proprietor of a shop called the Friendly Dragon, situated at 24 Horton Street (Halifax, West Yorkshire) a short uphill walk from the pub.
The evening began with a brief introduction, first by Mr Hoyle and then elaborated further by Mrs Newton herself. Vicky Newton describes herself as a solitary practitioner of a craft ‘undefined;’ blending as it does an interest in British prehistory and folk tradition, to create her own unique praxis. Mrs Newton has been she tells us, Pagan for some sixteen years but during the last five, Vicky has been a devotee of Hekate.
This focused devotion upon this most enigmatic and important Goddess, has led Mrs Newton to further develop her personal praxis. Hekate is, as Vicky was at pains to emphasise; known to lead her devotees down many paths, both in terms of experience, revelation and research. In the service of Hekate, Vicky Newton has found herself stretched and tested.
Importantly, one of those tests for Vicky Newton is the sharing of her experience and learning with others, in writing and in lecturing. Which quite obviously, leads us to our meeting in Halifax.
Vicky Newton opened her presentation with a question, who is Hekate? Noting importantly that she chooses deliberately to use the older Greek spelling with a K, as opposed to the Latin C. We were taken through the possible origins of the Goddess from the Anatolian region of modern Turkey through to the Hellenic development. A Goddess of many layers was presented, a Goddess of the Crossroads, the Restless Dead, liminal, earthy and the Torchbearer.
Our knowledge of this all important Goddess is derived from a variety of sources, mythological, archaeological and literary. The Hekate we perceive today in some modern and rather new age influenced works, bears little resemblance to her more ancient depictions.
These ancient beginnings are suggested by her Anatolian origin outside of Greece and that in the sacred mythologies of the Hellenic age, Hekate is a Titan pre-dating the Olympian Pantheon. As a daughter of Perses and Asteria, Hekate is the inheritor of a portion of the Earth, the Sky and the Unfruitful Seas.
The sources themselves were listed for the audience to facilitate further study, they included the Orphic Hymns, the Chaldean Oracles, the famous Greek Magical Papyri (Papyi Graecae Magicae), the Eleusinian Mysteries, the writings of the Neo-Platonic school and the various mythologies already alluded to.
Moving on to the question of depictions visual of the Goddess, we looked upon the classical triformis manifestation. Hekate not simply a crone figure and not the elder of the modern triple goddess depiction, so beloved todays’ Pagans. Hekate stands rather as a strong, regal woman of indeterminate age, a trinity of identical queenly features.
Many of the more ancient texts speak of Hekate not as a crone but as a maiden (in the older sense). Mrs Newton suggests that this confusion with other crone figures in mythology, is based on their shared apotropaic abilities with Hekate.
In looking at those symbols associated with Hekate, we gained a brief overview of such ubiquitous items as the Dagger, the Cord and the Torch, Keys, Doors and perhaps most famously, the Crossroad. Finally leading to that most enigmatic of Hekatean symbols, the Strophalos (Heakate’s Wheel). The (om)phalos or central hub is unsurprisingly, the axis around which other energies or symbols rotate. It is the flame around which the serpent twists in a spiral and both are symbols of Her knowledge.
Finally as the evening drew to a close, Mrs Newton made a brief mention, regarding the confusion of Hekate with the minor Egyptian Goddess Heka. An unfortunate conflation derived from a similarity in pronunciation and the croak of frogs in a humorous work. This proposed link between the two Goddesses although once popular, is now often dismissed as a literary error. Our speaker did not spend a great deal of time explaining what some now consider to be a theological cul-de-sac but focused rather on the references and their disputed relevance.
Dismissing this quickly, Mrs Newton began to close her presentation with a concise overview of the modern Hekatean movement, ranging from the Covenant of Hekate, Mystai of the Moon and Primal Craft; whilst observing that there are numerous small, independent groups devoted to the service of Hekate.
Hekate it should be noted, is a challenging patron and yet her service is a reward in itself. As one would expect from such a well versed speaker, the presentation was equally challenging, bringing its own reward, both in the knowledge displayed and the stimulus for further research.
RELEVANT PLACES IN LEEDS AND HALIFAX
Travelodge Vicar Lane Leeds:
Nash’s Fish and Chip Restaurant: http://www.originalnashs.co.uk/
The Railway Pub 29 Horton Street, HX1 1QE Halifax, West Yorkshire
The Halifax Moot is hosted by Jon Hoyle of the shop the Friendly Dragon at 24 Horton Street Halifax, West Yorkshire:
BLOGS BY VICKY NEWTON
OTHER RELEVANT BLOGS
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
DAY OF MYSTERIES AND MAGIC II (SATURDAY 25th OCTOBER 2014) LEEDS UK
PAGAN PRIDE (NOTTINGHAM UK) 2nd August 2015