Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Spider Woman Icon

 I seem to be getting a "hello" from Grandmother Spider Woman of late, in the form of synchronicities, visioning, and a visit by a friend who unexpectedly wanted to buy one of my Spider Woman Icons from 2009, as well as the only copy of my ten year old book "Spider Woman's Hands".  All of this led me to envision a new Spider Woman Icon developed around the style of my "Our Lady of the Shards" series (which I am proud to say was just published as an article in Feminism and Religion online magazine).  

And then, of course, because I no longer had a single copy of my (limited edition) book SPIDER WOMAN'S HANDS, I had to go back into the program and revise and add to the book so I can re-publish a new, better, updated copy!  Which, I am also proud to say, is almost finished.  It's not exactly a best seller, but the book is important to me, and archives and tells the story of my 5 year journey on the "Trail of Spider Woman".  I think some of the stories (and art) in there is beautiful.

So much so that I am taking the liberty of copying below the article I did on Spider Woman from my website.  I think I wrote it back in 2010 or so.  Below also is a photo from a performance called "Spider Woman Speaks" in which Morgana Canady wove Spider Woman's Web with an audience of about 300.  One of the most magical performances I have ever been privileged to participate in, from "Restoring the Balance" (2004).  

Why is the Great Web, and this rather obscure but very ubiquitous Native American  Deity important, especially for our time?  Because She represents the interdependency, the essential Oneness of everything! She is timeless, a great archetypal Presence.   This is the paradigm we, as a global humanity, need to evolve to.  

Sometimes I feel like one of those crazy prophets, wandering around repeating myself over and over.  Well, that's the problem with Visions and Visitations in a very fast paced world.......... you have to keep repeating yourself over and over, because they won't just go away.  So any who may read this, forgive me for being repetitious. But it is my continuing truth and inspiration.................

 A Metaphor for Our Time

“What might we see, how might we act, if we saw with a webbed vision?   The world seen through a web of relationships…as delicate as spider’s silk,  yet strong enough to hang a bridge on. "       Catherine Keller, From a Broken Web   (1989)
Years ago I was enjoying a panoramic view of the Sonoran desert.   I happened to be sitting near a spider web, stretched between two dry branches.  I realized, by shifting my point of view, I could view the entire landscape through the web’s intricate, transparent pattern......a  landscape  seen through the ineffable strands of a  web, a web that was an overlay of the landscape, the sky, of everything united in a great Weaving.  Seen, and then, depending on how I shifted my point of view, not seen, invisible again.   Spider Woman's Web.

Pueblo mythology tells that when each of the 3 previous  worlds ended, it was Spider Woman who led the people through the sipapu,  the kiva (or birth canal)  into the next world.   Now, according to the Hopi calendar,  a new  age has once again begun.  And surely, once again,  Spider Womanthe  midwife/creatrix   has returned to point the way. 
"We do not need to invent a ground of connectedness, but only to realize it.  Inter-relatedness has been experientially grasped in myriad cultural contexts -  yet the force of modernity continually denies and degrades it."
Charlene Spretnak, The Politics of Women's Spirituality  (1993)
We have entered the "5th Age" indeed, the astonishing, fast paced, technological age of a  global humanity with unimagined promise, and also unimagined evolutionary crisis - the greatest being climate change.   I like to think that  the World Wide Web is Spider Woman's latest appearance.  Certainly she is making  increasingly  visible the inter-dependency of all life,  whether we speak of  ecology, quantum physics,  synchronicity and metaphysics, or the new frontier of integral psychology.   In Pueblo mythology, Spider Woman is also called Tse Che Nako”Thought Woman. Thought Woman is a Creatrix who  creates the world  with what she imagines, the stories she tells about the world.  We also participate in this imaginal power.   

  "The question is not so much  "What do I learn from stories" as "What stories do I want to live?"   
            David R. Loy, "The World is Made of Stories" 
As cultural anthropologist Carol Patterson-Rudolph eloquently wrote in her book On the Trail of Spider Woman - Petroglyphs, Pictographs, and Myths of the Southwest  (1998)   to the Navajo (Dine`)   Grandmother Spider Woman ((NA ASHJE’II ’ASDZÁÁ) represents  initiation into a mature, integrated way of being.     Spider Woman thus  is a bridge between the mundane,  the mythic, and the sacred dimensions of life.  Like a spider web, her transparent, circular strands exist on multiple levels of  meaning.    Spider Woman is revered by the Navajo because she taught them how to weave, a sacred art to them, as it is to the Pueblo peoples,  that embodies important spiritual teachings.   In Navajo rugs, “Spider Woman’s Cross represents balance.  To  this day, a bit of spider web is rubbed into the palms of infant girls, so she will become a good weaver.   Spider Woman is about initiation into wisdom - She is able to bridge the sacred and prosaic dimensions of life.  But for those who are not ready,  Grandmother Spider Woman will be invisible, appearing as nothing more than a tiny insect.  And yet, for those with eyes to see, her Web is everywhere.   The "Web" becomes visible within an integral, relational paradigm:   a "webbed vision"

