Over the Hedge
The big picture for Sergei’s theory begins some time before the rise of Greek culture. He tried to describe what time frame he was talking about, but didn’t know the English name for it and for all I know he never knew the Russian one either, so it was only after I searched online and asked if he was talking about the Minoan civilization, and he vaguely agreed, that I decided to just go with that and move on. But the broad sweep of his theory had a few major sections.
First, that Hecate predates the Greeks. He believes basically all the Greek gods predate the Greeks as a culture, in fact, but that’s not the point here. Sergei pointed to an idea that Hecate is originally from modern-day Turkey, near the coast on the southwest, though he seemed somewhat unconvinced of the specifics. I have no idea how they came to that specific location, but Sergei said it was a specific temple and I decided to look it up later. By this theory, the people who originally worshiped Hecate would have been monotheistic, serving their dread goddess with no rival or distraction. I asked how a society could function if their sole moral ideal was a goddess of undeath and magic, and he noted that monotheistic faiths don’t have gods of anything. They have a single god of everything, and what we pagans see as foci are just personality. For instance, there are these claims that the Jewish god was just a Babylonian sky god who got his own spin-off series, but Sergei believes it would be more accurate to say that the Jewish people had this one god, and the Babylonians may have adopted him into their pantheon and relegated him to the role of sky god because there was an opening there he seemed to fit. I asked if he thought all polytheistic beliefs started this way, as a collection of monotheisms merging together, and he said it was probably at least similar to that. At any rate, this would have put a tribe of people in southwestern Asia Minor as a monotheistic cult serving their goddess, Hecate. He believes everything worth knowing about her begins here, which is a shame because we know almost nothing about what this period of her life would have looked like.
The next phase would be the one we already know pretty well. The tribe worshiping Hecate gets conquered and/or Hellenized, Hecate is absorbed into the Greek pantheon and relegated to a position suiting her personality and available job openings, and the stories we know of her come to be either created, or altered into their known form. But the thing is, my studies of the Matteson family library suggest that the metaphysical realm and the physical realm do not have an equal exchange of influence. Henry clearly believed that the physical realm is nudged to a certain degree by things that happen in the metaphysical, but that the metaphysical is fundamentally defined by things that happen in the physical. If he’s right, any changes made to her character by introduction into the Greek pantheon would have changed who she actually was on a basic level. Sergei noted that was a significant ‘if,’ but if it was true, it wouldn’t change the importance of her first existence as a solo deity. Everything the Greeks used to define her would have already been there; they only changed her role in the universe relative to other gods, but not who she was. This, he felt, was not a difference important enough to straighten out for now. I’m not convinced it’s that minor, but I’ll have to consider that on my own.
This bleeds into the next phase, when the Romans absorbed the stories of Greek mythology and associated their own gods with the Greek gods. Here, Hecate becomes Trivia, a strange goddess who held sway over her own mystery cult (like Hecate would have before becoming part of a pantheon) and was occasionally described with traits that seemed to blend her with other gods, especially Diana. But while much of what defines her here is identical to things that defined Hecate, it is in the Trivia stage that she comes to be associated with crossroads. I noted that her function as Queen of The Crossroads seemed a pretty integral part of Hecate’s nature, so why would it only pop up here? Sergei stated that maybe it became part of her nature as Trivia, or maybe it was always a part of her nature and the Romans were just the first of her worshipers to find roads important enough to list them.
After this, things get murky. Most of the Roman gods fade into cultural obscurity or are overshadowed again by their Greek counterparts in the public mind as time goes on, but the spirits who received that praise almost certainly continued on in some form. Sergei notes a rise of she-devil queens in European Christianity, sometimes borrowing from Jewish sources (such as Lilith), sometimes from pagan ones. He believes Hecate spent some time as one or many of this latter sort, but there are not enough surviving records to his knowledge for us to piece together who or when. And, he said, that relies on assuming she remained a woman. It’s not like spirits are generally bound to a gender, and Sergei believes he knows at least one instance where Hecate was, in fact, a man.
Sometime in the 1900s, the idea arose in the southern American states that people could go to the crossroads and make a deal with the devil. This apparently really took off with a blues singer. But while there is little information to tie the Christian Devil to such behavior, Sergei claims the descriptions of this Devil at the Crossroads suits Hecate well. And, he notes, the stories of this devil only begin to fade once neopagans begin to arise with the advent of Wicca, once the name of Hecate becomes relevant again to a group of people seeking power. This, he claims, is where she is now; having stepped away from the position of Devil at the Crossroads and leaving no one to continue making those deals, the stories of that being would slow to a halt while the stories of Hecate appearing in her mythic form to young witches would rise.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.