 Spider Woman is ubiquitous throughout the Americas, found among the Maya,  Pueblo and Navajo  mythology,  and  among the pre-historic "Mound builders", the  Mississippian cultures as well.  There is evidence that the earliest Spider Woman was found among the Maya, where she is identified as the Earth Mother.    I find this ancient myth a profound metaphor for our time,  a symbol that   can encompass ecology, community, theology, integral conciousness studies, and quantum physics.   

In his book on Hopi religion, anthropologist John Loftin writes that: 

“Spider Woman was the first to weave.  Her techniques and patterns have stood the test of time,  or more properly, the test of timelessness  – because  they have always been present.  It makes sense that one would follow the instructions of a deity who helped form the underlying  structure of the  world  in which one lives...........Weaving is, from that perspective,  not an act in which one creates something oneself  – it is an act in which one uncovers a pattern that was already there.” 

 From her very being, the Spider  spins silken, transparent threads that she organizes into the patterned symmetry of an ever-expanding Web.   Tse Che Nako weaves, sharing this precious  creative power with all of her Relations.   With contemporary resonance, science now  suggests that we live in a “thought universe” in which all forms of consciousness and living beings, as well as phenomena,  are infinitely interconnected, interdependent,  entangled, and responsive. 
“Tse Che Nako, Thought-Woman, the Spider,
is sitting in her room thinking of a story now -
I'm telling you the story  she is thinking. “   
Keresan Pueblo proverb**
 Among the pre-historic Mississippian culture many decorations and amulets have been found  of a spider, with the solar or 4 directions cross  on its back.     Some are surrounded by a circle of hands.  Another ubiquitous image is the Hand and Eye.   While we cannot know the exact meanings of this prehistoric iconography, they speak to my  imagination as metaphors for our time as well.   Like the Spider Woman, we conceive with our minds.  But we manifest the stories we tell about our lives, individually and collectively,  with the works of our hands -   Spider Woman’s hands are also our hands, all of us inter-dependant within the great ecology of the planet and each other.   Spider Woman offers an opportunity to remember that we are co-creators with that which is ineffable and ultimately  One.    

 A spiritual paradigm is founded upon mythic roots.  Following the metaphor theologian Katherine Keller has provided:   if we can find models that allow us to vision our world as it really is – a shimmering web of interconnected relationships – if we can see truly the world  "with a webbed vision”…….then how, indeed, might   we act? 

 Some Navajos still rub a bit of spider web into the hands of newborn female babies so the they will be blessed by Spider Woman and become good weavers.   May we all "rub a bit of Spider Web" into the palms of our hands as  well as we set to the tasks before us.

In 2007 I received an Alden Dow Fellowship at Northwood University to pursue Spider Woman’s Hands” as a Community Art Project at the Midland Art Center.  In 2008 the project was  continued with the Creative Spirit Center  and artist Kathy Space in Midland, Michigan.  In 2009  "Weavers" was a continuation of the Project when I was resident artist at the Henry Luce Center for the Arts at  Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.   I continue the weaving.                                                   

To hear " SPIDER WOMAN SPEAKS"  a Spoken Word Performance (2015) on Sound Cloud:                                                     
 Keller,   Catherine  Ph.D.:  From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism and Self  (1989), Thames & Hudson

 Loftin, John D.;        Religion and Hopi Life,  Second Edition,  Indiana University  Press, 2003

 Loy, David:    The World is Made of Stories,   Wisdom Publications, 2010   

 Patterson-Rudolph, Carol:  On the Trail of Spider Woman: Petroglyphs, Pictographs, and Myths of the Southwest,   1998,  Ancient City Press  (** quote from her book)

 Spretnak,  Charlene:  The Politics of Women's Spirituality:  Essays by Founding Mothers of the    Movement, 
 Edited by Charlene Spretnak,   Anchor Books, 1982

Saturday, December 24, 2022



What I remember best of Winter, when I lived back East in New York state and in Vermont, was the deep quiet of winter nights that came with the snows.  That physical and psychic quietude is something I crave now,  as so many layers of the lives I led - life passages - fall away in the advent of old age.  Leaving increasingly the room needed for Silence.

by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

*  A personal note:  I found all these photos from a visit in 2012 of some of the places I loved, and lived by, in California.  For some reason,  I took photos of my shadow.  Sometimes it occurs to me that I am always waving  both Hello and Goodbye, to the beauty of World.  Or perhaps they are gestures of gratitude.............yes, I think that is what they were.  Sometimes it takes aloneness, and quietude, to allow your shadow to speak to the World for you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Again, at Last........the Winter Solstice!


luminaria on Serpent Mound in Ohio

You, Darkness


You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.


 But the darkness pulls in everything –
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! –
powers and people –
and it is possible 
a great presence is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.


Rainer Maria Rilke

December Moon


Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.
Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.
Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?
How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.


May Sarton

Pledge of Allegiance


I pledge allegiance to the soil
      of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
      one ecosystem
      in diversity
      under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.


Gary Snyder

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Doris Lessing and Synchronicity

"Past Desire, Hope or Time, I rest in You, a Seed" (November, 1993)

  November, for me, is the month of Going-Into-The-Dark,  of Gestation, Incubation, and spinning the Cocoon of winter, down there among the roots. One is not thinking now about whatever kind of winged creature may ultimately emerge in the Spring.  One just stops, and lets the cocoon develop.  At the Roots. 

I love November, although it is, for most, the least desireable of months. No brilliant chorales of leaves and apple harvests or pumpkins, and no Solstice Holy Days either, wreathes and lights and gifts, the beauty of deep snow.  Just the Ides of November, the intensity of increasing Darkness, the approach of winter.

 For me, it's that long awaited  time of inner quietude that the soul can receed into, like roots that go down into the dark dirt, like fallen leaves, brown and composting now, joining the secret life of the soil.

Having made this poetic introduction, I wanted to share again this reflection and story from a decade ago, which I re-membered as I lay in the dark in my blankets this morning.  I still think it was a great gift, a  page from my personal "book of common miracles".  Worth recalling, maybe worth re-telling as well.

November 29, 2011

Writers are often asked "How do you write?" But the essential question is: "Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?" Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration. If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. "Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?"

Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize Speech, 2007

Since I've been writing about Ursula Leguin in the previous post, I felt like re-reading what I wrote  on the occasion of finding a signed copy of "The Habit of Loving" by another author who has had profound influence on me, Doris Lessing.  I found the book, signed with a note from the author, in a pile of cast out books on the street, in  2007,  the same year Lessing received the Nobel Prize at the age of 88. __

Since I tend to think of synchronicities as a form of grace and message, this was an important one that I've pondered on often.   I've been reflecting that the habit of loving is the only truly necessary habit to cultivate.  

We're often "tapped on the shoulder" by angels, and pre-occupied with daily concerns, we fail to notice miracles fluttering like their translucent wings under our very noses.

Ecologist and philosopher David Abram  has commented that perception is "a reciprocal phenomenon organized as much by the surrounding world as by oneself". He suggests that a two-way dynamic of energy exchange may be going on. In contrast to our idea of a non-living world we simply observe or act upon, Abram asserts that "the psyche is a property of the ecosystem as a whole", suggesting that we move beyond the notion that "one's mind is nothing other than the body itself".  Another way of putting it might be that we are "ensouled" in the whole world, a Conversant and Responsive World.

As writer Alice Walker has said, "the Universe responds."

Lessing's visionary books, most significantly her SHIKASTA series, have  inspired me for 30 years.  I continue to feel honored to have what is for me a talisman - infused with energy from the living hand of this prolific and visionary writer, who like Ursula Leguin, has been a "guide of soul" for me.  Looking backwards, I noticed this entry from my own blog in the winter of 2007:
"I've been depressed this winter, which led me to go into therapy to tell some of the stories of my personal life, and hopefully untangle them so I can move through the bardo of transition I've been mired in........the Habit of Loving is the discipline from which creativity arises, and without it's hopeful window, the river dries up. I've been blessed to find a wise counselor to listen to me. And in the "unmasking process" (as she puts it) I've often felt like a ghost within the "legend" of my former self.......therapy is rather a painful process!" 

I reflect again, being at the end of my therapy, the message of the title of that little book.  The habit of loving, especially in the dark times of ones life, is a discipline to hold to.  A way to live.   

In her  Nobel  speech, Lessing remembers her life early life in Africa, in Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. She urges us to remember how precious the gifts of literacy really are, remembering how desperately important it is to those who live without schools, or books in her former homeland.  Here is the speech, from the Nobel Prize site.

And here's something she says about Story:

"We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today. 

Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world.  The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill.

It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative."**


*"The Perceptual Implications of Gaia", David Abram, THE ECOLOGIST (1985)

**© The Nobel Foundation 2007

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Video for "A Shrine for the Sixth Extinction"


I am very pleased that my Project "A SHRINE FOR THE LOST:  The Sixth Extinction" , which was funded by the Puffin Foundation, is finally completed with a video by Tucson artist Kathy Keler.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

GRATITUDE by Mary Oliver

What did you notice?

The dew-snail;

the low-flying sparrow;

the bat, on the wind, in the dark;

big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;

the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;

the sweet-hungry ants;

the uproar of mice in the empty house;

the tin music of the cricket’s body;

the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning;

the little bluebirds in their hot box;

the salty talk of the wren,

then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

When did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;

the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;

the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand;

at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers;

then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows

 making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,

her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue,

her recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness,

her strong legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?

Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;

the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;

the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;

the tall, blank banks of sand;

the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?

The sea, and its wide shoulders;

the sea and its triangles;

the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green beast of the hummingbird;

the eye of the pond;

the wet face of the lily;

the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;

the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;

the up-swing, the down-pour, 

the frayed sleeve of the first snow—

so the gods shake us from our sleep.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Wednesday, November 16, 2022



"In us is also a dark angel (Hekate was also called angelos), a consciousness (she was also called phosphoros) that shines in the dark and witnesses such events because it is already aware of them a priori.........Part of us is not dragged down but always lives there, as Hekate is partly an underworld Goddess."

The Dream and the Underworld James Hillman

It's that time of year again, that LIMINAL TIME  when the world prepares to go into the darkness of winter, the last Harvest Festival is almost here.  Hecate's Time, and I felt like it was appropriate to pull out this previous post about that Great Goddess of the Underworld. Because even under the veneer of the commercial Halloween frenzy going on, as the Veils thin, there she is still.......standing at the Crossroads of Time, illuminating the darkness  with Her two Torches.  

I have  made a number of paintings throughout my life that portrayed myself as Hecate (strangely, now that I reallly am a "crone" I haven't had that impulse).  It wasn't until later that I began to realize, as Hillman above comments, that I was invoking and calling forth this quality within myself by so doing, asking for the inner guidance I needed as I moved through a divorce, through menopause, and later being a caretaker for members of my family as their lives ended.  

Hecate is the Underworld  aspect of the Triple Goddess  Persephone/Demeter/Hecate.  This archetype of the "power of three", the sacred Triad, is very ancient indeed, with roots that go back and back and back into prehistory.   The Triad represents the eternal cycle of nature, the Earth  which from the most ancient of human beings seem to have universally revered  as  "Mother Earth".  Early peoples observed that the Earth, like women, gave birth, nurtured, and finally "took back" life into some mysterious underground realm (Womb/Tomb)  to return again in the springtime.  

"Mandorla of the Spinning Goddess"
 by Judith Anderson**
Hecate  lives at the crossroads between conscious and unconscious, dream and waking, life and death.  She stands at the apex of the  liminal zones.  It was  Hecate who   heard the cries of the naive maiden Kore as she was carried by Hades into the underworld, and it was Hecate who bore a torch for Kore as she evolved into the mature Persephone, Queen of the dead and also Queen of life's rebirth. 

Hecate is the guide of souls through deep, unfathomable places of the psyche. When the time is ripe, Hecate stands quietly at the threshold with her two torches, unseen until She hears the soul-cry of those who ask Her to light the way.   

I copy below a short interview I did with Damira Norris, in 2002 a woman who performed Hecate in a 2001 performance produced by Diane Darling.  I found Damira's reflections on working with Hecate through the passage of menopause very moving.    I reflect, re-reading some of the ancient lore of the Triple Goddess, how far contemporary theologies have removed us from reverence for the Earth and all of  Her cycles, and especially, the renewal and mystery that comes from the darkness.    Which is now a very critical concern.  

by Damira Norris

Hecate was my guide as I traveled through the tunnel of menopause, my appointed time to do my "shadow work". At menopause I entered a profound depression. I was forced to plunge into recesses of my life history I hadn't begun to negotiate. What I felt, in essence, was deep emotional shame. All of my internalized stories of being a victim arose for examination. And I was also forced to examine the side that is a tyrant, that always insists on having it's own immature way.

I remember lighting a candle each day to symbolize my daily commitment to my journey through the despair I felt. I carried that candle with me, and when I felt lost, I relit it. That's Hecate to me. She will not help you to avoid a thing, but She will bear a light for you on the path, the path to mature empowerment. "It's time", She says, "to know the inside of yourself, to know all that is there". I believe that at certain passages in our lives, our souls cry "I want to get rid of this, I want to move on". And it's not easy.

"Go down into it" my counselor would tell me, "bring it up and let's look at it". That's Hecate country. I remember a visualization I did while in therapy. She had me look behind a curtain, and what I saw was an emaciated, unloved creature. I was given the opportunity to "meet" a part of myself that symbolized the inner voice that daily recited a litany that went something like this: "I can't do this right, I can't do that".......I had to meet this sad, frightened creature and open my heart to her. Now, I recognize that persona when I'm driven by unconscious fear. I can determine to bring her into the whole circle of who I am.

We see Hecate as scary. But that comes from a culture that denies aging, the so-called shadow side of life. 

We are preoccupied with youthfulness, which translates as a childish self-absorption that insists "I will do what I want to do, when I want to do it".....regardless of the consequences to ourselves, our communities, to our world. Shadow work is about soul retrieval. I had to become a mature, empowered woman at menopause, and so, whether I understood it or not, I had begun to bring home parts of myself that were lost. Unexamined childhood wounds, so many "underworld" storylines. That meant going inside to meet the ugly, the uncomfortable. Hecate was the force guiding me through the hard times. When I performed Hecate, I was doing it to thank Her.

The Dark Goddess is about learning genuine compassion, full circle compassion. It's so much easier now for me to recognize what is going on with others, because I can see into the once opaque depths of myself. We speak of women who've gone through menopause as being "more in their power". This is because the other side of disintegration is the retrieval of enormous reservoirs of energy. We're asked to clean out the book of our lives, so we can become guides for those who will follow us. To become our Hecate selves."

I also take the liberty of copying a wonderfully insightful and well researched  article by  Danielle Nickel 

Hekate:  Moving Through Darkness
by Danielle Nickel

Hekate is primarily a goddess of the Underworld, holding dominion over death and rebirth. This is meant both in the literal sense and in the metaphorical as well. For life is filled with many deaths and rebirths aside from that of the flesh. Because of this the Dark of the Moon especially is her time of the month, since it is a time of endings and beginnings, when what was is no more, and what will be has yet to become.

Hekate guards the limenoskopos (the doorstep), for she is a goddess of liminality and transition. Of being on and crossing boundaries. This includes not only the boundary between life and death, but any boundaries, such as those between nature and civilization, waking and sleep, sanity and madness, the conscious and the subconscious minds. Indeed, any transition can be said to be her domain. As such she is also goddess of the crossroads, where the paths of one's life fork and a person must choose which future to embark upon. In ancient times these were believed to be special places where the veil between the worlds was thin and spirits gathered.

Hekate is also the goddess of psychological transformation. Her Underworld is the dark recesses of the human subconscious as well at that of the Cosmos. Many have accused her of sending demons to haunt the thoughts of individuals. What they fail to understand is that the demons are not hers, but their own. By the light of her twin torches Hekate only reveals what is already there. These are things which the person needs to see in order to heal and renew. However, if they are not prepared for the experience of confronting their Shadow then it can truly feel like they are being tormented. Hekate is not motivated by cruelty, nor is she seeking to harm. But her love can be tough love. She will prompt a person to face the things that they must, whether they like it or not..........Hekate goes with them. While she may not be the deity many people would like, she is the one whom they need. Because of this I believe that she comes to those who require her, whether or not they were looking for her.

"Dream Weaver" (2009)                               
In modern Neo-Pagan practice Hekate is typically identified as an aspect of the Crone, and as such is most often portrayed as an old woman. This is in contrast to ancient vase murals which depict her as being an adult woman in her prime. As with many things about this goddess, this is a perception that has changed over time. However, the Crone aspect of the modern Triple Goddess is not truly defined by her age, but rather by the powers her age represents (that of wisdom, magical potency, annihilation, and the transformative journey through the Underworld), and those indeed fall under Hekate's domain. So while perhaps not historically accurate, this is not a demotion or devaluing of her, but rather the way in which modern Neo-Paganism fits her into its philosophy (this difficulty with integrating her into their cosmology is something that we will see Neo-Pagans share with the Ancient Greeks as well).

Hekate is more often than not portrayed as carrying two torches and is known as "The Torch-Bearer". She carries these because of her role as a guide through the transition of the Underworld. One torch shows a person where it is they currently stand, the other where they might go. In this manner she reveals the mysteries of transformation to those who enter her realm of darkness.

.......Hekate is also associated with a curious wheel shaped design, known as Hekate's Wheel, or the "Strophalos of Hekate". It is a circle which encloses a serpentine maze with three main flanges, that in turn are situated around a central, fiery spiral. The symbolism refers to the serpent's power of rebirth, to the labyrinth of knowledge through which Hekate could lead humankind, and to the flame of life itself: "The life-producing bosom of Hekate, that Living Flame which clothes itself in Matter to manifest Existence" (according to Isaac Preston Cory's 1836 translation of the Chaldean Oracles). The three main arms of the maze correspond with her being a triple goddess, as well as goddess of the three ways, and that she has dominion over the earth, sea, and sky.

A Goddess of Crossroads and Transitions 

As earlier stated, Hekate is a guide for people who are in transition. While she is most famous in her role as a psychopomp, guiding the spirits of the dead in their journey through the Underworld, she also aids those who cross boundaries or otherwise travel from one condition to another, particularly when that crossing involves danger.........For more than anything else she is a deity of liminality.

She is a goddess of the crossroads for this reason. In the ancient world a crossroad was a point where three roads met to form a "Y"-shaped intersection. It was believed to be a place where spirits gathered, including those of the Underworld and those of Fate. It is also a metaphor for the divergence of possibilities in an individual's future. Their life will bring them to the crossroad along one of the roads, and they will be met with a branching, where they must choose one path or the other to continue onward. As goddess of transitions, Hekate rules this place where the roads separate and differing futures are possible.

However, it is important to remember that Hekate is a guide. She points out where a person is currently heading and where else they might go if they change their path instead. She does not choose a person's fate herself. That is always left to the person to decide. She is a torch-bearer because of this illumination she sheds upon one's life. That is also one reason she is a lunar-deity, for while a torch brings light to the darkness of night, so too does the moon on the grandest possible scale. This reflects both her link to the night-realms and to her role as an illuminator of ways..

Hekate is often portrayed as  three torch-bearing female figures standing in a circle looking outward, with their backs joined so that they are in fact one being. This exhibits her dominion over the triple-crossroads and her ability to see in all directions simultaneously. The road a person had come from, and the directions they might take in the future. These hektarion (or hekataion) were placed at crossroads. Their earliest forms consisted of a pole upon which three masks were hung, with one facing each road. In more recent times these became statuary, sometimes of three figures standing with their backs to a central pillar, other times a similar portrayal without the column in the center.

The Romans knew Hekate as Triva, which means "where the three roads meet".

Hekate Triformis - The Triple Goddess

Hekate is a triple-goddess, serving as the Crone aspect in more than one triumvirate of deities. Perhaps most commonly we see her partnered with Kore-Persephone and Demeter. Where Kore takes the role of the Maiden (indeed, the word kore means "maiden" in Ancient Greek), Demeter the Mother, and Hekate the Crone. This triumvirate plays a central role in the myth of Kore's descent into the Underworld and her re-emergence as Persephone.

This myth appears to have been the basis for the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which initiates relived the experience of Kore and like her returned forever changed, reborn with a new understanding of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

 In the earliest tales, Kore willingly descends into the Underworld, while in the later and more well-known versions she is kidnapped by Hades. The latter being indicative of the rising patriarchy of Ancient Greece. In either version, her mother Demeter - who is the goddess of agriculture -  withholds her blessings from the Earth and causes the first winter to come about. It is Hekate who spies Kore within the Underworld and guides her back to the surface to be reunited with her mother. She emerges not as the maiden Kore, but as Persephone, a powerful woman in her own right, and with her comes the warmth and promise of spring. Persephone however, has become inextricably tied to the Underworld and returns there for four months every year, one for each pomegranate seed she ate while there. Her leaving is accompanied by the onset of winter, and while she holds her court in the Underworld she is joined by Hekate. In this myth we not only see a metaphor for rebirth, but also of coming of age and into one's own power and place in the world.

The Invincible Queen Of The Dead

While Hekate is a versatile deity, she is best known as a goddess of death and the Underworld. However, it is important to remember that her Underworld is not the place of terrible suffering popularized by patriarchal Greece and later Christianity.*** Rather it was a place of divine transformation, like the cocoon where the caterpillar becomes the butterfly. This was the primordial Underworld, the place from which all life ultimately derives. Death and Birth stand back to back in the great spiral of existence, while Hekate and her Underworld lie between the two.

Our ancient ancestors saw that many things sprang from the earth, not just plants, but animals such as snakes, bears, rodents, and others as well. Even the sun and moon appeared to rise from the earth and later sink back down within it every day and night. To their eyes, it seemed that something magical was taking place in the darkness below the ground. This idea was further reinforced when they learned that plant life originates from seeds buried within the earth. They saw that if a person kept a seed in - for example - their pocket, it would never grow into a plant. It had to be buried in the soil. Our ancestors reasoned that something magical must take place down there. Some transformation hidden away from the eyes of people and the rays of the sun.

This was their Underworld. A place of renewal and rebirth where buried seeds sprouted into life. Because they saw the generative power of the Underworld, they buried their dead deep within the earth so that they too could transform into new life, just as a seed does into a plant. Being thorough people, they also dyed the bodies with red henna to symbolize menstrual blood (and in some cases did use menstrual blood), in order to capitalize upon the regenerative power believed to exist in that as well. 

This is why how so many Pagan deities such as Kali, Hekate, Freja, et al. are associated with both death and life. Our ancestors saw that death and birth were interconnected, standing back to back in an ever-turning spiral. In this manner Hekate is both child-nurse of all life as well as harbinger of death, and thusly it was to her that the ancients prayed to ensure both long life and eventual rebirth. Interestingly enough it is also in this manner that Hekate might be considered the goddess of compost. For it is the decomposition of plant and animals that insures the fertility of the earth, which in turn ensures the creation and nurturing of new life.

These views of the Underworld would change as religion became politicized, a tool for power. The Underworld became a place of terror in order to frighten people into obedience. So too were its denizens altered in public perception to become the monsters such a place needs to be populated with. This is one of the dynamics by which Hekate was increasingly negatively portrayed............

Keeper of the Unconscious

As Goddess of the Underworld, Hekate is not only the guide to the spirits of the dead, but also the keeper of each individual's own personal Underworld, the benighted territory of their unconscious mind. She lives within each of our inner worlds, and is there to guide us as we transition from inner to outer realms of consciousness. When accepted, her blessings enrich our lives with vision, healing, inspiration, and magic. She brings light to the darkness and empowers us with creativity, confidence, and strength. However, when we deny her it manifests in our Shadow-Self. She holds the key to both the treasures and terrors of the unconscious mind.......

Hekate is the light that reveals the Shadow, like the light of the moon at midnight. Her goal is not to destroy, but rather to illuminate. However, it is no accident that we have buried these things so deeply within our psyches. We are often not ready to face them when revealed. In such cases it may indeed appear that Hekate is bringing demons to terrorize us. We must remember that the demons are ours and reclaim them as our own. For with that revelation we also take back our power over them. That is the only way in which the Shadow can be truly defeated. By accepting it as our own. Learning that is the key which turns the lock of the person's emotional healing and rebirth. Hekate is there as a guide to help us, her twin torches shining our way through the darkened recesses of our unconscious.........

.............We must come to understand that Hekate and the darkness she exemplifys are not terrible, but rather natural forces within us and the world around us which are necessary components in the process of healing and regeneration. We must trust to her as our guide and give ourselves over to our journey through the Underworld, rather than resist the sacrifices we must make in order to grow. For one can only heal by moving through darkness. This requires courage and insight on our parts, but thankfully she is there to show us where to find both these qualities within ourselves as well.

**Judith Anderson has passed away, and her powerful work is not well known.  She was an extraordinary artist whose prints emerged from the depths of the sacred Earth and the realms of the Soul.  For an excellent article about Judith Anderson:

***This is true as well of the Nordic Goddess Hella (also part of a triad), Underworld Goddess whose name became the source of the Christian "Hell".